Robertville, My Rohbuhtvull, Part 6: “MEMORIALS OF ROBERTVILLE, S.C.”, by Pierre Robert

(This is the 6th part of a series from a booklet compiled by Ora C. Paul, which is in the archives of the Beaufort County Public Library, Beaufort District Collection.)

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                MEMORIALS OF ROBERTVILLE, S. C.

by Pierre Robert

(Written for the Hampton Guardian – August 24, 1879)

            In a few years we hope to have a centennial celebra-

tion, as this place was settled not long after the

Revolutionary War by the descendants of the Rev. Pierre

Robert, who on account of religious persecution in France,

left his country and with other Huguenots came to this

country, and settled on the Santee, where he was pastor

of the Huguenot church at that place until his death.  He

was the first Huguenot preacher in the State.

            Our own recollections extend back comparatively a few

years, but at our elbow we have an old resident whose

recollections extend back many years, he having reached the

three score years allotted to man, and to him we listen

and gather facts, as we would from Hume or Gibbon.  Previous

to the war the people around this place, with very few ex-

ceptions, were in easy circumstances, many owning plantations,

with from fifty to two hundred slaves, and several as many

as five hundred.  Some planters numbered as many as twenty

thousand acres of land in their domain.  Their sons and

daughters were educated at the best Southern and Northern

colleges and seminaries.  Our village then contained one

small neat Episcopal church and a Baptist church.  The

latter was very large, plastered, painted, high-steepled,

had a gallery on three sides, the whole flooring neatly

carpeted, and furnished with an organ.  It was built

fifty years before the war (1812), and is said by those

who knew, to have been the best proportioned and the

finest country church in the State.  Nearly all the

planters living around, with their families attended this

church.  The writer well remembers that during the early

part of the war, when a little boy, his grandfather, being

slightly deaf and a deacon, always sat in the pulpit, and

invariably seated him by his side. ********: Of those I first

remember who were considered advanced in years, but two

now survive.  One of these is an old gentleman eighty-five

years of age, who for a long time was a professor in

Charleston College and afterwards President of Furman

College.  no one in the State has taught so many of her

citizens.  The other is a lady, a widow, now seventy-eight

years of age, who, together with her husband, were always

in latter days the largest contributors to the church.  She

has now eighty-two descendants (living).  Of the

regular pastors of this church five are now D.D’s, and

there is one each in the States of New York, Pennsylvania,

Virginia, Georgia and Missouri.  Of the members of the

congregation and church many are scattered now, and reside

in almost every Southern State of the Union.  In the winter

of 1864, during the passage of the vandal army thru the

State, having crossed the river Savannah from Georgia,

only five miles distant, it was the first village they

-2-

visited, and entirely deserted by every living soul.  The

aged men and women had “refugeed”, the young men were in

the armies, and all was silent as our church graveyard,

which has its monument pointing to heaven, and showing our

first contribution to our country’s cause at the battle of

Manasses.  Others were given at a later date, but the

spot at that time was marked by only a mound.  With all

of our sacred associations, this church, with every build-

ing and all fencing was destroyed by fire.  Since then a

smaller building has been erected on the same site.

******

MEMORIALS OF ROBERTVILLE AND THE VICINITY

            by Mr. Pierre Robert

– – – – -oo- – – – –

            Leaving this place in company of an aged friend, we

will journey in a buggy down the road leading to Purysburg,

which lies all the way near to the savannas or Savannah

river swamp.  Five miles takes us to Tarboro, where con-

siderable turpentine is distilled.  Five miles more takes

us to Hennies crossroads, a precinct where about two

hundred votes are polled, equally divided between whites

and blacks.  The place is rapidly improving.  About the

centre one of our most intelligent and worthy citizens has

recently erected a beautiful residence and store.  Zealous

in his country’s cause, he converted his whole fortune into

confederate bonds and lost.  His prosperity shows us that

– 3 –

men of the right stamina will rise far above pecuniary

misfortunes.  It is here that the old stage road from

Charleston to Savannah crosses, leading to Sister’s

ferry, seven miles distant, then over the river to Georgia –

the left hand leading to Savannah and the right to Augusta.

It was this road that Washington traveled in his carriage

from Savannah to Augusta in 1791.  Seven miles east of

this place is Grahamville depot, on the Charlesotn and

Savannah Railroad.

