Quaker Settlement on the Bush River

taken from "The Annals of Newberry, pgs 28-35 by John Belton O'Neall

The Quaker settlement was on Bush River and the Beaverdam. It extended from three to four miles on each side of the river. A line drawn from the Tea Table Rock, by the place once owned by Wm. Miles, now the property of Mathias Barr, to Goggan’s old field, now Washington Floyd’s, would be about the northwest limit. The settlement was prolonged down the river to the plantation, formerly the property of Col. Philemon Waters, now of Chancellor Johnston. No finer body of land can be found in South Carolina, than that embraced within those limits.

When the settlement commenced, or whence came the great body of settlers, it is out of my power to say with certainty. Certain it is that Wm. Coate, before ‘62, lived between Spring Field and Bush River, and that Samuel Kelly, a native of King’s County, Ireland, but who came to Newberry from Camden, settled at Spring Field in ‘62, John Furnas at the same time, and adjoining, made his settlement. David Jenkins, about the same time, or possibly a few years before, settled on the plantation where major Peter Hare resides. Benjamin Pearson and Wm. Pearson lived on the plantation, once the property of John Frost, now that of Judge O’Neall, as early as ‘69. Robert Evans, who settled the place now owned by Sampson Marchant, came also from Camden, probably between ‘62 and ‘69. John Wright, Jes. Wright, Wm. Wright, James Brooks, Joseph Thomson, James Patty, Gabriel McCoole, John Ceate, (Big) Isaac Hollingsworth, Wm. O’Neall, Walter Herbert, Sr., Daniel Parkins, Daniel Smith, Samuel Miles, David Miles, William Miles, Samuel Brown, Israel Gaunt, Azariah Pugh (the ancestor of senator Pugh, of Ohio) William Mills, Jonathan and Caleb Gilbert, John Galbreath, James Galbreatli, James Coppock, John Coppock, Joseph Reagin, John Reagin, Abel and James Insco, Jesse Spray, Samuel Teague, George Pomberton, Jehu Inman, Mercer Babb, James Steddam, John Crumpton, Isaac Cook, John Jay, Reason Reagen, Thomas and Isaac Hasket, Thos. Pearson, the two Enoch Poarsons, Samuel Pearson, Nehemiah Thomas, Abel Thomas, Timothy Thothas, Euclydus Longshore, Sarah Duncan, Samuel Duncan, and John Duncan, were residents of the same tract of country before or during the revolution, and were Friends or were ranked as such by descent.

The Friends had three places of meeting, one, the oldest and principal, at Bush River, where their house of worship still stands, neglected, but not desecrated. Within the
grave yard, south of it, sleep hundreds of the early settlers of Bush River. Often have I seen more than five hundred Friends, women and children, there gathered together to worship God in silence, and to listen to the outpouring of the spirit, with which some of the Friends, male and female might be visited. In imagination, often can I see the aged form of the elder David Jenkins, sitting immediately below the preacher’s bench, on the left of the southern entrance to the men’s meeting, leaning on the head of his staff, his large protruding lower lip, the most remarkable feature, of his face. Alongside of him might be seen the tall form and grey hairs of Tanner Thomson, as he used to be called. Scarcely could the sacred stillness of Friends’ meeting keep him from snapping his thumb and finger together, as if feeling a side of leather. Just here I recall the person of Isaac Hollingsworth. His was a stalwart form, more than six feet high. He sits the picture of firmness, and ever and anon, throwing up the ample brim of his flapping beaver, he looks as if he was restless for execution. He it was of whom youngsters, who did not know the meaning of “turning out of meeting” used to suppose the duty was demanded of leading an erring member to the door, saying to him, as he applied his foot to the seat of honor “Friends have no further use for thee.” A little further to the right or lower down, might be seen the pale features of that excellent man, Joseph Furnas Near to him was to be seen the tall, erect form, florid complexion, clear, blue eye, ample forehead, and grey hair of John Kelly, Sr.; just alongside of him might be seen Isaac Kirk. Friend Kirk, as he used to be called, was a true Quaker He was plain and simple as a child, kind and for bearing in every thing. No better heart was ever covered by a straightbreasted coat. He had his peculiarities one, that in reading, he read as if he was singing the passages — an other, that when talking to any one his feet had always to be in motion. it was, therefore said, when he called on a debtor to dun him, his mission was known by his kicking the chips, sticks, and stones all around. In this vicinage might be soon the person of Samuel Gaunt, dressed with all the precision of Quaker, hat neat as a pin. A little above him might be seen the tall form and gray hairs of James Brooks. A little lower might be seen the brothers, Abijah, Hugh. William, John, Henry, and Thomas O’Neall. Some description of some of these may be afterwards attempted, but here will not now be given.

