Moore, James, Sr.

ca. 1650–1706

Moore’s argument persuaded the Grand Council, which rejected Morton and backed Moore as governor on a temporary basis. The Lords Proprietors, who now courted the Goose Creek Men in the name of colonial harmony and a desire to establish the Church of England in South Carolina, supported the elevation of Moore (an Anglican) over Morton (a Dissenter).

Governor. Born around 1650, Moore married Lady Margaret Berringer, stepdaughter of Sir John Yeamans. Their ten children included James Moore, Jr., governor of South Carolina from 1719 to 1721. Moore arrived in South Carolina from Barbados around 1675 and became a leading Indian trader and lieutenant of Maurice Mathews, a leader of the colony’s leading political faction, the Goose Creek Men.

As a member of the Grand Council in 1677, Moore helped direct South Carolina’s efforts in the Westo War of 1680, which resulted in the Goose Creek faction gaining control over the Indian trade and the annihilation of the Westo Indians. During the 1680s Moore led the protest in parliament against a revision of the Fundamental Constitutions. To the shock of the Lords Proprietors and many colonists, the Goose Creek Men declared that the proprietors could not amend the original 1669 version without advising their colonists beforehand. Moore also led the opposition to paying quitrents in specie, although the proprietors promptly switched to accepting rents paid in merchantable commodities. Colonial objections stemmed not from antiproprietary principle (especially since the amount concerned was small), but from a recognition that the revenue collected went to pay the costs of the provincial government, which from 1683 to 1690 was controlled by Moore’s opponents. By 1690 Moore had become the acknowledged leader of the Goose Creek faction in South Carolina. In that same year Moore supported the replacement of Governor James Colleton with the proprietor Seth Sothell, whose arrival from North Carolina gave the Goose Creek Men the opportunity to seize power and drive Colleton out of the colony.

From 1695 to 1700 South Carolina politics remained relatively quiet. However, the death of Governor Joseph Blake in 1700 provided an opportunity for Moore and the Goose Creek Men to stage a coup against their enemies. Joseph Morton, Jr., the senior landgrave in the province and a Moore opponent, should have succeeded to the governorship. But Moore objected to his elevation, arguing that Morton could not hold commissions from the proprietors and the crown simultaneously (Morton was a judge of the vice-admiralty court). Moore’s argument persuaded the Grand Council, which rejected Morton and backed Moore as governor on a temporary basis. The Lords Proprietors, who now courted the Goose Creek Men in the name of colonial harmony and a desire to establish the Church of England in South Carolina, supported the elevation of Moore (an Anglican) over Morton (a Dissenter). This new alliance between the proprietors and their longtime adversaries signaled the demise of the Dissenter faction as the proprietary party in South Carolina politics.

With England and Spain now at war, Moore used his new position to direct an attack on St. Augustine in Spanish Florida. In September 1702 Moore led an assault that captured and sacked the town but failed to take the fort. When a Spanish relief fleet arrived from Havana, the Carolinians withdrew. In addition, between 1703 to 1704 Moore led a series of devastating raids on Spanish missions in Florida, in which hundreds of captured Indians were sold into slavery. On a personal level, Moore remained active in the Indian trade, using his position to extend his involvement. As governor, he spoke of reforming the trade, but these words came to nothing when his attention became focused on his contest with the Spanish over who would control the Indian trade in the American Southeast. Moore stepped down to the Grand Council when the proprietors appointed Sir Nathaniel Johnson as governor in 1703. In late 1706 Moore died of yellow fever in Charleston.

Read, M. Alston. “Notes on Some Colonial Governors of South Carolina and Their Families.” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine 11 (April 1910): 107–22.

Sirmans, M. Eugene. Colonial South Carolina: A Political History, 1663–1763. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1966. Webber, Mabel L. “The First Governor Moore and His Children.” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine 37 (January 1936): 1–23.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Moore, James, Sr.
  • Coverage ca. 1650–1706
  • Author
  • Keywords Governor, leader of the colony’s leading political faction, the Goose Creek Men, helped direct South Carolina’s efforts in the Westo War of 1680, active in militia engagements in the colony
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date May 18, 2021
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 20, 2017
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