Home
Up

Memoir to Hon. Henry Wm. DeSaussure

By: William Harper

Published in Charleston, South Carolina

February 15th, 1841

"He who may be regarded, as the founder of the family (deSaussure), was Anthony deSaussure, who lived in the beginning of the sixteenth century, in Lorraine, France. The family name was derived from a borough of that dutchy, called Saussure, which the family formerly possessed. His father, Mongin deSaussure, who lived in the latter part of the fifteenth century, possessed large estates in the dutchy of Lorraine and was Lord of Dommartin and Monteuil, near Amance, with full seigniorial jurisdiction, and various honors and offices were conferred on him by the Duke of Lorraine; among others the office of Counselor of State, and that of Grand Falconer, then regarded as one of the highest in the state. The descendants preserve portions of his correspondence, with the various eminent personages, to shew the consideration in which he was held. Among his correspondents were the Duke of Lorraine (who at the siege of Nancy, in 1479, killed Charles of Burgundy); and Rene, King of Sicily; Henry of Navarre, the maternal grandfather of Henry the Fourth.

"Anthony deSaussure embraced the reformed religion, on which account he abandoned Lorraine in 1551. He resided successively in the Cities of Metz, where he was one of the chief instruments, in the hands of God, for the establishment of the reformed religion, in Neufchatel and Strasburg. (Foot note: Reference, the History of Calvinism, by Father Mainbourg, book five: "And when it was perceive the holy communion at Easter (1552) they were forced to it under the penalty of being expelled from the City of Metz; as was, a month before its reduction, a Frenchman from Lorraine, called Anthony deSaussure, who refused to obey.)

Anthony deSaussure resided for sometime in the city of Geneva during the life of Calvin, with whom he was on terms of intimacy and friendship. A portion of the correspondence with the great reformer is preserved by deSaussureís descendants. DeSaussure finally placed himself under the protection of the State of Berne, and settled in the city of Lausanne, which in the year 1556 honored him with citizenship. He left numerous descendants, who were repeatedly distinguished by high honors of their adopted country, and the nobility of the family was officially recognized. In 1712 John Luis deSaussure having performed gallant services in the Battle of Bremgarten and Wilmergon; the State of Berne, to testify their approbation, erected the State of Bercher into a Barony and directed their Chancellor to confer on him the titles of "Noble and Generous."

"Henry deSaussure, of Lausanne, Switzerland, the grandfather of the subject of the present memoir, emigrated to South Carolina in the Beaufort district, near Coosawhatchie, and became a planter. There he lived and died, and there his monument is to be found. He left, at his death, four sons and two daughters, and his descendants have become connected with a great number of principal families of the State of South Carolina. 

"Of his sons, Louis, the third, entered the army of the Revolutionary War, and received a commission in the Continental Line of South Carolina. He was in several engagements, and was at Savannah, under General Lincoln. He was brought to Charleston, but died of lockjaw while entering the harbor. We see his monument in St. Michaelís Church, Charleston.

Thomas, the fourth son, was on a visit to Norfolk when Arnold invaded Virginia in 1781. With other gentlemen driven out of Norfolk by Arnold. He went into the country and joined a volunteer corps and was soon after killed in one of the skirmishes which preceded the events that led to the capture of Cornwallis the second life the family devoted to the cause of their country.

Daniel deSaussure, the eldest son of Henry deSaussure and the father of the subject of this memoir was born at Pocotaligo, in the Beaufort, South Carolina district in 1735. He removed to the town of Beaufort in 1767; there he conducted the largest commercial establishment then existing in the state, out of the city of Charleston. He took an early and active part in the revolutionary struggles and when the trouble broke out was elected member of the Provincial Congress of South Carolina, from Beaufort, which he continued to represent until removal to Charleston in 1779.

In 1775 when the question of independence was anxiously discussed, he was sent to the Provincial Congress, in conjunction with Mr. Powell of Georgia. That young colony was feeble in resources and population, and the object of the mission was to stimulate their energies and to confer with them as to the plan and means of resistance. The mission was successfully conducted.

Early in 1777 he sailed in his own brig, with a cargo of rice and indigo, to Nantes, France, where he established commercial relations, long afterwards kept up, and sent back a large and valuable cargo, which he brought into Charleston.

