Abstracts of some 50 old documents that were removed by Rogers Townsend (1917-1979) from the Townsend Plantation Office near Blenheim, Marlboro County, South Carolina in the mid 1970’s. These are original deeds and other documents of the Townsend Family going back to 1787.

Provenance of the Townsend Papers

July 7, 2005


The "Townsend Papers" were prepared by Marie Townsend Butler (1924- ) and are a listing of abstracts of some 50 old documents that were removed by Rogers Townsend (1917-1979) (Ms. Butler’s brother) from the Townsend Plantation Office near Blenheim, Marlboro County, South Carolina in the mid 1970’s in preparation for the sale of the Plantation.  

The following is a summary of what this writer has determined regarding the provenance of these papers. Much of this is based on correspondence and several telephone conversations with Ms. Butler concerning these papers. 

 In the mid 1970’s, the Townsend Plantation was owned by John Rogers Townsend (1889-1986) (the Father of Ms. Butler and Rogers Townsend) who had already retired and was living in Florida. After removing the papers from the Plantation, Rogers Townsend had contacted the South Carolina Archives in Columbia concerning these papers. As a result, Rogers Townsend had many of the papers preserved using a lamination preservation process. The papers remained with Rogers Townsend, and his wife Opal, until sometime in the 1990’s when Ms. Butler received them from Opal Townsend. Although several people had contacted her for copies of those documents, Ms. Butler was not able to make copies due to their age and condition. Some were frail, faint and very difficult to read and some were framed making it impossible to copy them without doing damage in removing them from the frames. Between 2000 and 2002 Ms. Butler painstakingly abstracted many of the papers and then distributed the papers among members of her family and copies of the abstracts to anyone who requested them. This writer has compared two of the abstracts listed with photocopies of the Original Papers (found on microfilm in the South Carolina Archives) on which those abstracts were based and found Ms. Butler’s abstracts to be accurate in all regards. Ms. Butler was a journalist by profession and obviously took great care in accurately abstracting these documents down to the misspelling and various spelling of the surname Townsend. However, Ms. Butler readily admits that she is not a genealogist and thus may not have abstracted details that a family genealogist might be interested in. 

Ms. Butler had described the papers in her 1980 article "The Townsends of Marlboro 1764-1980" as follows: "John Robertson [ed note: This is Ms. Butlers Grandfather, John Robertson Townsend (1850-1919)] was a general merchant as well as a planter. He had a store on the plantation and in Blenheim. … In the office of the plantation store, which John Rogers continued to operate for many years as a farm commissary, was a large safe with the name J. R. Townsend in bold letters on the heavy door. This safe was moved to Fayetteville in the mid-1970’s by Rogers Townsend and his nephew, John Walter Butler. Many interesting, old papers were found in the safe, among them some dating back to the days of Benedictus Townsend, the first of the family known to have come to Marlboro. The safe is being preserved at the Butler Wholesale Electric Building in Fayetteville." 

The "Townsend Papers" contain abstracts of five pre-1797 grants/deeds. This writer and others have searched for some of these pre-1797 grants/deeds in the Marlboro County, South Carolina courthouse and in the South Carolina Archives in the expectation that these papers had been recorded. Of the five, this writer was not able to find three that were of interest. The three that we could not find are 1) the indenture dated 9 January 1767 where Benedictus Townsend rents property of one peppercorn to Light Townsend, 2) a second indenture dated 10 January 1767 wherein Benedictus Townsend sells to Light Townsend 100 acres and 3) a record of a recorded indenture dated 6 April 1780 where Light Townsend sells 100 acres to William Alston of Georgetown "which appears to be the land originally granted to Benedictus". 

 The existence of all three of these documents are supported by other documents as follows: The 1768 South Carolina Quit Rent rolls clearly show Light Townsend paying quit rents on 100 acres of land that was originally granted Benedictus Townsend, but was noted on the quit rent scroll as "New Grant Jan. 17, 1765" suggesting that the original grant to Benedictus on 17 January 1765 had been changed from Benedictus Townsend’s name to that of Light Townsend. Light Townsend also paid the quit rent on this same 100 acres in 1770. The third 1780 record is supported by a deed dated 7 November 1821, wherein Charlotte Ann Alston of Georgetown sells Jabesh Townsend 100 acres, which are described word for word as is written on the original 1764 grant of 100 acres to Benedictus Townsend. (Marlboro Co. SC DB M, pp. 181-182) Clearly this is a record where Charlotte Alston, widow of William Alton of Georgetown, is selling the land, which William Alston had to have acquired from Light Townsend, back to a member of the Townsend family. Unfortunately, there is no mention of when or how the Alston Family had acquired this land in the 1821 Deed, so the existence of the 1780 deed between Light Townsend and William Alston can only be strongly implied. 

