Emigration to England and America
It is commonly stated by latter-day members of the Poinsett family that the American Poinsetts are descended from the families of two Huguenot brothers, Pierre (Peter) and Jean
(John), originating in Soubise, France, who fled first to England and then to America.1 of the brothers, Pierre, settled in Charleston (then “Charles Town”), SC, about 1681 One . The
other brother, Jean, went to New Egypt, NJ, leaving descendants living in Burlington Co, NJ, today.2 Pierre is the best documented of the founding American Poinsetts.
The claim of the English on what became South Carolina dates from 1629. In 1670 the first permanent settlement was formed at Albemarle Point. In 1680 the colony moved across the river to Oyster Point, which was better situated for defense. There the colonists established their capital, Charles Town, which became the chief center of culture and wealth in the South. Pierre came to Charles Town in 1681, the year after its founding. The Act of March 30, 1696, was a highly significant one for the French of Charles Town, for it was a petition of persons “alien born” setting forth that the undersigned had been encouraged to go to England and later to South Carolina and that they now seek naturalization in order that their lands already bought may “be secured to them and their heirs”. The list of French names include three generations of Poinsetts: Pierre Sr., Pierre Jr., and Elisha, (Hirsch, 1928).
From Charleston, like other colonists, some of the later Poinsetts spread up the Cooper River to establish plantations and carry on trades, forming a community around the local Huguenot Church known as Orange Quarter, or French Quarter. The Parish of St. Thomas was created by an act in 1706 and Orange Quarter became a part of this parish, under the name of The Parish of St. Denis (Hirsch, 1928). Among the names of the planters listed in this parish is “Poinsette” (sic). The plantations were worked by indentured servants and Negro and Indian slaves. Corn, livestock, cotton, tobacco and rice were the principal crops. Timber and fur were also value items for export.
The Anglicans in 1704 deprived other groups of their religious liberty, and it was not until 1706 when the English government took action that religious tolerance was
1 I came across a note by John Haines stating that the Poinsetts lived two generations in Holland but I know of no evidence to support this claim.
2 In the long course of working out this genealogy, I entertained for a time the notion that we were descended from the New Jersey tribe and spent many hours assembling their lineages. After running aground with that tack, I switched back to pursuing our origins among the South Carolinian tribe, where I found our connection. The genealogy I developed for the New Jersey Poinsetts appears to be the most complete and accurate to date, so I have published that work separately to make it available to anyone interested in this part of the family (Ralph, C. L., 1994, The Poinsetts of New Jersey, The Golden Spectrum, 1351 Village Park Ct., Ft. Collins, CO 80526). As noted above, I saw a note at the Library of the Huguenot Society of SC which alleged that two brothers went to NJ, but I have found no evidence to support two brother in NJ; however, there is a Joseph Poinsett, according to a tax record, in Baltimore Co, MD, in 1704, and he might be the third brother.