During the Ulster-American Heritage
Symposium, held at Rock Hill, South Carolina, this June, I learned from a
friend that he is building a house on land that was granted to his family
in 1765. They came through Charleston during the brief period of the South
Carolina bounty and settled in Boonesborough Township. Many other
Scotch-Irish families share their story.
The South Carolina Assembly passed
an act in 1761 to encourage settlers to come to the colony. The colonial
government would pay four pounds sterling for the passage of every poor
Protestant brought to South Carolina from Europe. The measure was actually
a benefit to shipowners who received the bounty for the passengers they
carried in their ships.
The Charleston firm of John Torrans,
John Greg, and John Poaug had used their influence to get the bill passed
and were eager to take advantage of it. They alone of Charleston merchants
had a network of business associates in Belfast and Londonderry, whom they
set to work sending ships with passengers for South Carolina. All of the
ships that carried emigrants from Ulster in the bounty years 1763-1768
were consigned to Torrans, Greg, and Poaug.
The three merchants petitioned for
land, not for themselves, but for the settlers they would bring to South
Carolina. In June 1762 the South Carolina Gazette reported: "We hear that
application has been made to his Excellency our Governor, by petition, for
two townships, of 20,000 acres each, to be surveyed and reserved for a
number of poor Protestants the petitioners engaged to bring over." John
Torrans, John Greg, and John Poaug were joined in their petition by the
Rev. John Baxter and John and David Rea. In December 1762 two townships
were laid out for the petitioners: Boonesborough (named for the royal
governor) of 20,500 acres at the head of Long Canes Creek and
Londonborough of 22,000 acres on Hard Labor Creek.
The first settlers, intended for
Boonesborough, were already on the high seas. John Greg returned to
Belfast in 1762 and advertised for passengers to sail for Charleston on
the brigantine Success. This was wartime and a dangerous crossing.
Seventy passengers arrived safely in Charleston in January 1763, after an
adventure with a French privateer. The South Carolina treasury provided
them with money for seed, farm implements, and their support before they
moved out to their own lands "between Ninety-Six and Long-Canes."
The names of these early settlers
were recorded by the authorities as they qualified for the bounty and land
grants. Janie Revill published A Compilation
of the Original Lists of Protestant Immigrants to South Carolina,
1763-1773 (Columbia SC: The State Company,
1939, reprinted Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1968).
Using her book, a researcher can work out what ship their ancestor sailed
on and, in some cases, this is a clue to where they lived in Ulster.
Shipowners often appointed agents to
sell passage on one of their ships. In the case of the South Carolina
bounty ships, individual agents recruited settlers from year to year.
These agents visited places where they expected to sign up passengers or
servants. In some cases they limited these recruiting trips to a very
small area and presumably most passengers came from there. Most of the
ships sailed from Belfast, because of the link between Torrans, Greg and
Poaug of Charleston and Greg and Cunningham of Belfast.
In the summer of 1763 Thomas Greg,
John Greg's brother, advertised for passengers and servants to go to South
Carolina on the ship Falls of Belfast. As usually happened, sailing
dates were put back several times. The Falls reached Charleston on
January 8, 1764 with 90 passengers, including some who came as servants.
Belfast passengers most likely came from County Antrim or County Down,
since Greg appointed agents in Lisburn, Dromore, Ballynahinch, and
The Prince of Wales arrived
safely from Belfast in March 1764 with 170 passengers. She returned with
passengers later that year, arriving at Charleston for the second time in
January 1765. The Prince of Wales
made a third voyage from Belfast to Charleston reaching
the South Carolina port in March 1766 with 51 paying passengers and 21
servants. Matthew Rea of Drumbo, near Ballynahinch, and William Beatty of
Belfast were authorized to secure passengers for these voyages.
The Falls returned to
Charleston on March 7, 1766 with passengers, entering from Londonderry.
Some of her passengers were indentured servants. Passengers on a ship
sailing from Londonderry would be drawn from that port's hinterland in
Cos. Donegal, Tyrone, and Londonderry.
The Belfast Pacquet arrived
from Belfast October 15, 1766 "with between eighty and ninety Irish
settlers," all in good health. (South Carolina Gazette, October 20,
The Earl of Hillsborough
sailed for South Carolina from Belfast on Christmas Eve 1766. She reached
Charleston February 19, 1767 "with two hundred and thirty protestant
settlers, encouraged by the large bounty given by this province, and the
success their countrymen have met with in their several settlements here."
