Categories: American Founding Fathers | Signers of the United States Declaration of Independence | Signers of the Articles of Confederation | Heyward Family Cemetery, Old House, South Carolina | South Carolina Militia, American Revolution | Prisoners of War, United States of America, American Revolution.
Thomas Heyward was a planter and lawyer and was one of three signers from South Carolina captured and imprisoned by the British. He was a member of the Continental Congress from 1777-1778. After his involvement in national politics, he returned to South Carolina and became a judge and a member of the state legislature. The British destroyed Heyward’s home at White Hall during the war, and he was held prisoner until 1781. After the war, he served two terms in the state legislature from 1782-1784. Thomas Heyward became the first President of the Agricultural Society of South Carolina.
Thomas Heyward was born to Daniel Heyward and Maria Miles at Old House Plantation in St. Helena Paris. He was the eldest son of a wealthy planter and was, was born in at his father’s home, Old House, in St. Luke’s Parish (now Jasper County) in the Province of South Carolina, about 25 miles north of Savannah, Georgia, on July 28, 1746. Since an uncle named Thomas was living, the younger Thomas Heyward added "Jr." to his name, which was the custom of the times. His father was one of the wealthiest rice planters of his day.
He was in the fifth generation of the Heyward family in America. That family’s pioneer settler, Daniel, was among the early English colonists who came to make a new settlement in Carolina in 1670. He came from Little Eaton, a tiny village near Derby on the west bank of the River Derwent in midlands England, today still a beautiful fertile valley of rolling hills and flood planes.
Heyward, Jr. was a member of the militia of the state and captain of a battalion of artillery in Charleston. He and his battalion participated in William Moultrie's defeat of the British in 1779 at the Battle of Beaufort on Port Royal Island. He was wounded in the battle.
He also took part in the defense of Charleston but was captured and imprisoned in 1780.
In 1780 the British plundered his plantation and carried off all of his slaves. When they took Charleston, they captured Heyward /
Later he was sent to a prison in St. Augustine, Florida where he was held until 1781 when he was freed as part of a prisoner exchange
He was one of three South Carolina signers captured and imprisoned during the Siege of Charleston. He was the last to survive among the South Carolina signers.
Judge Heyward was married twice, at age 26 and at age 40, and each wife was named Elizabeth. The first Elizabeth, daughter of Col. John and Sarah Gibbes Matthews, born 1753, and whose brother, John, was Governor of South Carolina. They had six children, but only one son, Daniel, survived childhood.
When he was getting ready to be released in 1782, his pregnant wife traveled to Philadelphia to be with him upon his release. While in Philadelphia, Elizabeth went into labor and died in childbirth. She is buried there in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church yard. 
Thomas was heartbroken, and did not remarry until 1786, when he took another Elizabeth, the daughter of Col. Thomas and Mary Elliot Savage to be his wife. Together, they had 3 children, and fortunately, all lived to adulthood.
The second Elizabeth, 1769-1833, daughter of Col. Thomas and Mary Elliott Savage of Charleston, S.C., had three children to live to adulthood, Thomas, William and Elizabeth.
There are a number of descendants today in the 21st century surviving his four children Notable descendants include Duncan Clinch Heyward, twice elected Governor of South Carolina (1903-07) and 1937 published author of “Seed of Madagascar”, which relates the story of his rice-planting family; and Dubose Heyward, whose 1920’s novel and later stage play “Porgy”, portrayed blacks without condescension, and was transformed by George Gershwin into the popular opera “Porgy and Bess”, an American musical masterpiece.
Thomas Heyward, Jr., died on April 17, 1809, at age 63, and was buried next to his father in the family cemetery at Old House, his father’s property near White Hall on the same marshy creek. This cemetery is now a state-designated historic site on S.C. Route 336 in Jasper County, the entrance to which is identified by a roadside historical marker. The state of South Carolina has also marked his grave with a memorial stone and a bust of the Signer.
Thomas Heyward, Jr., the son of Daniel Heyward, was born at Old House, and became a member of the Second Continental Congress. The manor house at White Hall Plantation, within a stone's throw of Old House, was built between 1771 and 1775, and stood three stories high, including the "flood floor." It was built on a "tabby" foundation, which consisted of oyster shells, bricks and mortar.
The foundations of White Hall are all that remain now. Part of the property burned in 1870 after having survived Sherman's March during the Civil War. The remainder of the house collapsed before 1964, leaving only the foundations standing.
The bricks that form the "grand entrance" are still in place, although they are overgrown with grasses. A massive black walnut tree grows next to the foundation for the ballroom. 
The Old House Plantation, was settled 1740 by Daniel Heyward. The plantation included a tidal mill, textile factory and an import-export business. All was destroyed by fire in 1865. The site includes the grave of Thomas Heyward, Jr., a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence and of the Articles of Confederation as a representative of South Carolina.
Captain Anthony Mathewes was issued a land grant on December 6, 1733 for 707 acres (2, p. 611). 1791, George Washington used this house as a base of operations 1823 – Edward's brother, Nathaniel Barnwell Heyward, inherited White Hall upon his brother's death (3, p. 226). 1858 – Heyward sold White Hall to the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, holding the mortgage himself (2, p. 613). 1866 – The Civil War destroyed the railroad and Heyward sued for mortgage default. The property was foreclosed on and sold at a sheriff's sale (2, p. 613).
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