Further study revels that Jabish Townsend (as well as his wife) died in April 1846 and that the Sheriff at "Public Outcry" disposed of his land holdings on 6 December 1847 and 9 December 1847 to the highest bidder, Light Townsend (1798-1870) (great grandfather of Ms. Butler). The 6 December 1847 transaction involved 592 ½ acres and the 9 December 1847 transaction involved 2603 acres. There is a likelihood that the 100 acres that were originally granted to Benedictus Townsend in 1764 and that Jabish Townsend had acquired in 1821 were included in that acreage. This suggests that Ms. Butler’s family in the person of her great grandfather acquired these pre-1797 documents in 1847 and that they remained with the family on the Townsend Plantation from the time the Plantation House was first built in the 1850’s by Light Townsend (1798-1870) until they were removed by Rogers Townsend in the mid 1970’s. This writer believes these pre-1797 documents are all original deeds that were physically transferred from seller to buyer, as they were the proof of ownership of the property and that is why they were in the possession of the family. 

Joseph T. Burval

Charleston, West Virginia

[Ed Note: This is an exact copy of the "Townsend Papers" that were scanned. converted to electronic text via Optical Character Recognition software. and then proofread for completeness. The content of each page is the same and page numbers were added, as the original did not have page numbers]



I have gone through the old Townsend papers preserved by Rogers and Opal Townsend from the Plantation office in Marlboro. This is only a partial listing:

On the 27th of January 1764 "Surveyed by Egerton Leigh, Esq, Surveyor General, 4th day of December 1763...one hundred acres on Hilson's Bay to William Wood." The back reads, "Certified to Benedictus Townsend" (A true copy by Surveyor General 11th December 1797)

18th day of January 1765, "From George the third of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Do give and GRANT unto Benedictus Townshend a plantation or tract of land containing 100 acres on the North side of the Great Pee Dee River" It was stipulated that three acres must be cleared every year and "must pay on the twenty fifth day of March in every year at the rate of three shillings sterling, to commence at the expiration of two years from date hereof" Witnessed by the Honorable William Bull, governor and Commander-in-chief in and over the Province of South Carolina.

January 9th, 1767 An Indenture "in the sixth year of the reign of George III, 1767, for five pound current lawful money of South Carolina" a tract (the acreage of which can not be read) but for which rent is to be paid (one pepper corn) for one year to Benedictus Townsand of Craven County by Light Townsand. (The document spells the name with an a and Benedictus signs as Townsen.)

January 10, 1767 There is a second Indenture "for one hundred pound current lawful money of South Carolina" conveying one hundred acres granted by His Excellency William Bull to Benedictus Townsend to Light Townsend, the property lying on the North side of the Pee Dee River in Craven County. (Benedictus Townsen signed receipt for money)

April 6, 1780 There was recorded an Indenture between Light Townsend of Craven County and William Allston of Georgetown "for four pound current lawful money" transferring 100 acres which appears to be land originally granted to Benedictus.

1797 the 8th day of April, For forty pound sterling paid by James Townsend, Matthew Murphy released 200 acres on the NE side of the

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Great Pee Dee River. This land had been granted to Murphy by Thomas Pinckney on December 4th 1788. (In this document someone spelled Townsend as Townsing. This could hardly have been our Light's brother, James. He was not born until 1794.)

August 31st, 1798; For forty pounds James Townsend sold Maurice Staples 150 acres of the 200 acres he had acquired a year earlier for forty pounds. (Witnessed by Light Townsen)

1803 There is a transfer of 150 acres "more or less" to Darling Jones. This land had been granted to Matthew Murphy by His Escellency Thomas Pinckney on Dec. 4th 1788, transferred to James Townsend, then to Maurice Stapleton. (Stapleton was the husband of Mary Townsend, a sister of John and granddaughter of Benedictus. No doubt this is the same person referred to as Staples in 1798.)

20th November 1807 A detailed document transfers 150 acres from Darling Jones to Samuel Burkette for the sum of two hundred and twenty dollars.

