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Home History >> Jenkins Memoir >> PART ONE

My Dear Britton's Neck, South Carolina
--from Memoir of James Jenkins, 1842

Contributed by Sandra Richardson Pound, 15 August 2000

My maternal grandfather was one of the first settlers on Britton's Neck, so called after him, and which name it bears to the present day.--This is a narrow neck of land, lying a few miles above Georgetown, between the waters of the Great and Little Pee Dee. He married Sarah Dupree, by whom he had two children, David and Elizabeth. The latter, my mother was born in the year 1741; and though brought up chiefly in the Neck, received her education in Charleston; at which place she lived in the family of the Winwrights. She was first united in marriage to William Goddard, by whom she had one son. Not long after, while on a visit to Charleston, Mr. Goddard died; and his remains are now lying in the old Episcopal church-yard in that city. She afterward married Samuel Jenkins, my father, who was born 1729; and by whom she had seven children--Samuel, Sarah, Britton, James, Elizabeth, Thomas, and Daniel. Three of these, viz., Sarah, Thomas, and Daniel, died, while quite young (7-8).

I was born on the north side of Little Pee Dee, in the upper part of Britton's Neck, on the 29th of Nov., A.D. 1764. Here I will introduce a fact which evinces the superintending care of God over me during my infancy. At about three months old I had the whooping-cough; and so violent was the disorder, that my mother laid me down several times, supposing I was dead. My recovery from this affliction, which was certainly remarkable, induced my uncle James Jenkins, an eye witness, to utter an expression indicative of his conviction respecting my future usefulness. And once for all, let me now remark, that if, in the course of these pages, it shall appear that I have been, in any degree, useful to my fellow-creatures, to God's name be all the glory (8).

When I was quite small, for I can just remember it, my father moved down within two miles of Georgetown. Here he lost two children and several negroes; in consequence of which, he became dissatisfied with the place, and resolved to seek a healthier situation; accordingly he moved up the river, and settled on the east side of Great Pee Dee, nearly opposite Port's Ferry. While at this place, when about ten years old, I received my first religious impressions (8-9).

It is true, that at the very time of my serious concern about my soul, my father and mother were members of the Baptist Church; and, for the most part, were correct in their deportment, and paid some attention to the forms and externals of religion; but I fear there were destitute of an experimental knowledge of true piety (9-10).

We seldom heard preaching in those days.--There was but one church in the Neck; and it was only occasionally supplied by a Presbyterian minister. I used to ride on the same horse with my father to meeting; but all that was said was as a sealed book to me, for I understood not the things that were spoken. My notion about conversion was very incorrect; I thought it was nothing more than a dream or some strange sight (9-10).

My father was a farmer, and early taught me the art of husbandry. He brought me up in habits of industry and honesty, for which I am truly thankful; as I have long ago seen the advantages resulting from such a course…. When I was a boy, we had a neighbour who was not so rich as my father, but who must raise his sons to be gentlemen: hence, they were idle; spent their time in hunting, visiting, fishing, &c.; and when they used to pass by me hard at work, I regarded my condition a grievous one; but in a few years I saw that I had no reason to complain. Every one of those young men turned out badly: they would not work; and from laziness they soon glided into dishonesty and disgrace (11-12).

It was while my father lived near Port's Ferry that I went to my first school; so it will be seen we were about as destitute, in those days, of book instruction as of moral and religious training. It was a very difficult thing to get a school at all, in many places; and when we obtained one, it was only for a few months; and then, perhaps the teacher was intemperate, or otherwise utterly disqualified for his office. Here, however, I learned to spell and read. The Testament was my reading book; and I remember in reading the miracles of our Lord, how my mind was impressed with the idea of his greatness and power; particularly when reading about his calming the sea, for this made the deepest impression (13).

I have now come to that period in my history which "tried men's souls"--I mean the revolutionary war (14).

My father belonged at this time to the Neck company, commanded by Captain John Dozier, which was early called out, and he among the rest, to rout the Tories on Keowee River, N.C., in what was called the Keowee expedition. After they had dispersed the Tories and taken Fletcher, an officer, prisoner, he returned; not having been absent more than four or five weeks (16).

