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A short story by Kate Dickinson Sweetser

Eliza Lucas: A Girl Planter Of The 15th Century

Title:     Eliza Lucas: A Girl Planter Of The 15th Century
Author: Kate Dickinson Sweetser [More Titles by Sweetser]

IN our day any young woman who shows keen interest in civic, agricultural, or social reforms is loudly applauded and spoken of as a New Woman, a product of the twentieth century, but there is a small volume of letters written by a girl of two centuries ago, which disproves this, and it is worthy of perusal and applause because of what she accomplished for what was then the province of South Carolina, while she was still in her teens.

Lieutenant-Colonel Lucas, an officer in the English army stationed at the West Indian island of Antigua, left the island in 1638 for South Carolina, taking with him his delicate wife, in search of a climate which would be of benefit to her, and with them went their two daughters, Polly and Eliza, who up to that time had been in London with a family friend, Mrs. Boddicott, being educated, only returning to the island for their vacations. Their brothers, Tom and George, were also in London at school, where they remained while Colonel and Mrs. Lucas with the two girls went to the new locality. So delighted with it was the Colonel that he at once bought land, laid out plantations and was hoping to settle down and begin experiments in planting crops in the strange soil and climate, when war broke out between England and Spain and the Colonel received orders to hasten back to his West Indian post, leaving his family alone in their new home. Mrs. Lucas was entirely too frail to burden with plantation cares, so in his hurried leave-taking the Colonel entrusted all his affairs to Eliza, in whose practical common sense and business ability he seems to have placed implicit reliance, and the trust was well merited.

Eliza was only sixteen years old then, but she seems to have assumed the unusual amount of responsibility so unexpectedly thrust upon her with calm assurance that she could carry it, and we find her general manager of the home and the plantation when the series of letters begin which gives such a vivid glimpse of life at that time, and also some idea of the character of the girl on whose slender shoulders rested such a heavy burden.

First, let us look for a moment at the background to our picture. The Lucas plantation was on the Wappoo, a salt creek connecting the Ashley river with another creek and separated from the ocean only by two long sandy islands. Although that part of the country was very flat, it was extremely pretty, and being on a salt creek, sheltered from the north winds, the climate was very mild. Trees grew to a great size, land was very fertile, all growth hardy and luxuriant, and it was no wonder that even in his short stay Colonel Lucas had become deeply interested in discovering what crops could be most profitably raised there for export. At that time rice was the one agricultural product, the others being lumber, skins and naval stores.

Eliza, inheriting her father's love of farming, and having heard many conversations on the subject, determined secretly after her father had gone, to try some experiments herself and became much interested in trying to raise indigo and ginger, with what results her letters disclose. Little farmer that she was, her love of agriculture and of nature then and always amounted to almost a passion, as it is easy to see. Separated as she was from all her old friends, letters were a vital medium of expressing to them what her new life held of work and play, and the fragments which we can reprint here give a clear idea, not only of the times in which she lived, but of Mistress Eliza herself.

To her brother George she writes, telling of the new country and life in this fashion:--

I am now set down my Dear Brother to obey your commands, and give you a short discription of the part of the world which I now inhabit. So. Carolina then, is a large and Extensive Country near the Sea. Most of the settled parts of it is upon a flat--the soil near Charles Town Sandy, but farther distant clay and swamp land. It abounds with fine navigable rivers and great quantities of fine timber. The country at great distance, that is to say about a hundred or a hundred and fifty miles from Charles Town, very hilly. The soil in general very fertile, and there is very few European or American fruits or grain but what grow here. The country abounds with wild fowl, Venison and fish, Beaf, veal and mutton are here in much greater perfection than in the Islands, tho' not equal to that in England--but their pork exceeds the wild, and indeed all the poultry is exceeding good, and peaches, Nectrins and mellons of all sorts extremely good, fine and in profusion, and their Oranges exceed any I ever tasted in the West Indies or from Spain or Portugal.

