1781 – The Siege of Star Fort at Ninety-Six, South Carolina … and some thoughts as to why we do not know more about early inhabitants of South Carolina

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It can be hard to find evidence of Goldens and Goldings living in South Carolina before 1800, or the names of many other citizens living in the state.

What I know about possibly related family in South Carolina from this time period

One reason for the difficulty in finding information is that South Carolina largely had only one major city (a rather large town), a number of small towns and was very rural without the benefit of a well-established parish system like some of the other American colonies. The parish system, run largely by the Church of England, and later the Episcopalian Church, provided many of the civil recordkeeping duties until the end of the Revolutionary War.

The  Church Act of 1706 gave responsibility for the registering of births, marriages, and burials to the parishes of the Church of England. However, South Carolina was an early supporter of freedom of religion, which also included freedom from religion, almost immediately upon its founding by the eight Lords Proprietor of the Province of Carolina and their The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina adopted in March 1669.

Once South Carolina officially became a colony the Church of England became the official church … however this was in proclamation only and larged ignored except for official functions. One result was that a great many South Carolinians felt little need to register their family information with churches, unless they were active participants in the church. Except for tax collection and the probate of wills there was very little governmental recordkeeping of any kind undertaken until vital records registration was mandated in 1915.

Local History and the G-Folk Family in context

The Golding/Golden family contributed at least five Revolutionary War soldiers that fought against the Crown in South Carolina: Anthony Golding, John Golden, Reuben Golding, Richard Golding, William Golding. There are no known Golding or Golden loyalists from South Carolina … but the truth is that we do not really know as local histories are thin and loyalists, except in the abstract of ‘the loyalists’, appear to have been left out of local history.

The Keepers of History write what they want us to know

As I was researching the history of the Ninety-Six District, it came to mind that perhaps the turbulence of the Revolutionary War period so disrupted families and communities that much has been written out. Perhaps folks did not know where to start or  how to cover over the gaps  — the result being that very little was written about local history at all. It can be very difficult to find more than a scant few paragraphs about local history in South Caroline until about the Civil War era.

Some historians have noted that many of the South Carolinian battles fought during the American Revolution were with loyalist Carolinians and the part of the Cherokee tribe that allied with the British.

Not just a few Carolinians were loyalists. Many were. It was not until late in the war (late 1782) that Revolutionaries gained the upper hand in the colony. After the war many loyalists took their families and went primarily to Florida and some to Canada or to England or even back to Carolina’s cultural origin in the Caribbean islands which once controlled Carolina in the early 1600s.

My point being that quite possibly many residents of South Carolina just disappeared from this time period due to no desire to record it, and/or were written out of history.

One example is the 1781 Siege of the town of Ninety Six and The Star Fort which surrounded it.

From the official town history: General Nathaniel Greene besieged the Star Fort which surrounded the town of Ninety Six from May 22 to June 18, 1781 and notes that the “… British held out for 28 days in May through June, 1781 against a siege by General Nathaniel Greene and his American Continental Army.”

There were no British involved … although technically there was one. This was an American-vs-American battle.

The defenders of Star Fort were a wholly American Loyalist military unit of about 550 loyalists plus their families under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Cruger, with just one British officer in the unit.

Loyalists fought General Greene’s force of almost double numbers to a standstill until a British force of 2,000 troops arrived to break the siege. It is at this point that the British did play a major role as they then continued on to pursue General Greene’s troops as they retreated towards Charleston. This siege is described in the historic novels of Kenneth Roberts: Oliver Wiswell, 1940, as well as the 1855 novel The Forayers, by William Gilmore Simms.

The American Loyalists survived the siege and moved to Rawdon, Nova Scotia, Canada. Rawdon was named after the British commander —  Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings or “Lord Rawdon” — that broke the Siege of Ninety-Six.

Just a thought … but am a bit frustrated at trying to research this period of South Carolina history and finding very little information of any kind that names names and provides insight into local family histories.


You are welcome to add to or to correct this story by contacting: Bill Golden, Norfolk1956@gmail.com

BTW – I look forward to sharing your stories, photos and in-search-of quests. Contact me at the email address above.

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