About a year after this first expedition, my father was draught to defend the sea-coast, and stationed on Seawee Bay, in which was called, I think, the Seawee expedition. He left in the spring, just after his crop had been planted, and did not return until harvest; but, by the blessing of a kind Providence on our efforts at home, we made a plentiful crop; never better, even when he was with us (16-17).

In the year 1778, as well as I remember, my brother Francis [Francis Goddard], being a bachelor, insisted on our moving down in the Neck, and living with him, as he had room and land enough for us all; accordingly, we did so. We were now in the midst of a neighbourhood of hot Whigs and warm friends of their country. But there was a body of Tories over Little Pee-Dee, who were becoming very troublesome, constantly committing depredations on their neighbours; in consequence of this, my cousin John Jenkins, being the only Whig in that settlement, feeling his life to be constantly in jeopardy, took refuge in the Neck. By this time our family became quite large--father, mother, four sons, and one cousin: but it did not continue so long; for at the call of our beloved country, my brothers and cousin left us, and made the swamp their camp, and the battle-field their home. They, and all the Neck company, were now called out into the army, in which they continued, by intervals, until the close of the war. Meanwhile, our troublesome neighbours, taking the advantage of our unprotected condition, (for there were scarcely a half dozen men left in the Neck,) came down on a plundering expedition, and scoured out the settlement like a swarm of hungry Egyptian locusts. When I saw them coming to our house, I took refuge in the top of a tree about eighty years distant, whence I could see all their movements, undiscovered. In this situation I was when they took the last horse we had on the place, and although large enough to carry a gun, I durst not open my mouth; for they would have shot me down with the same indifference that they would a squirrel or a crow (17-18).

Near the time of which I have just been speaking, in the year 1780, we lost our beloved father. This was a heavy stroke indeed, especially at this time, when my brothers were in the army, and my mother and self in a most exposed and dangerous situation; for it is difficult to say who were in the more perilous condition, they in the field, or we at home. My father died of consumption, which was induced by exposure, during his service in the Seawee expedition (18).

Soon after my father's death, the British, who were fortified in Georgetown, sent a flag and message to our men, who were at their redoubt, thrown up on the east side of Great Pee Dee, by order of Colonel Irvin. The bearer of this flag was Merriot, the officer who afterward made so narrow an escape near Georgetown, when he was the only one out of twenty-five that was not taken; and who was so dreadfully frightened in the chase, "that he turned as gray as a badger before he crawled out of the swamp and reached Georgetown that night" On his way to Irvin's redoubt, he crossed Britton's Ferry, and cousin Britton accompanied him to our house. Neither mother nor myself knew that he was a British officer until he made a remark that revealed the secret. Mother asked cousin Britton if it would be safe to send to Waccamaw for salt? to which Merriot replied, with an oath, "No, madam, for we have a great big thing there we call a galley." Mother, mortified that she should have expressed a fear about the strength of our fort, in the presence of an enemy, and indignant at his reply, answered; "Sir, I suppose you think you have got so far back in the country that no one here ever saw a galley but yourself; I will have you to know, sir, that I have been as well raised as yourself." Merriot, finding times were getting rather hot, attempted to apologize, as he picked up his hat to leave; but mother, turning to cousin Britton, said, in the presence of the officer who was retiring, "If you cannot bring any better company with you than this, you had better keep away." When he got to the redoubt, he was taken prisoner and confined in Mr. Goddard's house until the British relieved him; for Irvin, hearing that they were coming, vacated the fort (18-19).

I do not remember any incidents worth recording, respecting my brothers, until after they joined Marion; which was soon after he retook our men near Nelson's Ferry, and made prisoners of the British, the captain who ran up the chimney, and all. They continued with him during the war, bearing a part in nearly all his skirmishes. This company was called "Marion's Brigade;" some of whose engagements, especially those with which my brothers were connected, I will now notice. And first, they were present at Black Mingo Swamp, where the two armies fought so close to each other that the wads fell on each side. Here Marion was in a fair way to gain a complete victory; but hearing Colonel Hovey's horse crossing the Black River bridge, and supposing it was the enemy coming on his rear, he thought it prudent to retreat. Again, they were in company when Marion attacked and took the Tories in the fork of Black River, commanded by Col. Tynes. Marion crossed the north branch of the river, below their camp, and came up in the fork, which side was altogether unguarded. Here a man was killed with a game card in his hand; and here Capt. James Rembert was rescued from them, but got his arm broken in the skirmish (19-20).