The people in general--hospitable and honest, and the better sort and to these a polite gentile behaviour. The poorer sort are the most indolent people in the world or they could never be wretched in so plentiful a country as this. The winters here are very fine and pleasant, but four months in the year is extremely disagreeable, excessive hot, much thunder and lightening and muskatoes and sand flies in abundance.

Cs Town, the Metropolis is a neat, pretty place. The streets and houses regularly built, the ladies and gentlemen gay in their dress, upon the whole you will find as many agreeable people of both sexes for the size of the place as almost anywhere. St. Phillips church in Cs Town is a very elegant one, and much frequented and the generality of people of a religious turn of mind.

I began in haste and have observed no method or I should have told you before I came to summer, that we have a charming spring in this country, especially for those who travel through the country, for the scent of the young mirtle and yellow Jessamin with Which the woods abound is delightful. . . .

Yours most affectionately,

With its quaint wording and abbreviations and an occasional slip in spelling, how fragrant the whole letter is of out door life, how intelligent its every phrase is, and how well the little farmer knows her subjects!

Again to Mrs. Boddicott she wrote:

Dear Madam:--

I flatter myself it will be a satisfaction to you to hear that I like this part of the world, as my lott has fallen here, which I really do. I prefer England to it 'tis true, but I think Carolina greatly preferable to the West Indies, and was my Papa here I should be very happy. We have a very good acquaintance from whom we have received much friendship and Civility. . . .

My Papa and Mama's great indulgence to mee leaves it to mee to chuse our place of residence either in town or country, but I think it more prudent as well as most agreeable to my Mama and selfe to be in the Country during my father's absence. Wee are 17 mile by land, and 6 by water from Charles Town where wee have about 6 agreeable families around us with whom wee live in great harmony. I have a little library well furnished (for My Papa has left mee most of his books) in wch I spend part of my time. My Musick and the Garden wch I am very fond of take up the rest that is not imployed in business, of wch my father has left mee a pretty good share, and indeed 'Twas unavoidable, as my Mama's bad state of health prevents her going thro' any fatigue.

I have the business of 3 plantations to transact, wch requires much writing and more business and fatigue of other sorts than you can imagine, but lest you should imagine it too burthensome to a girl at my early time of life, give mee leave to assure you I think myself happy that I can be useful to so good a father. By rising very early I find I can go through with much business, but lest you should think I shall be quite moaped with this way of life, I am to inform you there is two worthy Ladies in Crs Town, Mrs. Pinckney and Mrs. Cleland who are partial enough to mee to wish to have mee with them, and insist upon my making their houses my home when in Town, and press mee to relax a little much oftner than 'tis in my power to accept of their obliging intreaties, but I am sometimes with one or the other for three weeks or a monthe at a time, and then enjoy all the pleasures Crs Town affords. But nothing gives mee more than subscribing myself

Dr Madam
Yr most affectionet
and most obliged
humble Servt

Pray remember me in
the best manner to my
worthy friend Mr Boddicott.
To my good friend Mrs. Boddicott.
May ye 2ond.

What greater proof is needed that Eliza's plantation life was no easy matter than "I have the business of three plantations to transact, wch requires much writing and more business and fatigue of other sorts than you can imagine." Then comes the other side of the picture. "I am sometimes with one or the other (Mrs. Pinckney or Mrs. Leland) for three weeks or a month at a time and then enjoy all the pleasures Crs Town affords." Truly a versatile young person, this Eliza of long ago!

That her planting was no holiday business is shown by a memorandum of July 1739:

"I wrote my father a very long letter on his plantation affairs . . . on the pains I had taken to bring the Indigo, Ginger, Cotton, Lucern, and Cassada to perfection, and had greater hopes from the Indigo--if I could have the seed earlier the next year from the West Indies,--than any of ye rest of ye things I had tryd, . . . also concerning pitch and tarr and lime and other plantation affairs."

