The Richbourg Family of South Carolina

The character which has been transmitted to us of this persecuted minister of the gospel, exhibits as its peculiar trait a devotedness to the cause of Christ. He appears to have been a man of unobtrusive manners, of deep and fervent piety, and of a serious temper of mind. Adversities and poverty seem to have been his portion in the lot of life.

He seems to have lived, after his removal to South Carolina, for two or three years without a spiritual charge, and without any pecuniary resources for the maintenance of his family; and, we are informed by Humphrey, contemplated a removal out of the colony ‘on account of his great want.’

The infirmities of age creeping upon him, Pierre Robert resigned his charge, and RICHEBOURG was called by the congregation to succeed him in 1715. He continued in the pastorship until his death in 1718-19. His will (original manuscript in the French language) is still preserved in the Public Office in Charleston, and breathes the true spirit of the Christian, resigned under the dispensations of Providence, steadfast in the faith, and triumphant at his approaching death. His wife, ANNE CHASTAIN, and six children survived him. Some of his descendants, who are not numerous, have attained wealth; and no instance is known of any of them having been destitute of the comforts of life.

After considering and weighing the historical data relating to RICHEBOURG and his ministry at the French or Huguenot Church at Jamestown on the Santee. Dr. Howe emphatically concluded that RICHEBOURG never became an Anglican minister and that the church retained its name and character as a Reformed Church throughout his life. (15)

Dr. Howe’s conclusion on this score cannot be recorded with those of Dr. Hirsch, who states in substance, in his history of THE HUGUENOTS OF COLONIAL SOUTH CAROLINA that in 1700 the French or Huguenot Church at Jamestown on the Santee was converted into the Anglican Church at the request of its French founders and members; that its pastor, Pierre Robert, took Anglican orders, that subsequently his successor. RICHEBOURG accepted ordination in the Anglicean communion and thereby assumed in the estimation of the Anglican clergy the obligation to forsake the Calvinistic theology and liturgy of the Huguenots for that of the Anglicans; that notwithstanding RICHEBOURG persisted in preaching and administering the sacraments in the French language in accordance with the Calvinistic theology and liturgy of the Huguenots, and thereby greatly angered the Anglican clergy; that Commissary Johnston the chief representative in the Province of South Carolina of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, in adjunct of the Anglican Church, threatened to “deprive RICHEBOURG of his cure and salary and remove him from the province unless he desisted”; that RICHEBOURG “confessed his error and promised never to commit it again”; and that RICHEBOURG “temporarily submitted” to Johnston’s demand, but soon returned to his Calvinistic ways. (16)

For reasons he deems compelling the writer is constrained to accept Dr. Howe’s conclusions and reject those of Dr. Hirsche.

It is simply incredible that the French Huguenots on the Santee would have lightly or willingly abandoned at that time in history the profound religious convictions for which their fathers and their contemporaries had suffered martyrdom and for which they themselves had exchanged their native land and their earthly possessions for exile and poverty. (17)

Besides Dr. Hirsch’s conclusions are incompatible with RICHEBOURG’s character as it has been revealed by all historical data relating to him outside of the writings of representatives of the English-based adjunct of the Anglican Church the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. According to this data, RICHEBOURG was a strong-willed man, who was inseparable wedded to the Calvinistic faith of the Huguenots and was always ready to do battle for it against any that questioned its authenticity.

Dr. Hirsch based his conclusions on the records of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, where representatives in the Province of South Carolina were unrestrained in their efforts to induce or coerce the Huguenots residing there to forsake their own faith and to adopt in its stead the polity, theology, and usages of the Anglican Church.