SOUTH CAROLINA AND GEORGIA
The London sailed down the Thames on September 19 with the Elizabeth, the Carolina Packet, and the Good Intent, all bound for Carolina. At Deal they stopped to await a favorable wind, as it was then blowing from the southwest up the English Channel. They lay there for ten days, being joined during the time by other ships, including the tea ships Polly for Philadelphia and Dartmouth for Boston. On September 29 they all sailed for America. When the London berthed in Charleston Harbor on Thursday, December 2 it is probable that William Mylne went immediately to lodge with John Hatfield,* merchant, in King Street. He mentioned in a later letter that he suffered “a severe fit of sickness” at Charleston, which may explain his surprising silence about events that followed the arrival of the London. Alternative reasons can be suggested, such as unwillingness to cause concern in the minds of his relatives at home or deliberate avoidance of public controversy. It is even more likely that he dealt with his time at Charleston in a letter that has not survived.
The people of Charleston could not fail to take note of the London’s arrival and its cargo of tea. Charleston was the hub and main seaport of a huge territory of rich agriculture, including all of South Carolina, part of Georgia, and a large proportion of North Carolina. Its mercantile and shipping business handled the export of rice, indigo, other crops, and skins from this large area and also satisfied the planters’ needs for imported equipment, special materials, and most important, slaves. The rich men of Charleston were mainly merchants and planters, both heavily dependent for their prosperity on external trade. Despite this they had agreed to and operated, together with a third group, the artisans or “mechanics,” an effective embargo on importation of British goods in 1769. The mechanics had everything to gain by the ban on British manufactured goods, which competed with their own products, but they had also established themselves as the loudest exponents of political radicalism in the city—except, perhaps, for Peter Timothy,* the editor of Charleston’s weekly newspaper, the South Carolina Gazette.
The Gazette alerted its readers on November 15 to the approach of a cargo of tea; on the twenty-second it named the ship as the London and proposed a voluntary pledge by all merchants not to accept the East India Company’s tea while the threepence duty remained in force. On December 6 and in subsequent issues it reported the London’s arrival and the events that followed, always accompanied by strongly anti-British comment and news of resistance in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York.
On December 3, the day after the London’s arrival, all the city’s inhabitants were called to a meeting in the Great Hall over the Exchange, where the consignees of the tea, Roger Smith, Esq., and Messrs. Leger and Greenwood, publicly renounced their interest in the cargo to loud applause. An agreement not to import any more tea subject to the duty was signed by several merchants at the meeting and by more than fifty others on the following day. Captain Curling was roundly told at the meeting to take his cargo back to England.
Opinion in Charleston, however, was not unanimous, and the London continued to lie at the wharf. The separate groups of the populace were considering their attitudes, and on Wednesday, December 15 the planters and landholders first, and later the mechanics, held separate meetings at Mrs. Swallow’s Tavern—Mrs. Swallow was, almost certainly, John Hatfield’s mother-in-law. On the following day a “merchants’ committee” met at her tavern. On December 17 there was a second meeting for all inhabitants at the Exchange, lasting for five hours; there it emerged that a number of merchants (said to be “very few” by the Gazette), having previously imported tea in modest quantities and paid the duty, did not see the need to give up their trade for a new political stand against the principle of taxation without representation. The previous resolutions were confirmed, but not unanimously, and it was necessary to decide that there should be another general meeting in January. Both parties were, of course, unaware that the Boston “mob” had, on the previous day, held a “tea party” that would soon bring political developments into daily confusion with the conduct of all their businesses.
The Charleston collector of customs and the lieutenant-governor of South Carolina, William Bull,* were watching these developments. It has been said that Bull received reports of threats of violence on Captain Curling. The law required the collector, when the cargo had been twenty days in port without its duty paid, to land it and lodge it in a “King’s warehouse.” On the morning of December 22 he therefore took action. As the Gazette reported
Very early, the hoisting out of the ship’s hold, delivery to the King’s officers, and landing by the Collector, was begun; and the whole two hundred and fifty-seven chests were put on shore, carried up in drays, stowed away, and locked up, in a cellar under the Exchange, hired for that purpose, with so much expedition, that the whole was completed, by the time that the people in general imagined it would be begun; indeed, there never was an instance here, of so great a number of packages, being taken out of any vessel, and thus disposed of, in so short a time. The Sheriff, and other peace officers, we hear, had particular instructions given to them, in case there should appear a disposition to obstruct the landing of the tea by the Collector, in any way that could be deemed a breach of the peace; but the people, though not pleased with seeing it landed at all, were perfectly quiet; as they did, upon the tea being taken into the charge of the Collector, and do still, confidently rely, upon its remaining locked up, in the cellar where it is now lodged, until orders may arrive, after the East India Company shall have received advice of its present disposition, to reship it for England; or until, by a proper attention to their interest, and an exertion of their influence, they shall have prevailed upon Parliament to repeal the impolitic and offensive duty. . . .
Captain Curling’s cargo of tea lay in the cellar for nearly three years. It was joined by several small consignments landed during 1774 and not accepted by any merchant. In November 1774 there arrived seven casks that had been loaded in London without the knowledge of the ship’s master and which the consignees emptied patriotically into the harbor, a Charleston Tea Party. The tea in the cellar remained there until October 1776, when it was taken out and sold for the benefit of the new state of South Carolina, reportedly for a good price.
Of William Mylne’s experience of the voyage and arrival of the tea we know only that he was there. He left Charleston for the backlands probably before the middle of January, stopped for some time at Augusta,* on the Georgia side of the Savannah River,* then before the end of February moved back across the river to occupy a log cabin in the woods by Stephen’s Creek,* about seven miles up the Savannah from Augusta.
Augusta stands about one hundred and fifty miles up the Savannah River on the south (or southwestern) side. It is less than three miles downstream from the rapids that, in the late eighteenth century, formed a stop to navigation, as the river fell over the rim of the rocks of the piedmont terrain into the great coastal plain of eastern North America.
The meeting of several ancient overland trails, adjacent to easy river crossings, had for a long time made it a place of strategic importance. A group of Indians called the Savannahs had set up their “town” there in the 1680s, giving their name to the river. The land on both sides of the river fell within the territory granted to South Carolina by King Charles II’s charter in 1663, and the Carolinians carried on a busy trade, as well as intermittent warfare, with the Indians of the region, buying deer and beaver skins and selling manufactured goods including firearms. But when King George II created the new province of Georgia by charter in 1732 he gave all rights to land and trade south of the Savannah River to the trustees of the new province. It was to be a high-minded colony in which both slavery and the sale of rum were prohibited. The trustees’ representative, General James Oglethorpe,* arrived in the Savannah River with a party of 115 colonists early in the following year and began to build the city which was also called Savannah.*
An Act of Parliament passed in London in 1735 ruled that trade with the Indians on the south side of the river—in the Georgia backlands—could only be undertaken by traders licensed in Georgia, and Oglethorpe’s officers began immediately to harrass Carolinian traders who were not so licensed. He also planned a new white township on the south side of the river to supersede the trading town called New Windsor that had grown around the Carolinians’ garrison at Fort Moore* on the north bank. The new town would be three miles further upstream and would be called Augusta after the Princess of Wales.
The transfer of business took place very quickly, in spite of Carolinian dissent. After only five years six hundred traders were operating through Augusta, and very little trade remained at New Windsor. Augusta’s economic buoyancy continued throughout the colonial era, the merchants and chief traders earning the sobriquet “gentlemen of Augusta,” with their confidence and life-style resembling somewhat those of the long-established Charleston merchant class.
Augusta was laid out with a church, called Saint Paul’s, a fort, and a grid plan of forty lots, each of one acre. With land grants of up to five hundred acres available outside the town, however, some merchants built their houses and stores beyond the grid. In the eyes of a British colonel in 1779, Augusta was “a number of straggling houses, arranged in a long street lying parallel to the river; at the distance of 100 yards.” The fort built on the edge of the central grid would house a garrison and stores of weapons and ammunition but could not protect the more distant buildings, even if it were in good condition. In fact it fell quickly into disrepair, being built of wood with the puncheons (halved trees forming the vertical posts of the stockade) driven into the ground and subject to rapid decay.
The trustees’ charter was surrendered in 1752 and Georgia became a colonial province vested in the Crown. Slavery was legalized but the ban on rum remained. In 1758 it was divided into seven parishes for administrative purposes, the “frontier” parish to the northwest being Saint Paul’s Parish* centered on Augusta, but with no clear western boundary to show where white settlement should end and Indian hunting ground begin. After the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, during which only the Cherokee had taken up arms against the British, boundaries were agreed upon at a major conference in Augusta between the governors of the four southern colonies and representatives, numbering fully eight hundred men, of the five tribes: Chickasaw,* Choctaw,* Creek, Cherokee, and Catawba. Also present was the king’s newly appointed superintendent of Indian affairs in the South, John Stuart,* a man of great influence among the Indians. The boundaries of Saint Paul’s Parish to the northwest and southwest were set on the lines of the Little River* and the Ogeechee River,* which meant a considerable loss of territory for the Creeks. Though agreed upon in 1763, the boundaries were not clearly marked out on the ground until 1768.
