South Ormsby, Lincolnshire

Hyrne Family letters 
sent from South Carolina
to  England between 1699 and 1757

Chapter 1

Lincolnshire to South Carolina

In 1697, a seventeen year old heiress, Elizabeth Massingberd, daughter of Sir Drayner Massingberd of Ormsby Hall. married Edward Hyrne of St Leonard’s, Shoreditch. Edward was in his forties, had been married before and had children (Edward, Mary and Margaret). Elizabeth was not due to inherit under her father’s will until she was twenty-five. Early in 1700 Edward left for America leaving Elizabeth behind. The following extract is from a letter written by Elizabeth to her eighteen year old brother, Burrell Massingberd, while she was still in England.

April 2nd 1700

Dear Brother

I just now received a letter from my husband who saith the best way for us will be to buy a plantation nearly cleared and stocked for to clear one will be a great Charge and will be sum years before much money can be raised of it and now there having bin a great sickness and many Dead, there are several to be had great penny worths particularly one with in a mile of the princepell town of the place £12 5s per Annum a good house upon it several out houses for (?) Negroes about five hundred head of cattle and it is supposed it will be sold for about five hundred - six hundred pounds with all the premises he is willing if he might have my fortune to settle this upon me and mine. I think truly it will be better for me to have that then the interest of my portion which will not be so much yearly and then we shall be in a way to rais money by raw silk whereof many gitt great estate by there if it might be so, I should think myself very happy pray due to you and also desire my aunt if she hath an oppertunity to desier Sir William not to oppose that what I have had may be taken out of the principal so what I have allowed me for entrest since my marrage may be immediately payed me before any can have time to hear of it for I hear what ever I have allowed me in England will be seized of so that I shall be left destetute of a maintenance which will be very hard for me to work for my self and others who was never brought up to it My Mother hears Sir William has promised to pay Mr White's pray send me world what is the truth of it for she will not blieve but it is true, she is in a very sad condission for want of money her landlady saith she liveth of brown bread and small beer duty and service where due my husband and I both giveth
is in haste from
your loving sister Elizabeth Hyrne
(Lincolnshire Archive Office reference LAO 2MM/B/7/5)

The ‘great sickness’ Elizabeth refers to is likely to have been the 1698-99 outbreak of small-pox will claimed between 200 and 300 lives along with yellow fever which took a further 160 lives in Charles Town (the ‘principal town’).

By October the same year it is clear that Elizabeth, though only twenty, is preparing to leave for South Carolina to join her husband. Amongst Burrell Massingberd’s papers are orders arranging for the care of Elizabeth’s two step daughters whom she is intending to leave behind in the care of one Berthiah Singleton.

October 1st 1700
Mark I do hereby order you to pay 20 pounds to Mrs Bertha Singleton senior for which she hath covenanted to keep Mary and Margaret Hyrne my two daughters in all their expenses which agreement is in Brother Burrell Massingberds costody, and which money is to be paid out of the 50 pound per annum allowed me (by decree in Chancery) for my maintenance.

I am
Yor friend Eliz Hyrne
And her recite shall be yor discharge
Bur Massingberd

Upon the recite of these orders I expect to receive to which with what is ordered Coz: Singleton will amount to a years allowance which Sir William in his letter to my Bro is willing should be advanced to me after this manner which must be done with speed for I shall saile in a week or ten days at the farthest and who am yours Eliz Hyrne.

The following day Bertha signs her side of the agreement:

October 2nd 1700
I do herby covenant and agree to keep Mary and Margaret Hyrne, in all their expenses and forever for and upon consideration of 20 pounds per annum paid by, or by the order of Mrs Eliz: Hyrne their mother and in witness therof do let my hand wittnes
Bu: Massingberd, Bethiah Singleton,John Holland.

The location of the plantation which Elizabeth was heading for was described in a legal document recording Edward Hyrne’s petition in pursuance of Elizabeth’s inheritance.

The Petitioner Edward Hyrne proposes in pursuance of the order made on leaving of this cause that £1000 part of the £1500 due to his wife be laid out in the Purchase of an Estate or Plantation which he hath contracted to purchase of Thomas Smith Esq. [Landgrave Thomas Smith] lying in South Carolina in America containing about 2500 acres of land abbutting on the East upon a River called the Back River running into Cooper River West on the fever lands not runne out and other parts on the Lands of one William Moore South on the lands of Capt. George Smith with all edifices Buildings Blacks Slaves and all other matters and things to the Estate or Plantation belonging or in anywise apertaining upon which Plantation or Estate the petitioner Elizabeth is now resident… (LAO 2MM B/7/66)

Unfortunately the letters referred to in the South Carolina Historical Magazine, which were deposited in the Lincoln archive office in the 1950’s, have gone missing. I am therefore indebted to the article for this quote from one of Edward Hyrne’s letters in which he describes the plantation ‘as consisting of 2550 acres of land whereof 200 cleared and most fenced in tho wants repairing. 150 head of cattle, 4 horses, an Indian slave, almost a man, a few hogs, some house hold stuff and the best brick house on all the county; built about 9 years ago and cost £700, 80 foot long, 26 broad, cellared throughout’. Hyrne Family Letters, Edited by Albert J Schmidt, The South Carolina Historical Magazine, Vol. 63 No.3, July 1962

Elizabeth eventually left for South Carolina late in 1700 to join her husband Edward Hyrne on the plantation he had contracted to buy. Within the year she gave birth to their first child, a son, named Burrell after Elizabeth’s brother.

Next Chapter

Back river

Although the plantation is not named in the surviving letters, it is now known to be the Medway Plantation, located on Back River (a branch of the Cooper River) in Goose Creek, St James Goose Creek Parish, Berkeley County, South Carolina.

© Pauline M Loven, B.A., 2006

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