The next attack deserving notice was at old Capt. Postell's, on the branch of Pee Dee River. The British had taken him prisoner and carried him to Georgetown; his sons were with Marion; the fine large house on the premises had been seized and was now occupied by the enemy as a fortification, it being so convenient to obtain supplies for their army. Here they were as snugly situated as if they had been the owners of the palace, and the lords of creation. But Marion, hearing of their comfortable quarters, resolved to disturb their repose, and break up their nest; nor could he be at any loss what officer to send: here was young Postell himself, well acquainted with every nook and corner about the place. He was already nettled at his father's treatment, and begrudged them his former home; while he had to lie in the swamps, with the heavens for his covering. His fingers were itching to get hold of them; so off he starts with fourteen men, to rout these intruders from the home of his youth; and, in order to conceal his numbers, formed them into a line four deep, and charged up behind the kitchen. He immediately sent in a flag, and ordered them to surrender. The officer asked a short time to make up his mind; Postell said he would not give him five minutes, and ordered him men to bring straw and set fire to the kitchen, from which the dwelling-house might take fire. But the officer seeing what they were up to, made his men stack their arms in the house and march out into the yard. When he presented his sword to Postell, he asked, "Where are your men?" and, on being told these fourteen were all, my brother said, he was the most angry man he ever saw. But this had now become British ground; hence, they had no time to tarry; off they put for the camp; Postell's men mounted, these on foot; and, by the time they reached the camp, the poor fellows on foot were mortified more than ever, having soiled their pretty trousers; for being in a hurry, Postell had mede them plunge every creek and mud-hole in the way (20-21).

When the British were in possession of Camden, under Lord Rawdon, Marion sent a small company to make observations. The British had charge also of the mills near Camden, (Now belonging to Colonel Chesnut,) where they got grinding done for their army, and had stationed a company of men to defend it. This scout of Marion's approached in the night, and my brother, with one or two more, was in the act of setting fire to the building, when M'Pherson, contrary to orders, shot down their centry. This roused the men in the house, who came swarming down like bees; and alarmed the horse in Camden, whose feet roared like thunder, as they came to their relief; so the scout had to retreat (22).

It was a sad day to the Tories: several of our old neighbours (among whom was my father's old blacksmith) were killed. But Marion suffered also; for they not only made prisoners of the men they took from us, but killed them in cold blood; particularly young Marion; his name along was enough for them; he was shot down, it was believed, by one Sweat, who was overtaken by justice the same day, and shared a similar fate (24).

My brothers were present also when Marion besieged and took Fort Watson, an Indian mound about forty feet high, on Scott's Lake, near Vance's Ferry. This was one of their posts, right on the "war path," between Charleston and Camden. Before this fort was taken, Marion cut off all communication, and literally starved them out. Here, my brother Samuel took the small-pox, which he carried home with him. It was thought best for us all to be inoculated; and I remember I exposed myself while under its influence, and became so deathly sick, I wished to die, not dreading the consequence; this circumstance convinces me that a man may be willing to die, in order to be relieved from present suffering, however unprepared to meet his God (24).

My brothers were with Marion when pursued by Lord Cornwallis from Savannah; and narrowly escaped being taken prisoners at the fall of Charleston (24).

About this time, Watson started toward Lumberton, N. C., on a plundering expedition. I suppose he crossed at Britton's Ferry, and came up through the Neck. He got to our house on the 7th of April, about 9 or 10 o'clock, A. M.-- (25).

This over, Col. Watson resumed the conversation, by saying, "Well, madam, have you heard that Gen. Marion has joined Lord Rawdon?" "No sir, indeed I have not." "Well, madam, it is a matter of fact." "Sir, I don't believe it" (26-27).

The next day, Watson and his men proceeded toward North Carolina in great glee, blowing their bugles as they went, until they heard that General Green was coming; when they turned about and made for Georgetown, in great haste, and with all possible silence. On their return, I narrowly escaped falling into their hands (27).