In the womens meeting, on the preachers bench, under their immense white heavers, I recall the full round faces and forms of the sisters, Charity Cook and Susanuah Hollingsworth. Both wives, both mothers of large families, still they felt it to be their duty to preach ‘Jesus and him crucified.” The first, Charity Cook, was indeed a gifted woman. She traveled through the States extensively. Twice visited England and Ireland. When her husband drove his stage wagon into Rabun’s creek, at a time when it was high, drowned two horses, and only escaped drowning himself by riding a chunk to land, she swam to the shore, and thus saved herself. Her sister. Susannah Hollingsworth, was not so highly gifted. Heary O’Neall, and other young Friends, used to affirm. that when Aunt Snzey, as she was called, began to pray, they could always keep ahead of her by repeating the words she was about to say. Just below the preacher’s bench, the once round and graceful form (afterwards bent by 82 winters) of Hannah Kelly once Hannah Belten, a native of Queen’s County, Ireland, might be seen. No more intelligent, kind, or benevolent face ever met the upturned gaze of her juniors. Well might it he said of her, that she was indeed “a mothor in Israel.” Her eye of blue, her long straight nose, high cheek hones, and clear Irish complexion, can scarcely over be forgotten by those who saw her. Their other places of meeting were Rocky Springs, now a Baptist meeting home, and White Lick, on the land where Robert Burton now lives. They were much junior to that of Bush River, and therefore they are not necessary to be further described.

Every thing relating to Friends,here is now a novelty. Their very dress, time broad-brimmed, low-crowned hats, straight-breasted, collarless coats; breeches without suspenders, and of time plainest color, is strange to us now, but was and is defended upon the ground that they seek no change —- it is comfortable, amid as they found society dressed in the time of George Fox, so it is with them now. The dress of the females, was equally plain, and defended on the same ground. White beavers, with the mere indentation for a crown, with a brim around it of full six inches every way, secured on the head by a plain white ribbon passing through loops, or perfectly plain silk bonnets called hoods; caps as plain as possible; long-waisted gowns or wrappers and petti coats, constituted the tout ensemble of a Quaker lady’s dress, Their language ‘thou,’ to a single person, or ‘you’ to more then one, was grammatical, and free from all personal idolatry, amid therefore they used it. It is true, that it was corrupted, amid ‘thee’ the objective instead of the nominative case of the personal pronoun was used.

They met to transact business and worship on the fifth day (Thursday,) weekly, and on time seventh day, (Saturday,) monthly. There were also quarterly and yearly meetings of delegates. The meeting for worship was every first day (Sunday) at 11 o’clock. At that hour all entered the house, and sat covered and in silence for an hour, unless the spirit moved some Friend to speak. Any Friend may speak under the influence of the spirit but in general only those speak in public whose gifts have been approved, If prayer be made, then the Friend who prays, Uncovers himself, and kneeling down, utters the petitions wimich time spirit prompts. Time congregation rise and time men are uncovered during prayer. As soon as it is closed, all take their seats covered. At the end of the hour, the elder members grasp one another by the hand, walk out and every body starts for home.

