Famous Families


The Pendarvises, like the Gibsons, are another South Carolina family who in the beginning of the 18th century were black, at least racially so. For they were the lineal descendants of Parthena, the African mistress of the last Carolina Landgrave, Joseph Pendarvis. (The Carolina Landgraves were the first big landholders of South Carolina.)

These racially mixed Pendarvises knew neither poverty or slavery - at least personally. For in fact they themselves have now been identified as one of the largest slave-holding families in the history of the country. Despite being illegitimate, as the offspring of the eldest scion of the house of Pendarvis, they were able, because of the precautions their white father had taken, to inherit the vast holdings in slaves, land and livestock he had legally left to them.

Unable to override the stipulations recorded in his father's last will and testament, a younger white brother who was only a few weeks old when the last Landgrave died expressed his outrage by later changing his and his children's surname to that of Bedon, his mother's. Besides the almost patricidal symbolism of this act, there was, of course, very racist reasoning underpinning it. Assuming, quite correctly in his case, that because of their wealth his nephews would wed whatever white wives they wanted, it probably became all too clear to him that within a couple of generations or so there could easily be confusion in the identification between his own and his brother's progeny. The fact that his would be the considerably poorer cousins of a wealthy family "of colour" must have been absolutely unbearable for him.

Obviously, the curse of the Bedons on their Pendarvis kinsmen was meant to transcend the years. I could not help but find it intriguing, for instance, that the Mayor of Orangeburg, S.C at the time this southern city exploded into one of the more violent race riots covered in the '60s was none other than a James Pendarvis. Since Orangeburg had been the seat of the Pendarvis Landgraves and since James was the eldest of Parthena's male children and the "pater familia", therefore, of the first generation of black Pendarvises, there can be no doubt regarding the African ancestry of the white Mayor of Orangeburg. Skimming through "The Orangeburg Massacre", the only monograph I've come across to date on this incident, I couldn't help feeling a sense of relief from the impression that, somehow, the Mayor had kept his nose clean.

Despite the comparative ease with which the uniqueness of the name should allow one to track members of this family, no matter how disparate, of all the descendants I have had a chance to identify this far, there have been very few Pendarvises history has taken note of during the last two centuries.

However, the Rumphs, a Swiss family that both the first James Pendarvis and his sister intermarried with have left their mark on the state of Georgia in a rather dramatically iconographical way. Besides producing a couple of senators and a general whose children, in turn, became relatives of the Wannamakers, what the Rumphs pioneered on their plantations was the famous horticultural symbol of the state - the peach. The cultivation of the Georgia Peach, however, cannot be exactly ascribed to an African American. For as close and as tight knit to each other as both these families were, Samuel Rumph was not actually a black Pendarvis descendant even though at least half his cousins were.

With all the data already in my records regarding these two families, there was a reference in the Pendarvis genealogy that the South Caroliniana Library had just received which I had never seen before and which I found to be especially interesting. A document located by the genealogist indicated that John Pendarvis, a younger brother of James described as a "free mulatto", had been held for a time by the local government on the suspicion of formenting a slave rebellion. This is a clear indication, therefore, that despite wealth or social connections and given the political circumstances, race still could and did become an issue. On the other hand, as was just pointed out to me by a Southern genealogist I just telephoned, another Pendarvis wife, an individual by the name of Ursetta Jennings, was the daughter of woman who, in the original record, had been listed as a "half indian slave." In the edited version published by Sally, South Carolina's major historian at the turn of the century, he had passed her off as white since he himself was a Pendarvis descendant.

In the South Caroliniana Library, I was able to locate genealogies to the present of the following offshoots of the Pendarvis family: the David Rumpf and both the Jacob and Conrad Zeigler lines. (lists of 200 or so families)

Dussing, 1955
Smith, 1957
Murphy, 1939
Sivels, 1903
Baxter, 1913
Woods, 1950
Reeder, 1952
Stoff, 1958
Douglass, 1936
Wright, 1941
Goodwin, 1963
Moore, 1917
Best, 1887
Franklin, 1908
Hancock, 1909
Lemons, 1949
Hannah, 1968
Silhan, 1955
Angel, 1964
Towns, 1933
Inmann, 1956
Scoggin, 1943
Pruilt, 1944
Bragg, 1916
Barry, 1943
Hogg, 1936
Combs, 1949

Melton, 1934
Mayes, 1945
Loveless, 1946
Rogers, 1950
Lockhart, 1946
Smith, 1947
Jones, 1958
Slatton, 1931
Clark, 1958
Marek, 1939
Huey, 1937
Bagby, 1957
McVey, 1965
Smith, 1967
Nolen, 1963
Enevoldson, 1961
Honea, 1960
Sirkel, 1962
Kurtz, 1906
Freese, 1951
Parish, 1948
Cochran, 1949
Welch, 1957
Leclerc, 1956
Boland, 1957
Owens, 1917
Crump, 1917
Stewart, 1938
Stovall, 1940
Benson, 1966
Reid, 1949

Researched and Written by Mario de Valdes y Cocom

discussions | blurred racial lines | audio stories | june's family tree | bi-racial portraits | how to search family trees | readings | reactions

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation