In 1732 and 1733 possibly three hundred French-Swiss and German-Swiss colonists arrived in South Carolina with Purry to settle the 48,000-acre township promised by the colony’s authorities.

(Jasper County). The town of Purrysburg, located on the Savannah River in present-day Jasper County, was named after its founder, Jean-Pierre Purry (1675–1736). Born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, Purry was a wine merchant who, after traveling to South Africa, Indonesia, and Australia, developed colonization plans based on meteorological theories that highlighted certain areas of the world as having an ideal climate for agriculture. After unsuccessfully submitting his projects to the Dutch and the French, Purry approached British authorities in the 1720s. A first attempt to send Swiss settlers to South Carolina failed in 1724–1726 due to the uncertain political status of the colony following the revolution of 1719 and the proprietors’ sudden withdrawal of their financial pledge. The township plan, initiated in 1731 under Governor Robert Johnson, provided the necessary impetus for the foundation of Purrysburg the following year. This new policy was designed to encourage the immigration of continental Protestants who would settle together in a string of townships along the colony’s frontier and develop the hoped-to-be lucrative production of silk, indigo, and wine. In 1732 and 1733 possibly three hundred French-Swiss and German-Swiss colonists arrived in South Carolina with Purry to settle the 48,000-acre township promised by the colony’s authorities.

Although the Swiss settlement experienced some degree of economic success, at least in terms of silk production, the inhospitable terrain and severe climate, land encroachments by British settlers, bickering between French-and German-speaking settlers over linguistic matters, and most importantly, the relocation of many enterprising Purrysburgers to Charleston and Savannah condemned Purrysburg to remaining a marginal southern frontier town. DeSaussure, Beaufain, Huguenin, Verdier, Borquine, Mengersdorff, Holzendorf, and Mayerhoffer are among well-known South Carolina surnames from Purrysburg.

Crane, Verner W. The Southern Frontier, 1670–1732. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1928.

Hirsch, Arthur H. The Huguenots of Colonial South Carolina. 1928. Reprint, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999.

Meriwether, Robert L. The Expansion of South Carolina, 1729–1765. Kingsport, Tenn.: Southern Publishers, 1940.

Migliazzo, Arlin C. “Ethnic Diversity on the Southern Frontier: A Social His- tory of Purrysburgh, South Carolina, 1732–1792.” Ph.D. diss., Washington State University, 1982.

———. “A Tarnished Legacy Revisited: Jean Pierre Purry and the Settlement of the Southern Frontier, 1718–1736.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 92 (October 1991): 232–52.

Rowland, Lawrence S., Alexander Moore, and George C. Rogers. The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina. Vol. 1, 1514–1861. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996.

Smith, Henry A. M. “Purrysburgh.” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine 10 (October 1909): 187–219.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Purrysburg
  • Author Bertrand Van Ruymbeke
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/purrysburg/
  • Access Date January 23, 2020
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date June 20, 2016
  • Date of Last Update October 24, 2016