As soon as my brothers recovered from the small-pox, they joined the brigade again. In a short time, Marion and Sumter united their forces and followed the British toward Charleston until they came to Quinby Bridge, where the enemy were snugly fortified in a range of houses, and prepared for battle. Sumter and Marion had no other alternative but to march up in the open field, entirely exposed, or command a retreat. The attack was made, and with great loss to our men. All that fell in this action were of Marion's command. Here my brother Frank [Francis Goddard] received a wound, of which he died in a few days. He was an amiable young man, strictly moral, and greatly beloved by us all. When cousin John returned and brought the news, it was like a dagger to my heart; and having heard that Sumter would go into battle, whether or not, live or die, I thought then, I could never forgive him. I was also informed that Marion was opposed to risk his men under circumstances so forbidding; and, from what I have heard of his character, I am disposed to believe it. He loved his men, and would not expose them where there was no hope (27-28).

The last battle in which my brothers and cousin were engaged, and I believe the last remarkable one in the state, was at the Eutaw Springs. This was, perhaps, the hottest engagement they had, and one that decided victory on our side; for, notwithstanding the surrender at Yorktown, made by Cornwallis to Washington, was subsequent to this; and although various engagements took place in South Carolina afterward; yet, it was this battle which gave the death-blow to British arrogance, as it existed among us, and vastly moderated their contemptuous hate and lordly bearing. This battle was fought on the 8th of September, 1781 (28).

A short time before the close of the war, I was called out under Col. Baxter, who had charge of a small part of Marion's brigade. Our principal business was to guard the Neck against the invasion of Tories. We encamped first at Ray's, (in the Neck.) From Ray's we removed to Tarrel's Bay, near Little Pee Dee; thence to the redoubt thrown up and occupied by Marion, opposite Port's Ferry; thence, again, a few miles above the ferry, on the bank of the river. Here we remained until we heard the Tories had taken our boat freighted with rice, near the mouth of Black Lake, which induced us to go in pursuit of them. When we got there, they would not stand to give us fight; but, while our men, in canoes, were going up the lake in search of the boat, they fired on them from the swamp, and wounded one of the company, Robert James.--From this place, Baxter detached a small company, and myself among them, with an express to Capt. Warden, at Star Bluff, on Waccamaw, who was stationed there to guard that part of the country. From this place we had to carry a message to the army in North Carolina. On our way, we were obliged to camp in a Tory neighbourhood, where we expected an attack without fail. About day-break we heard our centry hail, "Who comes there?" and the reply, "A friend." "Friend to whom?" bawled out the centry. "to King George," said the other; when off went their guns, and into the camp ran our centries with great precipitation. Immediately we were ordered to form; so up we jumped, and bareheaded and undressed, we snatched up our guns, making ready for battle; but we could see no enemy; and soon found it was a false alarm, intended by the officers to ascertain whether their men could be relied on in the event of an engagement. In a few days we reached the army, and delivered our message. They had taken two noted Tories, who were to be executed the day we got there; but our captain being anxious to get home, would not stay for us to witness their execution (29-30).

When we returned home; we were discharged, there being no longer any necessity for our services in the field. Here that protracted, eventful, and bloody struggle, closed; and in view of the many horrible and intolerable evils that followed in its wake, I am prepared to pray, "Keep far our foes; give peace at home." And, again, "From all pestilence, and famine, and war, good Lord, deliver us (30)!"

Soon after the war closed my brother Samuel married, and I continued still to live in the Neck, sometimes with him, and then with my mother. This was a dark day indeed in this region of country: during the space of nearly ten years I do not remember to have heard more than two sermons. Like Israel, when they had no king, "every man did that which seemed right in his own eyes;" we had no one to take us by the hand, and lead us into the right way; "no man cared for our souls." One of the sermons above mentioned was a funeral discourse over one of my school-mates; and as a proof that the people were not only ignorant and wicked, but superstitious withal, it was customary in those days to have wine and cake at all funerals, and if these could not be procured, they would give a dinner. The coloured people carried it further still: they would have a great supper, and after this what they called a play for the dead, which was nothing but a frolic, which lasted to the dawn of day, when they went to the grave of the deceased, making great lamentation over it, and broke a bottle of spirits on the head -board, or if this could not be had, meal and water were substituted in its place. Again, among white and coloured, if anyone appeared willing to die, and no remarkable incident (as a storm, &c.) occurred at the time, it was taken for granted that such a one had gone to heaven, no matter what had been his manner life. So sadly superstitious were some, that I was told one man, in order to make it rain, during a season of excessive drought, dug nearly one whole day to get an alligator out of its cave, that he might turn it on its back, fully believing that this would secure his object in a very short time (31-32).