By contemporary proclamation made in London in October 1763, the British government confirmed the Indians’ right to all the lands reserved to them by previous agreements, denied any right of white settlement in those lands, and reserved all rights of purchase of such territory to governors or commander-in-chief only, on behalf of the Crown. All land west of the boundaries agreed at the Augusta conference became subject to these strictures. By the same proclamation the right of trading with the Indians was opened up to white men holding licenses issued by any of the southern governors, thus breaking the virtual monopoly of the Indian trade that the Augusta merchants had exercised with the support of two successive governors of Georgia. Most of these “gentlemen of Augusta” never traveled to the Indian settlements where the actual trading took place but supplied the men who did so. Some merchants paid traders as their own regular employees. The 1763 agreement also guaranteed the Indians the use of their ancient paths and freedom to visit Augusta and its gentlemen.
From 1757 onward a few white men had been encouraged by the provincial government to settle beyond the agreed boundaries, all on land near the Savannah, Broad,* and Little rivers. This was rich land for cultivation and after 1763 more whites who were already hardened to frontier conditions in provinces further north arrived to become settlers within the new boundaries, and some to be illegal “squatters” beyond them. Most of these people were unsympathetic to the Indians and afraid of them, an attitude quite different from that of the traders newly licensed under the terms of the proclamation. The traders needed friendship and good communication with the Indians, but were in practice too ready to cheat them or bribe them with rum, and after such events, angry Indians were apt to take vengeance on the settlers instead of the traders.
For the seven years that followed the treaty and proclamation of 1763, Augusta remained prosperous and its population increased, but resentments and sporadic incidents of violence occurred. John Stuart’s “superintendence” of Indian affairs certainly became more difficult, and its success more problematic as the backlands filled up with new settlers and traders.
William Mylne, in his cabin by Stephen’s Creek, was within the influence of Augusta, but was not in Georgia. The South Carolina boundary of white settlement demarcated in 1766 was at least forty miles further up the Savannah than the boundary at Little River on the Georgia side; and the white population on that side was thinly spread on separate plantations. Though Mylne’s next surviving letter, to his sister, was dispatched from Augusta, it was clearly written at his cabin.
Augusta 29th May 1774
Would you believe that in this southern climate My Dearest Nanny we have had so sharp a frost that the trees had the same appearance as in the end of October, the leaves fell, as at the approach of winter, it happened on the 5th of this month. I had planted a small garden, in which I had sowen seeds of different kinds. My cucumbers, water & musk melons, and several other vegetables were destroyed, my orchard of peaches which I mentioned in my last, is almost quite destroyed, the country in general has suffered greatly, the wheat which had a fine appearance is in some places wholly ruined, in others on[e] half. The Indian corn that was above ground was bit closs to the surface, however they say this will come forward; it is so far lucky, as the greatest part of their bread is made of this grain. I was a few days ago in a field of indigo, one fourth of it was killed, it was of the wild kind which had been planted before winter. The night was so cold, that although I had a blanket and worsted cover upon me I was obliged to rise and make a fire. The oldest man that lives in these parts does not remember such a frost at this time of the year.
I have now lived above three months in the woods by myself, I have only been twice in Augusta in all that time, sometimes I am eight–ten days without seeing a human creature. I have had time to think about my situation. My plan of life must be regulate[d] by your letters. A planter’s life is that I would prefer. Before I turned so much recluse I have been at pains to enquire the produce and profits, they are great; yet the planters are mostly poor, the reason of this is the great prices they are obliged to pay to the store keepers for cloaths and necessaries for themselves and families. They have no manufacture in the country, the tabbaco they grow goes to England and Scotland and comes out to them again in snuff etc. Hemp and flax the same, unless it is some cotton they plant which their wives and daughters spin and weave, for the men does nothing but minds their plantations and hardly that, if they get as much as puts over the year they care for no more; this is with regard to the original setlers, but there are a set of industrious planters coming fast in from Virginia, North Carolina, Pensilvania, and New England, these bring in with them a good number of negroes, they buy the plantations of the old setlers, yet these are in great want of money, what with the long journey the expence of bringing large families so far, the buying land, and maintenance for some time they are generally in debt to the storekeeper who gives them his own price for their produce and that in goods not in money. Their are few stores in this part, people comes twenty mile, a few of the planters who can afford it send their produce to Charlestown or Savannah by water or land carriage. Yet these new planters in a short time by their industry will be able to live easily the ground is so excellent in these back parts producing much larger crops than lower down.
And now for myself my plan would be to purchase a track of land upon this or some other navigable river, to buy three negroes, to bring Willie and a white maid servant over, with these I could live easily and contented, lay by some money yearly. This would require a capital of betwixt £300 & £400, your letters must inform me whether I have any reason to expect this, or not. If I had any prospect that my personal attendance could bring this sum out of the wreck of my fortune I would come over and after setling my affairs I could bring out what necessaries I might want for the rest of my life. My health thank God is perfectly reestablished, I do not think I ever was so well. Although it now begins to be hot yet I have felt it as hot in Scotland, they tell me it will be warmer still but the mornings and evenings are cool and it lasts but for three months.
I wrote in my last of the 26th of April for you to send me a credit for £50, that I suppose you have done, unless I buy land I shall not use it. The necessaries I shall want in case you are of opinion I can be of no service by coming home are, some linnen wastcoats, such as his honour of London used to wear in summer, two jackets of the same, the one to wash the other, two pair stocking breeches, a scarlet serge wastcoat and jacket, the jacket lappeled, this is for winter, half dozen check shirts, half dozen do. white a little finer than the coarse nightshirt I brought out, some thread stockings, two or three pair of worsted ditto, two pair of shoes, a hat about 12 or 15 shillings price, a blue or grey dufle great coat, I could wish for a blue or black corderoe silk wastcoat to wear with a coat I bought in London, this when I went among the gentles, for at Augusta they dress gayly both men and women, I generally wear a check shirt at the Hermitage. I have been so good a husband of my shirts that of the new dozen I have only had on three, and that but for once.
I could wish to have a small chest of wright’s tools,1 with two saws, the one larger than the other, and if the crosscut saw which I left at home is not sold, send it, I wish to God I had all the trumpery I left [t]here, what a money I could make of it. I was going to say some pounds of Scotch snuff in botles, but I make a shift for I manufacture it by drying the leaf at a fire, then puts it into a piece of leather and beats it with a hammer, till it becomes snuff, necessity is the mother of invention. I shall want two pair more of sheets, two table cloaths, some towels, it was lucky you thought of the sheets that I brought with me. I could wish for a feather bed but that perhaps may be got here, if I turn so lazy as want one. I ly at present on a wool matress laid on planks, and although it is very hard when one thinks how they used to ly, yet I sleep sound.
If £300 or £400 is not expected to be raised out of the ruins of my fortune do not send any of these articles, for I would rather perish than that you should want on my account, and indeed I should have no use for them for I must alter my plan, it is impossible for me to do anything in those woods by myself, there are trees to cut down, roots to grub up, the ground to plow, corn, indigo, tobacco, to plant. At present great part of my time is lost in providing victuals for myself, this I mostly do by my gun and fishing. I catched two large fish tother day each two feet long, if I had convenience I would salt them, pray send me a receipt how the[y] cure salmon for kitting,2 their is fish here of several kinds I am sure would answer.
If you send the things send some books, pamphelets, magazines, anything to read. Let me know who is dead, who is married, and who has miscarried, does the same rascals rule the roast in the Town Council; I want much an artificial little fish for fishing with. Ker* could procure you one; how does he, he is an honest fellow, does the sun shine upon him yet? I am afraid not.
We are still in suspence whether there is to be war or not, a few days ago some Indians came in to Augusta, with white feathers, their symbol of peace, they brought no talk, they wanted to hear one.
Never wait for a letter from me but write at least once a month. There may be some things you can spare and which may be usefull, send them, one pays three prices for every thing they buy, I dare say Ramsay* the taylor has my measures & some of the shoemakers will have that of my foot. Let the things, in case you send them, be directed to the care of Mr John Hatefield, Kings Street, Charlestown, I am within four days ride of that place and propose going down at the beggining of winter which is at the time ships come in. Write me in answer to this two copies one directed to me at Robert Mackay’s* Esqre, Augusta in Georgia, the other to Mr John Hatefields, Kings Street, Charlestown. I do this that I may be sure of an answer, for everything depends upon it. Do not wait for ships sailing but write by the Post, there is a packet comes once a month.
Duncan Robinson* would be a good hand for manageing the sending of the things, he is concerned in ships that come to Charlestown. I want half dozen of knives and forks and a half dozen of spoons, metal or pewter.
If money could be raised now I would buy the land immediatly, and set about clearing it and get myself setled as fast as I could, perhaps you might come over and pass a summer or two with me, Jock Tomson’s wife3 did so to her brother. You would find a most delightfull country. In stocking the plantation I can buy a cow calve for thirty six shillings, hogs with pigs for about seven shillings; the cows may be such as would give with you three pound ten shillings or four pounds sterling.
