A Preliminary Survey of French Jamestown,
with Comments on the French at New Bordeaux and Purysburg
A slightly revised version of a paper presented at the Annual Meeting, Archaeological Society of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, April 3, 1993. By Daniel T. Elliott, LAMAR Institute & Garrow & Associates, Inc.
This paper reviews the progress in archaeological definition of three extinct colonial towns in South Carolina that were built by French Huguenot religious refugees. Jamestown, Purysburg, and New Bordeaux have been examined by archaeological survey and historical research conducted by the author and others (Elliott and Steen 1992; Lepionka 1980; Elliott 1984; 1985; Smith 1985; Judge and Smith 1991). Figure 1 shows the relative location of these three towns within South Carolina and the extent of archaeological survey conducted on each. All three towns contain no buildings or visible ruins from the colonial period, but all three contain subsurface archaeological evidence of colonial period settlement.
Jamestown, the earliest of the three towns, was established in 1705/6 as the seat of power of the St. James Santee French settlement. This was the largest of the French Huguenot settlements in South Carolina (Hirsch 1928). Jamestown was located on a bluff on the Santee River in present day Berkeley County. No original town plan has been found, but a mid-nineteenth century copy of an 1716 plan survives (Gaillard 1848). The town covered 141 acres and was rectangular and contained 31 numbered lots. Lots 1-18 occupied the front row, and the lots got progressively larger heading away from the river. The area fronting the Santee River was designated as a town common and in its center was the church and cemetery. The town plan also shows eight streets within the town and streets along the perimeter on the east and west sides. The Parish Church of St. James was built in 1706 and served the community until it was replaced by another church farther downstream in 1754. The town also contained a parsonage and glebe lands. One of the townspeople, Bartholomew Gaillard, operated a short-lived Indian trading establishment, possibly within the town (McDowell 1955:110, 259).
Historians think that Jamestown was effectively abandoned as an urban center long before 1760, but the area continued to be used during the later eighteenth and early nineteenth century as a plantation known as Mount Moriah.
Purysburg, established in 1732 under the guidance of Jean Pierre Pury, was the primary French settlement in southwestern South Carolina (Purry 1837). This town was located on a bluff on the Savannah River in present day Jasper County. Purysburg was rectangular shaped and measured 6,996 feet by 3300-4488 feet. A detailed plat of the town made in 1735 shows 455 numbered house lots (Bull 1735; Bryan 1735). The town also contained 100 acres for glebe land and a 260 acre common. A church, built in 1744, was located at the corner of Church and
Savannah Streets. The town was an important steamboat landing during the 1820s-1850s. The estimated population at its zenith was around 600 who lived in fewer than 100 houses. By 1804 there were approximately 60 dwellings in the town. The town served as a base camp for the Southern forces under Benjamin Lincoln during the American Revolution. It was again used during the War Between the States as a Confederate training camp, and later as a bivouac for several days for the Union Army under General Sherman. Although it continued to be used as a river port, Purysburg was no longer a significant urban center after the 1820s (Elliott 1985).
New Bordeaux, established in 1764, was the only French settlement in the South Carolina piedmont (Moragne 1857; Davis 1951; Gibert 1976). This town was located at the confluence of Long Cane Creek and Little River, tributaries of the Savannah River in present day McCormick County. A 1765 plat of the New Bordeaux township drawn by Patrick Calhoun, survives, as do numerous individual lot plats within the town, but no detailed town plan has been found. The plan called for an 800 acre tract containing 198 house lots, measuring 1/2 acre, 300 acres of glebe land, 176 acres for vineyards (4 acre lots), 195 acres for commons, and 25 acres to be used for a fortified church yard, parsonage, market place, parade ground, public mill, and streets. The town was organized in 2 acre blocks surrounded by streets. House lots within the town were granted as late as 1774. The town served as a place of refuge during the American Revolution, but was probably abandoned soon after the war and the present town of Bordeaux was established several miles away.
