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The James Heyward/Susan Cole Legacy

Impact of a British "adventuress" on a Heyward family fortune

From Ancestors and Descendants of Nathaniel Heyward by Thomas DeSaussure Furman, 2003, p.16

"James Heyward inherited properties that generated an annual income of $12,000 and he chose to spend the money traveling abroad. In England he met and married the beautiful and charming Susan Cole, a butcher’s daughter who mixed gracefully in the society of the wealthy and privileged. When James brought her back to South Carolina, she was not well received: the relatives recognized her common origin and considered her an “adventuress.” Family tradition is that disappointment over the reception of Susan Cole drove James to his early death only two years after their marriage.

"James’ will left his entire estate to his brother Nathaniel, but gave Susan lifetime rights to a yearly income of $10,000 from the Antwerp, Hamburg and Copenhagen plantations, among the most valuable properties in the Daniel Heyward legacy. Months after James’ death Susan Cole married Charles Baring, an Englishman of the famous banking family, who was ten years her junior. To the dismay of Nathaniel Heyward, Susan Cole and her new husband enjoyed the lavish income from James’ estate for another fifty years.

"Nathaniel Heyward investigated the legality of his brother’s marriage, possibly for the purpose of challenging James’ will, by dispatching James’ English body servant, named E. Crawley, to London. Crawley’s report to Nathaniel Heyward, dated 6 October 1797, confirmed family suspicions of Susan’s past. His letter states that Susan, who had at times claimed to be the ex-wife of a Mr. Edge, had actually never been married to him, although they had lived together for two years. Later, further embarrassing details of Susan’s life were revealed in a sensational British trial involving Susan’s younger sister Mary, who had married Lord Berkeley. At issue was Lord Berkeley’s attempt to fraudulently backdate the public record of his marriage, thereby legitimizing Mary’s two oldest sons, and making the older one heir to the Lordship.

"As a result of the unflattering information about Susan Cole that came to light in the Berkeley trial, Nathaniel Heyward forbade his female relatives from socializing with his former sister-in-law or her husband. This led to friction with Charles Baring and ultimately a duel between Baring and Nathaniel Heyward. (It is not clear which one issued the challenge.) Two rounds of shots were fired but neither was injured.

"Baring became a successful low country planter and businessman in his own right. However, he is mainly noted for founding the community of Flat Rock, North Carolina, which became a summer haven for the families of wealthy planters. There he and Susan Cole established the St. John in the Wilderness Episcopal church, now a National Historical Site. It is surrounded by gravestones bearing the names of well-known South Carolina families: Middleton, Rutledge, Drayton, Lowndes, Trenholm, Izard and Pinckney. No Heywards are buried there.

"Nathaniel Heyward outlived Susan Cole and took possession of his inherited plantations after she died in 1846. In 1847 Charles Baring, then aged 73 and childless, married Constance Beatrice Dent, a woman of a respectable low country family who was 42 years his junior. A year later she gave birth to a son. Baring died in 1865."


Linked toSusan COLE; James HEYWARD; Nathaniel HEYWARD

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