Friday, August 21, 2009

South Carolina trip

In case you've been wondering where I've been, I'll tell you. My mother and I are finishing up a trip to South Carolina, visiting libraries and archives in several counties as well as the state archives in Columbia. This has been a working trip - no shopping and sightseeing, unless you count the history books I bought at the Ninety-Six National Historic Site where Matthew Robinson fought in the Revolutionary War battle there.

The main reason for the research trip was to find additional information about the Robinsons who left Abbeville District, South Carolina for Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi in the 1820s. Unfortunately, nothing turned up despite visits to the Abbeville courthouse, library and Erskine College in nearby Due West. The very nice librarian at Erskine College was a big help, contacting church archives and authorities about Little Mountain Presbyterian Church in Abbeville County, where I believe my Robinsons attended, but no early minutes are to be found.

There is good news, however, because we hit pay dirt on the Sloans and Claytons! More information will be forthcoming on the South Carolina roots of those Itawamba families. It will take a while to assimilate the new information in my database of families.

The picture was taken in the Abbeville courthouse, probate clerk's office. The courthouse at Abbeville burned several times, and all land records are destroyed, the main reason for the brick wall for my Robinsons. Some of the probate records remain, but not many. Pictured is a probate document in which William Barksdale applied for administration of the Estate of William Parnell (Purnell, Pernell) in November 1819 in Abbeville District. Matthew Robinson was the surety for Barksdale's bond. William Purnell was the father of Samuel Morris Purnll, and grandfather of Charlottie Purnell who married George Emerson Robinson. The Purnell and Robinson families were intertwined in both South Carolina and Alabama. In addition to the 1819 record in South Carolina, there is also a record in Lawrence County, Alabama in October 1823 where William Barksdale goes to the courthouse there and files with the court as administrator for the Purnell estate and assigns power of attorney to William "Roberson".

I was hoping to find answers to the following questions about this document. What was the name of William Purnell's widow? Was she a daughter of Matthew Robinson? Who was William Barksdale, and what was his relationship to the orphans? I suspect Barksdale was their step-father and guardian since the young children lived with him in Alabama. How did William Purnell die? I had found earlier where the unnamed widow received a small military pension in lieu of bounty land, and this indicates that he died while in the military service of the United States, possibly the War of 1812 or more likely in one of the Indian Wars. Who is William Roberson who is assigned power of attorney in Alabama? How is he related to the James Robinson who married Patsey Purnell in Lawrence County in 1826? Is Patsey the daughter of the deceased William Purnell? Are James and William sons of Matthew Robinson? Does anybody out there have any answers!?!

The probate document that is pictured indicates that the citation for administration of the Purnell estate was posted at Little Mountain Presbyterian Church. This requirement for public notice is similar to what we require today, but instead of newspapers, the public posting took place in the neighborhood of the deceased, usually a church or store if not near the courthouse. It was this bit of information that led me to look closely at the Little Mountain church to see what records might be available. This church was organized in the late 1700s although it wasn't until several years later that it became formally recognized. It is located in the area where Matthew Robinson owned land in Abbeville County so it is likely that he attended church there.

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