The history of the Heyward family goes back to about 1670, when the immigrant Daniel Heyward (born circa 1640) set foot in the settlement of Charles Towne in what is now South Carolina. In those days the settlement was more of a business enterprise than a political entity. Its owners were British aristocrats who sought profits in the New World. But these absentee owners (and their heirs) ran into difficulties managing the bustling settlement from so far away. So they turned South Carolina over to the British government, which declared it a colony in 1720 and sent a governor to take charge. The colony lasted until 1776, when South Carolina joined twelve other American colonies in declaring independence from Great Britain. The Revolutionary War ensued.
Two of the immigrant’s great grandsons prospered in the colonial years by establishing plantations for the cultivation of rice for export. Those great grandsons were Daniel Heyward (1720 – 1777) and Thomas Heyward (1723 – 1795). Their plantations were in the South Carolina low country between Charleston and Savannah. All Heyward descendants living today can trace their ancestry back to one of those men.
Thomas Heyward (b. 1746), a son of Daniel Heyward (b. 1720), was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Captain of the Charleston Artillery in the Revolutionary War. His younger brother, Nathaniel Heyward (b. 1766), at age 16, assisted him as a “powder monkey” (ammuntion carrier) in battle at Charleston. Wilson Glover, husband of Margaret Heyward (b. 1753) and son-in-law of Thomas Heyward (b. 1723), was an infantry lieutenant in the South Carolina First Regiment in that war.
In the period between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War most of the Heyward descendants remained in the region–the South Carolina low country between and including Charleston and Savannah–because they inherited property there or married people who had property there. Some descendants, for reasons of marriage, family pressure or ambition, moved to other parts of South Carolina or to other southern states. Some moved away from the South altogether. Among those who moved from the South were:
- Anne Miles Heyward, daughter of Thomas Heyward (b. 1723) and wife of Thomas Gibbons (b. 1757). She moved to New Jersey with her husband in 1801.
- William Heyward Jr. (b. 1779), a grandson of Daniel Heyward (b. 1720) and his wife Sarah Cruger lived mostly in New York City. At the time of William Heyward Jr’s death in 1846, all of his children except one lived in the North.
- Maria Miles Heyward, granddaughter of Daniel Heyward (b.1720) and wife of William Drayton. She moved to Philadelphia with her husband and children in 1833.
For Heyward descendants who remained in the South Carolina low country, the Civil War brought catastrophe. In May 1861, Lincoln ordered a naval blockade of the South Carolina coast, thereby preventing export of rice or other products from their plantations. In November 1861 the Union Army invaded and occupied Port Royal, near Beaufort, to establish a support base for the blockade. White people fled, leaving their slaves to fend for themselves. Looting and destruction ensued. The military occupation of Beaufort lasted throughout the war and provided the Union with a base from which to attack nearby Confederate military targets and to raid and destroy plantations further inland. Planters in the area, including many Heywards, suffered because of the confiscation of whatever land, houses and slaves they owned that happened to be in the area of military occupation. Finally, in the last months of the war, General William T. Sherman marched his army through the region, from Savannah toward Charleston and Columbia, in a wide swath. White civilians fled the area as Sherman’s army destroyed all houses, including furnishings and personal belongings, barns, rice mills, boats and railroad tracks in its path.
The Civil War brought an end to the privileged status that the region’s rice planters and their extended families had enjoyed for a hundred years. Even so, some planters managed to borrow money to resume planting using free labor. They achieved modest success until the late 1800’s, when the South Carolina rice industry succumbed to devastating hurricanes, labor problems and most seriously, competition from western states and from abroad. Most of the South Carolina rice planters moved on to farming other crops or to non-agricultural occupations. Many left the low country region and many left the South. Today Heyward descendants are widely dispersed and highly diverse.
In 1937 a number of Heyward descendants from the Charleston area formed the Heyward Family Association with the purpose of re-uniting Heywards who had lost touch with their ancestry.
Links below give additional information about the history of the Heyward family and its Association.
Coats of Arms of the Heyward and related families
Heyward Family Association Newsletters (login required)
Heyward Family Association Reunion Pictures and Videos (login required)