The Smalls family is connected to Woodlands Plantation through the Laboards. Henry Smalls married Mary Anne Laboard, one of the youngest children of Wilson and Sallie LaBorde. According to the brochure of the second annual Smalls-Laboard family reunion, Henry Smalls–probably the father of the Henry that married Mary Anne LaBorde–was “the son of Ben Felder and Annie Smalls. Ben and Annie came over from England on a boat that docked in Charleston, S.C…. Ben Felder was a white Englishman, and Annie was a mulatto.” A Ben Smalls, 21, black, is listed in the 1870 Midway census with Ann, 20. In the 1880 census, he is listed as age 32 and living with wife Ann and children Willie, George, Henry, Eugenia, and Rebecca. All are listed as mulatto. In the 1900 census, there is listed a Binn Smalls with wife Ann, and children Rebecker and Edmon. In that same census, there is listed a Henry Smalls, age 25, living with his wife (name illegible) and daughter, Dottie.
Harry, Ely, and Becky Singleton also remained in the Midway area after the war and are listed in the group of freedmen identified in the contract between Isaac Nimmons and Charles Carroll in July of 1865 as working at “the Pinckney Place.” The Singleton name is also connected to Woodlands through William Gilmore Simms, whose mother was named Harriet Ann Augusta Singleton. At the time of her death in 1808, Simms inherited 25 slaves, and there is a possibility that the African American Singletons may be descended from them.
The 1870 Bamberg census lists a Harry Singleton, a 38-year-old black farmhand as head of a household consisting of Rebecca, age 37, and children Hura (sp?), 16, Elizabeth, 14, Christina, 12, Sylvia, 10, Eugenia, 6, and Harry, 2. In 1880, Harry, age 50, is recorded as head of a household that includes his wife Rebecca, 50, and children Hattie, Rebecca, Eugenia, Inae, and a nephew, Robert Olin. Also in that year, a Rebecca Singleton purchased 80 acres of land from Francis Fishburne Carroll just north of and adjacent to Woodlands. (Francis Fishburne Carroll was the son of Charles Carroll, who was a close friend, neighbor, and kinsman of William Gilmore Simms.) Harry Singleton, age 70, appears again in the 1900 Midway census with his wife Emma, 55.
Mrs. Oliphant also made several statements indicating the Rowe family was originally part of Oak Grove Plantation, and was part of the group of bondsmen who were brought to Woodlands when Simms married Chevillette Eliza and established residence there in 1836. In a tribute she delivered at the funeral of Mary Anne Rowe, she said, “For more than 200 years, the Rowe family have been associated with our family. They lived first with the Simmses on the Orangeburg side of the Edisto and in 1836 moved with us to the Bamberg side of the river. They have been with us here for more than 100 years.”
According to Beecher’s list of freedmen, at least three members of the Rowe family stayed on at Woodlands during the years after the end of the Civil War including Bundo, Berubo, and Caesar Rowe. However, the Woodlands Plantation Book does
George Rowe sharecropped Mary C. Simms Oliphant’s portion of Woodlands between 1921 and 1930’s. His daughter, Llewelyn Rowe Hopkins, was “sent up” by her father to Greenville—about 300 miles away—to work for Mrs. Oliphant. She stayed there for over fifty years.
Mrs. Hopkins daughter, Bertha Mae Harrison remembers her grandfather, George Rowe, telling them that his father was named Jim Redford and that he changed his name to Rowe when he married into the Rowe family—presumably to Clancia Rowe.
*Names are spelled as found in the historical record.
The Simms family is descended from William Gilmore Simms (1806 – 1870), noted 19th-century literary figure and Chevillette Eliza Roach Simms, the daughter of Nash Roach. They had 16 children, but only six survived childhood including William Gilmore, Jr., Mary Lawson, Chevillette Eliza, Govan Singleton, and Charles Carroll. Simms also had a daughter, Anna Augusta Singleton, from his first wife, Anna Malcolm Giles.
By virtue of Simms’ literary achievements, Woodlands is designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior and is currently used by the Simms descendants for family retreats, hunting parties, and community gatherings.
