A History of New Bordeaux, South Carolina

The Guillebeau House was built in circa 1770 in the Huguenot
settlement of New Bordeaux. It was relocated to its present site in 1983.

In 1761, The Bounty Act was a direct result of the French and Indian War (1756-1759 in the colonies) and the Cherokee War (1760) in South Carolina. This Act provided cash money to anyone who brought settlers to the "upcountry" area of South Carolina - again, to serve as a deterrent against future Indian attacks on the colony. Three new "townships" were established as a result of the Bounty Act of 1761, much like the earlier townships of 1730.

Once again, these three townships did not survive into the modern era. The American Revolution brought about the factions of Loyalists (Tories) and Freedom Fighters (Patriots), and the many years of conflict during the war caused many of the new settlers to pack up and move to other parts.

Within the newly-created Hillsborough Township that was formed with 28,000 acres, New Bordeaux was located within the township on Long Cane Creek near where it enters Little River, within 0.6 miles from the Savannah River and approximately ninety miles above Augusta, Georgia. The town was laid out in mostly half acre lots with adjacent four-acre "vineyards" (grapes and cocoons for silk are certain, possibly olive trees). The larger land grants of 100-300 acres were nearby with roads laid out before the land was granted.

The 1769 District Court Act established seven new districts, and New Bordeaux was situated along the western edge of the newly-created Ninety-Six District.

The originator and leader of the immigrants was Rev. Jean Louis Gibert (not Gilbert). He stayed in Charles Town. The original minister at New Bordeaux was his son-in-law, Pierre Boutiton. Later, the Rev. De La Howe came and he married Anne Roquemore and Lazarus Covin.

Roquemaure, France. This is in Provence. It is assumed that the Bordeaux Roquemores came from this area. Apparently no Roquemores remained there by the 1700s.

The town of New Bordeaux which was situated near the Savannah River in what is present-day McCormick County, South Carolina, was founded by 212 French Huguenots led by the Rev. John Louis Gibert in 1764. These people located in this area, which was near the present Lake Thurmond, in order to escape religious persecution in France. Although the French Huguenots were forced to leave their past and in a sense say goodbye to their homes forever, they were quite productive in their town of New Bordeaux.

They made their new home the best they could with the given resources: arms, tools, cattle, etc., and made wine and silk. They constructed many homes and a well. Approximately 300 people called New Bordeaux home around 1765. Between 1764 and 1772, about 475 Huguenots called the Clarks Hill Reservoir area home.

As a way of dealing with their problems and adjusting to their new homes while still fostering horrible memories of their past home, the people established the Huguenot Church at New Bordeaux, which was the last to be organized in South Carolina before the American Revolution. Still today, there is a stone monument which marks the site of the log church.

Because of the American Revolution as well as the abandonment of silk production for more profitable and easy occupations, the town of New Bordeaux soon "passed out of existence," but the descendents of these Huguenots are found to this day in western South Carolina.

In 1768, Jacob Dellechaux, or Delachaux, left London with his wife, the widow Britt, his stepson Charles Britt (age 6), and their son James Dellechaux. They sailed on the Brigantine St. Peter, joining Protestants who were to establish a wine and silk-producing colony in Cape Sable, Nova Scotia. The ship met violent weather, and arrived after several months in Charles Town, South Carolina. Refusing to go back to sea, the passengers were given land in the upcountry of South Carolina. They joined a Huguenot colony at New Bordeaux in Ninety-Six District, now McCormick County, South Carolina.

Tomb of Dr. John de la Howe

The John de la Howe School was established in 1797 according to the will of Dr. John de la Howe, a Frenchman, who settled near New Bordeaux, SC. The school was to care for and educate 12 poor boys and 12 poor girls. The John de la Howe School is the oldest state institution in South Carolina and the second oldest in the Carolinas. It has been recognized as the oldest manual training foundation in America.

Dr. de la Howe's tomb and virgin forest surrounding the tomb are listed on the Registered National Landmark. The school is also listed in the "National Register of Historic Places." Dr. de la Howe's home place, called Lethe Plantation, is located in the area near the tomb. The school was originally located at the home site of Dr. de la Howe and moved to the present location in the 1800s.

On June 22, 1775, William Bartram left Fort James and crossed the river to Fort Charlotte where he joined a party of traders bound for Mobile. They traveled along the east side fo the Savannah River and lodged at the farm of Jean Louis de Mesnil du St. Pierre near New Bordeaux. They crossed the Savannah River north of Augusta and entered the Lower Creek Trading Path.
Tucked into what was then South Carolina's farthest and wildest frontier, these pioneers spoke very little English as they built a village and carved space for vineyards, olive groves, orchards, and row crops on land that is now part of the Monticello section of Savannah Lakes Village.

They were exposed to the threat of Indian attack. Cherokees struck from the mountains in the north. Creeks raided across the Savannah River from Georgia. Sometimes, the raiders stole horses or cattle; other times, they killed an isolated pioneer family. But for the people of the French Huguenot settlement of New Bordeaux, this was a small price for the chance to practice their Protestant faith without fear of being executed by the authorities in their homeland or massacred by those Catholic who viewed them as heretics in dire need of salvation by the sword.

Their leader, the Rev. Gibert, wanted the colony to establish vineyards for wine-making and cultivate cocoons to make silk. At first, both ventures thrived. So did the European model of agriculture brought to New Bordeaux.

Instead of living on isolated farms, the settlers lived in the village and tended small plots for vineyards, olive groves, and orchards close to town and larger, 100-acre plots for row crops further out. A full range of artisans, merchants, and professionals made the village self-sustaining.

Then came the American Revolution. In South Carolina, the war was marked by Indian-style raiding and ambushes and was particularly murderous, matching Loyalist families and neighbors against Patriot friends and cousins.

New Bordeaux, whose residents were ardent Patriots and raised a militia company, was repeatedly hit by Loyalists. It also lost two key leaders, first the Rev. Gibert, who died in New Bordeaux in 1773 after eating poisonous mushrooms, then St. Pierre, killed in battle during the expedition against the Cherokee in 1776.

Without the Rev. Gibert's influence in Charles Town on the town's behalf, its economic fortunes flagged and its twin industries, wine and silk, faltered. With the war's end came the first footsteps of King Cotton and its demands for larger plantations and slave labor. By the 1790s, New Bordeaux was a ghost town.

The Huguenots moved into the surrounding countryside, intermarried with the Scots-Irish and adopted the new agricultural demands of cotton. Only the surnames survive, some of them serving as street names for the Monticello community, Mr. Edmonds said, and stone markers for the place of worship and Moragn's grave.

Hillsborough Township Plat 1765 - From SC State Archives

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