South Carolina

John Francis Maguire

Bishop Lynch's Letter, Charleston, S. C., Feb. 23,1867.

DEAR SIR,—In compliance with my promise, I undertake to give you a brief statement of what an emigrant may look for who comes to the Southern States, and especially to South Carolina, with the intention of engaging in agriculture.

This State may be divided into several belts, parallel to the sea-coast, each one of which has its peculiarities. The first belt, next to the ocean, is that of the Sea Islands, producing the finest quality of cotton, and, of course, vegetables in abundance. In this belt the heat is great. Frost in winter is almost unknown. Except immediately on the sea-coast, a white man finds himself liable to fever. Lands can be purchased in many places at two pounds sterling an acre; perhaps for less.

A second belt next to this one, is the rice-field belt. It is intersected by a large number of streams, whose waters, though fresh, feel the influence of the tides, and rise high enough to overflow vast bodies of low lands on either side. These lands are devoted to the culture of rice, for which much irrigation is required. Hence, on the whole, this belt is very unhealthy, being subject to malarial fevers.

Both of those belts are, and will, I think, for a long time, be chiefly occupied by negroes, who are exempt from the fevers to which the white man is liable.

A third belt, broader than both of the preceding ones, stretches across the State. The soil is good, but the ground lies level, and is not drained. Hence, at times, the crop is lost by too much water, at other times withers for want of rain; and on the whole, the region is sickly. Were it thoroughly and systematically drained, which, perhaps could only be done under government auspices, it would be the garden of the South.

Here lands may be readily bought for from four to ten shillings an acre.

Another belt follows, of equal width. The land is more rolling, the soil equally sandy, and with less lime. It is considered poor. But when cultivated with ordinary skill, and manures are freely used, it will produce abundant crops of cotton, of Indian corn, of potatoes, and of all root crops and vegetables. It is eminently healthy, and I have seen cases where intelligent and skilful labour reaped a crop of cotton worth ten pounds sterling per acre.

A single man may cultivate four or five acres in cotton; three or four in Indian corn, and half an acre for a kitchen garden. The Americans know little of the use of manures, and much prefer cultivating lands that need none, until they become worn out, when they are left to grow up again in a forest; and other fresh lands are cleared and cultivated.

The lands of this fourth belt vary somewhat in character, in different parts of the State, and vary in prices. But much of it can be bought at from two to ten shillings per acre.

A fifth belt comprises lands that are more hilly and rolling than the preceding, and are nearly all clay lands. They were occupied by a farming population many years ago, and having been long cultivated with little or no manure, and often in a very rude manner, they have lost something of their original fertility. Still the settlers look on them as more productive than the lands I have last spoken of; and doubtless they are so in their hands. There are some portions of them very fertile: and these, of course, are held at high prices. But at present, lands in this belt may be bought at from fifteen to twenty-five shillings an acre.

Beyond this belt, and in the north-west part of the State, comes the mountainous district; which, in soil, is much like mountainous districts of any other country. Meadows and table lands are very rich, yielding excellent crops of Indian com, of wheat, and other cereals; and the whole country is admirably adapted for grazing. I am not able to say what is the average price of land in this belt. Immigrants would, I think, do better settling on the fourth or fifth belts, where land can easily be procured at the prices indicated, payable on time, after a reasonable credit; and in situations perfectly healthy, and where there is always a demand for agricultural labourers, and a ready access to market for the sale of the crop.

An immigrant coming to this State finds an entirely different climate from that which he has left. In either of the three first belts he will be liable, unless extremely careful not to expose himself, to attacks of fever in autumn; though, even in these belts, some comparatively elevated spots are found which are perfectly healthy.

In the fourth belt there are places near swamps which are likewise unhealthy; and it is to the malaria arising from swamps, and not to the heat of the season, that the fevers are to be attributed. The greater portion of the State is quite healthy; and the heat is by no means so great as to prevent men labouring even twice as long as their crops require. In point of fact, the crop is secure by the labour done during our mild winters, and in spring before the heats of summer set in; and the ordinary crops, if well worked in time, require only a slight attention after the middle of June. I have no doubt that a farmer having one or two sons to aid him, and able to command even a few pounds to start with, would, in a few years, find himself worth hundreds of pounds.

Steps are being taken to invite immigrants to the South, and to present to them at the North and in Ireland the special advantages of the South. Now that negro slavery has been abolished, the negroes are gradually retiring to the sea-coast. The lands in the interior and upper belts, which I have recommended, are being thrown into market, and will be occupied by a white population. It is desirable that the families who emigrate should settle in groups near each other. By so doing, they will secure to themselves a social companionship which they could scarcely have with the inhabitants of the country until several years' acquaintance. They could have a church and priest of their own, and Catholic schools for their children.

This invitation to emigrants from Ireland is but a repetition of what was done over a hundred years ago, when there was a large immigration of Irish Protestant farmers to South Carolina; and with them must have come many Catholics, who, in those days, when there was neither priest nor Catholicity in the country, soon lost the Faith. This Irish immigration almost took possession of the State. Irish family names abound in every rank and condition in life; and there are few men, natives of the State, in whose veins there does not run more or less of Irish blood.

South Carolina is, probably, the most Irish of any of the States of the Union.

While its inhabitants have always had the impetuous character of the Irish race, nowhere has there been a more earnest sympathy for the struggles of Irishmen at home; nowhere will the Irish immigrant be received with greater welcome, or be more generously supported in all his rights; and I do not know any part of the country where industry and sobriety would ensure to the immigrant who engages in agriculture an ample competence for himself and family within a briefer number of years.

I believe that all these points will be presented with due details to those who wish to leave Ireland to better their fortunes in America, by a special agent who may be sent out; and also that proper arrangements will likewise be provided for the passage of those who wish to emigrate from Ireland direct to South Carolina.

So far as the ministrations of religion to those who come are concerned, I have hopes that if they settle as I indicated, in groups, they will be fully provided for.

I have the honour to be, my dear Sir, with great respect,

Your obedient, humble servant,

P. N. LYNCH, D.D.,
Bishop of Charleston

J. F. MAGUIRE, Esq., M.P.
Cork, Ireland.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America