Smith, Thomas

ca. 1648–November 16, 1694

Governor. Born in England around 1648, Smith immigrated with his family to Carolina in 1683, likely as a member of a great Dissenter migration to the province that occurred during the 1680s. His first wife was Barbara Atkins, whom he wed in England. The couple had two sons, Thomas and George, both of whom were born in England and went on to careers in early Carolina politics. Smith obtained a landgrave’s grant, which secured for him 48,000 acres of land in the new Carolina colony. His holdings were collectively called Wiskinboo Barony. He augmented his wealth with influence during the 1680s and on May 4, 1688, was named a commissioner of customs by the Lords Proprietors. Later he was named to the Grand Council. While he was a member, the General Assembly met at his house in Charleston.

When Governor Philip Ludwell departed Carolina in May 1693, he appointed Smith to be deputy governor. The proprietors issued a commission to Smith to hold that post on November 29, 1693, seven months after he had assumed the office. Smith’s Dissenter connections gave him some political security, but the conflict between Dissenters and Anglicans and between proprietary supporters and opponents kept the province in turmoil. Smith had a few successes that reduced tensions. In 1694 the Commons House passed a quitrent law that formally enrolled land grants and assessed quitrent payments that were to be made to the proprietors. Smith also sought to end the Indian slave trade and reduce commerce with pirates.

Landgrave Smith’s connections with Medway Plantation, on the Back River, a Cooper River tributary, were a significant aspect of his political career and represent the degree to which landownership and local power meshed in early Carolina. On March 22, 1688, Smith wed Sabina de Vignon van Arsens, widow of Johan Wernhout van Arsens, a Netherlands Huguenot who had secured a barony of twelve hundred acres in 1686. He and his servants had named the plantation Medway. Upon his marriage, Smith petitioned the proprietors to assume control of van Arsens’s barony and to take over his title as landgrave. The petition was granted in 1691, and Smith assumed ownership of Medway. Smith died on November 16, 1694, and was buried at Medway. In his will he bequeathed his medical instruments to his son George, his landgrave’s patent to Joseph Blake, and the property of Medway to his son Thomas. The house that the van Arsens family had inhabited was sold by Smith’s son. It burned in 1704 and was rebuilt by its new owners, the Hyrne family. In the early twenty-first century the second Medway house still stood on a large tract of land protected from development by strong conservation and preservation easements.

Beach, Virginia. Medway. Charleston, S.C.: Wyrick, 1999.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Smith, Thomas
  • Coverage ca. 1648–November 16, 1694
  • Author
  • Keywords Governor, Medway Plantation, member of a great Dissenter migration,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date June 25, 2024
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 23, 2022
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