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Collection Number: 03018

Collection Title: Josiah Smith Letter Book, 1771-1784

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the section for more information.


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Size 3 items
Abstract Josiah Smith Jr. was a Charleston, S.C., merchant, financial agent, and Revolutionary War patriot. He was born in Cainhoy, St. Thomas's Parish, S.C. A merchant for most of his life, he also acted as a debt collector for individuals owning property in South Carolina, but living elsewhere, and as resident manager and executor for several estates. During the Revolutionary period, Smith served in the S.C. General Assembly and as agent for the U.S. lottery. During the siege of Charleston he was taken as a prisoner-of-war. He returned briefly to his mercantile business after the war, but left it in 1790, when he became cashier of the Branch Bank of the United States, a position he held until 1810. He married Mary Stevens (1741-1795), with whom he had 12 children. The letter book contains handwritten copies of business and personal letters of Josiah Smith, Jr. Most of the letters are to merchants in England, the West Indies, and other English colonies; to English and American clients for whom Smith served as a financial agent; and to ministers and others interested in the Presbyterian Church. Subjects include currency shortages, quitrents and land prices, plantation management, slaves, Presbyterian Church affairs in South Carolina and New York, the North Carolina Regulators, the seige of Charleston, and Smith's role in the Revolutionary War.
Creator Smith, Josiah, 1731-1826.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Josiah Smith Letter Book #3018, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
All or part of this collection is available on microfilm from University Publications of America as part of the Records of ante-bellum southern plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War, Series J.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Dr. Gaillard S. Tennent of Asheville, North Carolina, great-grandson of Josiah Smith, Jr. Received in April 1954, from Mrs. Gaillard S. Tennent, after Dr. Gaillard's death.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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Josiah Smith, Jr., was born 15 September 1731, in Cainhoy, St. Thomas's Parish, South Carolina, the son of Rev. Josiah Smith (1704-1781) and Elizabeth Darrell (1710-1759). The Reverend Smith received his education at Harvard and served as Presbyterian pastor at Cainhoy until about 1749, when he suffered a paralyzing stroke. Sometime after that year the family moved to Charleston, where Josiah Smith, Jr., lived until his death in 1826. The only years the younger Smith spent away from Charleston were during the British occupation of the city from 1780 to 1783.

Josiah Smith, Jr., was a merchant in Charleston, carrying on several enterprises. Besides operating his own business, he ran an import company with his cousin, George Smith, of Goose Creek, and his brother-in-law, Edward Darrell, of Charleston. The three jointly owned a ship, the Carolina Society, which they sold in 1771, and were partners with Daniel DeSaussure and James Poyas (of London) in a retail drygoods store in Beaufort, managed by DeSaussure. Smith's other business activities included acting as an agent and debt collector for individuals living elsewhere but owning property in South Carolina and as an executor of several estates. One of his major activities was acting as resident manager of at least two plantations owned by English resident George Austin.

Smith was a member of the Independent Church of Charleston, which he called the "Congregation Church," and which was actually Presbyterian. He involved himself heavily in local church affairs, and frequently served as the Southern agent for lotteries sponsored by Northern churches trying to raise funds to build schools.

From the outbreak of American-English hostilities, Smith supported the Revolution. Early in the Revolutionary period he served in the South Carolina General Assembly. He later acted as agent for the United States Lottery to raise money for the war effort, and loaned $100,000 of his own, as well as money of his clients, to the State. During the seige of Charleston, he served on "garrison duty" with the troops defending the city, and in common with other inhabitants, became a prisoner-of-war on parole at the capitulation. He was one of a group of thirty-seven Charlestonians who, in spite of the parole, were sent to St. Augustine, Florida, in 1780. Smith remained in St. Augustine for about a year, when the British exchanged him and sent him to Philadelphia. Joined there by his wife, father, and children, who had been ordered to leave Charleston for refusing to swear allegiance to the crown, Smith remained in Philadelphia until early 1783.

After the war Smith sought to rebuild his business and financial affairs. He, George Smith, and Daniel DeSaussure formed a new mercantile firm, importing merchandise and operating two drygoods stores, one at Beaufort and one at Georgetown. Smith left the merchant business in 1790 when he received an appointment as cashier of the Branch Bank of the United States, in which capacity he served until 1810.

