The following excerpt comes from Jack Bass and W. Scott Poole’s book The Palmetto State: The Making of Modern South Carolina:
“Stono increased white fears of the black majority. The state legislature levied a duty on slave imports that briefly slowed down the African trade. In order to attract more white immigrants, Governor Nathaniel Johnson had already proposed a plan for nine townships that would bring structure and organization to South Carolina’s frontier.
In the 1730s and 1740s about eight thousand Germans, mostly German-Swiss, settled into the present Lexington, Calhoun, Orangeburg, and Newberry counties, bringing with them the Lutheran Church. From the descendants of these settlers emerged today’s Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, the denomination’s only seminary in the South. Another group of Germans settled in Charleston. In 1759 they founded St. John’s Lutheran Church, still an active congregation on Archdale Street. In the decade before the Revolutionary War, these Germans established a vibrant community of artisans and merchants. German Palatines from upper Bavaria and parts of southwestern Germany came in the 1760s, many as indentured servants who were forced to settle along the Savannah River just above Augusta, Georgia, as a line of defense against the hostile Indian frontier.
About 1840 a large colony of Welsh Baptists from Pennsylvania were granted a tract of a thousand square miles on the Pee Dee River. Their descendants, whose names include Lewis, Rowland, Wilds, Evans, Ellerbe, Griffith, Gillespie, Greenwood, Jones, Pawley, and James, spread throughout South Carolina.
Although a group of Scots-Irish colonists settled in the Williamsburg Township in 1736, the major Scots-Irish movement in South Carolina began fifteen years later. These settlers, originally attracted to William Penn’s colony, had pushed south in the search for surplus land. Their path from Pennsylvania went through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the 1730s, into North Carolina the next decade, and then in the 1750s into the present South Carolina counties of Lancaster, York, Chester, and Chesterfield – all named after communities in Pennsylvania. By 1775 an estimated forty thousands Scots-Irish had settled throughout the South Carolina upcountry, bringing the Presbyterian Church with them.
The Scots-Irish were actually Scotsmen, whom the British government around 1600 had begun moving into Ulster in northern Ireland, The rebellious Irish were never subdued, and the Ulster Scots by 1700 had begun to experience economic hardship as well as political and religious difficulties. They had never intermarried with the Roman Catholic Irish, who bitterly resented their presence. In South Carolina a Scots-Irishman was described as one who came to keep the Ten Commandments and everything else he could get his hands on. They were also known for family feuds and a fondness for whiskey and as significant contributors to the South’s general bellicosity.
By the middle of the eighteenth century, the Piedmont had become primarily an area of small farmers, whose chief products were cattle and grain. Fiercely independent Calvinists, their devotion to duty and dedication to entrepreneurialism as a moral obligation made them ideal frontiersmen. Their entrepreneurial habits would soon make them ideal slaveholders. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Scots-Irish love of profit and the development of the cotton gin had helped transform the Piedmont into a plantation region.
Other Scottish settled in Charleston. In addition to names introduced by Mc and Mac, others ranged from Caldwell, Calhoun, Reed, and Logan to Deas, Buchanan, Gleaton, and Pringle.
The heavy migration of the Scots-Irish resulted in a white majority in the 1770s in South Carolina that lasted until the 1820 census. A third of the European colonists were Scots-Irish or Scottish, the highest percentage of any colony. Although English settlers dominated the lowcountry, their 37 percent of the White population was smaller than that of any colony except Pennsylvania. Another 12 percent of the state’s European immigrants were Irish, and 9 percent were Welsh – a total of 90 percent from today’s Great Britain. The remaining European colonists were Germans, French, Swedish, and Dutch. No other colony received as high a percentage of French immigrants, overwhelmingly Huguenot Protestants seeking religious freedom. Many of their descendants achieved prosperity, influence, and social standing.”
As we have explained, the English arrived first in South Carolina and began to create the Lowcountry in the image of the Slave Society they had left behind in Barbados, but this was hardly the only demographic influence in colonial South Carolina. The English in South Carolina were 37 percent of the White population which made South Carolina the second most diverse American colony.
As a Slave Society, the thing that truly mattered in South Carolina from the outset was race and in order to stabilize the demographics of the colony after the Stono Rebellion the English in South Carolina invited other groups to come and settle there. The Scots-Irish arrived after 1750 and quickly came to dominate the backcountry. At 33 percent of the White population, South Carolina was more Scots-Irish than Tennessee and Kentucky in 1790. 21 percent of South Carolina’s White population were Welsh and Irish. Germans and French Huguenots mostly made up the remaining 10 percent.
So, the ethnic mix of the White population in South Carolina at the end of the colonial era was drawn roughly 90% from the British Isles with a smaller Huguenot and German element. In the context of a Slave Society, these groups intermarried and simply became White. Also, the Upcountry which had been a land of Scots-Irish practicing their familiar corn and cattle economy in Appalachia was overrun by the plantation complex after the invention of the cotton gin, which unified the slave state.
Note: I’ve read elsewhere that the Germans who settled in South Carolina are the origin of the state’s famous mustard based BBQ sauce. Truly, diversity has been our strength in South Carolina!
Note: Whether it is The Patriot, The Passion of the Christ, Braveheart or Apocalypto, we love Mel Gibson on this website. Even if you knew nothing about his comments on race and the Jewish question, you know that he is one of us from his focus on identity in his movies.