In 1813 there is a document concerning John Townsend (b.1760 d.1843) He sold seventy five acres more or less situate (d) on the North East side of the Great Pee Dee River in Marlborough District to William Brown for the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars. (These last two documents mention dollars rather than pounds.) John and his wife, Keziah Hayes, had a large family. These papers deal primarily with his fourth son, Light, whose decendants remained in Marlboro.

On the 6th day of January 1816 there was a deed from Robert Hayes to James Townsend—very hard to read!

On the 23rd day of April 1816 in the 40th year of Independence, Robert Campbell "granted, bargained and sold to Jabish Townsend two hundred acres more or less" This parcel had been granted to Robert Blair by His Excellency Thomas Pinckney Esq. dated September 3, 1787. (The Grant was also among the papers.) Campbell also sold Jabish Townsend one hundred and fifty acres for three hundred dollars—part of a tract granted to Matthew ? by Thomas Pinckney on Dec. 4th 1788.

18th May 1820 a deed which had been drawn up on the 23rd day of December 1819 was recorded. Thomas Kinney sold Jabish Townsend "twenty acres more or less situate (d) on the NE side of the Great Pee Dee

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 River" for "three hundred and fifty dollars to me in hand paid by the said Jabish Townsend" This was part of a Grant to Phillip Clark.

Charlotte Allston, a widow of Georgetown District, bargained, sold and released a plantation on Hilson's Bay containing one hundred acres to Jabish Townsend on November 7, 1821. (This, no doubt, was the same acreage covered by the Indenture between Light Townsend and William Allston in 1780)

On the 4th day of August 1823 a document signed by Jos. David, Sheriff Marlboro District shows that Jabish Townsend purchased 116 acres "exposed to sale at public vendue" by order of the court of common pleas against George B. Whitfleld by Parrish Milling Co.

April 24th 1824 Samuel Burkett (spelled without the e) for the sum of three hundred dollars sold one hundred and fifty acres to Jabish Townsend. (A new Townsend appears when Sam Townsend witnessed signatures)

On January 1, 1828 Daniel Parish of the City of Charleston by his attorney, W.H. Robbins released all title and interest to Light Townsend for the following tracts:

1. One tract containing about one thousand acres

2. Another tract containing seven hundred and sixty seven acres

3. Also a tract of four hundred ninety-two acres

4. A tract on Hilson's Bay containing five hundred acres

5. Another tract on Hilson's Bay containing two hundred acres

6. A tract of 300 acres including the ? Plantation originally granted to William Powe

7. A tract of 97 acres

8. A tract of 2847 acres (reference to Whitfield deed)

9. A tract of one hundred and fifty acres

10. One other "piece of land" described in deed as containing 250 acres, part of original Grant to Geo. ? on 5th of June 1784. Geo. had sold 150 acres to William Townsend and 140 acres to Benjamin Townsend.

11. 750 acres, being part of 1100 acre tract granted originally to James Nicholson

12. Also another tract containing, according to Whitfield deed, 441 acres. This tract was bounded on the S E by land belonging to Julius Poellnitz. (This is the first mention I found of the Poellnitz family, and I assume this was the youngest son of the Baron's and a brother of Mary

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Ann Carloss Townsend's mother. The two younger children had continued to live with their mother in Europe after their parent's divorce. They came to Marlboro to live with their father after the death of their mother)

13. A tract of one hundred forty acres

14. A small tract containing fifty acres

15. Also a canal half a mile long and twenty feet wide

 All of this was recorded in the Registrar's office, Book N, Pages 63, 64, and 65. on March 31st 1828 The sale price was $1,233.25.

At some later date, probably July 18, 1828, much of this property was sold to Light's cousin, Jabish Townsend for one thousand dollars.

On the 9th day of December 1846 one hundred and eighty-seven acres were granted to L. Townsend by William Aiken Esq. Governor of South Carolina. The name Light was never written out, but mention of this Grant is found in a later document concerning Light.

1847 A total of 333 8/10 acres released to James Galloway by Light Townsend for twelve hundred and fifty-two dollars. (James Galloway was married to Rebecca, a daughter of Jabish Townsend. This document has Light's signature and was witnessed by B.D. Townsend)

December 6, 1847 "in the seventy second year of the Independence of the United States of America" Light Townsend was the highest bidder at the Public Outcry to dispose of land of the late Jabish Townsend. For the sum of one thousand and one dollars he acquired 592 1/2 acres in Marlborough County on Mossy Bay.

