Basil Cowper, a Loyalist in South Carolina and Georgia

I’m looking at several old plats that I received from the South Caroliniana Library. These are in reference to the Lawton Family Collection.

One plat created in 1809 for John Robert mentions the confiscated estate of Basil Cowper. Another plat mentions that John Smith has deeded 100 acres to Sarah Smith on January 5, 1770.

This was going to cause me to tumble down a rabbit hole in search of answers.


From GenealogyBank, Georgia Gazette, February 23, 1769.

MARRIED.] Mr. Basil Cowper, merchant, to Miss Polly Smith, daughter of John Smith, Esq. a beautiful and accomplished young lady.

Surely this is the same John Smith marrying away his daughter. But Polly? I remembered that is a nickname for Mary, and this would serve me well to remember, because she isn’t referred to as Polly again.

The following screenshot from the Georgia Historical Society’s website show a collection referring to Cowper. He was in business in Savannah with the Telfair brothers , Edward and William. For a while he was a Patriot, then a Loyalist, which didn’t change even when he was banished and his lands confiscated.



Imagine that you congratulated Cornwallis on his victory at Camden and got blacklisted. The Rebel forces apparently kept a grudge. Below is another screenshot. Basil Cowper is is Class IV, #2.


This report is from ancestry regarding the Cornwallis Papers of the Virginia Colonial Records Project.


So what else can we find out about Basil Cowper? Using the newspapers alone for the year 1769, I find numerous references. He was a merchant, a real estate agent, and a slave holder. I’m using the year 1769 because that was the year he married Mary Smith, and we can get a snapshot of that colonial time period.


From the Georgia Gazette, March 1, 1769.


A RICE PLANTATION, consisting of 1050 acres of River Swamp, on the Carolina side of Savannah river, nearly opposite the town of Savannah, formerly belonging to Mr. John Smith, having a spacious barn 120 feet long, including a walk of 40 feet square for the cattle that work the machine, which is of the best kind and quite new, with a wharf before the door. The land has 100 acres cleared and under good dams, which has produced a plentiful crop of rice this year. It may be taken possession of in February next. Enquire of Basil Cowper or Cowper and Telfairs in Savannah.


April 19, 1769

RUN AWAY, on Monday the 27th ult. A NEGROE FELLOW, named JACK, about five feet nine inches high, of a yellowish complexion, has a large scar on the left side of his head cut by a hanger, and a scar upon his ear by the same stroke, and several cuts upon his body; he speaks good English, and will endeavour to pass as a free man. A reward of ten shillings, if taken within ten miles of Savannah, and twenty shillings, if a further distance, on a delivery to


Savannah April 4, 1769.


July 12, 1769


WHEREAS the Provost Marshal of this province, by virtue of a writ of attachment to him directed, did attach the lands, tenements, goods, chattels, monies, debts, and books of account, of Thomas Little, who is absent from and without the limits of the said province, in the hands and possession of Basil Cowper, at the suit of William Moore; AND WHEREAS the said Basil Cowper , as a creditor in possession, hath, agreeable to the direction of the Attachment Law, filed his declaration in his Majesty’s General Court of Pleas against the said Thomas Little, and hath obtained the following rule, viz.

Cowper, Creditor in possession,



30th July, 1768.

ORDERED, that the defendant do appear and plead within a year and a day, otherwise judgment.

By the court,


Notice is therefore hereby given, That, unless the said Thomas Little do appear and plead agreeable to the aforesaid rule or order, judgment will be entered against him accordingly.

GREY ELLIOTT, Attorney for the creditor in possession.


September 20, 1769

JUST IMPORTED, in the ship Polly and Betsey,


And to be sold on the most reasonable terms at their store on the Bay,

A NEAT ASSORTMENT of EUROPEAN  and EAST-INDIA GOODS, suitable for the season.


How did Cowper get property in Black Swamp in the province of South Carolina? From his father-in-law John Smith? In 1770 John Smith deeds 100 acres to his daughter Sarah Smith, so why not to his other daughter?


I also found a bill of sale at this website for a Negro man named Sam.

It is also dated in 1769 on February 24.