Although all three towns harbored cemeteries during the eighteenth century, there are no marked graves from the period. Ravenel (1900) noted that the graves at Jamestown were obliterated by 1900, Beck (1934) cited the absence of eighteenth century graves in the 1930s, and no mention of the New Bordeaux cemetery was found in the literature. Memorial granite crosses were erected on each of the three sites by the Huguenot Society of South Carolina during the 1930s and 1940s, suggesting that the towns were never completely lost in people’s memory (c.f. Summerall 1941). The towns were further memorialized in a series of scholarly articles by Henry A. M. Smith and others (Smith 1908; 1909; Moragne 1857; Davis 1951; Gibert 1976). These early references provided vital clues in relocating features within the towns.
Previous Archaeological Research
Jamestown. During the late 1970s, Patricia Logan, then Forest Archaeologist for the Sumter and Francis Marion National Forests, was considering the archaeological research value of New Bordeaux and the St. James Santee settlement (Logan n.d.; Anderson and Logan 1981). Few archaeological studies, however, were conducted on these settlements during this period (Elliott 1983).
Survey of each of the three French Huguenot towns was preceded by assembling available historical documentation. Original grants were identified through review of grant indexes at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Grant information for Jamestown had been previously assembled by H. A. M. Smith (1908).
The reconnaissance survey of Jamestown was a joint effort between the LAMAR Institute and Diachronic Research Foundation (Elliott and Steen 1992). No previous archaeological research had been conducted on the town. At the urging of State Archaeologist, Bruce Rippeteau, who executed an informal aerial reconnaissance over the town site, a study of the town was launched. The timing of the project was unfortunate, however, since the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo blocked our every step and generally slowed our progress. In spite of these hindrances, however, we examined approximately 1/4 of the town site through systematic shovel testing.
Archaeological remains at Jamestown include one well preserved eighteenth century house complex, a probable eighteenth century cellar that could not be examined because it was filled with water, and scatters of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century artifacts that may be unrelated to the urban settlement. Collectively, these spatially discrete loci were recorded as Site 38BK1549.
The most promising area was in the northeastern section of Jamestown. Shovel tests and one 50 by 50 cm test unit in this area yielded delftware, Rhenish stoneware, proto-historic aboriginal pottery, a glass bead, nails, daub, and brick. The aboriginal pottery included plain and stamped surface decorations, and folded pinched rims. Elsewhere on the site, several brushed aboriginal sherds were found, but plain sherds were the dominant type site wide. There were four large depressions in this area of the site. This is the home site of either Etienne Thibout, Iedion Foucherou, or some other unidentified Huguenot. It corresponds to either lot 16, 17, or 18 on Gaillard’s plat of Jamestown. This area is believed to date to the very early eighteenth century (c. 1706-1720), based on the lack of later common artifact types. The presence of aboriginal pottery suggests economic interaction with local aboriginal groups such as the Santee or Sewee–groups that were extinct within a few years of Jamestown’s founding. Since the French Santee Huguenots were noted for their slave trade, it is likely that these wares were produced by Native American slaves living in the French town. Interestingly, Colonoware, a common type on later excavated sites on the lower Santee, was absent in the Jamestown sample. Other colonial artifacts recorded in the town include British brown salt glazed stoneware, pearlware, creamware, and bottle glass. While parts of Jamestown are destroyed by logging and erosion, the northeastern corner shows promise. Other parts of the town remain to be surveyed, notably the area that may contain Bartholomew Gaillard’s Indian trading post.
Purysburg was visited by Leland Ferguson, Roy Dickens, and Travis Bianchi during the early 1970s, and site 38Ja36 was recorded by Bianchi (1974). This was, however, a prehistoric site, and the historic resources were not acknowledged until 1978 when Larry Lepionka began a reconnaissance survey of the town (Lepionka 1980). This was followed by a brief visit to the site by Tommy Charles who recorded underwater sites identified by hobby divers.
