I'd like to offer a few corrections to the very interesting Frontline post of June 21, 1999.
Re: The Pendarvises, like the Gibsons, are another South Carolina family who in the beginning of the 18th century were black, at least racially so.
The Pendarvises, nor the Gibsons for that matter, were ever considered "black." There did exist free "black" people before the Civil War, but the Pendarvises and Gibsons were called "free people of color." Both families met challeges to give them "negroe" status, but both eventually, certainly by the time of the Civil War, passed for and appeared to be white.
Parthenia, the progenitor of the Pendarvis family, was likely, by appearance, an African, and hence a black woman. Her children, however, were half African and half English. They were not considered "black" in their culture, but "people of color."
This may seem like a petty point to many, but the plights of free blacks and free people of color were very different from one another before the Civil War.
Re: For they were the lineal descendants of Parthena, the African mistress of the last Carolina Landgrave, Joseph Pendarvis. (The Carolina Landgraves were the first big landholders of South Carolina.)
The Pendarvises were NEVER made landgraves. Landgraves were not simply large landholders, but were in fact granted a title of Landgrave by the Proprietary government.
Re: These racially mixed Pendarvises knew neither poverty or slavery - at least personally.
Actually, they were born slaves and not freed until 1734. All were children at the time of the manumission, however. Thomas, John, and William were never particularly well-off.
Re: For in fact they themselves have now been identified as one of the largest slave-holding families in the history of the country.
This is a slight exaggeration. Only James was a considerable slave holder, occupying a space at the bottom of the top 5% of slaveholders in SC by the time of his heyday.
Re: Despite being illegitimate, as the offspring of the eldest scion of the house of Pendarvis, they were able, because of the precautions their white father had taken, to inherit the vast holdings in slaves, land and livestock he had legally left to them.
The estate consisted of approximately 2000 acres of land, some of it very valuable. The main Charleston plantation sold for ca 4700 lbs in 1737. It was mortgaged by the Pinckney family to the orphaned children's guardians. The remainder of the land was largely unsettled and worth far less. The personal estate amounted to nearly 10,000 lbs inclusive of around 20 slaves. Though a large estate, it was not princely, and it had to be shared among seven children, and their retainers and guardians.
Re: Unable to override the stipulations recorded in his father's last will and testament, a younger white brother who was only a few weeks old when the last Landgrave died expressed his outrage by later changing his and his children's surname to that of Bedon, his mother's.
Actually, it was the son of Joseph's half-brother that changed his name to Bedon (Josiah Pendarvis, Jr. son of Josiah Pendarvis, Sr.) Incidentally, Josiah Pendarvis Sr.'s half-sister, Hannah Hasfort, married Thomas Pendarvis, the son of Parthenia. I think the family was more cordial in the early years than most historians have portrayed them.
Re: Besides the almost patricidal symbolism of this act, there was, of course, very racist reasoning underpinning it. Assuming, quite correctly in his case, that because of their wealth his nephews would wed whatever white wives they wanted, it probably became all too clear to him that within a couple of generations or so there could easily be confusion in the identification between his own and his brother's progeny. The fact that his would be the considerably poorer cousins of a wealthy family "of colour" must have been absolutely unbearable for him.
Perhaps being related to the "colored" Pendarvises was unbearable to Josiah Pendarvis, Jr.. One must remember, however, that the name change occurred in 1802, 67 years after Parthenia's and Joseph's deaths. I believe there were three or four simultaneous reasons for the change, perhaps one or more far outweighing the others. The first was that his mother's family, the Bedons, had died out in the male line, and he was the primary male heir to that family. Later descendants of Parthenia told a story of their cousin changing his name to Bedon in order to receive an inheritance. The second was that he had been, at that time, involved in a 21 year battle to reclaim the confiscated estate of his older half-brother, the well known Richard "Tory Dick" Pendarvis. Though the Tories and their descendants were starting to be forgiven by this time, Richard's reputation had been particularly bad, and had caused great attention to Josiah's own allegiance to the new Republic. The third was that his father had married, just months before his death, the family nurse and left her one-third of his estate by will. Lastly, remember that Josiah Pendarvis, Jr.'s half-aunt, Hannah Hasfort, married Parthenia's son Thomas Pendarvis. Hannah had three children with Thomas and died. Thomas remarried and named his youngest son Josiah Pendarvis. This Josiah Pendarvis was of legal age by 1801 when he was involved in a land transfer with his brother and cousin. By this time, though born and raised in Beaufort, Josiah Pendarvis, Jr.(the one who became Bedon), had moved to within a few miles of the Josiah Pendarvis descended from Parthenia. With the ever whitening of his cousins children and descendants, I believe that Josiah did fear that he and his own children would be lumped with those of color. He was a man of his time protecting his reputation, which he believed was already jeapordized.
Re: I could not help but find it intriguing, for instance, that the Mayor of Orangeburg, S.C at the time this southern city exploded into one of the more violent race riots covered in the '60s was none other than a James Pendarvis.
The well known Mayor of Orangeburg was Eddie Pendarvis, not James Pendarvis. James Pendarvis has no descendants in the male line. Eddie Pendarvis was from the direct line of Thomas Pendarvis and Hannah Hasfort Pendarvis.
Re: Since Orangeburg had been the seat of the Pendarvis Landgraves
There were no Pendarvis Landgraves, and the family seat was in Orangeburg District only for the Brand and William Pendarvis lines (those plantations would now be located in Bamberg County). A few Pendarvises moved to Orangeburg later in the 19th and 20th centuries.
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