In 1758 Smith married Mary Stevens (1741-1795). He wrote in 1780 that they had twelve children, six of whom (three boys and three girls) were then living. The names of his children that are known are Elizabeth (b. 1759), Samuel (b. 1761), Elizabeth (b. 1765), Mary (b. 1762), William Stevens (1774-837), Edward Darrell, Ann Martha (1780-1858), and Josiah Smith, III (1778-1780). Samuel married Caroline Tennent; Elizabeth (b. 1765) married her cousin George Smith, Jr.; Mary remained unmarried; William Stevens married Juliette Lee Waring in 1796; Edward Darrell married Sarah Tucker North in 1802; and Ann Martha married Charles Tennent in 1801.

*This information was taken from the letter book and from Mabel L. Webber, ed., "Josiah Smith's Diary, 1780-1781," The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, XXXIII (January 1932), pp. 1-28; (April 1932), pp. 79-116; (July 1932), pp. 197-207; (October 1932), pp. 281-289; XXXIV (January 1933), pp. 31-39; (April 1933), pp. 67-84; (July 1933), pp. 138-148; (October 1933), pp. 194-210.

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This collection contains handwritten copies of 243 letters written by Josiah Smith, Jr., from 1 May 1771 through 27 September 1784. (An item-by-item list of the letters, noting addressee, date, and topic, is included as an appendix to this inventory.) All of the letters were written from Charleston, except for a few Smith wrote in 1780-1781 from St. Augustine. The letters were copied in the letter book after Smith's return to Charleston in 1783. Most of the letters bear dates between 1771 and 1776, though a considerable number also date between 1778 and 1784. Only two letters appear for 1777, and none appear for 1782. The letters are arranged chronologically with only a few exceptions in 1780 and 1781.

Smith's role as a Charleston merchant, debt collector, and manager of plantation and other properties for nonresidents receives most attention in the letters. Letters concerning these financial endeavors provide much information on South Carolina trade activities and on plantation affairs, including slave conditions. The relationship Smith had with business partners George Smith, Edward Darrell, and Daniel DeSaussure is only partially discussed.

Presbyterian church matters (especially church-sponsored education), prewar politics, and the effect of the Revolutionary War on Charleston's economic and social life are other subjects of note. The letters are particularly useful for illuminating Presbyterian church history in South Carolina and New York, including the use of church lotteries to finance schools. The letters also provide important information on prewar tensions, especially as they affected trade in Charleston, and on the development of the Revolutionary war in that region. The small number of letters written while Smith was a prisoner of war in St. Augustine contain more business information than description of prison conditions.

Four enclosures to the lettercopy book contain account information for Smith's clients George Austin, James Poyas, Alexander Taylor, George Smith, and Edward Darrell.

Letters written by Josiah Smith, Jr., from 1771 to 1784, to merchants, financial clients, and acquaintances. Note that a list of the letters and the major topics they address is included as an appendix to this inventory.

Many of Smith's letters prior to and during the Revolution contain valuable information on mercantile affairs. Smith wrote frequently to James Poyas and other British merchants in London and Bristol, to merchants and ship-owners in the West Indies, and to merchants in Savannah (especially Joseph Clay), Philadelphia, and New York. A few letters also appear to merchants in New Bern, North Carolina. These letters discuss prices of produce and merchandise, supply and demand, and various methods of making payment, usually by bills of exchange or by shipment of supplies. Much discussion appears concerning the difficulties and shortages of colonial circulating medium.

Many of the other letters from this period, as well as after the war, illuminate Smith's activities as a plantation manager, debt collector, and/or estate executor for several individuals, most of whom resided outside South Carolina but owned property in the state. Of note are letters concerning the estates of John Corker, who left property to heirs in England and a charitable trust to a group of dissenting churchmen in Namptwich, England; of Corker's brother, Thomas Corker, of England; of Alexander Taylor of Scotland; of Thomas Stoddard of Boston; and of Samuel Waddington of England. The letters contain information on the valuation, rents, and sales of several properties in Charleston, and of a number of plantation lands. They also provide a good deal of information on day-to-day plantation affairs.

Of particular interest is a large number of letters concerning Smith's position as resident manager of at least two plantations owned by George Austin of England. One of these plantations (name unknown) was located on the Pee Dee River and the other, Ashepoo, was located south of Charleston. Frequent letters to Austin discuss the purchase of slaves, crops, slave illnesses, and other plantation news. Letters to George Appleby of England, who acted (with Smith) as executor, and to George Austin, Jr., discuss the settlement of Austin's estate after Austin's death just before the Revolution began. He left his estate in trust for his minor grandsons, children of Eleanor Moultrie and John Moultrie (1729-1798). John Moultrie was lieutenant governor and acting governor of East Florida. By some means only partially revealed in the letters, Smith was able to prevent the confiscation of the estate even though Moultrie continued as a British official throughout the war and lived in England after the war.