The work at Purysburg by Garrow & Associates, Inc. was a CRM study for a potential major industrial development that was never constructed (Elliott 1985). The survey of Purysburg included surface reconnaissance, systematically aligned shovel tests, and metal detector survey. Approximately 14 percent of the original town site was examined and three historic sites containing eighteenth century artifacts were located within the original bounds of the town site.
Plat of Purrysburg Town, 1735 (Courtesy, South Carolina Department of Archives and History).
Original grants were found for only 39 of Purysburg’s 455 house lots, or less than 8.5 percent of the town lots. None of the grants dated to the early 1730s, which was the time when initial settlement occurred. The 39 grants were scattered throughout the town. Systematic archaeological survey was conducted across 11 of these 39 identified lots, but unfortunately, no corresponding archaeological sites could be identified.
One isolated colonial house site, 38JA144 was found in the vicinity of Lots 150-156. Two 1 by 1 m test units were placed on this site and it was recommended for preservation. Unfortunately, it was completely destroyed during subsequent timber harvesting and ground disturbing activities. There is a slight possibility that this house was on Lot 153 which was granted to Anna Inglerine in September, 1738 depending on how one adjusts the historic map to the present-day landscape. This site yielded delftware, redware or coarse earthenware, Rhenish stoneware, unglazed earthenware, goblet glass, bottle glass, brick, daub, nails, window glass, brass button, spall gunflint, a brass escutcheon (possibly furniture), and metal sprue. Low frequencies of colonial period artifacts also were found at 38JA135 and 38JA152.
After the first Garrow & Associates investigations Purysburg was revisited several times by professional archaeologists, including myself. Marvin Smith (1985) conducted additional survey of another 10 percent of the original town site.
The greatest concentration of colonial artifacts was found on lots 42-52, where no lot information is available. This area, examined by Smith was recorded as 38JA158. Colonial period artifacts from this area include delftware, redware or coarse earthenware, creamware, pearlware, clay tobacco pipe fragments, nails, and bottle glass.
Chester DePratter and Tommy Charles made a visit to the site following a major timber harvest, and the site was reconnoitered during a review of the top 100 archaeological sites in the state project (Judge and Smith 1991). My most recent visit to the site was during the 260th anniversary celebration of its founding–a gala event where foreign emissaries, politicians, descendants, a U. S. Marine Corps Band, and other interested parties remembered the significance of the town as they quietly choked from the smoke created by ongoing land clearing activities.
The “Jug Well” at Purysburg, Courtesy Carolina Morning News, Beaufort, SC. 2001.
During the glorious Reagan years, I had the personal pleasure of conducting research at New Bordeaux for the U. S. D. A. Forest Service. As Logan’s interim successor, I conducted an intensive archaeological reconnaissance survey of New Bordeaux in advance of timber harvesting activities.
The study of New Bordeaux utilized surface reconnaissance, selectively placed shovel tests, and metal detector survey. Since the town was partially submerged by Strom Thurmond (formerly Clark Hill) Lake and the lake was down about 4 feet from its full pool elevation of 338 feet, an irregularly shaped shoreline transect, approximately 10 feet wide was examined completely across the former town. Approximately 2/3 of the town site was surveyed.
Portion of Hillsborough Township, Showing New Bordeaux (Courtesy, South Carolina Department of Archives and History).
Original plats were found for 80 lots issued during the period 1765-1774. The lots were numbered, but no numbered lots below 72 were found, and presumably these lots would have been the first ones settled. The only town plan that survives was drawn by Patrick Calhoun (1765), but this map shows no internal features of the town. I attempted to reconstruct the town plan by using information available on the individual plats, but this was unsuccessful. As a result, it does not appear that any of colonists of New Bordeaux can be matched up with their archaeological remains, at least through the available archival record.
Despite high hopes, very few archaeological resources from the colonial period were identified. Inhabitants of the two archaeological sites containing colonial artifacts remain anonymous, at least for the present.
