I wrote last Spring about divided loyalties in a branch of our family during the American Revolution, our first Civil War. Now I find evidence of another Tory in the family tree. This time, it is the story of a direct ancestor about whom very little was previously known.
In 1975 my Great Aunt Margie compiled a pedigree that lists Christopher Williman as my 5th Great-Grandfather in the Gracie branch of the Ogden Line. He was born February 14th, 1748; came to South Carolina in 1766 after first arriving in Philadelphia from Europe; and was married on April 11, 1771 in Charleston, S.C. to a woman supposed to have been named Mary Walker. Beyond that, Christopher Williman remained a mystery.
When I started looking up ancestors a couple of weeks ago who might have owned slaves, I found a great deal of information on-line in the records maintained by Siegbert Frick and Carl W. Nichols on the Early German Settlers of South Carolina. This well documented site opened my eyes to the emigration of significant numbers of German and Swiss settlers to South Carolina in the decades before the Revolution:
"Between the years 1730 and 1766 the Colonial government of South Carolina actively encouraged immigration of foreign Protestants to the Province. Appreciable numbers of immigrants from Germany began to arrive in the 1740s. The year 1752 represented the peak of the migration with an estimated 1800 German settlers who arrived on several ships in the fall of that year... It has been estimated that by the year 1765 there were 7500-8000 Germans and German-Swiss who had come to the province of South Carolina."
My ancestor and his family arrived at the very end of this period. Frick and Nichols' "Auswanderer" site offers a trove of biographical information on two brothers, Jacob Johann Willemann (b. 1742) and Johann Christoph Willemann (1748), based on records including those of St. John's Lutheran Church in Charleston and the German Friendly Society, organized in 1766 by a vestryman of St. John's as a charitable and social organization. Here I learned that the Willemann brothers were from Eppingen, Baden-Württemberg, a state in southwest Germany. Their parents were Georg Willemann, a Catholic originally from Katzenbach, and Anna Maria Dieffenbacher. Johann Christoph Willemann is clearly my ancestor Christopher Williman, although the date of birth given here is January 23, 1748.
His wife's name is another surprise. His wife was also of German heritage, and while it was passed down in Anglicized form as "Mary Walker", she was actually named Maria Walther and her father had come to South Carolina in 1744 as an indentured servant. St. John's records the births of seven Williman children in this family, and the fourth was my ancestor Margaret, born 2/11/1782). Her date of birth is significant, for the fortunes of the family were greatly altered by the war and the British occupation of Charleston.
The British were in firm control of Charleston in March of 1782 when the South Carolina General Assembly, meeting in Jacksonboro, published a list of Tories whose estates were subject to confiscation. The Charleston Royal Gazette, a loyalist paper, printed the full list that was provided to it by the rebel government. The Tories named on the list were divided into six classes, ranging from British subjects holding property and having never submitted to the American Government to those considered "Obnoxious Persons." Among those listed as Class II Tories, "Such of the former inhabitants of this Country, as presented congratulatory addresses to Sir Henry Clinton and Admiral Arbuthnot", is Christopher Williman.
It was a tantalizing piece of information. The Class II description makes it seem as if he had already been evicted or was in exile. I wanted to know what circumstances had lead him to make such an address to the British and how it worked out that he and his family remained in South Carolina after the war. I had already learned that in the 1790 census he was listed as the head of a household with 5 free whites and 57 black slaves.
Through the magic of an Internet key word search , I discovered a 2007 PhD dissertation by a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan entitled; Reconciling the Revolution: Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Community in the Wake of Civil War in South Carolina 1775-1860. In its pages I found reference to a petition made by Christopher Williman before the newly constituted South Carolina House of Representatives for relief from the Estate Confiscation Act of 26 February, 1782. Intrigued, I looked for a copy of these state records, and much to my delight was able to pick up a new, hardbound copy of the Journals of the SC House of Representatives for the years 1783-1784. I got it from Powell's Books for $6.00, plus $3.99 shipping (probably not a big seller). A week later, my newest primary source addition to the family archive arrived, and this is what I found:
"22 January 1783 - "The Petition of Christopher Williman Setting forth That he has been an Inhabitant of this Country for 16 years and demeaned himself a good Citizen. That while he was Collecting Cattle in the year 1780, he was taken prisoner by the British and Confined, that having Suffered much in heath by reason of the Confinement, and threatened with prosecutions for Cattle he had Impressed for the Garrison, he at length became a British Subject. That he has ever beheld the misfortunes of his Country with unbounded Sympathy and his Constant attention was for the relief of his fellow Citizens in distress. That he has a numerous young family And is warmly attached to this country. That he never borne Arms against nor intentionally offended this State, and prays for relief from the pains and penalties of an Act entitled 'an Act for disposing of Certain Estates &ca."
The British laid siege to Charleston (for the second time in the war) from February 11 to May 12, 1780. It would seem from his testimony that Williman was captured with cattle he was foraging for the besieged garrison. The British took over 5,466 combatant's prisoner when the city fell, and many of these later died of disease. Christopher Williman's confinement would not have been under much better conditions, and as a private citizen one can imagine the pressure he reportedly felt to come to an accommodation with the occupying forces, win his release and provide for his family. In consequence, his estates were condemned just weeks after the birth of his daughter, my ancestor, in February 1782.
In the introduction to my new hardbound copy of the South Carolina House records 1783-1784, I learned that Williman was among more than 250 accused British loyalists who petitioned for relief from the Confiscation acts in 1783. During that year, a couple of bills were passed that lessoned the severity of the 1782 Confiscation and Amercement Acts. The South Carolina Senate and House together moved toward reconciliation with many of those whose Tory actions were considered minor over then next year.
For Christopher Williman and a large group of petitioners, resolution of their cases came on March 14, 1784. He was named among those who were to be "relieved from the pains and penalties of an Act entitled 'An Act for disposing of Certain Estates and Banishing Certain Persons therein Mentioned,' But to be Amerced each of them Twelve Per cent, on their estates Real and Personal." I do not know the value of Christopher Williman's confiscated estates, but a fine on both real and personal property would have included his slaves.
Apparently he was able to reenter life as a citizen of Charleston, as he was elected President of the German Friendly Society of St. John's Church that same year. His daughter Margaret married merchant Angus Bethune in 1801, and in 1815 lived in a three story house at 75 Broad Street in Charleston. His grand-daughter was Elizabeth Davidson Bethune (1807-1864), who married Archibald Gracie, Jr. of New York (1795-1865). One of their children became a confederate brigadier from Alabama by way of New Jersey, and another married my Gr-great grandfather Dayton Ogden (1833-1914). Somewhere along the way through the generations we lost the thread of the Willemann/Williman story. Now we know.
More (2/22/2008): But here is something I didn't know. The unique mustard-based barbecue sauce of central South Carolina can trace its lineage to the 18th-century wave of German immigration during which my Williman and Walther ancestors arrived in Charleston.