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William Manson And Friendsborough: The Last Colony

Editor's Note: Local historian Lewis Smith has written a series of articles about the people and places that shaped the history of Thomson and McDuffie County. Periodically, The McDuffie Mirror will feature his work.

William Manson was born in 1744 in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. By 1772, William was a sea captain. While in Savannah unloading his first cargo of goods from London, Capt. Manson learned that friends from Scotland had settled in Georgia.

Royal Gov. James Wright and his council, acquaintances of Capt. Manson, had just completed the "Ceded Lands" acquisition of land from the Indians. To insure that the new territory attracted newcomers to the colony, none of the land was for Georgians. To pay for the costs of obtaining and overseeing the land, all tracts were to be sold, not given away.

Capt. Manson traveled to see the land, and agreed with Gov. Wright to buy 2,000 acres.

However, he was more impressed with the land adjoining Wrightsborough Township, and he made down payments to original claimants for 600 acres in four tracts. Capt. Manson soon was in command of colonial Georgia's most famous vessel, the Georgia Packet, which was partly owned by Gov. Wright.

Capt. Manson decided to start a settlement of indentured servants from Scotland. In February 1776, Capt. Manson made Wrightsborough his primary settlement, and chose "Friendsborough" as the name of his community of indentured servants. Capt. Manson claimed to be a Quaker, but there is no support for that. It didn't matter. The Friends were outnumbered four-to-one by the settlers of other faiths.

Capt. Manson began to expand his settlement, and bought a claim to 750 acres from settler Benjamin Thompson, and then 600 acres from William Candler, as well as a 100-acre mill run. He eventually owned 3,500 acres. Capt. Manson sold goods at Wrightsborough and paid cash when he purchased anything. He was an economic boost for the area until fighting between the British and the rebels broke out.

The rebels, now Americans since July 4, 1776, said they would confiscate all Loyalist lands, and Capt. Manson moved to Augusta. The British then captured Charleston and Augusta.

Wanting to complete the entire occupation of Georgia, the British ordered Lt. Col. Thomas Brown to capture the Americans here in our area. Lt. Col. Brown engaged Manson to accept the surrender of Col. John Dooly's men on a ridge outside newly founded Washington in late June 1780. Col. Dooly and seven field officers and 400 enlisted men surrendered and gave up their 210 rifles, which Capt. Manson shipped to Lt. Col. Brown in Augusta. With this surrender, Georgia became the only American state ever completely reduced to colonial status.

Lt. Col. Elijah Clark gathered these paroled men together and retook Augusta in September 1780. Capt. Manson and his men took refuge in the Mackay's Indian trading house until reinforcements came and drove the Americans away. In retaliation, the Loyalists hanged 13 prisoners who had violated their parole and fought again.

Capt. Manson decided to take his family back to England, and while awaiting a ship in Charleston, he was given command of a British privateer schooner. Capt. Manson was given orders to render Georgetown, S. C., useless to the rebels, and due to high winds the town was unintentionally burned to the ground.

Capt. Manson then left for England, never to return.

The only possible physical link to Friendsborough today is the Rock House of Thomas Ansley, the captain's one-time neighbor and customer. The architecture of the building suggests that it was built by Capt. Manson's or Lt. Col. Brown's former servants. It is similar to houses of the Orkney Islands in Scotland, where they had lived.

Web posted on Thursday, July 16, 2009

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