The Louisa Ancrum Steffens Collection

Kirkland and Kennedy identify William Ancrum (1722- 1808) in Vol. 1 page 344 as

“Of the wealthy firm of Ancrum, Lance and Loocock, probably never set foot in Camden, his extensive business interests here being looked after by such competent agents or partners as the two Kershaws. He was a native of the County of Northumberland England. On his tombstone in the old Scotch Churchyard, Charleston, it is written that he was “for many years, a respectable merchant of this city, and an elder of the Scotch Church of Charleston for nearly half a century. Through a long life of integrity and honor, he performed the duties of a man and Christian, and died, esteemed and regretted, on the 24 Feby, 1808 in the 86th year of his age.”

Historic Camden Foundation is pleased to announce that descendants of William Ancrum, have loaned and given several historic items for display: The Louisa Ancrum Steffens Collection of artifacts and furniture includes a portrait of the first William Ancrum painted in 1968 by Charleston artist Alicia Rhett.

Southwick (Cary) Briggs reviewed the collection and noted that “As we continue to explore the mercantile and trade aspects of early Camden, opportunities to tell statewide stories of the leading business concerns attached to the Kershaw name will add depth to our living history demonstrations and further engage America’s remarkable story”.  The William Ancrum portrait is complemented by the family loan of his 18th century travel desk.  An interesting box made of mahogany, hinged with brass and hiding several secret compartments.

Many items including the portrait and travel desk will be on display at the Kershaw Cornwallis House in January. Historic Camden Foundation members are encouraged to review the items on display.

Developing further information on William Ancrum and his Camden concerns, Historic Camden will enhance the exhibit with primary source records from the William Ancrum Papers, 1757–1789: Letter Book and Account Book held at the South Caroliniana Library. These records hold stories of Camden properties, accounts, overseer instructions and enslaved persons. In the digital collection description we see the many histories to be explored through his writings.

William Ancrum Papers, 1757–1789: Letter Book and Account Book

Clothing the African-American slaves on his backcountry plantation proved difficult for Ancrum throughout the Revolutionary War years, and a number of his letters address the problem. On 19 September 1776 he wrote to Captain Vesey about a cask of indigo shipped on board the brig Fanny and urged Vesey upon the ship’s arrival in the West Indies to sell the indigo and invest the proceeds in “white or col[oure]d Negro Cloths such as is commonly used here for winter Clothing of Negroes.” Again, on 30 October 1776, Ancrum urged Marlow Pryor to minimize the slaves’ exposure to the weather because of insufficient clothing, and on more than one occasion urged his overseers to “plant some Cotton as there is no dependence on getting Clothing but by making Homespun.” A letter dated 23 March 1776 discusses Ancrum’s purchase of cattle and slaves, but notes that the latter decision hinged upon “the unsettled state of our public Affairs [which] at present discourages me from running a debt.” The same letter comments on the scarcity of farming tools on the Charleston market: “there is not a Hoe nor a Bar of Iron to beg of in Town” and advises Pryor to “patch up the old ones in the best manner you can.”

Historic Camden Foundation recognizes outstanding volunteers

On November 6, 2021 Historic Camden Foundation celebrated its’ 51st Anniversary at the Main Campus on Broad Street. The day included an exploration of South Carolina Revolutionary War records and genealogical discoveries relating to veterans of our nation’s fight for independence from Britain. The SC Archives and History Foundation ended the anniversary celebration with an engaging talk on the Marquis de Lafayette in South Carolina and a showing of the Lafayette jewel replica held at the Camden Archives. Historic Camden Foundation members met after the talk for an Awards Ceremony.  Special awards have been created in honor of two trailblazers in our mission of preservation, education and celebration of Camden’s extraordinary story. Unique Around Camden Plates were made by Marti Boykin Wallace as the award gifts.

1) The Joanna Craig Award was established to thank her for her work, vision and ability to
encourage volunteer participation to keep the history alive and relevant.

2) In honor of our first Director Hope Cooper, we have established the Hope Award for
longtime service at Historic Camden Foundation. Hope gave years in the formation of
this site and has never stopped her volunteer involvement.