While in France he was determined to visit the land of his fathers and passed into Switzerland. Here he found that his fatherís brother had recently died, but he met with first cousins at Lausanne. He recorded the names of his children in the books at Lausanne, which he gave them the right to citizenship. Visiting Geneva he became acquainted with his distinguished relative Horace Benedict deSaussure, whom he continued to correspond for years.

After the visit to France, Daniel deSaussure returned to Beaufort, of which he was a resident when the British in December 1778 advanced with a formidable armament to the attach on Savannah. A British transport laden with troops and horses grounded on the shoals near St. Helena, S. C. Mr. DeSaussure, at that time commanding a volunteer company at Beaufort proceeded with part of this company in a barge and boarded her, the transport surrendered, with the troops and two British Captains as prisoners of war.

Daniel having removed to Charleston bore arms during the siege of that city by Sir Henry Clinton. Upon capitulation, the revolutionary officers were sent to Haddrellís Point as prisoners of war and later to St. Augustine, Florida and were put in close confinement, including upward to sixty of the principal gentlemen of Charleston, including Edward Rutledge, Hugh Rutledge, Arthur Middleton and Daniel deSaussure. They were detained until the general exchange of prisoners in 1781, when Mr. DeSaussure with others was transferred to Philadelphia. Here he received an appointment in the Bank of Robert Morris.

Under the surrender of Cornwallis, he returned to Charleston to establish a branch of the Bank of the United States in Charleston; he was appointed president, which office he continued until his death.

Daniel deSaussure was a member of the S. C. legislature 1783-1791 and the last two years President of the Senate. He died July 1798. Henry William deSaussure was the only son of Daniel deSaussure and was born at Pocotailgo, S. C. on August 16, 1763. Henry William deSaussure served in the Revolutionary War at the age of 16 and served during the siege of Charleston as a private in a volunteer in the Charleston Harbor for two months and was sent to Philadelphia in an exchange of prisoners about the same time as his father.

Henry William deSaussure entered the office of a Mr. Ingersoll of Philadelphia as a student of law and was admitted to the bar of Pennsylvania in 1784. Returning to Charleston in 1785 he was admitted to the Charleston Bar.

In the spring of 1789 Henry William deSaussure married Miss Eliza Ford from Morristown, N. J., who he had met previously in Philadelphia. In October 1789 he was elected to the South Carolina Constitutional Convention, and in the same year elected to the S. C. Legislature.

In 1794, in ill health, he traveled to Sweet Springs, Va. and to New York for the benefit of his health. Here he received a packet from Edmund Randolph, the U. S. Secretary of State, enclosing a commission from President George Washington appointing him as the first U. S. Director of the Mint. Here he met Alexander Hamilton who urged him to accept the commission. DeSaussure accepted the commission and proceeded to Philadelphia. Washington directed deSaussure to start minting of gold coin, and he soon presented to President Washington the first Gold Eagles minted. DeSaussure, being anxious to return to Charleston, resigned the directorship of the mint and the family still posses the letter from General Washington expressing approbation of his conduct of the office and regret at his leaving it.

From 1799 to 1822, Henry William deSaussure served various terms in the legislature and was appointed on many commissions for the State and city of Charleston. In 1822 his wife died. In 1824 he was appointed Chancellor of South Carolina. He devoted much of this time to establishing higher education and was President of the Society for that purpose. In 1837 his health began to fail again and although efforts to dissuade him were made by many friends and officials his resignation as Chancellor was communicated to the legislature by the Governor of S. C., who recommended to that body to bestow on deSaussure some signal mark of the public esteem and gratitude. Resolutions were passed and a sum of money voted him. On March 1839 he died in the home of his eldest son in Charleston.

A bronze and marble memorial in the Huguenot Church in Charleston reads as follows:

ANTONIE deSAUSSURE

Seigneur de Dommartin, et de

Monteuil

Near Amance, France

Having embraced the principles of the

Reformation, abandoning his dignities

and Estates in Lorraine, and fled with his family

From persecution into Switzerland in 1551

Where he was an influential advocate

Of the Protestant Faith.

