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Maurice Mathews and the Crisp Map: Part VIII of the Barbadian Adventurers series

By Peg Eastman

Insert, “A Plan of the Town & Harbour of Charles-Town.” Image courtesy College of Charleston Special Collections Library Waddell Collecton.

Maurice Mathews has forever left his imprint on South Carolina history because of a map bearing the title “A Compleat Description of the Province of Carolina in 3 Parts. 1st. The Improved Part from the Surveys of Maurice Mathews & Mr. John Love. 2ly. The West Part by Capt. Tho. Nairn. 3ly: A Chart of the Coast from Virginia to Cape Florida. Published by Edwd. Crisp” that was engraved by John Harris and probably published in London in 1711. The map is often called “the Crisp Map,” after the publisher. Mathews had an earlier version of the first part published in London in 1693, while on his final visit there.

The map contains an insert showing the Charles Town peninsula with the walled portion of the city, labeled “A Plan of the Town & Harbour of Charles-Town.” The insert is often published separately. One version, commonly found in books and articles, is a fake. Published in 1809 to illustrate David Ramsay’s History of South Carolina, the altered map falsely depicts a steepled church on the present-day site of St. Michael’s Church. St. Philip’s first church, which was built on that site in 1680-81, had no steeple. The second St. Philip’s, completed ca. 1723, was the first church in British America to have a steeple. It stood on Church Street, on the site of the present third church, built after the second burned in 1835.

The oyster bank at the southern tip of the peninsula, designated as “White Point,” was added to the 1809 map. At least the oyster bank, which gave its name to the peninsula — “White Point” or “Oyster Point” — did exist. It was depicted on the “Grand Modell of Charles Town,” the original plan of the city.

The contributors to the authentic Crisp map were among S.C.’s earliest surveyors. Maurice Mathews, one of the cartographers, was the nephew of two of Anthony Ashley Cooper’s friends, and for love of his uncles, Lord Ashley (later Earl of Shaftesbury) gave him special favors. In the Shaftesbury Papers, Mathews was described as “an able, brave and active gentleman, who sailed in 1669 with his serv’ts to Barbadoes, thence in the sloop’s dreadful six months’ voyage to Kiawah” sailing as a passenger on the Three Brothers.

En route to Carolina, the sloop was blown off course and landed on St. Catherine Island, where some of the ship’s company went ashore for water. At the instigation of a friar from the mission of Santa Catalina de Guale, the captain, Lord Ashley’s deputy John Rivers, and several passengers were captured by Indians allied with the Spanish. The sloop managed to escape but the captives were transported to St. Augustine, where they all died in prison.

For two decades Mathews was a powerful political figure in Carolina as leader of the Goose Creek Men, so called because of their lands in St. James, Goose Creek, Parish. Unsurprisingly, this political faction included many Barbadians. In the 1670s, Governor Joseph West complained of his opponents in the “Barbados party.” Most of the Goose Creek Men, like Mathews, were from England, but they agreed with the Barbadians on many important points such as support for the Church of England and opposition to quit-rents.

The Goose Creek Men often opposed the Lords Proprietors’ policies, particularly in regard to control of the Indian trade, which the proprietors wanted to retain, and the enslavement of friendly Indians, which they forbade. Mathews was characterized by historian L. H. Roper as the “ringleader” of the illegal Indian slave trade.

Mathews played both sides, leading the opposition to policies of the Lords Proprietors while at the same time serving as a proprietor’s deputy for Lord Ashley and later for Lord Craven. Sir Peter Colleton, who succeeded his father, Sir John Colleton, as Lord Proprietor in 1666, chose Mathews to represent his interests in Carolina, but for unrecorded reasons the two became bitter enemies. An irate Sir Peter at one point challenged Mathews to a duel, prompting Governor Sir Nathaniel Johnson to intervene. Sir Nathaniel locked Sir Peter in a room above the Carolina Coffee-House in Charles Town until he recanted and tempers cooled.

Lord Ashley made Mathews his deputy in December 1671. All proprietors’ deputies served on the appointive provincial Grand Council. Mathews also served in the first provincial Parliament elected in 1671, and in subsequent Parliaments.

Mathews was appointed by the Grand Council, along with captains John Godfrey and Thomas Grey, to investigate the banks of the Ashley, Cooper and Wando rivers for suitable town sites, before choosing a permanent location to settle. Their report may have confirmed Governor William Sayle’s directive in 1670 that the permanent site of Charles Town should be at Oyster Point.

In 1672, Lord Ashley directed Mathews to survey the Ashley and Cooper rivers for a barony where he intended to “lay out a good deale of money” to develop. His instructions were specific: “a place of the greatest pleasantness and advantage for health and profit which must be where there is high Ground near a navigable River and if it be above the types flowing’ tis the better.” Shaftesbury, at first, did not like the location of 12,000 acres on the Ashley because earlier settlers had “taken up for themselves all the best conveniences on that river and left me not a tolerable Place to plant on nearer than two Miles from the Water.” He looked into another site on Edisto Island and selected Andrew Percivall to manage it. This came to nothing, and the Ashley River Signiory of St. Giles was selected in October 1674. He “purchased” it from the Cussoe people in a shrewd move to curry favor with them. The 1675 document refers to the land sale “in consideration of beads, fabric and other valuable considerations.” Lord Ashley called the place St. Giles, Cussoe to distinguish it from St. Giles, Wimborne in East Dorset. It was named St. Giles because Ashley Cooper had advanced to Lord Baron Ashley of Wimborne, St. Giles and the family seat was St. Giles, Devonshire.

