The Poinsett Name
In researching the Poinsetts I found a remarkable variety of variations in the spelling of the name, including Poincet, Pointset, Poynsett, Poinset, Poinsetts, Poinsette, and Pineset. The name “Poinsett”, as best I can make out, is of French or Belgian origin and likely related to a
profession or craft. The French word mark on silverware which proves it
“poincon” refers to a
punch or pointed tool and is the an ancestor may have been a
silversmith. Also, “pointe seche”, meaning the name may have derived from an artisan
refers to etching or engraving., engraver. According to a note
John Haines, a Poinsett descendant, the name had been spelled original probably was “Poinsette”, as proper French spelling ending, and some of the early South Carolina records spell it so.
"Pointsite" in France. The would demand the “-ette”
It is interesting to note that Poinsett “Tactics” is the unofficial name for the manual that has been the cavalry man's textbook since 1841, but I do not know which Poinsett is referenced. There was a steamboat named “Poinsett” that was in service in 1838, with James Trathen in command, and in 1839 -40, with Cdr. Isaac Mayo in charge. Edward A. Mueller, an authority on steamboats in Florida's waters, and whose work is cited in the bibliography of this publication provided the following information on the USS POINSETT: "She was built in New York in 1839 and before she could be used in civilian service, she was sold to the War Department for use in the south in the fight against the Seminoles. My hunch is that she was named after Joel Roberts Poinsett who was Secretary of War around this time. The vessel was a side-wheeler of 250 tons, 132.9 ft. long by 22.1 ft. wide, and had a depth of hold of 8.1 ft. She was renamed DUNCAN C. PELL in 1845 and accordingly had probably been sold to someone by the War Department, after they no longer had a need for her."
Lake Poinsett, in the upper St. Johns River in Florida was probably named after the Secretary of War, also, according to Mr. Mueller. “A few other lakes (they are really wide spots in the river and not very deep) were named after generals who fought in the Second Seminole Indian War such as Harney, Winder, etc. This war was from December 1835 until 1842 and a lot of steamboats took part in it. They supplied troops with provisions, arms, horses and brought soldiers from elsewhere to the fight. Some exploration of lower Florida was done by these military folks, hence the naming of natural things for people they worked with.”
Poinsett County, Arkansas, was named after Joel Roberts Poinsett on 28 Feb 1838. Joel Roberts Poinsett brought back plants from Mexico, where he served as American ambassador; among them was the plant now known as the “poinsettia.”
African-Americans can be found, particularly in NC and FL, with the name Poinsett (or Poinsette). This reflects adoption by ancestral slaves of their master's name, a common practice in pre -Civil War America.