He took a bold and active part in the

Cause of the Reformation at METZ, STRASBOURGH,

GENEVA, AND NEUFCHATEL;

From the latter of which this church

Derives its Liturgical Services.

Between John Calvin and himself there

Existed a close friendship, as evinced by their

Reciprocal letters still preserved by the

Branch of the family residing in Geneva.

His descendants continue true to the Reformed

Faith, one of Them,

HENRI deSaussure

Removed from Lausanne, Switzerland, to

South Carolina in 1730, and settled as a planter

In the Beaufort District, where he died in 1761

Highly Esteemed and Respected.

A Monumental Stone near Coosawhatchie,

Marks the place of his Sepulture, and Attests to the Filial Piety of his Children.

In the war of the Revolution his four Sons,

And a Grand-Son, took an active part,

In the cause of Independence.

LOUIS AND THOMAS, died on Battle Fields, HENRY, from disease caused by exposure of

The camp; Daniel, the eldest son,

Was a member of the Provincial Congress of

South Carolina, and was one of the exiles,

In St. Augustine after the capitulation of

Charleston in 1780, while his son, Then a

Youth of 17 years, afterwards

CHANCELLOR HENRY WM. deSAUSSURE

Was at the same time confined on Broad a

British Prison Ship in Charleston Harbor,

In veneration of men thus devoted to civil

And religious Liberty, Their Descendants and

Relatives have erected this Monument

1859

 

Quotations from the biography of Horace Benedict deSaussure, by Douglas W. Freshfield D. C. L. & Henry F. Montagnier. Published by Edward Arnold, London, England, 1920.

"Horace Benedict deSaussure was born, lived and died in Switzerland, being born at Conches, an estate on the banks of the Arve, near Geneva, February 17, 1740. His ancestors were among the many religious refugees who flocked from France to Geneva in the middle of the sixteenth century. The deSaussure name still survives in five villages in Lorraine. Jean Baptiste deSaussure (1576-1647) removed from Lausanne and settled in Geneva. Elie deSaussure, son of Jean Baptiste, was grandfather of Theodore deSaussure (1674-1750), who was the grandfather of Horace Benedict deSaussure, the subject of the biography."

Horace B. deSaussure has two principal claims to our grateful remembrance. He took a leading part in raising Geology to its high place among the physical sciences, and it was mainly due to him that we can count the pleasures of ALPHINE travel among to consolations of life. (deSaussure was the first to conquer Mont Blanc and a statue to the event and to deSaussure is now in the center of the village of Chamonix in France.

Frontenex, the principal deSaussure estate, lies some two miles east of Geneva. It still remains in the state in which it was in the 17th century when the Duke of Gordon, Lord Palmerson and other young Englishmen of rank and fashion were only too glad to visit while they were being educated at Geneva.

Horace B. deSaussure made the "grand tour" with his young wife 1768-1769 and visited most European countries and Britain, where he made many life long friends among the great names of his time, including Masam Necker, Madam de Stael, Lord Palmerson and a host of the great in sciences at that time.

The reading of the biography of Horace B. deSaussure not only is most interesting concerning the deSaussure family, but is an educational picture of the life and times preceding the French Revolution and following this event, which spread into Geneva, and ruined the then family fortunes. Horace died January 22, 1799.

It is related, however, that Madam deSaussure regained some of her fortunes and was able to re-occupy their extensive "Town House" in Geneva and that Napoleon visited Madam deSaussure there in 1800.

 

Quotations from "DE MORTUIS" by Robert MacMillan Kennedy, published by THE STATE COMPANY, Columbia, S. C. 1935.

In the deSaussure enclosure of Camden, S. C. Cemetery is the grave of John McPherson deSaussure, lawyer, Judge of Probate and large planter. He was the son of Chancellor deSaussure. His wifeís plantation below Camden, which he managed, is now the South Carolina State Farm. His elegant home in Camden was "Lausanne," now enlarged and known as "Court Inn."

He married the daughter of Richard Lloyd Champion. Mr. DeSaussureís plantation records, kept with meticulous care, are now in the University Library.

