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Grimke family papers

Identifier: Mss 0176

Collection Overview

The papers consist of correspondence and other materials documenting over five generations of the Grimke family originally of Charleston, South Carolina. John Paul Grimke materials (1779-1782), in copies only, relate to the British occupation of Charleston; those of his son John Faucheraud Grimke contain military rosters (1775-1777), listing soldiers, data on the fortifications and military supplies, and the British siege of the city, with letters describing battles and military maneuvers south of Charleston at Purrysburg, the Three Sisters camp, and in Georgia, with descriptions of the defeat and misconduct of Major John Ashe. Included are letters from General Robert Howe (including materials re his duel with Christopher Gadsden), Colonel (Owen) Roberts, and others. Other Revolutionary War era and related materials include contemporary (circa 1780) copies of letters (one addressed to George Washington) re the capture, trial and execution of Major John Andre, and another undated letter also to George Washington with recommendations on how to set up and administer a standing army. Post war letters document Grimke's business and social life, with some information re his tenure as intendant or mayor of the city with references (1787) to a Negro jail (sugar house) and an execution. Other topics include the Union Kilwinning Lodge, conditions in Santo Domingo following the slave rebellion, a North Carolina canal to be constructed between Wilmington and Lumberton, the Society of the Cincinnati in South Carolina, the Military Philosophical Society, and the death (1802) of an escaped slave. With correspondence of his wife Mary Smith Grimke re death (1825) of their son Benjamin and his daughter in a ship wreck and mentions of Sarah and Angelina Grimke. With a reference to William Crafts.

Correspondence of the next generation includes more materials re the death of Benjamin Grimke in a vividly described shipwreck of the Harvest at Boddy's Island, North Carolina. Thomas Smith Grimke materials include a letter (1813) re military attacks in Virginia in the War of 1812, letters (1819-1820) from Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Thomas Pinckney re John F. Grimke; correspondence with Langdon Cheves I; a letter from Rev. Jasper Adams on numerous topics including the College of Charleston; an 1828 broadside re books for a library for the South Carolina Bar Association; Grimke's refusal to cast a vote for either John Quincy Adams or Andrew Jackson ("an unfit Man") for President; a letter (1831) from the American Lyceum; correspondence (1831) with various Temperance Societies, including one at Ft. Moultrie; the Belfast Natural History Society, the Erodelphian Society at Miami University, Ohio; preparations for violence associated with the nullification controversy in Charleston, South Carolina; a letter (1833) from Benjamin Elliott; Grimke's request to be excluded from bearing arms due to his religious beliefs; and materials re the Literary and Philosophical Society of South Carolina. Topics of the letters include classical versus biblical based education, classical authors, constitutional history, codification of laws, peace, etc. With a partial manuscript of Grimke's that was lost and never published. Legal materials include matters re estate of Glen Drayton (d. 1796), Thomas Drayton (d. 1820) and Wilson family legal materials including an 1820 document re Algernon Wilson being released from jail. An autograph collection, apparently assembled by Thomas S. Grimke, contains cuts signatures, "free" franking notations, letters and fragments of documents of many members of the Continental Congress, Constitutional Convention, the United States House of Representatives and Senate, and other eminent men; some of the noteworthy items include a printed circular (1831) re Kenyon College signed by its president Philander Chase; fragment of a letter signed by Eli Whitney; a page of a manuscript essay by William Cobbett; signature of French and Indian War British Commander Edward Braddock, on a biographical sheet; letter (1756) of William Shirley, commander following Braddock, re recruiting Indians; a letter (1771) from Major. General Augustine Prevost; a letter from John Milton, an American prisoner of War kept by the British in St. Augustine, Florida; and a signature of President John Quincy Adams.

Papers of Thomas S. Grimke's siblings include a letter (1834) from his sister Elizabeth Caroline Grimke re his death; letters of his brother Frederick Grimke re their father (1819) with mentions of Sarah Grimke, the relationship between their father and Richard Anderson, father of Capt. Robert Anderson, commander of Ft. Sumter, and a description of the town of Walterboro, South Carolina, circa 1815. With correspondence (1819-1820) of Sarah Moore Grimke re her father's death, letters (1873-1874) of Angelina Grimke Weld re her sister Sarah (one written on Sarah's printed funeral announcement) and a letter of Weld's daughter, Sarah Weld Hamilton, with a lock of Sarah Moore Grimke's hair.

Papers of the next generation document descendants of Thomas Smith Grimke, including letters (1828-1830) from his son, Thomas Drayton Grimke (later Thomas Drayton Grimke-Drayton) re student life at Yale, with a printed broadside (1830) re the Yale Conic Sections Rebellion, with annotations by Benjamin Silliman (?); from another unnamed son, and from son Theodore Drayton Grimke re studying in Germany and pranks committed in the village of Falkenstein, duchy of Walsaw.