My neighbours are mostly all Babtists, I some times go to their meetings, the young women are generally pretty oweing to the goodness of the climate, the men are stout and well made but are mere indians to their women making them do all the work. On Sundays the lasses are clean and neat, on working days you would hardly know them to be the same. Towards Charlestown and the sea coast the people look all as if risen out of a fit of sickness; here is health and strength, but the men are cursedly lazy, some of them makes their wives plant corn.
The water here is excellent. When I don’t eat fish I live on butter, cheese, and eggs; I pay six pence the pound for butter, five pence for cheese, eggs I have of my own, I have two hens sitting, one might raise hundreds of chickens for little, corn is so cheap. I don’t eat much flesh. As this is the first year I intend to season myself so that I shall be able to endure the weather without fear afterwards.
I have wrote to Livingston but made no mention of coming home, if you should see him take no notice of that, I must be regulate[d] in that point by you.
Augusta 8th June
May God Almighty bless and preserve my dear Mother. My love to the Selby family. Write me soon and often till I desire you to stop. Adieu. Believe me to be My Dearest Nanny your truly affectionate
From my hermitage on Stephen’s Creek
26th June 1774.
I write to you last although I like you better than any of the male creation I left at home—I dare say your good sense will easily excuse my coming away without a farewell, these adiew’s are pain-full to any one, but must have been more so in my situation. I found myself fast a going, my health ruined by having disagreable objects before my eyes and no comfort within my hearing; what could I do at home; nothing; my hands were tied, I was certain if anything could recover me it would be a ramble. Nature formed me for travelling, I believe I am of the Tartar kind—whithout any disparagement to the Mylne’s blood that runs in my veins. I travelled at as little expence as any man could do, I learnt this in my younger days, and had it not been for a severe fit of sickness I had at Charlestown, my whole journey hither would have cost less than I used to spend in a London jaunt. I believe it was the last efforts of my disorder with my constitution, the battle ended in a violent flux5 which had well nigh carried me off, since that time I have enjoyed an uninterrupted state of good health.
I shall not trouble you with an account of the events that have happened to me in my coming hither, I wrote a kind of an abstract to Nanny which I make no doubt she has communicated to you. I have several friends at Augusta at whose houses and tables I am always welcome; Mr Mackay, one of the principal merchants concerned in the trade with the Indians of those parts, made me an offer of his house to live at, this I declined, wanting to live in a retired manner for some time untill I could settle my mind which had been so long discomposed. In one of my rambles in the month of February last I learnt I might rent the place I now live at. It is situate on Stephen’s Creek, the house or cabbin is built of pine trees laid a top of one the other, it is covered with what they call clap boards, these are split pines & hung by pinns on the lath, the contents in the inside sixteen feet by twelve. In the corner stands my bed which is of boards, upon these is a matrass, although it is hard yet I sleep sound. Opposite to this is my chest with a few shirts in it, behind which one of my hens has brought me nine chickens. I have a small gallin pot, a frying pan for cooking, I go to the miln for meal made of indian corn, it is three miles distance, it would make you laugh to see me sitting a horse back on the top of the meal bags. I have a peach orchard in which there was an incredible number of peaches before a frost we had in the month of May, but still there are many more left than I shall use. I have a small garden cultivate with my own hands, in which are greens of different kinds, cucumbers, musk and water melons. I have cured bacon within the house, butter I have at six pence a pound, cheese at five pence, six hens I have layes me more eggs than I can eat and I am rearing chickens, when I want broth I go to the woods and shoot a squirrel or two, this makes excellent [broth], fish I have in the creek.
I have a good horse (for there is no doing without one), he runs in the woods and obeys my call when I want him, he will come running at a mile’s distance when he hears my voice. There is a little bird that has built her nest opposite to my bed that wakens me in the morning by its sprightly notes, its nest I am obliged to guard for fear of a cat that has come to me from the woods, this creature has become very tame, she furs about my legs when I get out of bed, I suppose she belonged to the people who had left the house.
Now says you what do you want—Yes, I do want; God Almighty has planted in our breasts an active principle for wise purposes; I feel this at present in a very strong degree; I want again to be in action now the machine is repaired. I want money to purchase some land, and a few negroes to cultivate it under my directions, and with my assistance. All the best land had been taken up by a set of men who now sell it out to newcomers. The life of a planter is that I should like, in it I could lay by money; I have learnt the methods to cultivate the different articles of produce in this country; betwixt £300 & £400 would set me up & every year I should lay by some money. Be so good as inform your self if this is expected out of the wreck of my fortune, if it is not I must stear some other course. I have lived many years to little purpose; you are no stranger to the vexations I have endured, and the friendly part you acted during them, I shall always have a gratefull remembrance of.
There is a tract of land of 300 acres fin[e]ly situate on the River Savannah, this place I want much to buy, I imagine it may be bought for about £60 sterling. The person who owns it, lives at St Augustine* in East Florida, I have even wrote to a gentleman who came passenger in the ship with me, to know what it may be bought for. If money can be got out of the rubbish of my affairs to purchase this and three or four negroes I am made for the rest of my days. Upon it I can plant corn, raise tobacco, make indigo; cattle and hoggs I can rear as many as I please, these when killed and salted give a good price at Savannah for the West India market, and the navigation of the river makes the carriage cheap.
My neighbour6 thinks me a strange man, to live as I do by myself, I have none nigher than two miles except one, and him I must cross the Creek to, which may [be] about 4 times as broad as Pouderhall water, this I seldom do unless it be for to carry over some shirts for his daughters to wash, for which I pay them. I have some times half dozen of these people in my cabbin at a time, they come in when they are hunting their cattle, they will sit 3 or 4 hours, some on a form I have for a seat, others in the bed, listening with open ears, their visits of late have been more frequent, driven by their curiosity. I am always well armed having two guns and two brace of pistols within my reach in the night time. These people are very ignorant of the world and know little more than raising their crops and carrying it to the store, for which they receive goods in return, few of them going to Charlestown and Savannah where they would receive payment in cash or in goods at £50p[e]r c[en]t less than they pay here, they all complain of the extravagant rates they are obliged to give for goods and indeed I believe this deadens their industry.
There was a strange accident happened the other night. I have not given over my custom of reading in bed yet before I go to sleep. In place of candles I make use of light wood split in long pieces, this is of the heart of the pine. I heard the hen that has the chickens dabbing with her beak and making a great noise, I got out of bed and by help of the light wood found it was a snake endeavouring to get at the chickens, which she defended. He retired at my coming up, I put a piece of wood into the hole where he got in, and went to bed where I fell fast asleep. Some time after I was waked by a noise from that corner and concluded it must be the snake again, I went to the chimney to find if there was any remains of fire where after much blowing I made a shift to make a light. The noise by this time was ceased. I went towards the hen who I found to all appearances dead, the snake was twisted round her body below the wings and round her neck; with a stick I struck part of him that was disengaged from the hen, whom he directly quit[t]ed, I got another strock which smashed his head, I then threw him out of doors. In the morning I measured him, he was five feet eight inches long. Some of my neighbours who happened to call in told me he was what they call a chicken snake, that his bite was not poisonous but troublesome, however I should not like to have been bite by him, as I would not have known whither it was so or not. You must know my humble cot has but a clay floor and this creature had found its way in at the joints of the loggs.
I forgot to tell you I have an excellent spring of clear water which is all my drink, unless when I go to Augusta where I am treated with wine and punch, this is but seldom for in four months now I have been only three times there although often pressed to come.
What I write is only for Betty,7 my mother, Nanny and your perusal, if the people with you knew of my strange manner of life they would conclude me mad, therefore for your own sakes keep it to yourselves, for madness in one of a family hurts the rest, you have children with part of the Mylne’s blood in them. I can only add the country is most beautifull at present and by not exposing myself in the heat of the day I find I can stand the hot weather very well. I wrote Livingston a little while ago, I sent him a power of attorney from London, their was an absolute necessity to continue him. No other could understand my affairs.
May God Almighty bless our dear Mother, Betty, Nanny and yourself. May your children be a credit and honour to you is the sincere prayer of
Your real friend
Direct your letter for me at Mr John Hatefields Kings Street Charlestown, as I intend to go there much about the time an answer to this can come.
Do not be dilatory in writing as I can only afford to stay a day or two in Charlestown and if I have not an answer it will be a great disapointment. I find the story of the snake will suffer by the sealing. I go to Augusta with this tomorrow when I shall see men I greatly respect for their kindness to me a stranger. Upon second thoughts rather than seal this I put you to a shillings more expence and me half a sheet of paper.
Figures given by the governor of Georgia, James Wright, show that between 1753 and 1762 the white population of the colony had almost tripled and the number of blacks had more than quadrupled. The treaty made with the Indians at Augusta in 1763 provided a considerable new area of settlement to absorb some of these people, and it was land of the piedmont region bearing broad-leaved forest, much more fertile than the land taken earlier for plantation in the coastal plain. But still the majority of the area that today forms the state of Georgia was reserved for the Indians, with the Creeks and a small group of Chickasaw claiming the middle and west and the Cherokee the north (as well as most of the area just west of the boundary of the neighboring colony of South Carolina).
The governor wished to have in the backcountry a body of content and well-disciplined white settlers, who would treat the tribes with respect. Both he and the British government considered this necessary for profitable trading and avoidance of war. Such settlers would also themselves contribute to the economic growth of the colony. Wright knew that the London government and the superintendent of Indian affairs, John Stuart, were opposed to any change in the boundaries of settlement negotiated in 1763; yet he needed their cooperation to have the boundaries extended by royal purchase, as required by the proclamation of 1763.
As already noted, many of the white men who arrived in the backcountry after 1763, both settlers and traders, were lacking in discipline—even, it has been said, in the rudiments of civilization—and their relations with the Indians, who were far from deserving the common epithet of “savages,” were never really peaceful. Breaches of Stuart’s regulations for white traders were partly responsible for this, with some Indians feeling cheated, but the increase in number of traders was also making demands too great on the supply of skins. This resulted in more and more credit being allowed to the Indians for the goods they wanted from the Augusta traders and merchants, and both Cherokee and Creeks became increasingly indebted to them.
In 1770 the merchants and traders began negotiations with chiefs of the Cherokee about discharging their debts, which were estimated at £45,000. Although the proposal was in line with Governor Wright’s hopes for a westward extension of white settlement, the deed that was signed amicably between the chiefs and the traders in February 1771 was a private purchase of Indian land and therefore in breach of the proclamation of 1763. All the Cherokee’s debts were to be canceled as payment for an area of sixty miles square, north of the Little River and west of the Savannah. John Stuart’s deputy in the Cherokee country, Alexander Cameron,* objected first, and Stuart then declared the deal illegal and referred the problems created—for instance, that the traders had already destroyed their accounts as a seal on the agreement—to London.
Another immediate complication was that the Creeks claimed part of the land involved as theirs by a conquest earlier in the century. This brought those who traded with the Creeks, and the Creeks’ large debts, into the discussion, while Governor Wright on leave in England worked hard to obtain the approval of British ministers. He won their approval on condition that the purchase was made by Stuart for the Crown and limited to the area already agreed upon by the Cherokee and traders—Wright having argued for buying more than twice as much. And he was knighted by the king before returning to the colony early in 1773. At a conference at Augusta at the beginning of June the boundaries of the “New Purchase,” subsequently called the “Ceded Lands,” were agreed upon, but not without ominous signs of resentment on the part of young Creek warriors.
In some negotiations concerned with “settling the accounts” between the Indians and their creditors two men, one of whom was Andrew Robertson,* acted for the governor. For this service Robertson, who was also called Robinson, was related to the Mylnes, and had come into Georgia in 1773 after many years in South Carolina, was later paid by free grants of land.
The Ceded Lands north and west of Augusta amounted to a little over 1.6 million acres. A proclamation by the governor on June 11 declared the land ready for settlement but only to newcomers from outside the province. This condition had been imposed by the London government but was also favored by Wright because he hoped to attract settlers from Great Britain; he wanted no more of the rough and lawless frontiersmen from the colonies to the north. In this respect, the most promising application for land that he received was from a partnership of Jonas Brown of Whitby in Yorkshire, his son Thomas,* and James Gordon* of Orkney.* The opportunities for settlers had probably been made known to Thomas when he petitioned the London government unsuccessfully for a colonial appointment in April 1773.
According to the proclamation of June 11, land grants would consist of one hundred acres for the head of a family, fifty acres each for his wife and for each child, slave, and male indentured servant, and twenty-five acres for each female indentured servant, all indentures to be for a minimum of two years. The purchase prices were set at from one to five shillings per acre, according to the quality of the land, and surveyors and commissioners of sales were appointed. The commissioners met frequently from September 1773 to June 1775 to receive applications and take up deposits, which were generally £2 per hundred acres.
About three hundred applications were approved, most of them for grants of one hundred to three hundred acres and almost all the applicants coming from other colonies, especially North and South Carolina. Two of the largest bids were from James Gordon, granted five thousand acres, and Andrew Robinson, granted two thousand acres, both on November 16, 1773. Gordon, named as from Scotland, undertook to bring into Georgia a “sufficient number of inhabitants” (probably about one hundred) to meet the conditions of the grant and Robinson, from South Carolina, was to settle his present family including five children and ten slaves immediately and bring further slaves to the number required by his grant. For both applicants the lands were reserved until the required numbers of settlers arrived, the reservation to hold for periods up to one year. Gordon was to pay a deposit; although only he is mentioned in the records of the commissioners for Ceded Lands, his grants were for the partnership of Brown and Gordon. The wording of the record can also be interpreted as indicating that he was not yet in the colony. The record states that a deposit was also due from Robinson, but later evidence shows that he received the land free in lieu of payment for his former service to the governor.
Indentured servants were immigrants who could not afford the cost of removal to America and who, to pay for their passages, bound themselves and in many cases their whole families to service for a period of from two to seven years, during which they were entitled to no wages but provided with food, accommodation, and basic clothing. Moreover, their indentures to serve could be bought and sold, and so the conditions under which they worked, as well as those under which they were carried to the colonies, might be no better than those of slaves. Brown and Gordon’s servants were bound for only three years and were allowed fifteen acres per man, ten for a wife, and five for each child over ten years of age, for their own use and profit. This land was to be rent free for five years, one shilling per acre per annum for a second five years, and thereafter two shillings. A few of these servants were recruited from Yorkshire and embarked at Whitby, but the greater proportion came from the North of Scotland and embarked at Gordon’s island home, Orkney. The first party, with forty-eight men and women and twenty-six children, left Whitby on Jonas Brown’s ship, the Marlborough, on August 12, 1774, and reached Savannah on November 17. Gordon had preceded them to Georgia and was already in residence at New Richmond,* a fine house and plantation on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River about five miles upstream from Augusta. Thomas Brown arrived from England with the party of servants.
The governor had attempted to provide for the safety of new settlers. One of his commissioners for land grants, Edward Barnard,* was also commissioned on September 6, 1773, as captain of a troop of “horse rangers” to garrison and police the Ceded Lands. They were enlisted under full military discipline and numbered seventy to eighty men, including the captain, other officers, sergeants, and a surgeon. They were to occupy several posts, the chief of which was Fort James,* at the confluence of the Broad River with the Savannah. The order for this fort to be constructed described it as “one hundred twenty feet square, with four bastions made of square logs, two of them to be covered and two left open at the top; the curtains between the bastions to be lined by punchions; officers houses, barracks, and goalhouse [sic] and magazine”; but whether it was built exactly like that is doubtful. A colorful uniform for the rangers was also ordered: “A blue coat faced with red and a red jacket and blue cloth boots or spatter-dashes made to fit the leg edged with red and gartered with a black strap and buckle . . . and breeches either blue cloth or buckskin.”
Settlement in the Ceded Lands began but was very soon interrupted. On December 25, 1773, a war party of Creek Indians attacked and massacred the family of William White, an immigrant from North Carolina, on his holding near the headwaters of the Ogeechee River. On January 14, 1774, another party of Creeks attacked a group of settlers working on the construction of a stockade fort at a site in the southwest of the Ceded Lands, west of Wrightsborough.* Seven of the twenty settlers were killed and five others wounded. Again, on January 23, a force of Georgia militia and rangers was ambushed and routed by a Creek war party; most of the militiamen deserted, and settlers in the Ceded Lands fled to the safety of stockade forts on the south side of Little River and also to Augusta itself, where at least four houses were fortified with stockades. Settlement in the Ceded Lands virtually ceased, and even the squatters left the area.
In March two Creek chiefs were killed by white men in separate incidents. Big Elk was ambushed by a party of frontiersmen while engaged in an attempt to persuade Cherokees to join in the Creek attacks; Mad Turkey, in contrast, had gone to Augusta to talk of peace when he was murdered by an angry blacksmith. On April 14 Emistisiguo,* a respected Creek headman, with other chiefs met the governor in Savannah and agreed to call on the Creek Nation to cease hostilities, promising to report their response to the governor within three moons. It was actually more than six months before any new assurance of safety could be given to prospective settlers.
To Mr Wm Mills,8
Charlestown, South Carolina
May 17 1774
My Dearest Willy
with the utmost anxiety and the greatest aprehension for your welfare, do I sit down to write you—good god, what can be the meaning of your silence—of all the letters I have wrote you (and I have wrote regularly the first of every month since your departure) I have received none, but one dated from Charlestown Septmb the 21–in it you refer me to a letter sent by a Scotch ship for your determination, this letter I have never received, nor care about9—so I had received some since that time, leting me at least know that you was well and in the land of the living.
All remains here just as you left us—my Lord Elliok’s decisions is still delayed, owing to a quarell between the fewers10 and the town, this to me is mortifying to even write you after so long space of expectation, yet I would hope this August vacation will put an end to it—he allows to every person the validity of your claim but for one reason or another declars it would be improper for him to decide.
Little Will is my constant companion, he is a fine boy, lively to excess yet loves me and dreads my frown—my mother is very fond of him, yet complains that I spoil him with indulgence—poor little fellow, I think often of you when I look at him, I have him at a reading school in town and have begune to teach him writing myself when finished with his reading; shall put him to a proper school for it—I dress him plain and neat.