William Gilmore Simms was a native South Carolinian who gained far-ranging literary acclaim in his day as the most prolific southern antebellum writer. Hailed as the man of letters of the Old South, Simms garnered the respect of readers in the North and South, including such contemporaries as Edgar Allan Poe and James Fenimore Cooper. Simms’ versatility and talent were evidenced in some 72 book-length works, including novels, short story collections, poetry, drama, literary criticism, essays, history, and biography. Among his better known works are The Yemassee, his most popular Indian novel; The Partisan, the first of seven Revolutionary War romances; Richard Hurdis, one of his eight Border Romances; and The Wigwam and the Cabin, A Collection of Short Stories. Following the Civil War and after his death, Simms’ works fell out of favor.
His biographer, John C. Guilds, writes: “Alone among American novelists of the 19th century, Simms perceived a national literary need, sensed his capability to fulfill it, developed a plan to attain it, and lived to complete it. Simms had vision, commitment, intensity, and perseverance—ingredients without which sustained literary accomplishment of the first magnitude is impossible. Relatively early in his career, in 1845, Simms articulated his mission for artistic fulfillment with precision and comprehensiveness, and throughout his life he remained constant to that mission, neither altering its formulation nor wavering in his commitment. Simms’ vision of America depicted in his fiction extends from 16th-century Florida (Vasconselos and The Lily and the Totem); colonial South Carolina (The Cassique of Kiawah and The Yemassee); the Revolutionary War (Joscelyn, The Partisan, Mellichampe, Katherine Walton, The Scout, The Forayers, Eutaw, and Woodcraft); through the trans-Mississippi migration in the early 19th century (Guy Rivers, Richard Hurdis, Border Beagles, Confession, Beauchampe, Charlemont, Helen Halsey, The Wigwam and the Cabin, the Cub of the Panther, Voltmeier). To Simms, his writings about ante-colonial America, the English colonies, the Revolutionary War, and the rampaging frontier were part of a sustained, interconnected literary saga. He traced the development of American national consciousness through four centuries in two dozen books which, taken together, form a powerful, intense, highly readable epic and constitute a unique national literary treasure. Though Simms’ achievements are various and varied—his poetry [see “Among the Ruins”], in particular, is important for both historical and aesthetic reasons—his vision of an American literature by Americans found its fullest expression in the novel; and it is here that his immortality is assured.”
Recent research by a core of southern scholars has revived interest in and appreciation of the writings of Simms. Since 1952, there have been a number of publications that support Simms’ prominence as a nationally significant author including six volumes of his letters, The Letters of William Gilmore Simms, a collection of his poems, the Guilds biography, and a series of critical publications about his work including Long Years of Neglect and William Gilmore Simms and the American Frontier also by John C. Guilds and The Poetry and the Practical by James E. Kibler, among other related works.
William Gilmore Simms’ granddaughter, Mary C. Simms Oliphant (1891 – 1988), was also an historian In 1916, the state superintendent of education asked her to update her grandfather’s 1860 history of South Carolina for use as a texbook. In 1932, Oliphant wrote an entirely new South Carolina history textbook. The Simms History of South Carolina went through 9 editions and was used by South Carolina junior high school students.She later wrote a reader to introduce third-grade children to their state.Oliphant’s most ambitions project, and the one for which she is most widely known, was her work to collect, edit, and publish Simms’s letters.
Other grandchildren of William Gilmore Simms include Zaidee Aldrich Simms Cole (1882 – 1968), William Gilmore Simms IV (1883 – 1953), Harold Algernon Simms (1888 – 1965) and Anne Lee Simms Buck1893 – 1969).
Although the Simms and Nimmons families did not maintain close ties after the Civil War, Isaac Nimmons was a key figure at Woodlands and a significant presence in the Midway community through the end of the 19th century. William Gilmore Simms, Jr. describes him as follows:
Isaac Nimmons was our father’s body servant and coachman, and a great favorite with all the children. He had been a stable boy of my grand uncle A. R. Govan, who imported the great race horse Bosters from England, and as a partner of Col. William Johnson of Virginia ran a number of horses on the Washington Race trace at Charleston. Isaac was a born sport and knew the history of all the great races by heart, and being a good raconteur, endeared himself to the children of his many track anecdotes….
A.R. Govan, the uncle of the wife of William Gilmore Simms, Chevillette Eliza Simms, was a planter in the Orangeburg District who moved to Mississippi in 1828, indicating that Nimmons might have come to Woodlands at that time or in 1847 when Roach moved to Woodlands permanently.
Nimmons played a critical role in the lives of the Simms family at the end of the Civil War when he helped evacuate the family from Woodlands. He delivered food and other provisions to them in Columbia where they moved to escape Sherman’s destructive march through South Carolina.