As has been said before, Eliza's ambition was to follow out her father's plan, to discover some crop which could be raised successfully as a staple export, and the determination and perseverance with which she set out to accomplish the task, shows that she was made of no ordinary stuff, even at sixteen, when the majority of girls were occupied with far different activity and diversions. Indigo seems to have been the crop most likely to succeed, and to that Eliza turned her attention with the intensity of purpose which marked all her actions. It was no easy achievement to cultivate indigo, as it required very careful preparation of the soil, much attention during its growth, and a long and critical process to prepare it for the market. After a series of experiments, she reported to her father:

I wrote you in a former letter we had a fine crop of Indigo seed upon the ground and since informed you the frost took it before it was dry. I picked out the best of it and had it planted but there is not more than a hundred bushes of it come up, wch proves the more unlucky, as you have sent a man to make it. I make no doubt Indigo will prove a very valueable commodity in time, if we could have the seed from the east Indies time enough to plant the latter end of March, that the seed might be dry enough to gather before our frost. I am sorry we lost this season we can do nothing towards it now but make the works ready for next year.

The death of my Grandmamma was as you imagine very shocking and grevious to my Mama, but I hope the consideration of the miserys that attend so advanced an age will help time to wear it off. I am very much obliged to you for the present you were so good to send me of the fifty pound bill of Exchange wch I duely received. Mama tenders you her affections and polly joyns in duty with

My dear Papa
Your obt and ever Devoted Daughter,
E. Lucas.

In the following letters we find her showing a lively interest in all that concerns her father, her brothers, her "cousens" and neighbours, and also a normally healthy liking for amusement, linked with her passionate love of nature and a milder interest in pretty clothes--and a still milder form of interest in love affairs!

Hard indeed it is in this day of quick delivery to realize the inconveniences of daily life in Eliza's time, and it evokes a smile to hear that if she or one of the family had neuralgia, it was necessary to write an account of the symptoms to Mrs. Boddicott in November, followed by a letter of thanks to her for her promptness, because of which "the meddicines will arrive by May, and tis allways worse in hott weather!" Think of waiting six months for a dose of medicine!

Eliza has already mentioned two neighbours of whom she had become very fond, and between her and Miss Pinckney's niece, a Miss Bartlett, who lived with Mrs. Pinckney either in her home in Charles Town, or at their country seat five miles out of town, a flourishing correspondence sprang up, and the following are some of Eliza's letters to her friend:

Janr 14th, 1741/2.

Dear Miss Bartlett::--

'Tis with pleasure I commence a Correspondence wch you promise to continue tho' I fear I shall often want matter to soport an Epistolary Intercourse in this solotary retirement--; however, you shall see my inclination, for rather than not scribble, you shall know both my waking and sleeping dreams, as well as how the spring comes on, when the trees bud, and inanimate nature grows gay to chear the rational mind with delight; and devout gratitude to the great Author of all; when my little darling that sweet harmonist the mocking bird, begins to sing.

Our best respects wait on Coll. Pinckney and lady, and believe me to be dear Miss Bartlett

Your most obedt Servt

Again she writes in a tone of quaint sarcasm:

Dear Miss Bartlett:--

An old lady in our Neighbourhood is often querreling with me for rising so early as 5 o'Clock in the morning, and is in great pain for me least it should spoil my marriage, for she says it will make me look old long before I am so; in this however I believe she is mistaken, for what ever contributes to health and pleasure of mind must also contribute to good looks; but admitting what she says, I reason with her thus. If I should look older by this practise, I really am so; for the longer time we are awake the longer time we live, sleep is so much the Emblem of death, that I think it may be rather called breathing than living, thus then I have the advantage of the sleepers in point of long life, so I beg you will not be frighted by such sort of apprehensions as those suggested above and for fear of yr pretty face give up yr late pious resolution of early rising.

My Mama joins with me in compts. to Mr and Mrs Pinckney. I send herewith Coll Pinckney's books, and shall be much obliged to him for Virgil's books, notwithstanding this same old Gentlewoman, (who I think too has a great friendship for me) has a great spite at my books, and had like to have thrown a volm of my Plutarcks lives into the fire the other day, she is sadly afraid she says I shall read myself mad. . . .

Again in this strain, on the 6th of February, 1741, she writes, showing that although she would have taken a girlish pleasure in amusement, her sense of duty was too keen to allow her to leave the plantation very often:


Febr 6th, 1741.