In the same lot is the grave of Dr. Lewis M. deSaussure, 1804-1870, another son of Chancellor deSaussure and father of Dr. Charles A. deSaussure of Memphis, lately Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate veterans. Still a third son of Chancellor deSaussre lies in Godís acre, Daniel Louis deSaussure (1796-1857), a midshipman on the old U. S. Navy, who served in the War of 1812 and the war with the Barbary Pirates, with Tatnall, Decatur and Farragut, who were his life long friends and correspondents.

 

Quotations also from the same publication re: Richard Champion.

"Richard Champion was one of the eminent English potters who in the 18th century, so distinguished that he is given nearly two columns in the great British Dictionary of National Biography. Champion is also quite fully treated in all the standard works on British ceramics.

Richard Champion was born in Bristol, England in 1743, spent his youth in London, but returned to his native town in his twentieth year and entered into the employ of his uncle, Richard Champion, merchant.

In 1768 he formed a partnership with William Cooksworthy, the first maker of true porcelain, or hard china, in England. Five years later Champion bought out Cooksworthy, and for eight years conducted the Green Castle Pottery, where the famous and at times unique "Bristol Ware" was manufactured.

Champion was also active in politics, a Liberal and a follower of his kinsman, Charles James Fox. He nominated Edmund Burke as a Member of Parliament from Bristol, and presented Mrs. Burke with a magnificent Bristol china service. The teapot of this set alone sold later for $1,050.00 and the milk jug for $600.00.

To evidence his cordial sympathy with the colonies in the Revolution, he presented Washington and Franklin with busts of themselves cast in his pottery.

In 1775 his petition to Parliament for extension of his patent was granted, through strenuously opposed by Josiah Wedgwood, his rival.

A descendant of the famous ceramist in South Carolina now owns the last product of his Bristol factory. It is an exquisitely wrought statuette about a foot high, of Grief, a female figure standing by an urn, and bears an inscription to a deceased young daughter whom he pathetically calls, "Dear Eliza."

In 1784, Champion, because of his extreme liberal views, immigrated to South Carolina with his wife and at least some of his children. Championís brother in law, John Lloyd, purchased some land for Champion in Kershaw, Sumter and Beaufort Counties. For his residence he chose a sight at Rocky Creek, ten miles above Camden, and here spent the evening of his life. Champion was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1790.

Champion died in 1791 and was buried in the Episcopal Cemetery at Camden and later moved to the Quaker Cemetery.

His oldest son, John Lloyd Champion died in 1793. Another son, George, a bachelor, was considered a little daft because he wrote many articles as early as 1820 in advocacy of railroads which he predicted would run eight miles an hour propelled by steam, and carry 50,000 bales of cotton a year.

The most prominent of the sons of Richard Champion was Richard Lloyd Champion who was born in 1771 and died in Camden in 1813. He was a gentleman of culture as well of business acumen and acquired large properties.

Richard Lloyd Championís only daughter, Eliza, married Major John M. deSaussure and her descendants once numerous in the community are now widely scattered over the Southern States. It is sad to relate that not a single representative of the deSaussure name, once so conspicuous an element in the society of Camden is now left in the community.

The life of Richard Champion is also extensively written in "Champions Bristol Porcelain" by Dr. S. Severene Mackenna, and published by F. Lewis, Ltd., Tithe House, London Rd., Leighon Sea, Essex, England.

Charles deSaussure Randall of Griffin; Ga. has one of the few pieces in U. S. A. of Championís Bristol Porcelain, the figure "Autum." This was inherited from his mother, Mary Peronneau deSaussure, and who married Orris Ferry Randall in 1895.

The story goes that when the deSaussure family was removing from the family home, "Lausanne," in Camden, that the figure Autum was discarded by servants on account of its damaged condition. It was salvaged by Ida Champion deSaussure, wife of Alexander Baron deSaussure, and then passed to her daughter Mary deSaussure Randall and on her death October 17, 1956 to her son Charles deSaussure Randall.

The figure Autum is now restored and in its original appearance.

 

Any and all material herein is protected by Copyright © 1992 Ė 2014 The Sinclair Group, Inc.  All Rights Reserved. Nothing from this website may be copied or reproduced, in part or whole, or in any manner, without the express written approval of the owner of this website or the author of the particular work.  This includes, but is not limited to, all photos, stories, graphics, and information on this website.