Mr. Workman Speculates on the Poole’s of Laurens County in 1914

Part One

In my search thus far, I’ve found two historical accounts of how my Pool family came to reside in Laurens County, SC. The most well known, and complete, is that of Bessie Poole Lamb and Mary Mack Poole Ezell from 1931. I’ve written about this book in The Arrival of the Scuffletown Pool Family in Laurens County, South Carolina and at the Pettypool Family in America website.

A second account was published in The Laurens Advertiser on May 20, 1914, when the paper reprinted an article that T. M. Workman had published earlier in The Thornwell Messenger. The context of the article was early corn mills in Laurens County, and Mr. Workman opens his article with the assertion that:

The first corn mill ever put up in the bounds of the present county of Laurens, S. C., might have been the mill on Enoree river owned by Edward Musgrove. But there was another one higher up on a little stream called Buckhead that flows into Enoree river that had some claim of being one of the first corn mills of Laurens county.

He then proceeds, with liberal use of “I think” and “I suppose” qualifier phrases, to assign this mill to the Poole family:

In those days more than one hundred years ago a man named Poole, I think it was William Poole, settled on this little stream. He had married a Miss Petty, I suppose for I find at Laurens in old papers written more than a hundred years ago that his sons were named William Petty Poole, Seth Petty Poole, George Petty Poole, and so on down. It was the fashion of that time to give a boy his mother’s maiden name for a second name.

Mr. Workman goes on to recount a legend about the Poole family that has stood the test of time, if not the test of accuracy, for over a century:

Mr. Poole and his wife did not have much luck in raising a family for they raised only nineteen sons and six daughters to be grown and married.

Lamb and Ezell repeat much the same story in their 1931 account, defining “Mr Poole” as Seth Petty Pool (c. 1754- 1837), and hold out the possibility that the count could be even greater than 25. And when my research partner Sarah and I first visited the South Carolina Room at the Laurens County Public Library to research the family we were told the same story, with the added twist that many of the children were twins.

Dr. David Ramsey, in his History of South Carolina: From its First Settlement in 1670 to the Year 1808, makes some remarks on the “Fecundity, Population and Longevity” of the people of South Carolina, writing that:

Mrs. Easley, of Greenville district, now living, has been the mother of thirty-four live born children, though she never had twins but once. From sixteen to twenty-two have been brought alive into the world by individual mothers in the low country; but these instances are rare. A case or two is known where the same parents have raised and married thirteen children. From six to nine children are often raised in the western districts. Twelve is the largest number of children now living from one pair in Charlestown, and only two such can be recollected…”

So, if the Thornwell and Lamb count of the children are to be believed, then Seth’s family would be eligible for at least an honorable mention in the SC “fecundity” statistics. Alas, that is not to be.

Poring over the clerical accounts attached to Seth Petty Pool’s Probate papers in Laurens I found, well buried in the notes, the following:

” … I find that agreeable to the will that an amount of one thousand sixty six dollars & 2 cents due to Each legatee Viz. twelve in number on the 15th day of Jan’ry 1840 . It is therefore ordered…”.1

Until shown otherwise, I’m going to claim as my modest contribution to Pettypool family research the discovery of definitive evidence debunking the “25 children” legend attached to “Mr Poole” of early Laurens County. Twelve is a large family by today’s standards, but not unusual in 18th & 19th century families. For example, in my database of families, I have a first cousin three times removed, Nancy Janet Davis, who bore 14 children to John H. Perkins, and a third- great grandfather, Michael Watson, who had 14 children with Mary Jane Hendrix.2

… to be continued…

Mr. Workman’s paragraph about the early Poole family- “… a man named Poole, I think it was William Poole”- is interesting, and in Part Two of this blog I will make some comments about it.


1.  Transcription by the author of a portion of the estate papers of Seth P. Pool- Laurens County Probate Court, “Laurens County Ordinary/Probate Judge Index to Estate Papers 1800-1939” Box 58 Pkg 4.

2. I’ve almost exclusively researched the Pettypool family to date, so I have relied on two excellent researchers, Charles Purvis and Thalia Watson, for information on the Davis and Watson families, respectively. Mr. Purvis writes an excellent blog, Carolina Family Roots.