In my twentieth year I superintended a plantation belonging to a cousin, where, having some refractory negroes to govern, my temper became often exited, and I increased in vice daily. One of the sermons that I mentioned as having heard in the space of ten years, was preached by a Methodist, of Lady Huntingdon's school, who was the first of the name I remember to have seen. I asked my mother what mode of baptism these Methodists practiced? She told me, either immersion or pouring, as the candidate preferred. This I regarded, at least, a liberal sentiment. It was about this period that I attempted, for the first time, to pray; I retired to a secret place in the grove, and got down on my knees, but pray I could not, for at the chirp of every bird, and the shaking of every leaf, I thought some one was approaching, and that I should be discovered (32-33).

In 1788, being sensible of the value of education, and of my great deficiency in this respect, I entered school again for three months, and boarded with a rich cousin, whose riches, however, did him no good. Here, from imprudently going into the water when I was warm, and close confinement at school, together with repulsively low living, (for we very seldom had any meat,) I took the dropsy, and in a short time could hardly "go high low." I applied to a physician, who gave me some pills, which salivated me severely. The swelling was reduced, but my strength failed in proportion, in consequence of which I laid aside the pills, and took some simples till I was restored (33).

By the direction of a good Providence I moved to Britton's Ferry, and lived with my brother, who was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. At this place I had the opportunity of attending circuit preaching regularly, a privilege which I did not have before, either while living with my mother in the Neck, or at my cousin's. The first sermon, that affected me to tears, was preached here my Beverly Allen, from "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" My awakenings were very gradual; grace shined into my heart little by little; instead of pleading my good works for justification, I saw I had never done a meritorious act; all, all was sin (34-35).

I had read the Methodist tracts, talked with the members of the church, and was pretty well acquainted with their rules; all that was wanting now to determine my course was a knowledge of the manner in which church members got along in other places. To satisfy my mind on this point, I asked the preacher, brother Humphries, to let me go round the circuit with him; to which he consented. We met at Hickory Grove meeting-house. Knowing I was serious, he improved the opportunity, giving me such counsel and instruction as I needed, both from the pulpit and in private conversation (36). In this route I got acquainted with that holy man of god, Tobias Gibson, who at that time was quite careless about his soul (36-37).

Having gone round the circuit with brother Humphries, I joined the church at Britton's Neck meeting-house, on the 10th of August, 1789. On my way from church, in a smooth, level part of the road, my horse fell down with me; when the devil, as though he were sure of me then, suggested, this is a certain indication that you will backslide; and I confess, that however unnoticed such an event might pass, under other circumstances, a fear, lest the devil's prediction should be fulfilled, has often stimulated me to the performance of religious duties. We had to ride seven miles to class-meeting, and cross the river swamp on the way. The next year my brother moved five miles further, which made the distance twelve miles, and yet it was a rare thing to miss our meetings. Class-meetings assisted me in various ways; here I was drilled and instructed, warned and comforted; and so fond was I of them, that I would rather miss hearing an ordinary sermon than neglect my class. About this time I saw more sensibly the necessity of conscious pardon--a clear conviction or assurance of my adoption into the family of God (37-38).

The next day, which was the 2nd of February, 1790, we came to Flowers' Church, "where," says the bishop, "we had a living stir; one soul found peace, and I had freedom in preaching;" and glory! glory! glory be to God, I was that soul (42)!

From this place I went to a cousin's at the Eutaw Springs. Her husband showed me the battle ground, where my cousin, John Jenkins, with others, fell; here I counted thirteen bullet holes in a small tree which stood between the two armies. I saw the bones of Colonel Washington's horse; also those of a large man, whose skull bore the mark of the sword. In order to touch the heart of my cousin, I asked him if he did not feel awful when he reflected that this man, too, must be brought into judgment? I fear it did not affect him. Having remained with my cousin a short time, I went up to Cloud's Creek, I think in the Bush River circuit, and stayed all night at brother Webb's Here I became acquainted with that dear, good man, Samuel Ansley (43-44).