In February 1865, after Woodlands was burned by Sherman’s stragglers, the neighbors in the community accused Isaac Nimmons of setting the fire. William Gilmore Simms, Jr. describes the incident as follows:
Sometime after the army had passed, a jury of citizens in the neighborhood arrested my father’s coachman and body servant Isaac Nimmons and tried him for the burning [of Woodlands]. The weight of the evidence exonerated Isaac, although there was a good deal of feeling against him, but general opinion was that the dwelling was burnt by some of the bands of bummers that hung on to the outskirts of the army.
In a tribute Mrs. Oliphant delivered at the funeral of Arthur Laboard who helped her restore the gardens at Woodlands in the 1950s, she wrote: “The family of the LaBordes [sic] came to Woodlands from Beaufort in 1861 when the Northern Army occupied that part of the coast. The LaBordes have been with us ever since. Arthur LaBorde’s grandmother, Sallie LaBorde, was beloved by every member of the Simms family and I have a picture of her which I shall always cherish.”
According to Mrs. Oliphant, the LaBorde family had been part of a group of 40 or 50 slaves from the plantation of Dr. Fuller located near Pocotaligo in Prince Williams Parish, Beaufort County. However, the LaBordes (who now spell their name Laboard) may have already been at Woodlands prior to the Civil War. Bessie Laboard Brown has said that her grandmother, Sallie LaBorde, who Mrs. Oliphant referred to as “Maum Sallie,” told her that she was “sold to the Simms in Midway.” She said, “Grandmamma’s father was a rice farmer in Beaufort.” Sallie, who married Wilson LaBoard (possibly the same person called Vincent) who was already at Woodlands, may have been one of this group from the Fuller plantation.
According to Beecher’s list of freedmen who remained at the plantation after the Civil War, Vincent, Sally, Tina, and Edmund LaBorde stayed on at Woodlands. The 1867 tax return book for Barnwell Parish also lists a Wilson Labboard [sic], who owed $1 in “capitation” tax. Also in that year, Wilson LaBorde filed a complaint with the Freedmen’s Bureau against Daniel Rowell, a Midway farmer with whom he had contracted for one-third of the crop. When the harvest was completed, he and Sallie were ordered off the plantation, apparently in an attempt by Rowell to renege on their deal. He and Sallie are back at Woodlands in 1868 according to the Woodlands Plantation Book, which lists work completed by, items purchased from, or accounts with Vincent LaBorde in the years 1868 and 1874.
Edmund LaBorde, 42, is listed in the 1870 Midway census with his household composed of Eugenia (possibly the Tina mentioned above), 43, Dorcas, 69, and George, age 20. Edmund is also listed as owning land valued at $250 and other property valued at $200. The 1870 Federal Census of South Carolina Agriculture, Midway, lists an Edward Labord owning 25 acres of land although no deed is listed in the Barnwell County Courthouse records. The population census of that year also lists a Weston Laborde (probably Wilson LaBorde), 29, Sarah Anne (probably Sallie), 23, and children Jeffry, Nancy, Sandie or Landie, and Dolly.
The 1880 census lists an Edmon Labord, 65, and his wife, Eugenia, 60 as living in Midway. There is also a Vincent Labord, 45, with wife Sallie, 38, and children Nancy, James, Dolly, George, Cornelia, and Richard.
Additionally, one of the youngest children of Wilson and Sallie LaBoard, Mary Anne LaBoard, married Henry Smalls, forming the Smalls family link to Woodlands.
Nash Roach was the father of Chevillette Eliza Roach, who married William Gilmore Simms in 1836. He also owned a plantation across the Edisto River in Orangeburg County called Oak Grove that he acquired through his marriage to Eliza Ann Govan (1791 – 1822), the daughter of Daniel Govan (? – 1797) and Louisa Robinson. This was Roach’s principal residence and primary income property until 1846 when he sold Oak Grove and moved to Woodlands to live with his daughter and son-in-law. In colonial days, Oak Grove was called “St. George”; during the Revolution, it was referred to as “Chevillette’s” after Eliza Ann Govan’s stepfather, John Chevillette. “St. George,” not to be confused with the town or district of St. George in adjacent Dorchester County, was a land grant consisting of many acres just below the town of Orangeburg. This land grant was given to Daniel Govan’s father, Andrew Govan (? – 1771) in 1757. In 1758, Andrew Govan married Rachel Rowe (1740 – ?), daughter of Michael Christopher Rowe (1715 – 1787) by his first marriage.