Site 38Mc386 was a large site, part of which is within the upper end town, and it contained eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century artifacts. Towards the lower end of the town, Site 38MC401 was identified. This site was occupied during the eighteenth century, and apparently abandoned. A cellar and other surface rock features were found. The only potential colonial artifact found along the Clark Hill shoreline was one small brick fragment on site 38Mc385. A large piece of brass sprue may date to the eighteenth century. It was found in an area where Carl Miller and/or Joseph Caldwell observed brick and ceramics during the Clark Hill Lake survey. Many parts of the town are deeply gullied and many archaeological traces have probably washed away. The archaeological potential of the New Bordeaux site was “written off” by the Smithsonian Institution archaeologists and historian (Miller 1949; Riley 1949).
Recent Aerial Photograph of Purysburg, Courtesy, Acme Mapper.
As the paper title suggests, all this research is of a preliminary nature, but preliminary to what? In the case of Purysburg, it may be the final word for large parts of the town that are currently being gobbled up by residential development. My work has shown that all three towns have intact archaeological areas, but the work thus far is superficial. A more in-depth study of these sites is needed and, hopefully, the papers presented today in this symposium will focus attention on the need for research on the French aspect of South Carolina’s colonial past.
Anderson, David G., and Patricia A. Logan
1981 Francis Marion National Forest Cultural Resources Overview. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Columbia, South Carolina.
Beck, Henry L.
1934 Purrysburg as it is today. Transactions of the Huguenot Society of South Carolina 39:40-44.
Bianchi, Travis L.
1974 An Archaeological Survey of the Seaboard Coastline Railroad Company’s Proposed Hardeeville-Levy, South Carolina Connector. University of South Carolina, Institute of Archeology and Anthropology Research Manuscript 65. Columbia, South Carolina.
1735 Plat of Purrysburg Township. Map Collection, South Carolina Department of History and Archives, Columbia.
1735 Purrysburg Town. Map Collection, South Carolina Department of History and Archives, Columbia.
1765 Plat of the Hillsborough Township. Map Collection, South Carolina Deaprtment of History and Archives, Columbia.
1951 The French Settlement at New Bordeaux. Transactions of the Huguenot Society of South Carolina 56:52-.
Elliott, Daniel T.
1983 An Archeological Survey on Compartments 121 and 179, Wambaw District, Francis Marion National Forest. U. S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Columbia.
1984 An Archeological Survey of Compartment 252, Long Cane District, Sumter National Forest. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Columbia, South Carolina.
1985 Archaeological Reconnaissance of the Purrysburg Tract, Jasper County, South Carolina. Garrow & Associates, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia. Submitted to Law Engineering Testing Company, Marietta, Georgia.
Elliott, Daniel T. and Carl Steen
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Gibert, Anne C.
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1928 The Huguenots of Colonial South Carolina. Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina.
Judge, Christopher and Steven Smith
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n.d. Sumter National Forest Cultural Resources Overview Draft. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Columbia, South Carolina.
McDowell, William L., editor
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Miller, Carl F.
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Moragne, W. C.
1857 An Address Delivered at New Bordeaux Abbeville District, South Carolina November 15, 1854 on the 90th Anniversary of the Arrival of the French Protestants at that Place. James Phynney, Charleston.
Purry, Jean Pierre
1837 A Description of the Province of South Carolina, Drawn Up at Charleston from Mr. Purry’s Original Treatise, in French, and Published in the Gentleman’s Magazine, for August, September, and October 1732. P. Force, Printer, Washington, D. C.
1900 Historical Sketch of the Huguenot Congregation of South Carolina. Transactions of the Huguenot Society of South Carolina7:7-50.
Riley, Edward M.
1949 Survey of the Historic Sites of the Clark Hill Reservoir and of South Carolina and Georgia. University of Georgia, Laboratory of Archaeology Manuscript 40, Athens.
Smith, Henry A. M.
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Smith, Marvin T.
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Summerall, C. P.
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