Sir:--I received yesterday the favour of your advice as a phisician and want no arguments to convince me I should be much better for both my good friends company, a much pleasanter Prescription yours is, I am sure, than Doct Mead's wch I have just received. To follow my inclination at this time, I must endeavor to forget I have a Sister to instruct, and a parcel of little Negroes whom I have undertaken to teach to read, and instead of writing an answer bring it My self, and indeed gratitude as well as inclination obliges me to wait on Mrs Pinckney as soon as I can, but it will not be in my power til a month or two hence. Mama payes her compts to Mrs Pinckney, and hopes she will excuse her waiting on her at this time, but will not fail to do it very soon.

I am a very Dunce, for I have not acquired ye writing short hand yet with any degree of swiftness--but I am not always one for I give a very good proof of the brightness of my Genius when I can distinguish well enough to subscribe my self with great esteem.

Your most obed humble Servt

And again:

Why my dear Miss Bartlett, will you so often repeat yr desire to know how I trifle away my time in our retirement in my father's absence; could it afford you advantage or pleasure I would not have hesitated, but as you can expect neither from it I would have been excused; however, to show you my readiness in obeying yr commands, here it is.

In genl then I rise at five o'Clock in the morning, read till seven--then take a walk in the garden or fields, see that the Servants are at their respective business, then breakfast. The first hour after breakfast is spent in musick, the next is constantly employed in recolecting something I have learned, lest for want of practise it should be quite lost, such as french and shorthand. After that, I devote the rest of the time till I dress for dinner, to our little polly, and two black girls who I teach to read, and if I have my papa's approbation (my mama's I have got) I intend for school mistress's for the rest of the Negroe children. Another scheme you see, but to proceed, the first hour after dinner, as the first after breakfast, at musick, the rest of the afternoon in needle work till candle light, and from that time to bed time read or write. Mondays my musick Master is here. Tuesday my friend Mrs Chardon (about 3 miles distant) and I are constantly engaged to each other, she at our house one Tuesday I at hers the next, and this is one of ye happiest days I spend at Wappoo. Thursday the whole day except what the necessary affairs of the family take up, is spent in writing, either on the business of the plantations or on letters to my friends. Every other Friday, if no company, we go a vizeting, so that I go abroad once a week and no oftener.

Now you may form some judgment of what time I can have to work my lappets. I own I never go to them with a quite easy conscience as I know my father has an avertion to my employing my time in that boreing work, but they are begun, and must be finished, I hate to undertake anything and not go thro' with it, but by way of relaxation from the other, I have begun a piece of work of a quicker sort, wch requires neither eyes nor genius, at least not very good ones. Would you ever guess it to be a shrimp nett? for so it is.

O! I had like to forgot the last thing I have done a great while. I have planted a large figg orchard, with design to dry them, and export them. I have reckoned my expense and the profits to arise from those figgs, but was I to tell you how great an Estate I am to make this way, and how 'tis to be laid out, you would think me far gone in romance. Yr good Uncle I know has long thought I have a fertile brain at scheming, I only confirm him in his opinion; but I own I love the vegitable world extreamly. I think it an innocent and useful amusement, and pray tell him if he laughs much at my projects, I never intend to have any hand in a silver mine, and he will understand as well as you, what I mean! Our best respects wait on him, and Mrs. Pinckney.

If my eyes dont deceive me, you in yr last talk of coming very soon by water, to see how my oaks grow, is it really so, or only one of your unripe schemes. While 'tis in yr head put it speedily into execution.

Lappets were fashionable parts of the headdresses worn at that time even by young girls, and one can read between her words that Eliza would have enjoyed giving more time to the feminine diversion of embroidery or fine sewing, much in vogue in that day, had her father approved of it. Then with a quick change of mood she shows her real interest in planting a "figg" orchard!--oh, many-sided Eliza!