Along with his two brothers Samuel and Henry, Michael Christopher Rowe, a Scotsman, was a landowner in the Orangeburg District. In 1757, he received two land grants near the town Orangeburg – one for 150 acres and the other for 250 acres – and in 1758 he received another grant for 700 acres. He also bought other lands in the same area for a total of over 3,000 acres.
On June 4, 1759, Rowe transferred 100 acres of land in the Orangeburg District to his daughter and son-in-law, Rachel and Andrew Govan. Daniel Govan, Andrew’s son, was to inherit the “St. George” property – 1,300 acres – at the time of his mother’s death, although it appears that Daniel died before his mother. Andrew Govan’s will stipulated that his personal property, presumably including his slaves, would be split equally between his widow, Rachel, his son, Daniel, and daughter, Rachel, although other evidence suggests that Rachel inherited all of the slaves. The first federal census reveals that Daniel Govan owned at least eight slaves in 1790. His daughter, Eliza Ann Govan, who probably inherited Oak Grove at the time of her grandmother’s death and also presumably her slaves, married Nash Roach in 1813. It is assumed that Roach became the proprietor of Oak Grove at that time.
Isom Glover was known as the torch-tender and had charge of the firewood for the estate. According to Mrs. Oliphant, “It was he who, as a young man, at great personal risk saved the [Benjamin] West portrait of Simms when the house was burned [by Sherman’s troops] in 1865.” He does not appear in Beecher’s list of freedmen at Woodlands in June of 1865. However, he is listed as having a sharecropper’s account at Woodlands in January of 1868. An Isom Glover shows up in the 1870s census in Midway, at age 24, living with wife Sarah, 20, and son Robert, 2. There is an Isham Glover, age 35, in the 1880 Midway census with wife Martha, and children Mariah, Paul, Laura and Gabriel.
An Isham Glover from Bamberg is also recorded in the 1890s Special Schedule of Surviving Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Widows of the US during the War of the Rebellion. Although not identified in federal military records as having enlisted or served in the US Army, he apparently provided some service or support to federal troops during the Civil War, despite saving the West portrait of his master, perhaps when Sherman’s troops as they passed through Midway. He was the only African American listed in the Special Schedule from the Bamberg area.
The earliest remembered ancestor of the Rumph family is Jim Rumph (1810 – 1922). His granddaughter Llewellyn “Mudd” Manigault (1901 – 1986) spoke of his own father. He was 112 when he died, having lived through 57 years of enslavement, the Civil War, Sherman’s destruction of Woodlands and most of Midway, the famine after the war, the failure of Reconstruction, the difficulties of sharecropping, and the boom in farming that resulted from the exigencies of World War I. Jim Rumph fathered a son named Jim Rumph (1875 – 1937), who also had a son named Jim Rumph (1900 – 1985). All three farmed property that was once part of the original plantation and which the Rumph family has owned since 1917. All were the managers of Woodlands, on behalf of the Simms family, and all are buried in the cemetery on the plantation property. Earthlee Rumph (1907 – 1993), one of the grandchildren of the old Jim Rumph, reported that Jim Rumph came “direct from Africa” as a young man and was “auctioned off” in Charleston. According to Mr. Rumph, Jim Rumph was about 18 when he was put on a slave ship in Africa bound for Charleston. “He was auctioned in Charleston and [they] sent him from Charleston to Beaufort, where he started his home.”
The only mention of a Jim in the plantation book after the Civil War is in the section entitled, “Births of Negroes.” The first entries at the top of the page list the births of George, 1842, Ceasar, 1848, Abbie, 1849, Garrick, 1851, and Glover, 1856, all children of Jim and Doll. The Simms family presumes that this “Jim” was the old Jim Rumph and that this family was one of at least two families of which Jim Rumph was the father.
The Rumph name does not appear in the Midway District 1870 census, the first federal census in which former slaves were accounted. However, there is a listing for a James Easterling, age 38, a farmhand living alone and it is remembered that Llewellyn “Mudd” Manigault spoke of the Easterlings. Other grandchildren, Earthlee Rumph—Mrs. Manigault’s brother—and Bessie Laboard Brown, recounted that Jim Rumph “ran away” and changed his name to Easterling; one could assume this man was the old Jim before he changed his name to Rumph or back to Rumph.
