Information Concerning William Bird
and his daughter Caroline Bird
who married Benjamin Cudworth Yancey
Information taken from:
"William Lowndes Yancey - From Unionist to Seccessionist - 1814-1852" - Thesis by Ralph B Draughon. 1968
Caroline Bird Yancey (1790-1859)
"THE TIES OF FAMILY AND TRADITION"
The course of the Ogeechee River begins in the springs of Georgia's central uplands. Gathering its strength in the hills, the river passes swiftly to the upcountry's edge, where the waters rush around the boulders and rocks at the Shoals of Ogeechee. Beyond the Shoals the Ogeechee slows to a low country pace, the waters stretch out in the Georgia countryside, and the river moves lazily to the sea.
In the latter part of the eighteenth century William Bird, an energetic Yankee, came to the Shoals of Ogeechee with ambitious plans to put the river to work. A Revolutionary veteran from Pennsylvania, Bird first migrated to Virginia, where he married and raised several children. In 1796, he brought his family to the Georgia frontier. At the Shoals of Ogeechee he built an iron foundry, using water power to operate the blast furnace. He erected a woolen mill by the river and also kept a country school. Yet with all his projects Bird failed to prosper.
Bird's income failed to multiply, but his family increased bountifully. Catherine Bird, a former Virginia beauty, presented her husband with three sons to help in the mill or foundry, but the couple had so many beautiful daughters that an admirer dubbed their home "the Aviary," since so many pretty Birds lived there. Nevertheless, life in the Bird homestead was not so idyllic as it might seem. Unfortunately, Mrs. Bird and her daughters were noted not only for good looks but for bad dispositions, and the ironmaster and his wife had such severe quarrels that even their children took sides in the arguments.
Happily for Bird, he seems to have been a stoic sort of man. Suffering one winter from fever and chills, he tried to cure himself by rising each frosty morning to jump in the Ogeechee River, then emerging to wrap himself in blankets and lie down before a roaring fire. Not very surprisingly, his chills lasted nine months, but it is a tribute not only to his stoicism but to his strong constitution that he survived the-cure at all.
In 1808, Caroline Bird, one of the prettiest and most tempestuous of the ironmaster's daughters, married Benjamin Cudworth Yancey, a promising young lawyer of the South Carolina upcountry. Benjamin Yancey had a temper himself, and he proved to be a suitable match for his spirited bride. In 1812, he was elected to the South Carolina legislature, and while he was campaigning for re-election in the summer of 1814, Caroline visited her father's home in Georgia. There at the Shoals of Ogeechee on August 10, William Lowndes Yancey was born.
Though born in Georgia, William Yancey could claim to be a third generation South Carolinian. As he himself told the story, his paternal grandfather, James Yancey, had been Virginian by birth,
[but] " . . . he married Abigail Cudworth (then styled 'the Boston Beauty') whose mother was an Otis, & near relative of the celebrated Boston revolutionary Orator of that name. . . . It is supposed that our grand-father was in the army, which occupied Boston, early in the revolution & there made acquaintance with Miss Cudworth whose charms induced him to remove to Boston immediately after the revolution.?"
After their marriage, the couple migrated to South Carolina, lived in Beaufort for a time, and then moved to the South Carolina upcountry. In 1786, James became the first man to qualify for the state bar from Laurens District. The second man to qualify was Robert Goodloe Harper, who became a friend of James and kept up his friendship with the Yancey family throughout a career of prominence in national politics. Both James Yancey and his wife died about 1790 and their three sons were dispatched to kinsmen for support. One of the boys, Charles Yancey, was cared for by his uncle, Benjamin Cudworth, a Charleston merchant. This Charles Yancey lived a long life as an itinerant and often inebriated schoolmaster and eventually ended up on the doorstep of William L. Yancey, who made earnest efforts to reform his aged uncle. Reforming Uncle Charles proved too difficult a task, however, and William Yancey reluctantly decided: "He will die I fear a sot & cannot maintain any degree of respectability."
The other two orphaned sons of James Yancey were sent to more distant kinsmen. Treated harshly by their guardians, both Nathaniel Barnwell Yancey and Benjamin Cudworth Yancey ran away. Nathaniel died when fifteen years old. Benjamin was more fortunate. With the help of Congressman Robert Goodloe Harper, he got a commission as a midshipman on the U.S.S. Constellation, participated in a great sea battle with the French ship, La Vengeance, but resigned his commission in May, 1801. After leaving the navy, Benjamin Yancey read law with Robert Goodloe Harper, who had retired from Congress and removed to Baltimore. A year later Yancey returned to South Carolina, studied law with Benjamin Saxon of Abbeville, and became Saxon's law partner.