There are numerous letters too long to include in this sketch, which show the girl's religious, artistic and philosophical tendencies, and through them all we feel the quiet poise of a mind at rest, of a spirit in true harmony with the simplest pleasures of a simple life; and that nature was always her first love, is shown by this letter:

Wont you laugh at me if I tell you I am so busy in providing for Posterity I hardly allow myself time to Eat or sleep and can but just snatch a minute to write to you and a friend or two more.

I am making a large plantation of oaks wch I look upon as my own property, whether my father gives me the land or not, and therefore I design many years hence when oaks are more valuable than they are now, wch you know they will be when we come to build fleets, I intend I say, 2 thirds of the produce of my oaks for charrity, (I'll let you know my scheme another time) and the other 3d for those that shall have the trouble of puting my design in Execution; I suppose according to custom you will show this to yr Uncle and Aunt. 'She is a good girl' says Mrs Pinckney, 'she is never Idle and always means well'--'tell the little Visionary,' says your Uncle, 'come to town and partake of some of the amusements suitable to her time of life,' pray tell him I think these so, and what he may now think whims and projects may turn out well by and by--out of many surely one may hitt.

I promised to tell you when the mocking-bird began to sing, the little warbler has done wonders; the first time he opened his soft pipe this spring he inspired me with the spirrit of Rymeing and produced the 3 following lines while I was laceing my Stays.

Sing on thou charming mimick of the feather kind And let the rational a lesson learn from these To mimick (not defects) but harmony.

If you let any mortal besides yourself see this exquisite piece of poetry, you shall never have a line more than this specimen, and how great will be your loss you who have seen the above may judge as well as

Yr most obedt Servt

Was there ever a more charming example of girlish enthusiasm combined with executive ability, and artistic feeling than this?

That life at Wappoo was not entirely without its diversions is shown by a casual mention of a "festal day" spent at Drayton Hall, a beautiful home on the bank of the Ashley river. One familiar with those early times in the southern provinces can fancy Mistress Eliza setting out for her great day, perhaps going by water in a long canoe, formed by hollowing out a great cypress tree thirty or forty feet long, which made a boat, with room in it for twelve passengers, and was rowed by six or eight negroes who sang in unison as they paddled their skiff down the river. Eliza and her Mama were landed at the foot of the rolling lawn, leading up to the mansion where the reception was being held. Or if they travelled by the road, it was probably in the four-wheeled chaise which Mrs. Lucas had imported from England the year before. And when they joined the gay company gathered in the great house, doubtless the ladies, old and young, wore costumes made of brocade, taffety or lustering, the materials of the time, and worn over enormous hoops, with cloaks made of colours to harmonise with the gowns beneath them--while the men were indeed a great sight in their square cut coats, long waistcoats, powdered hair, breeches and buckled shoes! A festal day indeed, doubtless, with a most elaborate feast washed down with draughts of fine old vintages, and followed by the scraping of fiddlers making ready for the dance, enjoyed not only by guests, but also in the servants' quarters where the negroes were as fleet-footed as mistress or guest.

On her return to Wappoo Eliza feels the reaction, as we see in a letter she wrote to Mrs. Pinckney. She says:

"At my return hither everything appeared gloomy and lonesome, I began to consider what attraction there was in this place that used so agreeably to soothe my pensive humour, and made me indifferent to everything the gay world could boast; but I found the change not in the place but in myself, and it doubtless proceeded from that giddy gaiety, and want of reflection which I contracted when in town; and I was forced to consult Mr. Locke over and over, to see wherein personal Identity consisted, and if I was the very same Selfe."

Somewhat cheered by the reading of Locke she returns to her usual routine of life and writes to Miss Bartlett:

"I have got no further than the first volm of Virgil but was most agreeably disappointed to find myself instructed in agriculture as well as entertained by his charming penn, for I am persuaded 'tho he wrote for Italy it will in many Instances suit Carolina. I had never perused those books before, and imagined I should immediately enter upon battles, storms and tempests, that put mee in a maze, and make mee shudder while I read. But the calm and pleasing diction of pastoral and gardening agreeably presented themselves not unsuitably to this charming season of the year, with wch I am so much delighted that had I butt the fine soft Language of our Poet to paint it properly, I should give you but little respite 'till you came into the country, and attended to the beauties of pure Nature unassisted by Art."

A little later comes this letter, giving a clear idea of the breadth of the girl's scheme of social service as well as her thoughtfulness and individuality:

Dear Miss Bartlett:--

After a pleasant passage of about an hour we arrived safe at home as I hope you and Mrs. Pinckney did at Belmont; but this place appeared much less agreeable than when I left it, having lost the company that then enlivened it, the Scene is indeed much changed, for instead of the Easy and agreeable conversation of our Friends, I am engaged with the rudiments of the law, to wch I am yet but a stranger.

However I hope in a short time with the help of Dictionary's french and English, we shall be better friends; nor shall I grudge a little pains and application, if that will make me useful to any of my poor Neighbors, we have Some in this Neighbourhood, who have a little Land a few Slaves and Cattle to give their children, that never think of making a will 'till they come upon a sick bed, and find it too Expensive to send to town for a Lawyer.

If you will not laugh too immoderately at mee I'll Trust you with a Secrett. I have made two wills already! I know I have done no harm, for I con'd my lesson very perfect, and know how to convey by will, Estates, Real and Personal, and never forgett in its proper place, him and his heirs forever, no that 'tis to be signed by three witnesses, in presence of one another; but the most comfortable rememberance of all is that Doctr Wood says, the Law makes great allowance for Last Wills and Testaments, presuming the Testator could not have Council learned in the Law. But after all what can I do if a poor Creature lies a-dying, and their family takes it into their head that I can serve them. I can't refuse; but when they are well, and able to employ a Lawyer, I always shall.

A widow hereabouts with a pretty little fortune, teazed me intolerable to draw her a marriage settlement, but it was out of my depth and I absolutely refused it, so she got an abler hand to do it, indeed she could afford it, but I could not gett off from being one of the Trustees to her Settlement and an old gentleman the other.

I shall begin to think myself an old woman before I am well a young one, having these weighty affairs upon my hands.

From this solemn epistle it is amusing to turn for a moment to Colonel Lucas's matrimonial plan for his daughter. In those days girls were married at a very early age, and it is small wonder that Colonel Lucas spent much thought on the problem of finding a suitable lover for his favourite daughter, before he broached the subject to her, for marriages were generally arranged by a girl's parents in those days. And that Eliza might have some choice in the matter Colonel Lucas picked out two suitors and wrote to her about them. How she felt on the subject the following letter shows: She says:

Honoured Sir:--

Your letter by way of Philadelphia wch I duly received, was an additional proof of that paternal tenderness wch I have always Experienced from the most Indulgent of Parents from my Cradle to the present time, and the subject of it is of the utmost importance to my peace and happiness.

As you propose Mr. L. to me I am sorry I can't have Sentiments favourable enough to him to take time to think on the Subject, as your Indulgence to me will ever add weight to the duty that obliges me to consult what pleases you, for so much Generosity on your part claims all my Obediance. But as I know 'tis my Happiness you consult, I must beg the favour of you to pay my compliments to the old Gentleman for his Generosity and favourable Sentiments of me, and let him know my thoughts on the affair in such civil terms as you know much better than any I can dictate; and beg leave to say to you that the riches of Chili and Peru put together if he had them, could not purchase a sufficient Esteem for him to make him my husband.

As to the other gentleman you mention, Mr. W., you know Sir I have so slight a knowledge of him I can form no judgment, and a Case of such consequence requires the nicest distinction of humours and Sentiments.

But give me leave to assure you my dear Sir that a single life is my only Choice;--and if it were not, as I am yet but eighteen hope you will put aside the thoughts of my marrying yet these two or three years at least. . . .

I truely am

Dr Sir Your most dutiful & affect Daughter

As no further reference to the rejected lovers is made, it seems that the Colonel was too fond of his daughter to press a matter evidently so against her wishes, and she was allowed to remain heart-whole until the man of her choice came to satisfy her dreams.

