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Landgrave and Deputy Governor Robert Daniell

By Peg Eastman


A portrait of Robert Daniel by artist Henrietta Johnson. The original is believed to be lost.

Part IX of the Barbadian Adventurers series was about Thomas Nairne and the creation of the Crisp Map. Another early settler was Robert Daniell (ca. 1646-1718) whose supposed “origins” go all over the map. Wikipedia and other sources have him from Wales, ten times great grandson of King Edward III and arriving in South Carolina in 1669 as captain of the good ship Daniell. Fortunately, Ken Daniell, a direct descendant, found the letterbook of Capt. John Daniell of the East Indian Company ship New London, and used it as the basis of his biography of Robert Daniell.

Robert Daniell’s father, John Daniell, was a ship’s captain living in London before he relocated to Greenwich, County Kent, shortly after Robert’s birth. At the time of his death, the captain owned four properties in three counties, causing his widow to have a marriage settlement (prenuptial agreement) drawn up wherein her four oldest children, not her new husband, would keep control of their inheritance.

One of Robert’s brothers, John Daniell, Jr., later became captain of New London, then trading in India and Bantam, Java; Robert was also involved in shipping between London, Barbados and Bermuda.

Robert Daniell arrived in Carolina via Barbados some time before April 1677. In June 1678, he received a warrant to have a town lot in Charles Town laid out for him. He briefly returned to Barbados, but records indicate that he was a permanent resident of Carolina by 1679. His land grants included Town Lot No. 34 on the waterfront in Charles Town. The lot bordered Daniel’s Creek, which later was filled in for the City Market. His growing wealth caused him to become involved in local politics and military affairs.

In 1686, three Spanish warships invaded the Port Royal River area and overran the settlement of Stuart Town. As Daniell owned several ships, Gov. James Colleton sent him and 90 men to reinforce Maj. John Boone’s militia who had been sent earlier. Daniell also enlisted a sizable force of Indian allies. The day after the small fleet arrived in Port Royal, a hurricane struck and severely damaged Daniell’s ships. However, the unexpected show of force caused the Spanish to retreat to St. Augustine. This storm is sometimes referred to as the “Spanish Repulse.”

In that same year Daniell joined the Goose Creek Men in supporting the replacement of Gov. James Colleton with the proprietor Seth Sothell, whose arrival from North Carolina gave the Goose Creek Men, so called for their landholdings in St. James, Goose Creek, Parish, the opportunity to seize power and drive Colleton out of the colony. Sothell was a colorful character. A man of considerable wealth, he purchased the proprietorship of Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, and in 1678 the Lords Proprietors of Carolina sent him to govern the settlement at Albemarle Sound in present-day North Carolina. En route, he was captured by Algerian corsairs and enslaved. Two Englishmen in Algiers provided the bond for his release, which he refused to reimburse after he was set free. He was sent to debtors’ prison and proceeded to Albemarle after his release. This lack of integrity foreshadowed what was to come.

Andrew Johnstone

As governor at Albemarle, Sothell misappropriated public funds, accepted bribes, seized estates and slaves and dealt with pirates. His brief administration was so corrupt that the colonists revolted and sent him to England for trial. The Proprietors expelled him from government and exiled him from Albemarle for a year.

Sothell then came to Charles Town and as a Lord Proprietor, claimed the Southern colony’s governorship and continued his unscrupulous ways. He lasted only a year before the Lords Proprietors removed him; they pardoned those who had supported him, with the exception of Robert Daniell and James Moore.

After the Sothell debacle, Daniell somehow managed to get back into the Lords Proprietors’ good graces and was in London in 1697 advising on the fifth and final version of the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina. According to tradition, the document was drawn up by John Locke and his employer, Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper. Daniell returned to Carolina the following year as deputy to Lord Proprietor William Crave, the first Baron Craven. He brought back a copy of the revised Fundamental Constitutions. The Lords Proprietors made him a landgrave, a rank of provincial nobility that entitled him to land grants totaling 48,000 acres. His holdings included the 12,000-acre Winyah Barony, near present-day Georgetown, which he sold within a day of receiving the grant in 1711.

Meanwhile, Daniell continued as a merchant trader and ship captain and acquired by grant and purchase other lots in Charles Town and plantation lands. By 1695, he had acquired what is known today as Parris Island and land along the Wando River on what is now known as Daniel Island, where he intended to build a pier.

Politically, Daniell was a member of the Goose Creek Men, along with Maurice Mathews, Sir John Yeamans, James Moore, James Moore, Jr. and Arthur Middleton. They also were known as the Churchmen, as they advocated establishment of the Church of England as the official church of the province. They were politically united by their desire to gain control of the assembly and to preserve their enormous profits made through the illegal Indian slave trade and trafficking with pirates who sold their ill-gotten goods in Charles Towne at a fraction of the going rate.

