William Calmes

Annals of Newberry, Part One by John Belton O'Neall, page 177-178


I propose next to speak of another of the old settlers of Newberry District - William Calmes. He was born near Winchester, Va., about the year 1761. At twelve years of age, he accompanied his father to South Carolina, who purchased the tract of land before spoken of, granted to Pennington, known as the Canebrake on Enoree, and now the property of Richard Sondley, eleven miles east of the town. He returned with his father to Virginia, and at sixteen years of age, volunteered in the army of the
Revolution. He served for some time as a private; he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, in which capacity he served under the command of the Marquies De La Fayette, in those brilliant maneuvers which baffled the skill of the greatest captain of the English army, Lord Cornwallis, and finally cooped him up at Yorktown, and delivered him and his fine army captives to the great American General, Washington; thus making "Cornwallis," in the language of a Virginia negro, "Cob-Wallis." This was no bad pun, in a play of words.

Here I may be pardoned for digressing, to tell a Charleston anecdote connected with the surrender of Cornwallis. County Rochambeau, it will be remembered, commanded the French forces who aided in the capture of Yorktown. A French barber's shop was the general resort of the proud officers of the English garrison, then occupying Charleston for the purpose of being shaved. The news of the capture of Yorktown had just been received, one of the officers was submitting his chin to be reaped by the handy Frenchman. He said to the barer, very contemptuously, "I hear your great Rochambeau is a barber.: "Aha," said the knight of the razor, "Rockambeau one bar? Bigar, me tink he shave Cornwallis damnation close!" It is needless to add, another Briton was defeated.

After the war, Mr. Calmes married, and removed to the place before spoken of as bought by his father, and which had been by his will left to him, about 1782 or 1783. On this place he resided until 1806, when he purchased from Abel Insco the place near the town of Newberry. He removed to it for the purpose of educating his children at the Newberry Academy.

He was elected a member of the House of Representatives in 1804, and served his term, (two sessions); he declined to be a candidate for re-election, and spent the balance of his life (thirty years) in retirement. He had a large family, eight children, who lived to be men and women, of whom five now survive; the eldest of whom, Mrs. Nancy Harrington, is too well known to require more to be said of her than that as a wife, mother and friend, she has few equals. William Calmes died 8th January, 1836, in the seventy-fifth year of his age. He was about five feet nine or ten inches high; remarkable for the firm, compact figure of his person. He possessed singular vivacity and fractiousness - nothing delighted him more than to practice some innocent mischievous joke upon one of his friends. He bore with singular firmness the many trials of life to which he was subjected. While his heart was bursting with agony, he was seen externally unmoved. Like Col. Rutherford, he had the misfortune to lose, many years before his death, his wife - the excellent lady who had soothed his sorrows and moderated the whirlwind of his passions; and who was the mother of his many children. But, unlike him, he did not supply her place. He placed her remains in the burying ground, in full view of his evening and morning observation. There he sleeps, himself, surrounded by his children and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He was a Virginian, and possessed the real old Virginian character, fearless and frank. He loved his friends; he was ready to serve and do them good at all times. We cannot say he hated his enemies; we hope that what they called hatred, did not permanently abide in his heart. He, however, took great pleasure in making his enemies know and feel that he knew they were not his friends; and that between him and them "there was no love lost."

In all his public and private relations he did his duty as an officer and as a man. He liberally educated his children, and left them am ample patrimony to be shared among them. "He is gone, and the place which once knew him, shall know him no more, forever;" but he is known in his children and numerous descendants, and long may he be thus known - and may they, like our country, increase in honor, usefulness and glory, until a long line of virtuous and good posterity may be traced to him as its head and ancestor.

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