Fifth generation materials center on Theodore Drayton Grimke's son, Englishman Theodore Drayton Grimke-Drayton and his siblings' visit to America, mentioning visits to Oliver Wendell Holmes, the graves of Sarah Moore Grimke and Angelina Grimke Weld (with a mention of their nephew Archibald Grimke), Drayton Hall, Magnolia Plantation, Hastie and Sachtleben family members, family portraits to be copied by John (or Johan) Stolle, American manners versus British manners, Southern versus Northern manners and accents, a trip cross country (1891) to the West Coast and back, and a later trip (1906) to Niagara Falls.

Slave sales (1769-1835) document enslaved men, women and children purchased and sold by the Grimkes and related family members.

Family history and genealogical materials include correspondence, oversize charts, narratives, bible records, etc. of Grimke, Smith, Rhett, Drayton and related families; with numerous typed transcriptions of wills and probate papers of Grimke and allied families including Drayton, Faucheraud (or Fauchereaud), Fox, Glen (Glenn), Swann and Wilson. With some legal and land records bearing signatures of William Moultrie and William Henry Drayton, deeds re property on South Battery Street (now known as the William Gibbes House), bookplates, research on heraldry and colored renderings of family seals, and crests; original silhouettes (1811-1828) of Grimke, Frost, Walker, Webb, Elliott and Morris family members; pencil sketch of Thomas Smith Grimke (?), photographs of Magnolia Plantation and one of Archdale Hall, showing earthquake damage. With later (1977) correspondence with family descendants in England and the National Trust regarding Drayton Hall.


  • Creation: 1678-1977, circa 1990s

Language of Materials

Materials predominantly in English; one letter in French; one letter in German.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research but has some access restrictions. Some items are too fragile to handle and copies must be used. Please consult inventory or contact Special Collections at the College of Charleston Libraries for more information.

Copyright Notice

The nature of the College of Charleston's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. Special Collections claims only physical ownership of most archival materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Biographical and Historical Note

Grimke family members of the United States (in Charleston, South Carolina, Chillicothe, Ohio, and elsewhere) and in England represented in the collection include John Paul Grimke (1713-1791), his son, Revolutionary War soldier and intendant (mayor) of Charleston, John Faucheraud Grimke (1752-1819) and the latter's wife Mary Smith Grimke (1764-1839); and many of their children, including Benjamin Grimke (1798-1825); writer, scholar and intellectual Thomas Smith Grimke (1786-1834); Elizabeth Caroline Grimke (1797-1874); judge and writer Frederick Grimke (1791-1863); abolitionists and reformers Sarah Moore Grimke (1792-1873) and Angelina Grimke Weld (1805-1879); and the latter's daughter, Sarah Weld Hamilton (b. 1844). Descendants of Thomas Smith Grimke represented include Thomas Drayton Grimke (1811-1836), later known as Thomas Drayton Grimke-Drayton; Theodore Drayton Grimke (1817-1888); and the latter's son in England, Theodore Drayton Grimke-Drayton (b. 1853) and the latter's siblings, wife and children. Included also are materials (1769-1835) documenting enslaved people in the Grimke family.


1.6 linear feet (4 document boxes, 3 oversize folders)


Materials include Revolutionary War papers of John Paul Grimke and his son John Faucheraud Grimke, with materials re the latter as intendant (mayor) of Charleston. Papers of his son Thomas Smith Grimke document temperance, politics and education and contain an autograph collection. With papers of Thomas's siblings Frederick Grimke, abolitionists Sarah Moore Grimke and Angelina Grimke Weld and others. With materials of two more following generations, and genealogical materials on Grimke, Drayton, and other related families.

Collection Arrangement

The collection is arranged by generation and then by topic.

  1. John Paul Grimke letters (generation 1), 1779-1782
  2. John F. and Mary Grimke correspondence (generation 2), 1775-1826
  3. Thomas Smith Grimke and siblings correspondence (generation 3), 1756-1874
  4. Children of Thomas Smith Grimke and Sarah Drayton Grimke correspondence (generation 4), 1828-circa 1840s
  5. Theodore Drayton-Grimke (b. 1853), son of Theodore Drayton, M.D., correspondence (generation 5), 1888-1906
  6. Enslaved people in the Grimke and related families, 1769-1835
  7. Family history and family history research materials, 1678-1977
  8. Miscellaneous materials, 1860s-1880s, 1990s?
  9. Oversize materials, 1764-1913

Acquisitions Information

Materials purchased in 2011 by the College of Charleston.

Alternate Form of Materials

Digital reproductions available online in the Lowcountry Digital Library.

Related Material

Special Collections holds other related materials including the Thomas Smith Grimke pamphlet collection which is cataloged separately. The South Carolina Historical Society also holds a collection of Grimke family papers (1040.00).

Processing Information

Processed by Harlan Greene, December 2011.

Inventory of the Grimke Family Papers, 1678-1977, circa 1990s
Processed by: Harlan Greene; machine-readable finding aid created by: Gillian Cote
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Special Collections
College of Charleston Libraries
66 George Street
Charleston South Carolina 29424
(843) 953-8016
(843) 953-6319 (Fax)