Pioneer of early South Carolina. The Harlestons were a family of some means in seventeenth-century England. However, the family’s property had been so ravaged by the English Civil War that two of the family’s children, Charles and Affra, left England for South Carolina in 1669. Affra came on the Carolina as an indentured servant with a two-year obligation to her sponsor, after which she would receive one hundred acres of land. Affra and a ship’s mate on the Carolina, John Coming, formed an attachment during the long trip, which included a horrific storm off the Leeward Islands that convinced Affra never to cross the ocean again. When they arrived at Port Royal in February 1670, Coming decided to continue his courtship of Affra while continuing to work as a ship’s mate.
Married in 1672 when she was free from indenture, Affra and Coming founded a substantial plantation, Comingtee on the Cooper River; acquired their own servants; and ceded part of their land claim at Oyster Point for the construction of what is now Charleston. Although the Comings never had children of their own, they frequently took in orphaned children from the area and sponsored the immigration of several of Coming’s nephews as their heirs. John Coming, having risen in society to the rank of ship’s captain and member of the colony’s Grand Council, died on August 20, 1694, after accumulating another 740 acres of land.
Affra, who survived her husband by four years, built a house in Charleston at the intersection of Wentworth and Philips Streets and donated seventeen acres to St. Philip’s Church in Charleston, beginning the parish’s property. Although her brother Charles abandoned his South Carolina claims and moved to Barbados, the siblings prepared the way to the colony for other Harlestons from England and Ireland, and for Coming’s Ball half-siblings and their children. Affra Harleston Coming died on December 28, 1698, and is believed to have been buried beside her husband at Comingtee Plantation.
Middleton, Margaret Simons. Affra Harleston and Old Charles-Towne in South Carolina. Columbia, S.C.: R. L. Bryan, 1971.