My beloved mother accompanied me the first day to the residence of brother Humphries, some distance on my way, and on the morrow, which was the 10th of March, 1792, I took an affectionate leave of her, bade farewell to all, and directed my course for the vineyard: On the third night I reached Major Fullwood's where I met with his son, my colleague on the circuit. Having departed thence for our work, we stayed all night at brother James Rembert's. Here I became acquainted with that great and good man, Isaac Smith. One sabbath we met a congregation of coloured people on Broad River, to whom we gave a word of exhortation, and who became so noisy that brother Fullwood left the house (50).

This circuit was formed in 1789, by brothers Andrew and Matthews, and extended from Campleton, near where Hamburgh now stands, up the Savannah to old Cherokee Town, thence in a line along the Blue Ridge across to Saluda, taking the course of this river down through the neighbourhood of the present side of Cokesbury to Edgefield, embracing the districts of Edgefield, Abbeville, and Pendleton. I went round first, making appointments for my colleague, and preaching occasionally. It was a six weeks' circuit, being at least three hundred miles in circumference; wherefore, the preachers scarcely ever saw each other except at quarterly meetings. This was emphatically new ground--Methodism was in its infancy- -the people knew but little about us, but had heard a great deal, and much not our prejudice; the bitterness, too, of opposition was greatly increased y the conduct of Beverly Allen, for it was here he fell (50-51). On going round the circuit I met with brother James Dowthel, afflicted with rheumatism from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet; he was playing Jonah's part, trying to fly from the call of God, but at the close of the year he got away from this whale, (his afflictions,) and joined the conference, to go to Nineveh, or anywhere he might be sent (51).

Brother Fullwood and myself continued to labour for some time alone; after a few rounds, brother Richardson, from the Western Conference, joined us, and laboured with us about a quarter, then left, and went to the Saluda circuit (51-52).

It was within the bounds of this circuit that the Americans made a prisoner of Fletcher, and dispersed the Tories. The marks of our revolutionary war still remain. In the fork of Keowee River and Crow Creek may be seen the remains of a fort, which had been build as a defense against the Indians and Tories. Here, for the first time, I had a view of the Blue Ridge, rising like a distant cloud in the western horizon, and inspiring the mind with awful conceptions of the power and grandeur of the great Creator. A sight of the Table Rock affected me in a similar manner--a solid mass of rock of uncommon grandeur, the entire mountain being four thousand feet in height (52).

I often wondered how the people would be able to live through the year; but the Lord provided a way of which I had not thought. Fruit was abundant, and on it the people chiefly subsisted. Another circumstance in their favour was, the superior quality of the crops under the Blue Ridge; whence some, at least, obtained partial supplies. In addition to the above, our lives were in danger from the tomahawk of the Indians, whose principal town (Cherokee) was within six miles of one of our appointments. The chief and some of his men attended once when brother Richardson preached. During prayer, the men indulged in laughter, but the chief appeared serious and attentive. After preaching, he apologized to brother Richardson for the conduct of his men, saying, "They did not know to whom you were talking, but I know; it was to the Great Spirit." Brother R. conversed with him some time, and among other questions, asked him where good men went after death? He replied, "To the Great Spirit." "Where do bad ones go?" "To the fire;" pointing at the same time to a fire that was near. He gave brother R. an invitation to visit his town, and pray for them; accompanying his words with placing his hands on his knees and lowering them (54-55).

Soon after this, some troublesome men from the frontier settlements made an attack upon their town, plundered it, and killed this chief, which exposed us all to imminent danger. All the white families in the neighbourhood, except two, left their houses and retreated to the white settlements; these two families we had to visit and preach to, when we were expecting an attack from the Indians every day, to take vengeance on us for their murdered chief; we were not, however, at all molested (55-56). Our presiding elder, Reuben Ellis, visited us only twice this year, so extensive was his district. I received $22, including presents " (58).

Jenkins Memoir, Part Two

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