Just here, I may be pardoned for stopping and relating an anecdote. John Wright, the father of Charity Cook and Susannah Hollingsworth, was a very aged man at the time of which I am about to speak, but principally accustomed to walk to and from meeting. He Was living with his daughter, Susannah Hollingsworth; something prevented her from going to meeting; she induced the old man to ride her mare. This he did; but after meeting, he walked out of the meeting house, and home as usual. As be entered the door, his daughter said to him, “Father, where is the mare?” “Dads me, Sue, I forget her,” was the old man’s prompt reply.This old gentleman before his death, assembled his sons, his sons’ wives, his daughters, his daughters’ husbands, his grandchildren, and their respective wives and husbands, and his great grand-children. When all were assembled, they numbered one hundred and forty-four. Did he not deserve well of the Republic? Where can such a family now be found?

A pair of young people about to marry are said to pass meeting by their purpose being announced at one monthly meeting, when a committee is appointed to inquire if there be any objections. At the next, if their report be favorable, Friends assent to the marriage, and on the succeeding fifth day (Thursday) it takes place by the man and woman standing up and holding one another by the right hand, and repeating the ceremony. The man says about as follows: “I take this my friend to be my wedded wife, whom I will love, cherish and her only keep, until it shall please the Lord to separate us by death.” The woman says: “I take this my friend to be my husband, whom I will love, honor and obey until it shall please the Lord to separate us by death.” I may not be accurate in the words. I am sure I am in substance, although I never saw but two marriages of Friends, one of Robert Evans and Keren Happuch Gaunt in 1806; and the other of Joseph Stanton and Sarah Hollingsworth in 1807. As soon as the ceremony is repeated, they sit down; a Friend, most generally the clerk of the men’s meetiag, reads a certificate of the marriage, which is signed by Friends present. The meeting then proceeds, as usual, to its close. I ought to have mentioned before, that there is a clerk of both the men’s and women’s meeting. Every thing of importance is regularly entered upon their books, such as business transactions, marriages, births and deaths. Every child born of parents who are Friends, is by descent a Friend. The same result follows, if the mother alone be a Friend. No beggar or pauper was ever known among Friends. They take care of all such. Their meeting of Sufferings provides for these and all other wants.

The Quaker community of Bush River was a most interesting one. Small farms, enough and to spare, among all, was its general state. Hard working, healthy, yet an honest, innocent and mirthful, though a staid people, make up altogether an interesting picture. It is true, among them were many hickory, or formal Quakers; now and then some wet, or grog-drinking Quakers; and new and then some cheating Quakers. But these are now no more — of each I would only say, “requiescat in pace.” The only valid objection which I knew to the practice of Friends is, that they do not generally sufficiently attend to the religious education of their children and the reading of the Scriptures. In this respect, there are, I know, many, very many illustrious exceptions; and I believe their rules require the Scriptures to be read, and their children to be religiously instructed. In other points, I think no religious community can present better claims for respect, and even the admiration of men.

In the beginning, Friends were slave owners in South Carolina. They however, soon sat their faces against it, and in their peculiar language, they have uniformly bone their testimony against the institution of slavery, as irreligious. Such of their members as refused to emancipate their slaves, when emancipation was practicable in this State, they disowned. Samuel Kelly, who was the owner of a slave or slaves in ‘62, when he came from Camden, refused to emancipate his, on the grounds that he had bought and paid for them: they were therefore his property; and that they were a great deal better off as his property, than they would be if free. He was therefore disowned. His brother’s children manumitted theirs. Some followed them to Ohio; Others have lived here free, it is true, but in indigence and misery, a thousand times worse off than the slaves of Samuel Kelly and their descendants. For the far-seeing old gentleman took good care in his last will, that the bulk of his slaves who were left to his widow, should not be emancipated, by giving her the power to dispose of them at her death, provided it was to some member of or among his family. Friends are opposed to war; they therefore hold everything which appertains to it to be contrary to their discipline. Hence, Generals Greene and Brown were disowned. Still, however, they never entirely forgot their duty to their country. I have before me now the soldier’s song, on the receipt of the Quaker’s present of 10,000 flannel shirts, to the army marching from England into Scotland, against the Pretender: “This friendly waistcoat keeps my body warm, Intrepid on the march and free from harm, A coat of mail, a sure defender, Proof against the Pope, the Devil, and Pretender. The Highland plaid of no such force can boast Armed thus, I’ll plunge the foremost in their host, With all my force, with all my strength, with all my might, And fight for those whose creed forbid to fight”