A James Rumff [sic] * is listed in the 1880 Midway census as a laborer, age 40, with wife, Mary, age 28, and children Ella, 8, Augusta, 7, Webster, 6, Martha, 4, and Sandy, 6 months. (Augusta may be Bessie Laboard Brown’s mother Eliza Rumph who she said was originally named Augusta—also the name of William Gilmore Simms’s oldest daughter—but she did not like the name and changed it at some point to Elizabeth.) This record would suggest that this James Rumff, listed as age 40 in 1880, is not the same person as James Easterling, listed as age 38 in 1870, however, census enumerators often just guessed at the age of those interviewed and sometimes simply made mistakes.
The Rumphs are related or associated with several other families in the Midway community. The 1900 Midway census lists Eugene (Moss) Rump as a “nephew,” aged 13, living with the McCormick family including B. McCormick, age 53, Margaret, his wife, age 60, and their three children ages 16 to 22. Since Eugene Rumph is listed as a nephew, Margaret may have been a sister of the old Jim Rumph, Moss Rumph’s father. The Rumph family remembers that Moss Rumph’s mother (listed as Mary Black in his obituary) died when he was an infant and that he lived with cousins for a number of years.
The Rumphs may also be related to the Richburgs. According to William D. Howard, a descendant of the Hightower and Nimmons families in Bamberg and Barnwell Counties, his great great grandmother, Masouri Richberg, lived at Woodlands prior to the Civil War. Mr. Howard wrote an unpublished historical narrative, My Wealth Has Come, about his family’s connections to West Africa and their early life in the United States. A copy is located in the Bamberg County Public Library. He reported that his grand uncle, Bequert Richburg, told him that Masouri had been a slave on the Simms place and that she also had a daughter named Masouri, but that she became a McCormick. She married Daniel Richburg and later settled in Bamberg. Madrew Ramsey Stuart, a great granddaughter of Abbey Ramsey, also remembered that she had an ancestor named Masouri. She said that Abbey was related to the Nimmons from the Orange Grove community. She was told by her cousin Annie Lou (nicknamed Plum) that Nimmons people used to visit Aunt Rachel, Abbey’s daughter, in the hospital. Mrs. Oliphant wrote that Jim Rumph’s wife, Birdie (Stokes) Rumph, told her “Jim’s mother’s people were Nimmons.” If she was referring to her husband Jim (as opposed to his father or grandfather) his mother was Eliza Wright, daughter of Abbey Ramsey.
Earthlee Rumph said that the Richburgs were only indirectly related to the Rumphs. He offered that the Richburgs and Rumphs “came over on the same ship” and that one family was sold to the Simms and the other sold to the Richburgs. In a 1994 interview, a cousin of the Rumph family, Reverend Daniel Richberg, stated that his family, like the Rumphs, were from “George’s.” A white Richburg or de Richebourg family owned property near Summerton. William Howard stated that “Until about 1835, my ancestors [his mother’s father’s family, the Richburgs] actually were enslaved to the David and Hope Pearson family who lived on what is today Highway 21 which runs between Branchville and Orangeburg.”
A number of the descendants of the Rumph still live near Woodlands Plantation today including the Manigaults, Currys, Warrens, Georges, Ryants, Hayneses and Kearse. Rhonda Kearse, one of the three narrators of the Shared History documentary, is the daughter of Margaret Kearse. Margaret’s mother was Edith George. Mrs. George and her siblings including Elliott “Junior” Manigault, Dorothy Manigault, Sadie Ryant, Lottie Curry, and Eugenia Haynes, are the children of Llewellyn “Mudd” Manigault, the granddaughter of the first Jim Rumph.
*Names are spelled as found in the historical record.
Mrs. Oliphant identifies Cynthia Curry as the head cook at Woodlands. Cynthia, Albert, and Billy Curry are listed in the group of 47 freedmen identified by James Beecher as remaining at Woodlands after Sherman’s destruction of Midway. Beecher named Billy Curry foreman of the group who had planted a corn crop on the property, presumably after the Simms family moved to Columbia.
Cinthia and Albert are listed in the section of the Woodlands Plantation Book entitled “Births of Negroes” as being the parents of Sam, born 1862, Eugene, born 1856, and Alice, born 1859. Martha, born 1861, is listed as a “child of Cinthia.” Apparently, Albert Curry, the father or brother of Billy, stayed at Woodlands at least until 1868.