Meanwhile she was as busy as usual. Polly was now at school in Charles Town, which added to Eliza's home duties and she was also full of anxiety because of an invasion of Spaniards in the vicinity, which caused all the planters to fear that their negroes might be carried off, as they had been before. There was also cause for anxiety over the dangerous sickness of the elder brother, George, who was in the army, stationed too at Antigua, while the younger boy, Tom, who was still in London, was so frail that the physicians refused to allow him to take a trip either to Antigua, or to his mother and sisters in Carolina, all of which worries wore on the tender-hearted sister.

Meanwhile, Eliza's cares on the plantations grew constantly more engrossing, as her crops of indigo grew larger and more difficult to handle. So well satisfied was her father that this plant could be made a staple export, that he sent to Eliza an "Indigo Maker," named Cromwell, from the island of Monserrat, where indigo was a famous product. This man understood the processes, and built brick vats in which the leaves had to lie for a certain length of time. He apparently knew his business, but watching him closely Eliza saw he was not getting the right result, and told him so. This was due to the climate, he asserted, and saying no more, the girl gave her undivided attention to experimenting with different processes, and found out not only that he was wrong, but where his mistake lay. Calling him to her, she dismissed him, and in his place put his brother, who for a short time was more successful.

In her public-spirited way, Eliza gave up one whole year's crop to making seed, for she had great difficulty in getting it from the East Indies in time for the crops to ripen before a frost. This home-grown seed she presented to those planters who were interested in raising indigo, and it was a generous gift, for the seed was by no means cheap. By the gift many planters were induced to try the new seed and at that time Eliza wrote to her father:

"Out of a small patch of Indigo growing at Wappoo (which Mama made a present to Mr. P.) the brother of Nicholas Cromwell besides saving a quantity of Seed, made us 17 pounds of very good Indigo, so different from N C's, that we are convinced he was a mere bungler at it. Mr. Deveaux has made some likewise, and the people in genl very sanguine about it. Mr. P. sent to England by the last man of warr 6 pounds to try how t'is approved of there. If it is I hope we shall have a bounty from home, we have already a bounty of 5s currancy from this province upon it. We please ourselves with the prospect of exporting in a few years a good quantity from hence, and supplying our Mother Country with a manifacture for wch she has so great a demand, and which she is now supplyd with from the French Collonys, and many thousand pounds per annum thereby lost to the nation, when she might as well be supplyd here, if the matter was applyd to in earnest."

After this there are several letters from Governor Lucas, showing how earnestly he wished to have the raising of indigo a success, and he suggested that the brick vats may have been the cause of the failure, and advised trying wood, but the truth of the trouble lay in the fact that the two overseers sent by the Governor had been traitors, who purposely achieved poor results, so that the American product should not compete with that exported from their native island of Monserrat. When Eliza discovered this her father at once sent a negro from one of the French islands to replace them, and from that time the results were steadily satisfactory. Soon enough indigo was raised to make it worth while to export to England, and the English at once offered a bounty of sixpence a pound. It is said that as long as this was paid, the planters doubled their capital every three or four years, and in order to commemorate the source of their wealth they formed what was at first merely a social club, called the "Winyah Indigo Club," but later established the first free school in the province outside of Charles Town, a school which, handsomely endowed and supported, continued a useful existence down to 1865.

Indigo continued to be a chief staple of the country for more than thirty years, history tells us, and after the Revolution it was again cultivated, but the loss of the British bounty, the rivalry of the East Indies with their cheaper labour and the easier cultivation of cotton, all contributed to its abandonment about the end of the century. However, just before the Revolution, the annual export amounted to the enormous quantity of one million, one hundred and seven thousand, six hundred and sixty pounds, and all this revenue to the province of Carolina, and its added benefits to all classes of citizens, was the direct result of the perseverance and intelligence of Eliza Lucas, the girl planter of the eighteenth century. Let the girls of our day look to their laurels if they wish to be enrolled in the same class with this indomitable little maid of South Carolina!

[The end]
Kate Dickinson Sweetser's short story: Eliza Lucas: A Girl Planter Of The 15th Century