I found a court document on ancestry that has that format with a party of the first part, party of the second part, and party of the third part. It seems similar to another document that I found in the Lawton collection that lists the marriage of Joseph Lawton and Martha Stoney Barksdale Lawton, except theirs list all the slaves on two different plantations on Hilton Head. First I found the index page, and because the entire documents are not transcribed online, I scrolled through multiple pages until I came to the right case.

CowperBasil 1767-1771 will and probate book

CowperBasil wills and probate

Of course I got sidetracked by other cases. See the ones where Negroes were granted Manumission? I really need to go back and look at those. Which is an entirely different rabbit hole.

I’ve transcribed some excerpts.


IN WITNESS whereof the said parties to these presents have hereunto and to a Duplicate thereof set their Hands and Seals the day & year first above written

Sealed & Delivered (being first duly exempt)

By the within named Basil Cowper & Mary

His wife & Daniel Blake in the presence of

John Ranier  James Wilson

Basil Cowper  LS

Mary Cowper  LS

Henry Middleton  LS

Daniel Blake  LS

Benj Smith LS

Sealed & Delivered by the within named Henry Middleton & Benjamin Smith Esq. Of in Chas Town, So Carolina in the presence of us John Ranier  James Wilson

South Carolina:  Before me John Remington Esquire one of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for Berkley County Personally appeared John Ranier & James Wilson the two subscribing Witnesses this Deed who being Duly sworn upon the holy Evangelists of Almighty God make oath and say that they were present in London & said the oath in named Basil Cowper & Mary his wife & Danl Blake Surety Sign Seal & as their act & Deed deliver the within Deed of Land for a Year that they were also present in Chas. Town South Carolina and saw the within named Henry Middleton and Benjamin Smith Esquires severally sign Seal & as their act of Deed XXX the said Lease and that they the Deponents subscribed their names as XXX Thereto.

John Ranier

James Wilson

Signed & Sworn the 28d day

Of May 1770 Before me 

John Remington JP.


KNOW ALL THEN BY THESE PRESENTS that we Basil Cowper late of the Town of Savannah in the Province of Georgia but now in the City of London, Merchant, John Smith of the Town of Savannah Aforesaid Planter are held and firmly bound to the XXX Henry Middleton, Daniel Blake & Benjamin Smith all of Charles Town in the province of South Carolina Esqs in the Sum of Seenteen Thousand and Thirty one pounds good and lawfull money of the said province of South Carolina to be paid to the said Henry Middleton, Danl Blake & Benj Smith, etc. Etc.


….. To Hold the same unto the said Henry Middleton Daniel Blake and Benjamin Smith the Trustees aforesaid and the Survivors and Survivor of them of the Heirs and assigns of such Survivor for Ever, In Trust for the use benefit & XXX of the said Lord William Campbell and Lady Sarah Campbell his wife and their issue according to the Several Tracts, Limitations, Settlements and Estates mentioned and set forth in the marriage Bond & Bonds Indemity recited in the said Indenture of Release and according to the spirit & intent and meaning of the same And whereas the said Mary Cowper, the said wife of the said Basil Cowper, being a Minor at the Time of Executing the said Indentures of Lease and Release could not make any conveyances and assurances in the Law to Bar or preclude herself from her Right of Dower… 


Lord William Campbell is marrying Sarah Izard, and they are referred to in the document as Lord and Lady Campbell. She is the daughter of Ralph Izard, deceased.

The newspapers also note the event of the death for Basil Cowper as dying in Jamaica in 1802.

From the Georgia Gazette, August 12, 1802.

Died on the 28th of June last, in the island of Jamaica, Basil Cowper, Esq. formerly a respectable merchant in this place, and a worthy man.


After poking around a bit more on the internet, I find some court documents on regarding Mary. She will be the subject of the next blog post.

Mary lived for a long time after Basil’s death. Since she was listed as a minor when she married Basil Cowper, does this mean that it was an arranged marriage? Perhaps her father and Basil were business associates since their names are in conjunction in court documents and in the newspapers.

Mary Cowper’s memorial is on findagrave. She’s buried in Savannah at Colonial Park Cemetery.

You know what this means…

We’re going to Savannah.


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