The tall, gaunt young John Caldwell Calhoun and Calhoun's roly-poly cousin, Patrick Noble, had a separate law partnership but shared the same little brick law office with Saxon and Yancey. Calhoun, Noble, and Yancey were at first good-friends. With other young men of the village the trio would sit on Calhoun's porch on summer evenings, and Calhoun and Yancey would argue until late at night the endless, unanswerable questions the young have always debated. One moonlight night the group decided to have a series of foot races. Yancey was touted as the victor over Calhoun, but when the two set off down the dusty road Calhoun delighted the group by passing Yancey and winning the race. In 1812, the ambitions of Calhoun and Benjamin Yancey came into conflict, and the two became opponents in a political race: Calhoun was campaigning for re-election to Congress as the Jeffersonian Republicans' choice; Yancey opposed him as the Federalist candidate. Both men favored the War of 1812, but Calhoun's activities as one of the leaders of the War Hawks made him far more popular in the South Carolina upcountry. As adept in politics as in amateur athletics, Calhoun won the election.
The same year Abbeville District elected Yancey to the state House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the judiciary committee, acted as military aide to Governor Joseph Alston, and gained particular distinction by joining with Daniel Elliott Huger, a tall, lordly-looking aristocrat of the low country, in successfully opposing an attempt to repeal the South Carolina free school law. A leading advocate of free schools, Yancey fought to keep the law in effect during the War of 1812, while the other Abbeville representatives voted for suspension of the educational appropriation.
In the summer of 1814, Yancey was defeated for re-election, and Patrick Noble replaced him in the legislature. In the great factionalism of the South Carolina Republicans, Calhoun and his friends had turned against the Alston administration, with which Yancey was associated. Moreover, Calhoun and his cousin, Patrick Noble, had become the bitterest personal foes of Yancey, and the Calhoun faction dominated Abbeville District. A political issue was the free school law, which Noble and many of the district's voters opposed. A final cause of Yancey's defeat was his service as lawyer for the plaintiff in the "Jew's land case." An early Jewish settler of upcountry South Carolina, Francis Salvador, had owned more than fifty thousand acres of land, but when the Cherokees killed Salvador in an ambush his property passed into the hands of a Philadelphia land company. Patrick Duncan of Charleston, with Yancey as his attorney, claimed that the land was rightfully his and began a long series of suits for the recovery of the property. Yancey's success in conducting the case through state and federal courts gained him praise as a lawyer but not as a politician. Since the recovery of the land would mean the eviction of many upcountry settlers, Yancey's part in the case contributed to his unpopularity with the Abbeville electorate.
Born in the summer of his father's defeat, William Lowndes Yancey had neither an aristocratic lineage nor a great fortune as a birthright. Nevertheless, young William did receive a patrimony that would be important to him. The members of Yancey's family took great pride in their ties with the patriots of the American Revolution. Both of Yancey's grandfathers had fought for American liberty; James Otis, the revolutionary orator, was a family connection; and William Bird's sister had married James Wilson, the Pennsylvanian. signer of the Declaration of Independence and co-author of the Constitution. The proudest family tradition, however, came from Yancey's grandmother Bird. Catherine Bird claimed kinship with the Washington family, and her younger sister was among those numerous Virginia belles credited with refusing the marriage proposal of the first President himself. Though some of these connections were quite obscure, they nevertheless meant a great deal to Yancey, who was a devoted genealogist.
In later years he joined with his cousin, Ann Pamela'Cunningham, in her efforts to preserve Mount Vernon as a national shrine, and he outdid all other orators by invoking the spirit of Washington both to defend the Union in the 1830's and to attack it in the 1850's. At first, Yancey's ties with the patriots bound him close to the nation his forebears had helped create. Later, however, the example of his ancestors tended to make a revolutionist of Yancey himself. As an orator for the cause of southern independence, he was sustained by his family's revolutionary tradition--a living tradition which had been an important part of his heritage.
As part of his heritage from his father, William Yancey also had ties with a generation of leaders who dominated South Carolina politics until 1850. This generation, however, was for long years divided into factions for and against John C. Calhoun. William himself was born a member of the anti-Calhoun faction in South Carolina; the year of his birth his father had been beaten for the legislature by the Calhoun group. Neither forgiven nor forgotten, this defeat was recalled years later by an upcountry kinswoman with long memories: the Calhoun and Noble families, she told William's younger brother, have been the "enemy of my race--they were the deadly foes of your father. . . ." Furthermore, some of William Yancey's later political actions can be explained in the context of that South Carolina generation to which his father belonged. He first joined with his father's faction and opposed Calhoun, but when Calhoun's generation united in the late 1830's William Yancey too came to follow Calhoun's leadership. First opposed to Calhoun, later united with him, William Yancey throughout his life cooperated with his father's friends in South Carolina politics. As an Alabama political leader he was frequently taunted with being far more South Carolinian than Alabamian, and in truth no matter how far he strayed from South Carolina, William Yancey always cherished as a valuable part of his heritage his ties with the great generation of Carolinians to which his father belonged and with the Carolina country in which his father slept. These two things were part of Yancey's patrimony. From his family he acquired a reverence for the revolutionary tradition and a special respect for the position of his father's friends in [South Carolina?]
The Family That Broke A Nation?