I have conjured you in all my other letters to draw upon me for money, again I repeat it. Depend on my love and care for everything in my power for your interest, heaven knows the anxiety your silence has cost me. I still hope that change of place and accident is the cause of it. I shall direct this to Mr Hatfield to whose care you ordered your letters.
Farewell my dearest Willy—and relieve my anxitiety [sic] and believe in every change of situation most sincerely and
[on verso] Your mother is in good health, but very unhappy on your account—the Selbys are all well—Capt. Clarke is dead of a short ffever about a month ago—the Browns* are just as formerly. Again I intreat write by every opportunity—you cannot think how unhappy you make me.
To Miss Ann Mylne
at Mr Robert Selby’s,* Baillie Fyfe’s Closs,
Edinburgh, North Britain
p[e]r the Daniel, Capt. Gearviss,
New Richmond on Savannah, 3 miles from Augusta
Ist. Septr 1774
My Dearest Nanny
What a deal of uneaseness to us both might have been prevented by understanding one another. I don’t remember that you was to address me by the name of Mills, theirs our ill luck, and all your letters must now be lying in the Post Office at Charlestown, or perhaps satisfying the curiosity of some idle person. You must write no more to me untill I let you know, for long before I can receive an answer to this I shall leave this place, for several reasons as you will learn afterwards. This is the worst place I believe in the world for either sending of or receiving letters, their is no Post, and one must wait the going down of some one to Charlestown; I got away a large packet to you in the month of May last, which will ere now fully satisfy you of what I had gone throw to its date. Another packet lay no less than three months at Augusta, this last went away as I understand about the middle of July last, I wish I had it again. Ist. I cannot receive your answer here, 2dly I wrote for many things I shall have no use for now I intend to come away, which I hope this may come time enough to prevent you cause making or sending. All I shall want is half a dozen of good shirts, and half dozen of course [coarse?], tow pair of shoes, a pair of stocking breeches black, these send to Willm Mylne, to the care of Mr John Hatfield, Kings Street Charlestown, no more fictitious names, I am known in every great town.
I wrote to Selby and Livingston, which last I wish I had back. To you and Bob I laid down a scheme of life which now I must relinquish. In my former I amused you how agreably I lived by myself with my gun, fishing, and garden; I had spent near five months in this agreable manner of life when, as the Devil would have it, Ist. the gentlemen of Augusta took it into their heads they would come up and see me, this gave me great uneaseness but I always got it parried, 2dly our cousin Robinson came up from Savannah, on his way to view his lands on Broad River, Mr Gordon who has large tracts taken up there was to be in company, they sent a message they were coming to see me, this would not suit as no body knew how I lived but some of my country neighbours. I went immediatly to Augusta and had the good fortune to meet them on the road coming up, they returned to Mr McKays, when they insisted on me taking the journey with them, they would take no refusal and got me perswaded against my reason—it was the middle of July, and the heats at the greatest hight. I trusted to the goodness of my constitution, from the manner of life I had followed I was in excellent health; Robinson promised we should not travell after nine in the morning, and to set out two hours before sun set. Robinson is one of those beings that when they cannot widdle into the management of great things takes up with small, he accordingly was manager, their scheme was to get me to pitch upon proper situations for their houses, offices, and servants houses, and afterwards to draw plans of them.
We set out well mounted and armed, a servant with us, a pack horse loaded with provisions, and a tent to camp under at night. I shall not trouble you with our route. On the second day I fell sick. We came to Fort James at the mouth of Broad River, where a party of the rangers was ordered for an escort. The 4th day after leaving the Fort I was attacked by a fever, I still continued to travell examining the nature and soil of the lands which are pleasantly situate on Broad River, which runs above sixty miles before it falls into Savannah. We came to a cabbin where a family lived, at this place I determined to stop. I had before this examined Mr Gordon’s grounds, his lay nighest, and was able to form some judgement of them so as to make plans and mark situations. I told Robinson I could proceed no further, this freted him much as he was anxious to have his matters properly laid out, I stopt his mouth by telling him it was his bad management in travelling in the middle of the day that had brought this sickness upon me. He was obliged to set out without me, the distance was but 15 miles but I was very bad. Here we staid two days, Robinson endeavouring to get a promise from me to come up again with him in the month of Novr at which time he proposes to bring up his wife and family, to a good house he has taken about 40 miles above Augusta on the River Savannah, but this I shall not do. We got back to Fort James where I got some doctor stuff that did me no good, we now crossed over to Carolina (I should have told you that is [sic] from these lands we rode over the people had all run away and few returned since the Indians committed the murders) and came to the French setlement, where they are proposing to make wine under the direction of a Monsr St Piere.* There are many of that nation there, who have a parson and doctor. The hard frost killed all their grapes and I question if they succeed, the Spring comes early and things comes forward, a frost often succeeds that nips the fruit in the bud, which was the case this year, this happens to many usefull things in this country.
About this time an express came to Robinson, informing [him] that George Baillie* & Willy Baillie* were come to Augusta and wanted him down on business. They sent compts. and wanted much to see me. Willy had come out and entered attorney, his uncles wife and him quarelled, I had received a long letter from him telling of his intention of going home & following his old scheme of portrait painting; in answer, I endeavoured to do diswade [sic] him, he begged letters for that purpose which I refused. I believe he had come up on purpose to see me.
Map of William Mylne’s journey to the Ceded Lands
We came next to the plantation of a Mr Williamson,* here I fell extremly ill, they two gentlemen waited a day for me, when I insisted upon their going on without me. At this gentleman’s I was taken care of with the utmost humanity, having everything the plantation could afford and a negro servant to attend me. Here I continued seven days, when I thought myself so well I might venture to set out although entreated to stay some days longer—they insisted I should take a servant along with me, which I would upon no account allow. I set out for one Mr Purvis, and rode 25 miles without eating, and I may say drinking, for the great heats had dryed up most of the springs. I was frightned that I would loose myself for it is very difficult to travell in the woods, their are so many paths that intersect one another that missing the one one should keep, one may go God knows where. Well, much fatigued I got to Purves who was not at home. I had a letter for him, I got his overseer, everything was locked up. I staid here all night and would have staid longer had the landlord been at home. I set out and after riding 18 miles got to my castle, I turned my horse loose, opened my door, found everything solitary, I struck up a fire, hung on my pot, catched a chicken, plucked him etc., put him in with a bit of bacon, spread down my matress, lay down, happy in the weak situation I was in that I had got home.
I staid four days in my old manner, very weak. During this I received no less than four letters from Mr Gordon insisting upon coming down, and once he came up himself but I took care he could not cross the creek having my canoe full of rain water. Luckly the Baillies and Robinson were gon to Savannah. I came to this place 3 weeks ago, it is a perfect paradise, the house is the best in these parts, situate on the banks of the river 3 miles from Augusta. I have had again a relapse of the fever which is now stopt by the bark13 and am picking up again fast.
My reasons for leaving this place are these, although I had half dozen of negreos [sic] I could not pretend to keep company and entertain them in return, Mr Gordon would be nigh me, Robinson has bought a plantation in this parts, the gentlemen of Augusta would all be nigh and although I was at the distance of forty miles it would be the same, they think nothing of a visit at that distance staying a fortnight on a visit at a time. I have had offers of reccomendation to settle in Charlestown but I could not live there six months. I shall leave this in Decr for Charlestown, from whence I shall go to some of the large towns to the northward where it is very healthy and living cheap, and attempt my proffesion, in which I have reason to think I shall succeed. My health will soon be reastblished by the cold weather coming in.
I received yours inclosed in one from Mr Hatfeild four days ago, its date is May the 17th—you wonder I have not mentioned it sooner, but you have guessed I had got it—I am extremly sorrow for the distress you have been thrown into for my wellfare it has arose from the particular situations I have been obliged to go throw and the tedious conveyance of letters.
Lord Elliock’s decision I dont expect so soon as you do, the Town will find means to fight it of[f]. I am much obliged to you for the care you take of my affairs, but take care of his honour who will look sharply into things. I received a civil letter from him a few days ago with offers of services, with a new factory for Livingston, as some have disputed to pay. I shall answer his letter in the same civil manner, he says he would have reccomended Italy and could have got an employment for me in which he had no concern—but I have had enough of his employments. I desired you to send me out a bill for fifty pounds, it is more money than I shall want now I have changed my scheme of life. I suppose you have done this at the time you received the letter, if not it will be embarassing, not for the money, for I am in no want, but in detaining me here. It might occurr to you that I could get no money on a bill drawn upon you as you are not known.
How happy am I My Dear Mother keeps her health so well. God bless her. Take care of poor Willy, we may make something of him. Adieu,
God bless you,
My hand shakes much
A sense of scandal swept through all the colonies when Boston Port was closed on June 1, 1774, by an act of the British Parliament. In Georgia, as elsewhere, there were strong political reactions during the summer and fall. For the Georgians, however, there was a real threat of war with the Creek Nation, and many believed that the safety of the backlands could only be assured by the arrival of a British military force. Expressions of loyalty to Britain were therefore heard as often, and in the backlands initially more often, than sentiments of liberty. The governor begged the British commander-in-chief in the colonies repeatedly for regular soldiers to be sent but without success. Georgia sent no representatives to the First Continental Congress, convened at Philadelphia on September 5.
