James Moore, one-time leader of the ‘Goose Creek Men’
By Peg Eastman
Many early Barbadians settled in the Goose Creek area and quickly became part of the richest and most powerful faction in the new colony. Called “the Goose Creek Men,” they were politically united by the Church of England and their common desire to preserve the enormous profits made through the illegal Indian slave trade and trafficking with pirates who sold their ill-gotten goods in Charles Town at a fraction of the going rate. In their heyday, the Goose Creek Men were led by Sir John Yeamans, Maurice Mathews, Robert Daniell, James Moore, James Moore, Jr. and Arthur Middleton. Ultimately, they staged a coup and overthrew the Proprietary regime.
Although little is known about his origins, James Moore, Sr., emigrated from Barbados by February 1675. He managed William Walley’s Goose Creek plantation for eight years before he obtained in 1683 a land grant for 2,400 acres near Goose Creek and established two plantations, Boochawee Hall and Wassamassaw. A portion of his land grants was based on his importing 37 enslaved Africans to the colony in 1684. (At the time of his death in 1706 he owned 64 slaves.) Moore also had several lots in Charles Town.
Moore used every opportunity to increase his holdings. In addition to being part owner of two vessels, he was in the fur trade, trafficked with pirates,and engaged in the illegal Indian slave trade. In 1690, Moore traveled 600 miles into the interior searching for additional trade opportunities and hoping to find gold and silver. However, he was unsuccessful in getting assistance from the Crown to finance further explorations.
Like other property owners in Goose Creek, Moore became actively involved in politics. It did not hurt that he married Margaret Berringer, stepdaughter of Governor Sir John Yeamans and daughter of the ill-fated Barbadian Benjamin Berringer whom Yeamans is alleged to have murdered to marry her mother.
Moore had a checkered political career. By 1677, he was a member of the Grand Council and became a proprietary deputy in 1682. This tenure was short-lived. In 1683, the Lords Proprietors dismissed him because he disobeyed orders and illegally enslaved Indians. When he was chosen a member of the Council in 1685, the Proprietors again denied him office.
By 1690, Moore was the acknowledged leader of the Goose Creek Men. He supported Seth Sothel’s removal of the incompetent James Colleton as governor. However, when Sothel was summarily removed from office by the Proprietors two years later, only Moore and his political ally Robert Daniell were not pardoned for supporting the scoundrel governor. Moore supported John Archdale and Joseph Blake as governors and managed to get back in the good graces of the Proprietors. He returned to the Council and held several high offices before Governor Blake died in 1700.
The senior landgrave in the province was Joseph Morton and should have succeeded Blake, but he was a Dissenter (non-Anglican), and Moore was a member of the Church of England faction. Moore objected on the grounds that Morton had a royal commission as a judge in the Vice Admiralty Court and should not simultaneously represent both the Proprietors and the Crown. The Council concurred and elected Moore governor.
Concurrently, that same year, Charles II of Spain died and plunged Europe into the War of Spanish Succession. England and Spain were on opposing sides, and it did not take long for hostilities to spread to North America in what was also known as “Queen Anne’s War.” With war imminent, Governor Moore tried unsuccessfully to get the Dissenters in the Assembly to support an expedition to Spanish Florida. So, he dissolved the Assembly and called for new elections. By then England was embroiled in the conflict, and the new Assembly voted to capture St. Augustine, Florida. The governor was persuaded to lead the expedition.
In 1702, promised “free plunder and a share of all slaves,” a force of 500 militiamen, 300 Indian allies, and an unknown number of slaves marched to St. Augustine, accompanied by a small fleet commanded by Robert Daniell. The Carolinians besieged the Castillo de San Marcos until Spanish reinforcements arrived. Burning the town, the expedition forces captured 350 Indians and returned to Carolina leaving poor Robert Daniell in the lurch when he arrived with reinforcements sometime later. (Covered in the July Mercury)
Fortunately, Indian Agent and cartographer Thomas Nairne mapped out Spanish Florida and had his work included in Edward Crisp’s 1713 map. Details include a notation near the St. Johns River labeled “Here the Carolina Indians leave their Canoes when they go to war against ye Florideans,” and the “villages of ye Florideans” south of that. The prominent boundary line about halfway between St. Augustine and Cape Canaveral is labeled “the South Bounds of Carolina” based on the 1665 Charter and England’s claim to the northern part of the peninsula.
Failure to eliminate the Spanish threat and expedition cost overruns gave the Dissenters an opportunity to ruin Moore politically. When the governor persuaded the Council to delay Dissenter-back bills discriminating against the recently arrived Huguenots, the Dissenters withdrew from the Assembly and left it without a quorum. Riots followed, and Dissenter representatives were attacked in the streets. Fortunately, Sir Nathaniel Johnson arrived the following month with his commission as governor and a commission for Moore to be attorney general.
Governor Johnson supported an expedition against the pro-Spanish Apalachee Indians, and Moore regained his reputation as a military commander when the combined force of colonists and friendly Indians massacred the tribe. With their power destroyed, the unfortunate survivors were either enslaved and taken to the West Indies or were relocated to the Savannah River area.
The “restless and ambitious” Colonel Moore died of distemper in 1707. He was buried in St. James Church, Goose Creek’s churchyard. Most historians believe that Moore’s father was Rory O’Moore, one of the leaders of the Irish Rebellion in 1641, and that from him, he inherited the rebellious blood of his sire.”
Moore’s daughter Mary married Job Howe, another of the “Goose Creek Men.” He was the great grandfather of the controversial Revolutionary General Robert Howe, who in 1778 engaged in a duel with the feisty General Christopher Gadsden. The duel was quickly publicized in Charles Town, to the chagrin of the Patriots and delight of the British occupying New York City. Major John André, the famous British spy, quickly penned a poem, “On the Affair between the Rebel Generals Howe and Gadsden,” to be sung to the tune of “Yankee Doodle.” Gen. Howe later served on the military tribunal that sentenced André to be hanged.
James Moore, Jr., who inherited Boochawee Hall, had a career like his father’s. He was an Indian fighter who helped break the might of the Tuscarora Indians (1711-1713). He later commanded provincial forces that put down the Yemassee Indians. Although his leadership was credited with helping save the colony, once the Indian threat was eliminated, because of his opposition to their views the Proprietors removed him as commander of the provincial forces.
Moore was elected to serve as governor during the transition between the overthrow of the proprietary regime in 1719 and the arrival in 1721 of Francis Nicholson, the first royal governor. Moore returned to the House of Commons, where he served as speaker from 1721 until his death on March 3, 1724.
My appreciation to Bob Stockton and Rhoda Green for contributing to this article about the Barbadian Adventurers and Proprietary Carolina