The James Poyas Daybook: An Account of a Charles Town Merchant, 1760-1765

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Ministers and Laypeople

Ledger entries for the 7th of March to the 15th of March, 1764, Charles Town, South Carolina, The James Poyas Daybook Collection, courtesy of the Charleston Museum Archives.

Ledger entries for the 7th of March to the 15th of March, 1764, Charles Town, South Carolina, The James Poyas Daybook Collection, Lowcountry Digital Library, courtesy of the Charleston Museum Archives. Purchases by Reverend Bartholomew Henry Himeli, such as nails, hinges, and locks, are listed at the top of this page. Poyas provided goods to various ministers from a variety of denominations.

The Poyas Daybook also reveals significant trade relationships with colonial churches in Charles Town and the backcountry. In the context of eighteenth-century British North America, the religious diversity of South Carolina’s European settlers was exceptional. Like the Township Plan, an early policy of religious tolerance served as a strategy to attract European settlers to the colony. The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina, adopted by the Lords Proprieters of Carolina in 1669, permitted Jewish settlers as well as most Christians, except for Roman Catholics (following the policies of Restoration England). By the 1760s, there were at least eight Protestant churches in the city of Charles Town, as well as numerous rural chapels that ministered to the spiritual needs of backcountry settlers beyond the parishes.

An elder in the congregation of the French Huguenot Church in Charles Town, Poyas was a regular churchgoer and sold a wide variety of goods both to ministers and laypeople in his trade networks. In 1764, for example, saddler John Perdriau purchased three Bibles from Poyas, and Theodore Gaillard purchased a Book of Common Prayer. Similarly, in 1760, the elders of the French Huguenot Church purchased linseed oil, glue, red lead, and several hundred feet of crown and blue glass. Such items were used for the maintenance and repair of the church sanctuary, as well as the church edifice, which suffered from exposure to heat and humidity. Poyas’s fellow elders, Daniel Bourgett, Moses Audebert, and Peter Bocquet, were also regular customers at Poyas’s store.

Customers listed in the Poyas Daybook included members of South Carolina’s clergy who served developing township settlements as well as Charles Town. Many of these ministers had ties to Purrysburg. Henry Chiffelle and Abraham Imer were Anglican ministers who served the Purrysburg community for thirty-two years, from 1734 to 1766, and they often appeared in Poyas’s accounts. In April 1761, a German Reformed pastor and former Purrysburg resident, John Joachim Zubly, purchased eight copies of Isaac Watts’ Psalms and Hymns for £11. Zulby had moved from Purrysburg to Cainhoy, and eventually he moved again to Savannah where he was the first pastor of the Independent Presbyterian Church. Samuel Fenner Warren, Anglican minister for St. James Santee Parish from 1758 to 1774, purchased an almanac as well as several felling axes, hoes, and rum from Poyas in December 1762. Poyas’s most regular clerical customer, however, was Barthelemi Henri Himeli, a minister of the French church in Charles Town from 1759 to 1772. Himeli’s purchases included ink, ribbon, cinnamon, fishhooks, axes, and hoes.