Letters addressed to George Appleby and John Moultrie discuss the affairs of the plantations during the war and illustrate the difficulties of planting in a region harrassed by both armies. The letters also reveal relations with the overseers Smith employed to manage the plantations. Other topics addressed are methods of planting and marketing crops (mostly rice and indigo), and the housing, clothing, care, and sale of slaves. A few letters discuss the plantations' affairs after the end of the war.

A number of letters written between 1772 and 1784 to Rev. John Rodgers, pastor of the Wall Street Presbyterian Church in New York City, and to other ministers, provide detailed information on church affairs in Charleston and on the economic and educational connections between Northern and Southern branches of the Presbyterian church. In addition to daily church matters, the letters discuss Smith's services as an agent for Presbyterian organizations in the North that conducted lotteries for the benefit of church schools.

Some of the letters discuss the work in Charleston of William Tennent, III. Mention also appears of a Rev. Piercy, who came to South Carolina from Georgia for a brief stay and then went on to New York, and of conflicts between Tennent and Piercy. Piercy seems to have been the Rev. William Percy, head of the Bethesda College and Orphan House in Georgia, who later became rector of St. Paul's, the third Episcopal church in Charleston. Later letters contain a good deal of information on Rev. John Joachim Zubly (1726-1781), a Swiss Presbyterian minister who lived in Purrysburg, South Carolina. A Loyalist, Zubly had property confiscated by both Georgia and South Carolina, and many of the letters to John Rodgers discuss Smith's efforts to secure payments on debts Zubly owed to Rodgers, first from Zubly and later from the two states.

Smith's letters also discuss other aspects of the business affairs of Rodgers, who acted as a creditor to a number of South Carolinians, and for whom Smith was a personal agent. Rodgers's daughter, Mary, was the widow of John Hodsden, and possessed a dower interest of one-third in Hodsden's estate. The residuary legatee was a Mrs. Ellis, who was probably Hodsden's sister. Many letters to Rodgers, Mrs. Hodsden, and Colonel John Bayard of Philadelphia, who married Mrs. Ellis during or just after the war, appear concerning Hodsden's estate. Mrs. Ellis died during the war, and there is mention of a Dr. Ramsay, who was her executor. Dr. Ramsay was probably Dr. David Ramsay, the South Carolina historian, who married Sabine Ellis in 1775.

Smith's letters to George Austin, John Ray, Jr. (New York), Thomas Stoddard (Boston), and James Poyas (London), between 1774 and 1780, often discuss politics and the war. Topics include a 1774 controversy between the governor and the assembly of South Carolina over the importation of slaves, American resistance to English rule, early Revolutionary conditions in Charleston, and wartime military manuevers. Of particular note are a 22 April 1774 letter to Ray discussing William Tryon and the Regulators, an 18 May 1775 letter to Poyas expressing fear of a slave revolt, and a 5 August 1780 letter to Mrs. Mary Hodsden, describing the capture of Charleston.

The letters after the war reflect Smith's effort to rebuild his business and financial affairs, and chiefly discuss personal financial difficulties caused by his inability to collect interest or principle on the large sums he had invested in State and Continental loans, or private loans made prior to the war. The same was true for the nonresident creditors he represented, and his letters are full of discussion of their troubles. A few letters to James Poyas, William Manning, George Appleby, and Dennis De Birdt of England, John Smith of Antigua, Joseph Blewer of Philadelphia, Joseph Hinson & Sons of Bermuda, and John Ray, Jr., of New York, discuss mercantile arrangements and accounts.

The four enclosures to the letter book include a 1733 indenture made by Uriah Edwards of Charleston, an undated clipping entitled "A Description of the Person of Jesus Christ," and an undated list of sewing and related articles possibly purchased by Smith for his drygoods business. One final item is a sheet of accounts for several estates Smith managed. Accounts appear for George Austin (1778), George Smith (1777), Edward Darrell (1777), Dr. James Poyas (1778 and 1782-1783), and Dr. Alexander Taylor (1778).

The original front cover of the letter book contains limited biographical information about Smith.

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Contents list

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Processing Information

Processed by: Jill Snider, July 1990

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

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