On August 10 a meeting called by Whigs at Tondee’s Tavern in Savannah passed resolutions of protest against Britain’s encroachments on the liberties of the colonies. Immediately afterward, a body of Loyalists in Savannah signed and published a declaration of dissent from these resolutions, one of the signatories being Andrew Robertson. Similar dissent was heard and Loyalist resolutions passed at meetings representing the town and district of Augusta, Saint Paul’s Parish, Kyoka and Broad River settlements, Saint George’s Parish, Queensborough,* and Wrightsborough, and all were reported in the Georgia Gazette between August 17 and October 12. The Saint Paul’s Parish resolution was signed, among others, by Robert Mackay, Edward Barnard, Andrew McLean, John Francis Williams,* James Gordon, and Daniel Waiscoat.* They protested that their representatives had been excluded from the Whigs’ meeting at Savannah on August 10, where they would have voted against the resolutions; they cited the great danger to them of an Indian war “unless we receive such powerful aid and assistance as none but Great Britain can give”; and they declared their “dissent to all resolutions by which His Majesty’s favour and protection might be forfeited.”
Some of the signatories to the Loyalist resolutions—but none of those listed above—were men who within a year became supporters of the revolutionary movement and even leaders of its forces. This was a natural outcome of vacillation by Wright and Stuart between support for the traders’ interests and encouragement of settlers in the backcountry. To put extra pressure on the Creeks after Emistisiguo’s promise in April to seek a return to peaceful coexistence, Wright persuaded his fellow southern governors in the early summer to suspend all trade with the Creek Nation. This was a severe blow to all traders, and although some defied the ban, the Creeks were more or less starved of ammunition and other goods at a time when they were subject to attacks by the Choctaw from the west. Tension was suddenly eased one day in August when nine Creeks arrived unannounced at Robert Mackay’s house in Augusta just as he was sitting down to dinner with Edward Barnard, captain of the rangers in the Ceded Lands, and David Taitt,* Stuart’s deputy to the Creek Nation. They had come to tell Taitt that they wanted peace and the resumption of trade.
When Wright and Stuart met the chiefs in Savannah on October 20, however, as well as lifting the trade ban they confirmed the boundaries set by the Treaty of Augusta in June 1773 and undertook specifically that white men would not hunt between the Ogeechee and the Oconee rivers. In this they were acting on the expressed wish of the Augusta traders that the Creeks should retain their hunting grounds and rejecting pressure from settlers and the Georgia Assembly to insist on a new cession of Creek land between the rivers—a cession that Wright himself had hoped for but was denied in 1773. In succeeding months Wright never regained the goodwill of the existing settlers. Neither the influx of British settlers with Thomas Brown, James Gordon, and others late in the year and in 1775 nor the friendship with Indians that he had won and tried later to exploit could sustain Wright’s rule in the backlands when most of the settlers took the side of the rebels.
New Richmond 13th Octr 1774
My Dearest Nany,
It was with the greatest pleasure I read yours of the 28th of July. You acted wisely in the letter of credit in place of a bill, I would fain hope I shall have little occassion for it, I have learned that 12 & 15 pr ct may sometimes be had for a draft on London. I wrote you about five weeks ago in answer to your former, in it I gave you my reasons for leaving this place. The money requisite to settle a plantation so as to be comfortable is considerable and one must live on an equality with one’s friends, this would be expensive; if I was to settle as a planter in this country it would be near Agusta, where the principal people lives handsomly, these would visit me in their turn. I have considered things attentively, and upon the whole I find my prudentest step is to follow my proffesion in some of the great towns to the northward, where money is a thousand times plentier than here and where I stand little chance of competitors. If I fail in the attempt, it will be attended with no more expence than my living, which will not be great as it is a most plentifull country. Philadelphia, or New York, are the places I intend to try. The expence of travelling will not be much and no man can travel cheaper than I can, and save appearances at the same time. I think I have as much money left of what I brought out as will carry me to the northward and support me some time there, so possibly I may have no occassion for the letter of credit, which will be the case if I fall into employment soon, but I must find some one in Charlestown, when I go down, that will give me a credit on New York, so that I may be enabled to draw from there in case I want. Whether this can be effectuated without drawing from Charlestown I cannot say, which, if I do, will be for very little.
It is a much more healthy country I am going to than this, the great people of this province going there to pass the summer once in two or three years for the preservation of their health. I have had a very severe fit of sickness, the fever and ague, it lasted first and last above three months, I was twice reduced to skin and bone and so weak that I could scarce walk across the room. I have been most tenderly taken care of by Mr Gordon, who is proprietor of this place. I must have doctors, hang them all, it was against my inclination to have any but my friends insisted, they stuffed me with Jesuits bark till my stomach revolted and threw it back. There were numbers of people sick of the same disorder. I dont think much of me having it as strangers, first or last, are subject to it and it is what they call a seasoning to the country. Doctor’s fees, money in presents to attendants and travelling my last journey, took away more cash than I wished for, however I have still thirty pounds left counting my horse at ten pounds. Thank God the cool weather is set in, the fever and ague gone, and I can mount my horse. In two months I shall leave this, so that I may get to the northward by the end of the winter.
I wish much I had not wrote for the things, but if they do come out they will be safe enough as I can get them from Charlestown. The expence of them will be saved you, as I expect my last would come time enough to prevent your causing them to be made.
Willy Baillie who left this some time ago will be by this in London. If he follows his plan of painting he will get himself introduced to Mr Strange’s* family, to whom he will tell where I am, this will contradict what I find his honour was very officious in, by letting the publick know I was gone to Italy.
Now for your letter. Why do you weep at my hardships? I assure you I had much diversion when in good health. Why are you so anxious about my preservation? Health I value, but life I don’t, I am naturally to[o] impatient to bear a lingering disorder. I was offered strong reccomendations to settle in Charlestown and was assured in a few years I should make a fortune, but the very thoughts of being attacked by lingering sickness dettered me. I wrote to Charlestown to enquire about your letters and I hope to get them. I never did write by a Scotch ship14 and it was as you surmised. My situation at my Hermitage was the most pleasant that I could be in, considering the temper of mind I was possessed of at that time, hating all mankind; I thank God the humanity and politness of the gentlmen of Agusta have recalled me to society. You are much mistaken in my being handless, for I can cook victuals as well as any American backwoodsman, where often in the woods we have taken up our quarters near a spring of fresh water, made a fire and dressed what we had to eat, I found it necessary in my situation to learn those things and soon became a profficient.
The only thing I wish my affairs settled for is to get free of his honour, I hope as you say it will be soon. I could ask many questions, but it would [be] too long a time before I could receive an answer, besides you must write no more till you hear from me. I cannot understand what you mean of my granting a factory to his honour, nobody has a power of acting but Livingston, I think my letters from London should have informed of that, and my reasons for granting that power to him. If their is not money arises sufficient to pay the debts, he can only come in for his proportion, I hope this will not be the case and everyone will be paid, if it should be prove[n] otherwise, I hope God Almighty will prosper my endeavours to do it.
I have given out to my friends I intend to go home and come out next or the year following. Mrs Mackay* told me yesterday that if I brought you out they would endeavour to make the place as agreable to you as possible. She came from the northward with her daughter Mrs Williams* whom a rascal of this country who went there for his health married, he used her extremly ill which has ruined her health and she was forced to leave him. She lives with her mother whom Mr Mackay married, she is older than him, they are extremly well bred and very civil and polite to strangers, their house is the great resort of the best people, I am always welcome to a bed when I go down. Mungo lives with them, he was not able to follow me in my travelling any longer. Mrs Williams is very fond of him, young Baillie it seems knew him again and that, no doubt, would bring on some questions from the ladies about you.
I assure [you] if ever I am possesed of a sum of money I intend to have a plantation in these parts, but good land and properly situate is growing dearer every day. If that is the case, on a certain event which I hope is far off,15 you shall come over and reign over the negroes, you have no sisters in laws to be afraid of. I have now, by my residence and almost constant stirring about when well, seen all the different methods of cultivation of the produce of the country. You will see by my scheme their will be no occassion for servants to come out; what you write about the Orkney people surprises me a good deal, if they were bound to America how came they to Leith? for all outward bound from that part to these parts make the Orkneys. Mr Gordon at whose house I live, and of which I am master at present, is gone to Savannah in the expectation of the arrival of a ship full of Orkney servants, if this should prove the ship he expects it will be a great loss and disapointment to him. It is a bad scheme in bringing out white servants, in a short time they see how easily the labouring people (who does but half work) live, they have from 1 sh 6d to 2 sh a day16 and their victuals found, this is paid in cattle, hogs and corn (the planters having little money, or merchants either, for most is managed by truck); with these they pass the winter. A man that works three months can live the rest of the year idle; the newcomers see this and run of[f ], when they are not easily found again. Negroes are the properest for a planter, with a white man as overseer.
Your letter came very quick which is oweing to a post being opened betwixt Charlestown and Savannah. Some of my letters have been three months in one place for want of an opportunity as you may see by the dates.
Copy letter from Brother.