December 9, 1847 is the date on a Deed from T.C. Weatherly, Sheriff, to Light Townsend for "all that certain piece, parcel or tract of land situate(d) in said district on Hilson's Bay, containing 2603 acres" The Deed recites the order of the Court of Common Pleas to expose for sale at Public Outcry part of the land of the late Jabish Townsend. Sale of same being for four thousand and thirty dollars. (I kept asking who was this Jabish Townsend! A little research proves he was a son of Rhoda, who was a sister of John's, thus a first cousin of Light's. When he died in 1846 he left a large family—his wife, Elizabeth and nine children, two of whom were minors.)

The State of South Carolina Granted to Light Townsend " a plantation of 3200 acres situated in Marlborough District on Muddy

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 Creek, Hilson's Bay and Mossy Bay, surveyed on the 25th and 26th January 1849. Granted by His Excellency W.B. Seabrook, Esquire, Governor and Commander in Chief over said State, at Columbia, "this 18th day of May Anno Domini one thousand seven hundred and forty-nine, in the 73rd year of the Independence of the United States of America. (This is the land which was left to my grandfather and where I lived as a child. The 1749 on the printed form is obviously wrong. It should be 1849).

On January 16, 1852 James Galloway in consideration of two thousand dollars sold and released to Light Townsend "one hundred and eighty-seven acres more or less" Also all that other parcel adjoining the above on the West side containing one hundred forty three acres more or less. Also another small parcel containing six acres and 8/10 more or less. In the deed there is mention of a tract "recently granted to said Light Townsend by his Excellency William Aiken, Esq, the Grant bearing the date, Dec. 9, 1846.

There is a two page document dated September 29, 1865 which was a Pardon for taking part in the rebellion against the Government of the United States issued to Light Townsend at Washington and signed by Andrew Johnson, President of the United States. The Pardon stipulated that Light notify the Secretary of State that he had received and accepted the terms of the Pardon. It is signed by F.W. Seward, Acting Secretary of State. One of the requirements was that the "Pardon would become void and of no effect if said Light Townsend shall hereafter at any time acquire any property whatever in slaves, or make use of slave labor."

On the 14th day of February 1870 Light Townsend sold to his daughter, Amelia Dudley "the 3200 acres covered by Grant to me on May 18, 1849—also so much of the Galloway tract as lies south and south east of the residence occupied by me before moving to the Pledger Place, also use of Gin house and Screw" She paid $3375 for the property.

On May 26, 1870 there was a transfer of land "conveyed to me by my father Light Townsend to John R. Townsend by Guardian in consideration of the Court of Common Pleas for the sum of $10." Amelia Dudley was given title to the Pledger Place near Bennettsville which had been left to her younger brother.

On the twenty seventh day of July 1897 an interesting Permit was filed which had been signed by many land owners allowing John R.

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Townsend to "erect across our land a sufficient number of poles along the public highway leading from Blenheim to Bennettsville to operate a telephone line In his name or the name of a company or corporation hereafter to be organized."

Most of the papers concerning John Robertson (named for his mother's father Dr. Robertson Carloss) seem to be timber sales.

On May 18, 1905 he sold timber from 4,178 acres to H.J. McLaurin. There was no price noted, but ten years allowed to cut the timber. (One wonders if John R had acquired more land, or if he sold timber for some of his sisters. He only inherited 3200 acres.)

June 22, 1910 the McLaurin timber deed was transferred to Keystone Lumber Co.

December 21, 1911 There is a deed to C.S. Whipple for "all pine timber measuring eight inches or above on several tracts for the sum of $4,467.50.

There has been kept a recorded Mortgage to British American Mortgage Co. whereby John R. Mortgaged his entire 3200 acres for $10,000 (Some family members think this money might have been needed to rebuild the plantation steam operated cotton gin which had been destroyed by fire.) The mortgage was dated January 6, 1902.

On October 15, 1914 John R Townsend granted a Right of Way fifty feet wide to Marion County Lumber Co to enable them to errect a railway. The rental was $500 for one year.

The will of John R Townsend, dated June 5, 1912 was probated on February 24, 1919. He left to his son, John Rogers Townsend the tract where his residence was situated, containing 495 1/2 acres, also a tract containing 35 1/2 acres. Most of this was sold by the heirs to his estate in 1998 to Richard Rogers. The plantation house is owned by Johnny O'Neal, whose family now own several tracts originally owned by Light Townsend (b-May 1, 1798 d. April 17, 1870) who built the house.

Note: One of the interesting things about these old documents was the different spelling of the family name.

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