Thomas Heyward, Jr., Signer of the Declaration of Independence

Beaufort has been blessed with a bevy of local notables throughout its history. In honor of the 4th of July, let's highlight the contribution of Thomas Heyward, Jr., one of South Carolina's four signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Heyward, Jr., son of Daniel Heyward and his wife Mary Miles Heyward, was born at Old House Plantation, St. Luke's Parish, on July 28, 1746. Old House Plantation, near where Hwy 336 heads toward Ridgeland in what is now Jasper County, was his father's plantation. Trained in the law in Charleston and in England, he was an attorney, planter, a Patriot, a judge, a soldier, and signer of the Declaration. In 1773, he married Elizabeth Matthews in Charleston.

During the American Revolution, he was captured when Charleston fell to the British in 1779. While Heyward was imprisoned at St. Augustine, his wife Elizabeth died in Philadelphia. They had one son who survived until adulthood. In 1783, Heyward returned to his rice-growing White Hall Plantation. From 1785 to 1809, he split his time between his White Hall Plantation in St. Luke's Parish and his Charleston residence at 87 Church Street.

On May 4, 1786 he took as his second wife, Elizabeth Savage. They had three children who reached adulthood, married, and procreated children who survived into adulthood, who thence married and procreated Thomas Heyward, Jr.'s grandchildren. Thus, there are numerous living Thomas Heyward, Jr. descendants. Thomas Heyward, Jr. died on April 17, 1809 and is buried in the family cemetery at Old House.

For the past 23 years, the Sons of the American Revolution have held a ceremony at Old House Cemetery commemorating Heyward's service to our country. The 2009 ceremony is this Saturday morning at 10am. Here are directions from the Island Packet to reach Old House Cemetery :

Traveling north on S.C. 170, turn left onto S.C. 462. After about eight miles, there is a historical marker on the right. At the marker, turn right onto a dirt road. Old House Cemetery is about 100 yards from the highway.

The Beaufort Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is named the Thomas Heyward, Jr. Chapter in his honor. Beaufort County Library has many resources to share with you about our native son, Thomas Heyward, Jr.

About the Author

Grace Cordial has been responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Beaufort District Collection at the Beaufort County Library since 1999.  The Beaufort District Collection exists to acquire, preserve, maintain and make accessible a research collection of permanent value which records the history, culture, and environment of our part of the South Carolina lowcountry.  Besides the research room, Cordial manages the “Virtual BDC:” the BDC web pages, the Online Obituary Index, two digital collections, a new BDC.BCL Facebook page, and the Connections blog.  
Among her duties is to coordinate or present programs about local history, Gullah culture, and our coastal environment, including occasional instructional sessions about how to perform historical and/or genealogical research.