London, March 7th 1744 [sic, 1774]
Dr Brother, I received all your letters—some of old date (I do not know what he means by this for I only wrote one at London when I came away, of which I sent a copy to you, and a few lines from Charlestown to let him know where I was in case there was any papers to send out for me to sign). As I feel myself entirely satisfied with my own conduct I shall not now take up any part of their contents, and which from your present situation would now serve no purpose to discuss. When you return to your country and friends it will then be more proper. At present I shall hold the silence you have imposed on me.
I received your letter of Septr last and find thereby you suppose I should have been against your going abroad; in which you was mistaken. I should have reccomended Italy indeed as a much more proper place and fitter for your own purpose. I cannot help thinking that still it would be a more proper place than America. I could have found you employment for that purpose, without your being under any obligation to me. To go abroad, I thought, was now become necessary and I think it might have been usefull in a future prospect of life. I thought it necessary to inform the publick of your absence, for your own sake; and therefore inserted in the newspapers you was gone to Italy to resume your studys—and there they suppose you now to be.
I should not have troubled you with the inclosed, but that Mr Livingston (who desires to be remembred to you and to whom I sent your letter of attorney) finds it necessary to have more full powers with respect to the receipt of debts; as one was questioned by the agents of the D[uke] of Argyle,* notwithstanding they paid the money. As to a better security for myself, I shall consider Mr Livingston’s integrity as the best. When a final settlement of your affairs are had, you will then know what my intentions always have been, since the bridge affairs became a losing matter, or seemed to be so. He has already proceeded a great way in settling all other affairs, paying some and receiving the money of others. £100 will finish the whole, I observe, and he shall have it. I mean the whole of the simple debts. As to the moneys due to Selby and your sister, as I have known nothing of them till now, so I intend not to meddle with them. I have directed Mr Livingston to receive the rents and pay the taxes and keep a separate account of the produce u[n]mixed with any other affair. And out of that produce to pay Selby and your sister the interest regularly, for their respective sums. In doing this, he finds himself at a loss, by 2 memorandums in your book of accounts of work done for Messrs Bell and Kerr. Do you mean he should send them discharged accounts? and Mr Read, who can’t pay any rent at all, says he had always his house rent free from you. When he can he will pay, he says from Whitsunday 1773.
Bridge affairs stand as they did. The arbiter is not well, and had like to have died. The[y] have fitted up and finished one end of the bridge with butresses and proposes to do the other this ensuing season. Ferguson* has gained his law suit against the town about building his few17 in Cleland’s Yards, before the House of Lords here. If you want any of my services in the place where you are, you will command me as I am ever yours, Signed R. Mylne PS Everybody remains the same as before.
In answer to his letter I wrote a few lines, being very bad at the time, and sent the paper for Livingston, signed and witnessed. I declined any favour or services he could make me, and wished that my affaires were soon ended, that he might have his money. I begged he would not interest himself about me at all and to look upon me as a man that was dead to him and to my country.
May God Almighty preserve my Dear Mother, tell her I hope to see her yet in a different situatiation [sic] than that in which I left her. Remember me in the kindest manner to the Selby family. I wish much that all the letters that are coming out may arrive before I leave this. Tell Miss Bruce Strange,* as she is in the secret, that a Mr. Jas. Gordon, who is from Orkney and is one of her great friends, and I have drank her health a hundred times in these back wood lands, present her my best respects, as also to Mr. Livingston who you say is one friend, few I have indeed. I am glad to hear poor Willy is well and does well. I hope he will be something in society, this is the country for such as him that labours under the stigma of a bastard.
We are to have peace here. A number of Indians have gone to settle matters with the Governor at Savannah. Had they known their own strength they could have drove everyone out of Georgia, there are no troops here and when demanded were refused, Government is so enraged at the behaviour of the Americans. The militia were frightned and would not have stood on fire. The trade has been stop[p]ed there some months with them.
I have a strong temtation for a man of my turn of mind. The Deputy Superintendent for Indian Affairs (who is at present at Savannah) wants me much to go with him to the Creek nation, from thence he proposes to go to Mobile,* from that to Pensacola* and New Orleans* at the mouth of the Missisppii, belonging to the Spaniards, and so to fort Natchez* a good way up; but I will resist the temptation. Believe me to be
Your loving brother and sincere friend
The deputy superintendent of Indian affairs mentioned was certainly John Stuart’s deputy to the Creeks, David Taitt. The journey would follow immediately the nation’s treaty with John Stuart and Sir James Wright on October 20 and may have been planned for follow-up negotiations or as a timely goodwill visit.
When Thomas Brown’s party of seventy-four settlers arrived in Georgia a month later, he and James Gordon led them to Augusta but not onward to the lands by the Broad River and Chickasaw Creek, which Gordon had reserved for them a year earlier. It probably still seemed risky to take newcomers into the Ceded Lands, and they were placed instead on a substantial property that Brown had acquired in a well-settled area by the forks of Kiokee Creek about twenty miles west-northwest of Augusta. This tract probably contained about 2,500 acres, on which Brown planned a settlement to be called Brownsborough. He set the new arrivals to work building a plantation house for him and other farmhouses or cottages—thirty-six in number, according to later documents—and a barn as well as stables for the fine horses he had brought from England.
The governor issued another proclamation on October 24 that those applicants for whom lots had been reserved in the Ceded Lands must take out their grants and occupy the land within six months or their reservations would be canceled and their deposits forfeited. Some must have responded, but few if any seem to have made any further payment. Only a paltry sum had been collected in deposits, and although the accounts of traders (and merchants) who claimed debts due to them from the Indians were examined by officials in Savannah early in 1775, it is doubtful if any received payment.
A rumor began to spread among the settlers that the British, having favored the traders once, were willing to do so again by arming the Indians against the revolutionaries, which stimulated a new fear of the Indians and growing hatred of England. Groups such as the Sons of Liberty began to harass the Loyalists and no real peace came to the backlands before the end of the Revolution in 1782. The fertility and prosperity of the area survived the war, however, and Augusta emerged as the capital of the new state of Georgia.
William Mylne had stuck to his plan and left the Augusta area quietly at the end of 1774.
[Stamped “CHARLESTOWN, IA, 4”]
To Miss Ann Mylne
at Mr Robert Selby’s, Baillie Fyfe’s Closs,
Edinburgh, North Britain.
[4 January?, 1775]
My Dearest Nanny,
I wrote you from New Richmond by a gentleman who had come up that way, and was returning to this town. I was just beggining to recover from the fever and ague which had reduced me very low; some time after I rode as far as the Congarees,* about eighty miles distant, to shake of[f ] the dregs of the disorder. It had the desired effect, I have recovered every day since and am now in as good a state of health as I ever remember. When I came back I took myself to my solitary life in my hermit[a]ge, much against the inclination of my friends. There I lived in my old manner till eight days before I left Augusta, which I passed at Mr Mackay’s. I was offered letters to some of the best people in this place, these I declined as no way answering my situation, they would have led to too expensive a way of life.
It was with great regret I left my cottage, I assure you the pleasantest time of my life for a long time past was spent there, secluded in a manner from all the world, except a few whose disinterested friendship made them still more dear to a mind cut and slashed by the villany of mankind. I left them in the belief that I was to return the beggining of next winter, in consequence of which there is a commission which I must beg you will execute, this I will mention after.
I left Augusta and rode down the Georgia side of the river for above 80 miles, through an extensive pine barren in which were few plant[at]ions, those being mostly on the side of the river; this I passed at a ferry called the Three Sisters,* and came into Carolina. All the way on this side to Charlestown (which was about 160 miles) there were large plantations for rice and indigo, except about 40 miles of uncultivate country; this is but a short skech, as I am afraid my paper will admit of no other. Mungo and I travelled by ourselves, except the two last days when we had company enough, indeed we are so much accustomed to live, and travel by ourselves that we seem a separate species of the human and canin[e] creation. My horse and the poor creature have contracted a strict alliance and friendship together; whenever he was attacked by the currs from the houses he took shelter among the horses legs and none durst attack him. Although Mungo performed this last journey with great spirit, I am much afraid the long one I am about to undertake will prove to[o] many for him, he is now growing old; when we are parted I shall lose a faithfull friend. My journey is near 800 miles long through one half South and all North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pensilvania, to New York where I propose trying my fortune. Allthough this is commonly down [done?] by sea, yet as I have a horse I intend to ride it, if I sold my horse here I would not get nigh what he is worth, the market being overstocked at present.
Sometime before I left Georgia, the Governor concluded a peace with the Indians, without having the satisfaction he ought to have had, they will keep this no longer than it is for their own interest. The Creeks were hard pushed by the Chactaws with whom they are at war and wanted ammunition, the trade being stoped. The Governor could get no assistance from England on account of the difference that subsists betwixt America and her, the Province was too weak of itself to begin a war which must have ended in their ruin, the back parts remained in an unsetled state, the people being afraid to live on them; these reasons forced both parties into a compromise which the Creeks will keep no longer than they can make peace with the Chactaws, this they are endeavouring to do. The Virginians are at war with the Shawanese* and have had one brush in which a good many were killed on both sides, it was not decisive and here they expect the news of another battle soon. Should the Shawanese get the advantage it is more than probable they will be joined by the Cherokees which will greatly embarass the Southern provinces. All the Americans seem obstinate not to make any concessions to England, in every place wherein I have been they talk of fighting to the last man for their liberties and properties—should a general Indian war and a civil one take place at the same time, this will be a terrible scourge and I shall be in a fine situation, but I hope neither will happen.