            Hennies has never, within the recollection of man,

had a post office in or near it.  Our indefatigable

congressman, Tillman, will in short time have an office

established here, with a semi-weekly mail.  The post office

will be called Tillman.******* Pursuing our journey further,

we arrive at the “ARM OAK”, an old landmark, near which,

twenty years ago, one of our most worthy citizens was

struck by lightning.  It was here too that, while under

military rule, one or two negroes were shot, and killed

by unknown parties.  Six miles further takes us to the

spot where, about seventy years ago, a few white men fired

upon and dispersed, a large body of negroes, then in a state

of insurrection.  A number were tried, condemned and executed.

It seems that the insurrection was intended to cover a large

part of the low country.  Their plan was to set the out-

buildings of every white man on fire at a fixed hour upon

a certain night.  The owner rushing out unarmed, would be

– 4 –

slain by a concealed party and his firearms and horses

procure for their own use.  Fortunately for the un-

suspecting whites, the effort made above Purysburg was

premature – one night ahead of the program.  A negro,

the property of a planter near by, upon the very night of

the intended attack informed his owner of their intended

plans, and by his timely caution prevented a fulfillment

of them.  The faithful fellow was bought by the State and

by a special act freed.

            Another miles takes us to the site of old Purysburg,

which is situated immediately on the banks, where the

tide ceases to affect the river, twenty-five miles by

water and eighteen by stage road to Savannah.  Purysburg

was settled before Savannah by a colony of Swiss and

Germans under Pury, to whom large baronies of land were

granted by the king of Great Britain.  The town was laid

out into lots with streets, and called for himself, Purys-

burg.  It was found that large sailing vessels could not

navigate the narrow and crooked river.  Freight had to be

carried down nearer to the sea where it could be loaded

for Foreign ports.  Horse boats had to be constructed

for this purpose.  Large numbers of horses were killed by

this laborious work.  The power of steam was then unknown.

The settlement proved unhealthy.  Fatal malaria fevers

prevailed, and without that great specific, quinine, were

almost as dreaded as yellow fever.  Savannah was soon

– 5 –

after settled.  These causes combined soon carried the

town on its downward course, and to-day scarcely ruins

enough remain to show where it stood, tho quite a

quantity of ranging timber, steamboat wood and turpentine

is still shipped from its wharves.  A large embankment

still stands with live oaks growing on it, probably thrown

up during the Revolutionary War.

            Fifty or sixty years ago a large flat was converted

into a steamboat by one of the enterprising citizens of

Purysburg.  It was called the “Cotton Plant”, and ran

regularly for a long time from Savannah to Purysburg – up

one day and down the next.  If all the vessels,of every

description, ever built, was moulded into one and came

flying into Charleston, to-day, it would not create more

wonder and amazement than the “Cotton Plant” did to the

good people of Purysburg and the surrounding country upon

her arrival at the wharf.  Purysburg has always been noted

for the large number of sturgeon caught opposite the town.

In the spring they seem to collect from the uttermost parts

of the sea.  They are not caught with bait, but by fasten-

ing three large iron hooks near the end of a strong cord,

with a heavy sinker at the extreme end, and throwing this

cord from the boat so that the sinker holds it straight

and firm, the fish rubs against the line and always

fastens its flesh in one or more of the three hooks, when

– 6 –

the fisherman hauls his prize into the boat.  These fish

are from four to seven feet long.  It is said to be fine

sport catching them.  If ever opportunity offers the

writer hopes to try his luck at the sport of sturgeon

fishing.

            Three miles from this place is the beautiful little

place of Hardeeville, noted for its healthiness and salu-

brious climate.  Along the route, the country a mile or

two on the swamp is always healthy.

            Two miles further on takes us to the old Hartstein

homestead.  The gallant Lieutenant Hartstein was first

brought prominently into notice under the following

circumstances.  Previous to the late war the British

government fitted out an expedition to find the long-sought

North-western passage.  The commander was compelled to

abandon his vessel and return to England by other means.

About ne year after some Yankees found her drifting in

Bank’s Bay, more than a thousand miles from where she was

abandoned.  They took possession and sold her in Britain

as a prize.  She was bought by the United States, nicely

fitted up and returned, commanded by Lieutenant Hartstein,

to the English government.  Hartstein was afterward made

a commodore in the Confederate service.  One mile takes us

where the railroad crosses the Savannah river, the extreme

end of Hampton County.  Now we retrace our steps, thinking

over times gone by and the instability of human affairs.

– – – – – oo – – – – –

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