The Frontier in the Colonial South: South Carolina Backcountry, 1736-1800

The Frontier in the Colonial South: South Carolina Backcountry, 1736-1800

The Frontier in the Colonial South: South Carolina Backcountry, 1736-1800

The Frontier in the Colonial South: South Carolina Backcountry, 1736-1800


Using the New Social History method and examining nearly every document produced over the years covered, this study examines the growth of communities in the Upper Pee Dee region of the South Carolina backcountry in the 18th century. The study considers the emergence of a landed elite, slavery, and a mobile population, plus the disestablishment of the Anglican Church. Inhabitants of the Cheraws District had access to a river that flowed to the coast, allowing them to transport their agricultural produce to the market at Georgetown. This ease of transportation enabled the district to become more developed than other regions of the South Carolina backcountry. In the 1770s, local inhabitants built a courthouse and a jail, and members of the rising planter class formed St. David's Society to educate parish youth. Records from two of the oldest Baptist churches in the South provide clues to communal cohesion and ethnicity. These accounts, combined with land and probate records, provide information concerning settlement, wealth, and slaveholding patterns in the region.


There were continuities between the Regulator movement and the American Revolution in the upper Pee Dee region of South Carolina. Both events revealed that residents had a concern for the protection of their property. Class conflict was a part of the Regulator movement, and the origins of this struggle can be traced to the influx of new settlers, particularly the Scots-Irish who moved into the backcountry after 1760.

This chapter traces the social and political problems faced by the early settlers in the upper Pee Dee, especially attempts by local authorities to maintain order in the backcountry. It explores the issues that caused planters to become participants in the Regulator movement. the Regulator movement in the upper Pee Dee was a conservative movement and reveals that planters had commercial interests in mind that emerged over issues of social order.

One of the issues that made the Regulator movement distinct in the Welsh Tract compared to the other regions in the South Carolina backcountry was the issue of race. One of the Regulators in the upper Pee Dee was Gideon Gibson, a prosperous mulatto whose involvement in the movement created anxiety among lowcountry officials. Yet Gibson was one of the first settlers in the Welsh Tract, and he garnered respect from his Regulator neighbors who were white. This chapter also covers the events that transpired in the summer of 1780 with the British occupation of St. David's Parish. the Revolution and its aftermath created conditions that resembled circumstances backcountry residents faced prior to the Regulator movement. the war created social disorder as courthouses and jails ceased to function, and there was continual plundering of private property. With civil institutions disbanded, Welsh Neck Church functioned as an agent of civil authority. But the Revolution unleashed no new social order.

The Regulator movement in the upper Pee Dee region shows that the rising planter class wanted a stable community. Regulators in the backcountry had . . .

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