The inaugural Joanna Craig Award was given to Philip Hultgren for his assistance in identifying and performing the vision of the Joeph Kershaw Horticulture and Trade Program. Director Ginny Zemp thanked Philip for going above and beyond in his time, talents and commitment. “Philip’s expertise and willingness to share himself with our staff and program has made all our efforts possible in terms of actual structural components – the bones of this plan would not have started without his help and that of his volunteer crew!”

 

Historic Camden Foundation Co- Chairs, Karen Eckford and Tiffany Fields, with Hope Cooper, presented an Around Camden Plate to recipients of the Hope Award. “Longtime service is a hallmark at HCF and we did have a hard time making a decision” noted Tiffany Fields. Karen Eckford related that “Historic Camden Foundation’s Board of Trustees is a working group and these last years have been full of growth and change, with inclusion of the Battle of Camden site, the Longleaf pine initiative and the City’s Visitor Center project. In appreciation of the leadership and work done on Historic Camden Foundation’s behalf, the inaugural Hope Award was presented to Amy Sheheen, Bob Giangiorgi and Davie Beard.”

 

Ely Kershaw: A Patriot Remembered

by Lance Player: Communications Manager – Historic Camden Foundation

The name Joseph Kershaw is one that many people recognize, especially those from Camden. A name they’re likely not quite as familiar with is Ely (Eli), Joseph’s younger brother. Ely was born in 1743 in Yorkshire, England and spent his childhood there before traveling to the newly founded town of Pine Tree Hill in 1761. Joseph, with businesses already established in the town, took Ely on as an apprentice to work in his store. During his apprenticeship he was appointed as a tax collector. From there, he would go on to open Ely Kershaw & Co. at Cheraw Hill, now known simply as Cheraw. While in Cheraw, he served as overseer for the construction of Old St. David’s Church. His influence in the Carolina backcountry continued to grow with his 1769 marriage to Mary Cantey, a member of a prominent area family.

At this point, Ely was well-established and had become quite successful, much like his brother, Joseph. Though he enjoyed his success as a businessman, the war that would eventually consume the young nation motivated him to answer the call to action. In 1775, Ely was commissioned as a member of the newly founded South Carolina 3rd Rangers regiment, led by Major William Thompson. During his service, Ely was involved in numerous battles and skirmishes, most notably: The Snow Campaign of December 1775, the Battle of Sullivan’s Island/Fort Moultrie, the Cherokee Expedition of 1776, the 1779 Battle of Kettle Creek in Georgia, and the Siege of Charleston. By 1780, Ely had seen significant combat, which took a heavy toll on him, both physically and mentally. Ely traveled to Charleston to see to his business affairs and spend time tending to his health. During the Siege of Charleston he was still there recovering, and became one of the thousands of soldiers captured, as was his brother, Joseph.

They were taken back to Camden, where the British had established their inland forward operating base. They were paroled on June 10th, 1780 but Ely’s health had spiraled downward after contracting smallpox. It is likely that Ely had already contracted the disease during his time in Charleston, further explaining why he had felt so weak and ill despite being there to recover. British commander, Earl Cornwallis, wanted to send the brothers away immediately but Joseph pleaded with him to delay their exile in order to give Ely time to recover. Cornwallis agreed to Joseph’s request but on August 8th they were sent back to Charleston to be placed on a prison ship destined for Bermuda. Conditions on the ship were horrible and the seas were unforgiving. After nearly three weeks in such miserable conditions Ely’s health worsened, until finally, he perished on the eve before the ship’s arrival in Bermuda. Joseph would make arrangements for Ely’s funeral and the handling of his affairs, and would remain in exile in Honduras until the war ended.

Historic Camden Foundation remembers Ely Kershaw and his service to his family, his home, and his nation by displaying his sword, engraved with the date of 1774 and his name. His sword was loaned by his descendants to be displayed at the Kershaw Cornwallis House starting November 6th.  Visit this beautiful artifact and relic and learn from our ACBA blacksmith on site how a sword was made in the colonial era.