The Churchmen were opposed by the Dissenters (non-Anglican Protestants), who resisted establishment because they had experienced the Church of England as a source of repression. The factions were somewhat evenly divided, and the provincial assembly was sometimes controlled by Churchmen and sometimes by Dissenters. When the Dissenters were in power, they rebuked Daniell for arbitrarily arresting several individuals while commander of the militia, calling him a “person of notorious ill fame & Conversation.”

When the Spanish again threatened the colony in 1702, the assembly authorized £2000 for a land expedition comprised of 600 provincial militia, 600 Indians and ten vessels led by Governor Moore. According to historian Edward McCrady, it was a magnificent disaster.

Colonel Daniel proceeded by land to the St. John’s River and continued in small boats to St. Augustine. Having been forewarned of the attack, the Spanish retreated to the Castillo with a four-month supply of provisions and sent to Havana for reinforcements. Daniel managed to sack the deserted town before the fleet arrived. Governor Moore began a siege and sent a ship to Jamaica for heavy artillery to complete the job. The captain of the ship went to Carolina instead, and finally Colonel Daniel set sail for Jamaica to get the mortars and bombs. By the time he returned, the siege had ingloriously ended. When two ships appeared on the horizon, Governor Moore thought they were men-of-war and abruptly ended the siege. He abandoned his fleet, which was still fully loaded with stores, ammunition and provisions, and retreated to Carolina by land. It turned out that the supposedly formidable men-of-war were actually two small frigates. Abandoned by his countrymen, Daniell was almost captured by the Spaniards when he returned to St. Augustine.

Daniell was highly praised by the assembly, while Moore’s appreciation was lukewarm. The Carolinians lost two men, but the expedition incurred a debt of £6000. In spite of that setback, the assembly wished to remove the Spanish threat. Daniell was offered command of a brigantine to cruise the coast of Florida and a second expedition to Florida, which he turned down.

In 1703, Governor Sir Nathaniel Johnson appointed Daniell deputy governor of N.C. He bought a plantation on Archbell Point, on the Pamlico River near Bath, where he and his growing family lived. A staunch Anglican, he became embroiled in a controversy with Quaker settlers. When they refused to take the required oath of allegiance to Queen Anne, they were removed from offices they held. Even an Anglican clergyman in N.C. called him “monster Wickedness” who could be bought and sold. The Quakers were so outraged by his behavior that they successfully petitioned to have Daniell removed from office.

During the Tuscarora Indian uprising in 1712, the Assembly asked Daniell to lead an expedition, but his terms were “so very large and extravagant” that they turned to Col. John Barnwell. In the ensuing campaign, Barnwell secured his nickname, “Tuscarora Jack.”

During the Yamassee War in 1715, Daniell led a force that pushed the Yamassee into Florida. The war effectively ended the direct threat of Indians to Charles Town.

Governor Charles Craven (brother of Lord Proprietor William, Baron Craven) left for England in 1716, naming Daniell as deputy governor. He served for a year until the Lords Proprietors appointed Robert Johnson, the son of Sir Nathaniel Johnson, as governor in 1717.

What is little known is that after the failed 1715 Jacobite uprising to bring back the exiled Catholic claimant to the throne, James Edward Stuart, Governor Daniell in 1716 purchased 30 Highland Scots rebels at £30 a head to be employed as soldiers to defend the province. The Assembly approved the purchase but permitted no more until they saw how the prisoners behaved in the colony. McCrady does not mention how successful this venture was.

Daniell died in May 1718 on the island that bears his name. His remains were later re-interred in St. Philip’s churchyard. In spite of his somewhat autocratic personality, McCrady described Daniell as a man of “great ability.”

His inscription reads:

Here lie the remains of the Hon Robert Daniell, a brave man, who long served King William in his wars, both land and sea, and afterwards governed this province under the Lords Proprietors. He died on the 1st day of May in the year 1718 aged 72 years. Here also was buried the body of Martha Logan, who was first the wife of the above Robert Daniell and afterwards of Colonel George Logan. She died the 5th day of November 1743, at the age of 58. This vault also contains the bodies of the above Colonel George Logan of His Majesty's Army and the bodies of his son George Logan and of his son’s wife, Martha, who was the daughter of the above Robert Daniell.

Although Daniell had acquired thousands of acres of land as a landgrave, he had sold all but 1,519 acres by the time of his death. His will bequeathed to “my beloved wife Martha” his lands on Daniel Island, other plantations in South Carolina and North Carolina and town lots. He also bequeathed to her “all my slaves, whether Negroes, Indians, Mustees or Mulattoes, both Male and female.”

Interestingly, Ken Daniell, who contributed to this article, later looked up my roots after reading Hidden History of Old Charleston and discovered, much to my surprise that I may be a descendant of Gov. Robert Daniell through my grandmother Henrietta Marion McCay Rivers Shepherd. Small world, even for Charleston circles.

My appreciation to Robert Stockton, Ken Daniell and John Shannon for contributing to this article.

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