(South Carolina and American General Gazette, February 20, 1767.)
William Beatty, as agent, advertised that he would be in three market
towns, Lurgan, Ballynahinch, and Dromore, each a few miles from the other
in Co. Down, every week to meet with potential passengers. Many passengers
on this ship probably came from in or near those three towns.
William Beatty also acted as agent
for the Prince of Wales
and made a regular circuit of Lurgan, Ballynahinch, and
Dromore signing up passengers, so many on board this ship, too, came from
this area. On May 14, 1767 the passengers on the Prince of Wales,
"about 250 Irish protestants arrived here from Belfast, in order to settle
in this province." (South Carolina and
American General Gazette, May 15, 1767.)
Robert Wills of Belfast, William Ray
of Ballyreany, and Samuel Jackson of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, owned a
ship called the Nancy, which they dispatched to Charleston in 1767.
In an effort to find prospective passengers, William Ray and Captain
Samuel Hannah of the Nancy traveled from Belfast to Ballymena, Co. Antrim,
then to Coleraine and Garvagh in Co. Londonderry, and on to Cookstown, Co.
Tyrone, and finally to Armagh, Portadown, and Lurgan in Co. Armagh. They
were successful in their quest. The Nancy brought 291 passengers to
Charleston, when she arrived in port June 5, 1767. The Nancy was
registered as a ship of 80 tons and by the rule of thumb in those days she
could comfortably carry about 80 adult passengers. The owners falsely
advertised her as 300 tons and crammed nearly 300 men, women and children
into the limited space on board. Many of them were sick or dying when they
reached Charleston. They later complained that Captain Hannah "not only
nipped them of the provisions allowed them but heaped them one upon the
other, to such a degree in their berths that it must be absolutely
impossible they could survive as appears by the mortality which rages
amongst them to this day."
The people of Charleston raised
money for the victims of the Nancy. Henry Laurens of Charleston,
who had engaged in the slave trade himself wrote that he "never saw an
instance of Cruelty in ten or twelve Years experience in that branch equal
to the Cruelty exercised upon those poor Irish." The authorities refused
to pay the bounty to the Nancy's owners, since they had so
exploited the passengers for their own profit.
John Bynan and David Gaussan,
merchants in Newry, sent their ship Britannia to Charleston in May
1767. Passengers for a delay in sailing to give them "time to dispose of
their effects." The owners asked them to be on board by May 4, when "the
Ship, by the blessing of God, will then proceed on her intended Voyage for
the Land of Promise." (Belfast News Letter, April 14, 1767.) The
Britannia arrived from Newry on August 23, 1767 "with about 180
Protestant settlers, all in good health." (South
Carolina and American General Gazette,
August 28, 1767.) Emigrants sailing from Newry most likely came from the
south of Co. Down and Co. Armagh.
The Earl of Donegall sailed
from Belfast in September 1767 with 266 passengers and reached Charleston
on December 10, 1767. Agents for this ship recruited in Ballymoney and
Ballymena, Co. Antrim, as well as in Belfast.
Greg and Cunningham sent their brig
Chichester from Belfast with 146 passengers and Caldwell, Vance and
Caldwell dispatched their ship Admiral Hawke from Londonderry with
91 passengers. Both vessels arrived at Charleston in the last days of
The snow James and Mary with
186 passengers arrived from Larne early in January 1768. Passengers taking
a ship from Larne probably came from north County Antrim, as the owners
had agents in Larne, Carrickfergus, and Ballymena.
Greg and Cunningham's snow Betty
Greg sailed from Belfast in October 1767 with 145 passengers. The
Lord Dungannon brought 141 more emigrants from Belfast and Larne. Both
reached Charleston early in February 1768.
The bounty system came to an end on
the last day of the General Assembly session in July 1768. It had worked
well in peopling Upper South Carolina, but the abuse of the system by the
Nancy's owners made it unpopular and the legislature did not renew
it. The records kept by the South Carolina government during the years
they paid the bounty enable us to know the names of many Scotch-Irish
pioneers, the ships they sailed in, and the ports they left from between
1763 and 1768.