After the bloody battle of Guilford, gladly did Friends obey the call of him, whom, although disowned, they gloried in claiming as a Quaker, Nathaniel Greene, and rushed in throngs to take charge of the wounded Americans and Britons! Between ‘97 and ‘99, Abijah O’Neall and Samuel Kelly, Jr., bought the military land of Jacob Roberts Brown, in Ohio the great body of it was in Warren County, near Waynesville. Abijab O’Neall visited, located the land, and in ‘99, in the language of Samuel Kelly, Sr.: “Beyond the mountain sad far away, With wolves and bears to play,” he commenced his toilsome removal to his western home. When about starting, he applied to Friends for his regular certificate of membership, &c. This they refused him, on the ground that his removal was itself such a thing as did not meet their approbation. Little did they then dream that in less than ten years they would all be around him in the then far West

Abijah O’Neall was about five feet eight inches high, stout, round-shouldered, light brown hair, eyes grey, nose Roman, mouth protruded slightly, his face had the appearance of great firmness. Such was his character. He came up to the Latin description, “ver bonus tenax proposili" Every body knew this, as may be better illustrated by a little anecdote a young man boarding with him, disposed to play off a joke on an old family negro, who had been manumitted, but who still lived with Miss Anne, (as he called Mrs. O’Neall,) seized the old man on his way to mill, and said to him, “Jack, I’ll carry you off and sell you.” “You can’t do dat,” said Jack; “de bery Bije (the usual abbreviation of the name Abijah) can’t do dat.” He had some strange peculiarities. For many years before his death, he would not sleep on a feather-bed; he must have a straw bed. Again, be cut his hair as close as possible, and had at least two windows in the crown of his hat. This was to keep his head cool. He drank neither tea nor coffee. He was a surveyer, and after he went to Ohio spent much of his time in the woods as such, and as a hunter in the pursuit of game. He believed firmly that this State would, in time, become as sterile as the deserts of Arabia. Such at least were his words in 1810, when I last saw him.

But it will be asked, what became of the Friends? Between 1800 and 1804, a celebrated Quaker preacher, Zachary Dicks, passed through South Carolina. He was thought to have also the gift of prophecy. The massacres of San Domingo were then fresh. He warned Friends to come out from slavery. He told them if they did not their fate would be that of the slaughtered Islanders. This produced in a short time a panic, and removals to Ohio commenced, and by 1807 the Quaker settlement had, in a great degree, changed its population. John Kelly, Sr., Hugh O’Neall, John O’Neall, Henry O’Neall, James Brooks, Isaac Kirk, Walter Herbert, William Wright, Samuel Gaunt, William Pugh, and Timothy Thomas alone remained. Land which could often since, and even now after near forty years cultivation in cotton, can he sold for $10, $15 and $20 per acre, was sold then for from $3 to $0. Newberry thus lost, from a foolish panic and a superstitious fear of an institution, which never harmed them or any other body of people, a very valuable portion of its white population. But they are gone, never to return! It is our business to repair the loss, by better agriculture, more attention to the mechanic arts, and more enterprise. Thus acting, our wasted fields will yet blossom like the rose, our streams will resound with the music of machinery, and our hills will be vocal with the songs of industry and peace.