The St. Giles signiory on the Ashley River became known as Ashley Barony. The site of a post for trading with the Indians, managed by Dr. Henry Woodward, was excavated by archeologists from the College of Charleston in 2009 and 2011. Following Lord Ashley’s instructions, Woodward befriended the Westo Indians and made them his lordship’s intermediaries in the Indian trade. Jealous of Lord Ashley’s near monopoly, Mathews and others instigated a war against the Westo, nearly wiping them out and replacing them with the Savannah Indians as prime agents in the trade. Remarkably, during the struggle, Mathews retained Lord Ashley’s confidence in and reliance on him for overseeing his affairs in Carolina.

It was not Mathews’ first hostile encounter with the Westo. In 1672, he was made a captain commanding a militia company, which in 1673 fought the Westo Indians and their Spanish allies. The colonial show of force sent the Spaniards scurrying back to St. Augustine.

Mathews was given the prestigious post of surveyor general in 1677 and explored as far south as Florida. In 1682, he laid out Craven and Colleton counties. In 1686, he was given 1,000 acres for his services in buying lands from the Indians. He and Captain James Moore went as far west as the Appalachian Mountains in 1690-1691.

As surveyor general, Mathews laid out the Grand Modell, the original plan for Charles Town at White Point, aka Oyster Point. On March 3, 1677, Governor Joseph West issued a warrant directing Mathews, as surveyor general, to lay out town lots at Oyster Point for John Bullen (Bulline), Timothy Bushell and Oliver Spencer. The first recorded grant for a town lot, Lot No. 14, at the northwest corner of Broad and East Bay streets, was to John Bullen, dated February 3, 1678.

In addition to his lands at Goose Creek, Mathews acquired large plantations along the Ashley and Cooper rivers, and lots in Charles Town. His Ashley River lands included a grant that became part of Magnolia, the plantation of Thomas Drayton.

The Indian trade produced the primary exports of the early colony: deer skins, furs and Indian slaves. Mathews cultivated good relations with the Indians and was even made a cassique by one friendly tribe. In 1674, he requested an investigation of the death of an Indian allegedly killed by the English and was put in charge. In 1675, at the request of some friendly Indians, he chose a site for their settlement, which was approved by the Grand Council as “not injureing the English settlement.”

As the appointed commissioner to the Indians, Mathews’ engagement in the Westo wars caused his dismissal as a deputy and surveyor general in 1683. Two years later he was removed from office for illegal trafficking in Indian slaves.

One of Mathews’ political opponents, called him “Metchivell Hobs [Macciavelli and Hobbes] and Lucifer in a Huge lump of Viperish mortality [with] a soul [as] big as a musketo.” Such descriptions should be taken with a grain of salt, as the acid critiques were made by enemies such as John Stewart, whom historian L. H. Roper indexed as a “controversialist.”

Stewart settled initially at Stuarts Town at Port Royal, established in 1684 by Lord Cardross as a refuge for Scots Covenanters. Mathews opposed the Scots because of their competition in the Indian trade. This was serious because large numbers of Yamassee and other Indians were attracted to the Scots’ trading post.

Sir Peter Colleton accused Mathews of encouraging the Yamassee to plunder Spanish churches and of falsely informing a Spanish envoy that the Scots were to blame. In 1686, Spanish forces destroyed Stuarts Town and drove off the settlers. Mathews’ alleged role inspired Stewart’s enmity. Stewart referred to Mathews as “Mine Heer Mauritius” because of his arrogance, a “Welsh Prince” for perfidy, and accused him of “Trick and Iniquity.” Stewart called Mathews a “Jesuit for Designe politick” who was “all fawning and flattering when he intends deepest to kill or stab.”

Mathews and the Goose Creek men contrived to make the unpopular Governor James Colleton even more unpopular. The younger brother of Sir Peter Colleton, the governor found the provincial Parliament so contentious that he suspended it. Seth Sothell, who had purchased the Clarendon proprietorship, arrived in Charles Town in 1690 and as a Lord Proprietor claimed the governorship. Mathews and the Goose Creek men welcomed him, although he had been driven out of North Carolina by the Albermarle settlers who accused him of fraud and tyranny. Unsurprisingly, James Colleton was deposed and exiled to Barbados. The other Lords Proprietors replaced Sothell with Philip Ludwell.

In the fallout of the Sothell governorship, Mathews fell into disfavor with the Lords Proprietors, and in 1693 he went to London to plead his case. He died while there.

Part II of the Crisp Map will appear in the June issue of the Mercury.

My thanks to Bob Stockton and Katherine Pemberton for contributing to this article.


Anderson, Dorothy Middleton and Margaret Middleton Rivers Eastman. St. Philip’s Church of Charleston: An Early History of the Oldest Parish in South Carolina (Charleston: The History Press, 2015).

Butler, Nic. “The “Crisp Map” of 1711.” Rediscovering Charleston’s Colonial Fortifications.

Walter, Edgar B. South Carolina: A History. (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999).

Smith, Henry Augustus Middleton. The Historical Writings of Henry A. M. Smith; Volume II: Cities and Towns of Early South Carolina.

The Shaftesbury Papers and Other Records Relating to Carolina and the First Settlement on the Ashley River Prior to the Year 1676. Vol. 5. Collections of the South Carolina Historical Society, prepared for Publication by Langdon Cheves, Charleston, South Carolina, 1897.

Salley, Alexander S. Jr., ed. Journal of the Grand Council of South Carolina, August 25, 1671-June 24, 1680.

Salley, A. S. Jr., ed. Warrants for Lands in South Carolina.


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