As soon as I came here I enquired for letters but there was none. Your former letters must have gone to pot. In case any came to Augusta, I beged Mr Mackay to send them addressed to me at Pouderhall; open them, or any others, for several said they would write me, our cousin Robinson for one, whom I met on the road from Savannah to Augusta, he expressed much friendship for me and would fain [have] perswaded me to go and live at his house in Savannah till his return. Mr Hatfeild at whose house I lodge is very carefull of everything that concerns me, he showed me your letter to him, it is wrote in a stile very proper for the matter you wanted to know of and the kind concern you expressed in it on my account pleased him and affected me very much.
Before I left Augusta I gave Mr Mackay most of the money I had left. As he from what I had given out expected I was going directly home [he] beged I would execute a comission for him, which you will observe by the following memorandum copied from his
£ 85.18.8d South Carolina currency is equal to Twelve Pounds five shillings and eight pence sterling—Mr Mackay requests the favour of Mr Mylne after he gets to Edinburgh to inclose ten pounds sterling of the above in a cover directed to Mr Francis Mackay* at Browan near Wick in Caithness—the other forty-five shilings he beggs Mr Mylne to lay out in as much Scotch carpeting as will cover a floor 26 by 20 feet. The paper for said room Mr Mylne will purchase and bring out with him for which Mr Mackay will thankfully pay him.
Now what I must beg of you is to send in a cover the ten pounds sterling mentioned above and desire him to let you know if he received it, in the same cover send also the inclosed letter. The carpeting I beg you buy and, although it should cost a little more than forty five shillings, lay it out, as I am under great obligations to Mr Mackay. This money prevents me making use of the letter of credit you sent out sometime ago. I have not drawn for any and I would fain hope to get into some way before it is exhausted. I endeavoured what I could to get myself excused from the above commision but it would not do. I must have applied to some merchant who must know me before he would have taken my bills on Hogg and Kinlochs.* I have wrote them that I have no occassion for money here but that as I am going to the northward I hope they will honour any draught I may send from thence—you may be sure I shall be sparing in this, and I think if matters are accomadated betwixt England and the Colonies I shall have no occassion for any. You can send the carpet to Glasgow for Savannah directed to Robert Mackay Esqre, Augusta, to the care of Thomas Netherclift* Esqre, Savannah, Georgia; the paper mentioned in the memorandum must be let alone, it cannot be sent.
I had almost forgot to wish you all a happy new year. May we live to see one another established in some setled state more at our ease than we have been this long time past. I have been obliged to stay in this town for a fortnight waiting for my trunk—this I intend to leave at Mr Hatfields to be sent by sea after I have got some place to stay at. It is very dear living here and suits not me, therefore as my things are directed to his care I shall set out to morrow without waiting any longer for their coming.
It is evident that William wished to avoid carrying much currency on his overland journey and had therefore given it to Robert Mackay in exchange for the “order” that Ogilvey would either pay in cash at Charleston or convert into bills of exchange payable in London, Edinburgh, or as it transpired, New York. The transaction indicates that Mackay carried on his trade in the money of South Carolina and not that of Georgia. After the value of the Carolinian pound had fallen heavily relative to sterling in the early years of the century, the strength of South Carolina’s exports had sustained its currency at a steady value from 1730 onward of about £7 local currency to £1 sterling. Internal business in the colony was greatly helped by the issue of paper currency, and South Carolina notes also circulated widely in Georgia. Georgia’s own currency, though valued nearly at par with sterling, had not the standing of South Carolina’s, which was therefore used for much of Georgia’s commerce.
William could obtain money from Scotland during his residence in the colonies by bills of exchange. These would be drawn (i.e., issued) by a banker or merchant in Scotland for a sum of money paid in by Anne; on presentation of the bill to the drawer’s agent or “correspondent” in some colonial city the equivalent in local money (or in a further bill to obtain cash in some other place) would be paid to William. The correspondent either held money belonging to the drawer or was willing to give him credit. He would normally be informed in advance by the drawer that the bill had been drawn, and the difficulty that Anne seems to have experienced in sending £50 to William was presumably due to his failure to say where and from whom he would seek to cash her bill. She therefore sent a “letter of credit,” which probably granted credit for £50 with the bankers Hogg and Kinloch to William himself and was payable by any merchant or banker who was satisfied as to William’s identity and with the security of Hogg and Kinloch’s letter.
To William Mylne Esqre.
at Powderhall near Edinburgh
Augusta, 20th April 1775
As I had not the pleasure of hearing from you after you got to Charlestown, I’m uncertain whether you was paid my draft on Mr Ogilvey; and as he has since gone to Great Brittan without writing me any thing on the subject, am in some doubts about that matter; but I hope you was not disapointed. I am but a few days returned from Sava where I was detained upwards of ten weeks in geting our Indian accounts passed.18 They are finished, but heavy deductions are made from them, near 30 p cent. However if we can get the ballance still due, ’twill make us all easy. American affairs are much the same as when you left us, not less violent I assure you; but the ffolks on your side the water, we are in hopes, will make all matters easy, we impatiently wait for the February and March mails from which we hope to find something definitive resolved on by Parliament. If you yield an inch in this matter, adieu to Great Brittans power over America.
Mr Gordon and Mr Brown are both at New Richmond where they plant indigo and if the season proves favourable they will make a tolerable cropt. Mr Gordon has been very sick for months past which has reduced him much—he is now on the mending hand. I hope you still continue in the thoughts of returning here to become a settler among us, in which case I must begg of you to bring or send over an house carpenter, Waiscoat is so exceedingly slow that there is no patience with him, ’tho’ otherwise a good man. I wou’d not have one of your very fine workmen, any person that understood the business in the coarsest way wou’d answer my purpose—and I wou’d agree to give him 30 to £40 sterling a year and pay his passage out. In case such a man as I want comes your way, youll oblige me greatly in securing him for me & I will thankfully repay any expence you may be at in the matter.
Mrs Mackay and Mrs Williams are both well and desire their compts to you. Bob19 too is quite hearty and enquires after Mungo. Mrs Williams has been a widow since the 9th last January. We all intend a visit to Rhode Island about the first of June, provided they don’t come to blows in Boston, shou’d this happen it will disapoint us of a jaunt which our hearts are much set on at present. There is nothing new in this part the country—the Indians are all quiet, and the Ceded Lands are selling fast.
I have another commission to trouble you with & that is youll bring me a good gold watch of abt. twenty guineas value. I think a good one may be got for this sum or a little more—but this Ill leave to your mannagement, also a seal with the letters R M in a cypher not very large—I begg you’ll excuse my giving you so much trouble, and if ever we meet I’ll endeavour to make it up in some way or other. I am truly,
Your most obedt. servt.
The inclosed letters I took out of the Savannah post office & returns them agreeable to your direction.
1. Wright was the Scottish term for a carpenter.
2. Preserved salmon was packed into small wooden containers called “kits” for transport to London.
4. Robert Mylne.
5. Dysentery or bleeding from the bowels.
7. Elizabeth Selby,* his sister.
8. Anne’s decision to use the surname “Mills,” thought by William to have resulted in the loss of many letters (see page 40), is unexplained.
9. September 21 cannot be the date of a letter from William at Charleston. If December 21, 1773, is substituted, the “letter sent by a Scotch ship” should be William’s letter of August 29 and September 4, 1773, presumably committed at the port of London to a ship bound for Leith. It contained his “determination” about handling of his financial affairs (see letter of September 4, 1773). His later denial (see letter of October 13, 1774) of having sent a letter by a Scottish ship appears to be a failure of memory.
10. “Feuars” were the citizens who had taken house plots in the New Town extension of Edinburgh by feu contract, the Scottish system of land tenure. As the town council wished the extension to succeed and the bridge was the new feuars’ access from the old town, they were sensitive to the feuars’ complaints when arranging for repairs to the bridge.
11. Anne’s frequent name for Robert—a Turkish title for a civil or military governor (modern “pasha”), with connotations of haughty behavior.
12. Wood used for scaffolding, etc., could be sold after the completion of a bridge contract. Presumably William had left a quantity to be sold by Anne.
13. “Jesuit’s bark,” also called “Peruvian bark” and obtained from cinchona trees, contained quinine. Its use may have been learned from the Indians.
14. See page 39.
15. The death of his mother.
16. Wages of one shilling and sixpence to two shillings per day.
17. Correctly feu, a portion of land held by feu contract from a “superior” who retained limited rights of control on its use.
18. Evidently the accounts to support a claim for payment by the government of debts due to him by the Creeks and Cherokee, under the Ceded Lands agreement. The Georgia Gazette published on December 28, 1774, a call for claims to be presented on Tuesdays from January to May 1775 at the council chamber in Savannah.
19. Robert Mackay II.