The Years in Edgefield County

Of the three counties which were to be the scene of Ludwig’s future activities – old Edgefield (now Saluda), Newberry, and Fairfield – none had any remarkable characteristics. From the histories written by local citizens, however, one gains the impression that Newbury and Fairfield residents were a cut above Edgefield arrivals. Both of these counties had received a number of European immigrants in the 1740’s and 1750’s, who settled along the banks of the Broad River and in the Dutch Fork. Newberry also had a substantial population of Quakers. But, Robert Mills observed in his 1825 survey of South Carolina’s counties, “…     in contradistinction to some other districts, Edgefield was settled principally, and indeed almost altogether, by emigrants from Virginia and North Carolina.”

Old Edgefield County, on the south bank of the Saluda River, had not been chosen early. In feet, some of the few settlers who had located there before the Cherokee War were intimidated by the Indian threat into moving eastward. A few tenacious settlers, mostly from Scotland, had remained on the salads in spite of the Indian troubles.

By the time of Ludwig’s move, the land was being taken up because of the incentives in the Settlement Act of 1761. Of the Germans who were being newly imported into the colony as bounty settlers, about 230 were sent to a new settlement on Stevens Creek, a few miles south of the site Ludwig was to choose a year later.

The five years between 1761 and 1765 saw a fifty percent increase in the back country’s population. More than half were new arrivals to the colony, non-bounty immigrants, and part of the great southward migration from Virginia and North Carolina.

During these years, according to Meriwether, there were 185 surveys for land on the Saluda, mostly on the north side, and “15 or 20 of the Saluda warrants were for settlers from the middle and back .” The 1763 expedition of Bottner, Witts, and Gartman would have accounted for three of these.

We can see that Ludwig’s choices were certainly not typical of his German compatriots. When he left Amelia, he could have moved into the Dutch Fork, or he could have moved near the new German bounty settlers on Stevens Creek. But he chose instead land with no German neighbors and in a predominantly English speaking county.

Perhaps it was because of his cultural isolation that Ludwig left few traces of his presence. He is nowhere mentioned in the principal history of Edgefield County, written in 1897 by John Chapman. Yet this author was particularly interested in the history of ferries and bridges, and part of Ludwig’s land became a ferry site under a new owner in 1800.

And Ludwig’s son Elias was barely mentioned in Chapman’s history, although Elias began his own ferry about 15 miles south of Ludwig’s farm in 1806. It is puzzling that the Bottners (or Bortners as they were most commonly known in Edgefield County) left so little imprint on the local scene when their holdings should have made them of interest to this historian.

Chapman did, however, confirm the consequences of the influx of emigrants from Virginia and North Carolina, whom the Reverend Woodmason had so deplored:

Many persons now living (in 1897) can remember when there was a grog shop at every cross road, and sometimes between when the cross roads were too far apart. Some time in the early part of the century, M. L. Weems wrote and published a history of Edgefield, in which he gives some account of the very deplorable morals then existing. He calls Edgefield a Pandemonium, which being literally interpreted, means a home of all the devils.

Perhaps Ludwig’s isolation was purposeful. In any ease, He was probably too busy to concern himself with the quality of life. He had a large family to feed, most of who were not yet capable of making a contribution.

His land was partly wooded and partly a grassy plain, low to the river, which tolerated crops or grazing cattle. In the recollections of Solomon’s descendants, there was a mill on the river bank. (Today Ludwig’s property is at the south end of the bridge spanning the Saluda on State Route 39.)

The land in Ludwig’s vicinity, according to Robert Mills, was generally productive, except for a tendency to wash in heavy rains, and should regularly yield “Indian corn, cotton, peas, beans, potatoes, etc.” But here, as throughout the back country, Mills deplored the lack of attention to crop rotation and to the replenishment of the soil.

The years after Ludwig’s relocation and the ending of the Cherokee War brought new problems to the back country. One of the effects of the war was that many of the farms of the settlers had been devastated, and some of the homeless became drifters and sometimes turned to crime. Other unsavory refugees and deserters from the military, as well as from the French and Indian War to the north, also joined the outlaw camps. Robbery and other crimes rose to intolerable heights.

In 1767, the desperate settlers banded together as vigilantes to bring about their own law and order. They became known as the Regulator Movement. The Reverend Woodmason himself supported their cause and drafted a complaint for them to submit to the Assembly in Charleston. The petitioners sought not only local court service but also laws against vagrancy and for the establishment of schools and churches.

The Assembly sent troops to put down the outlaws, but more importantly, it enacted a Circuit Court Act which divided the colony into six districts. Ludwig’s farm lay in the district of Ninety-six, named   after the early western fort.

The first court was held at the site of Fort Ninety-six on November 16, 1772. There was at last a partial system of local justice for the 15,000 residents, but the grand juries continued to protest the continuing lack of roads, churches, and schools.

It does not seem likely that any of these inconveniences greatly affected Ludwig. His land was convenient to the principal east-west road; he had been without a church for most of his adult life; and there is no reason to believe that he was an ardent advocate of education for his children.

Still, something did cause Ludwig to move again. Very likely, it had nothing to do with the growing tensions between the colonies and England. In South Carolina, the complaints against the Crown were not shared by many of the back country settlers. In feet, the Germans, most of whom had been awarded their land by the Crown’s provincial government, were determinedly neutral. (Or even Loyalist, in the later years of the Revolutionary War.)

In any ease, we now know that Ludwig’s ambitions for more prosperous land predated the War for Independence by several years. As early as 1772, he had begun requiring some choice property on the eastern bank of the Broad River in Fairfield County.

As it happened violence did come to the back country during the Revolutionary War. In Ninety Six District, the lines of downright hatred that had been drawn during the Regulator controversy now were redrawn between Whigs and Loyalists. A brigade of Loyalist militia was actually organized in Ninety Six, with one of its six regiments coming from the Dutch Fork.

When Charleston fell in 1780 and Tory violence was encouraged in the back country, a bloody civil war raged, to include three battles actually engaging Tory troops in Newberry County.

In the fall of 1781, William (“Bloody Bill”) Cunningham from a back country family, was placed in charge of an independent company which cut a vicious and bloody swath in the Dutch Fork and along the Saluda, brutalizing civilians and Whigs. This butchery at last united the people in the back country against the British.

Some of the violence in Newberry County spilled over onto the south side of the Saluda. There were Loyalists there, too, especially among the Scots near the river, and there was guerrilla violence. John Chapman recorded several instances of brutality; at least one farm a few piles from Ludwig’s place was burned, and its owner, Dennet Abney, was tortured and killed.

We do not know what happened to Ludwig’s Edgefield land during this bloody period – whether it was laid waste, or whether it was even farmed during this time. And if he lost a son to Tory violence, it was not confirmed in the records or in the memories of Edgefield residents.

Leave a Reply