Oliver Hart Papers, 1741-1795, 1961 and undated

See other finding aids to collections available from SCL Manuscripts Division

Correspondence, journals, diaries, publications, sermons, and sermon notes of a late eighteenth-century Baptist minister in Charleston, South Carolina.

Creator: Hart, Oliver (1723-1795), Rev.
Extent: 54 items
Location: Plb and R-1046

Biographical Note

Born 5 Nov. 1723 in Warminster Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Oliver Hart was baptized on 3 Apr. 1741 at the local Southampton Baptist Meeting House. At the annual meeting of the Philadelphia Baptist Association in September of 1749 a letter was read appealing for ministers for the colony of South Carolina. He determined to offer his services and was ordained the following month. On 13 Nov. 1749, he embarked from Philadelphia and arrived at Charleston, S.C., on 2 Dec. 1749, the same day the last Baptist minister in the colony was being buried. Hart accepted the pastorate of the Baptist congregation in Charleston on 16 Feb. 1750.

During his pastorate, Hart became a leader to his congregation and for Baptists in the entire region. The benefits of the Philadelphia Association were intimately familiar to him, and he soon began planning a similar organization in South Carolina. The first meeting of the Charleston Association, with four participating churches, was held in Charleston on 21 Oct. 1751. Early in 1754 a Religious Society, sponsored by the Association, was formed by Hart, to gather funds for training ministerial students.

Late in the summer of 1775, Hart, an active patriot, joined a commission sent by the South Carolina Council of Safety to tour the backcountry in an attempt to persuade disaffected residents to join the patriot cause. However, in Feb. 1780, Hart fled Charleston before the invading British forces, never to return. The following October Hart accepted the invitation of the pastorate at the Baptist church in Hopewell, New Jersey, and remained there until his death, 31 Dec. 1795.

Hart was twice married: first to Sarah Brees on 25 Feb. 1747/48, and, following her death, to Anne Maria (Sealey) Grimball on 5 Apr. 1774. Four children from his first marriage and one by his second lived to adulthood.

Scope and Content Note

The papers of the Reverend Oliver Hart (1723-1795) span the years 1741 to 1795 and include correspondence, diaries, and sermon notes from colonial and Revolutionary periods in Charleston, S.C. The collection is arranged chronologically in the following series: correspondence and miscellaneous papers; journals and diaries; photographs; publications; and sermons and sermon notes.

While there are some early letters to his father, the bulk of correspondence is from Oliver Hart to his brother, Col. Joseph Hart of Bucks County, Pa., relaying news from Charleston, S.C., during the Revolutionary War. After leaving Charleston in 1780, Hart received a few letters from his wife describing conditions in the area. Ten volumes of diaries and journals detail diverse events in Hart's life, including a violent storm in Charleston harbor in 1761, travels in Virginia and North Carolina, and his tour of the South Carolina backcountry during the initial months of the American Revolution. Throughout his journals, Hart records weather observations and the scriptural citations upon which his sermons were based. Moreover, among these papers is a listing of sermons notes, scriptural citations, and dates delivered circa Oct. 1754-Sept. 1768.

Series List

Series I: Correspondence and Miscellaneous, Sept. 1755 - 5 Nov. 1795

Series II: Journals and Diaries, 1741 - 1789 and undated

Series III: Photographs, ca. 1961

Series IV: Publications, 1760 and 1774

Series V: Sermons and Sermon Notes, 20 Oct. 1754-26 Sept. 1768

Series Description and Folder List

Series I: Correspondence and Miscellaneous, Sept. 1755 - 5 Nov. 1795

Correspondence includes letters to Hart's father, John, and brother, Joseph, in Warminster, Pennsylvania and from his wife, Anne, in Charleston, South Carolina. Besides news of Hart's family and work as a minister in Charleston, topics include weather, agriculture, politics, religion, and the Revolutionary War in South Carolina and Georgia. A calendar of correspondence follows this finding aid. Miscellaneous folder contains sundry financial receipts, accounts and the honorary diploma issued by Rhode Island College (later Brown University).

Abbreviations / Legend:

Folder 1

Correspondence, 7 ALsS, Sept. 1755 - 4 Jan. 1779
Folder 2
Correspondence, 8 ALsS, 16 Feb. 1779 - 14 May 1781
Folder 3
Correspondence, 8 ALsS, 12 June 1781 - 5 Nov. 1795
Folder 4
Miscellaneous, 6 MSS, 26 Sept. 1768 - ca. 1770 and undated
Series II: Journals and Diaries, 1741 - 1789 and undated

Folder 5

MS (R), 1741-1780 (R1046)
Notes about Oliver Hart written in a nineteenth-century hand, many apparently taken from his original writings. Use of this volume is restricted, due to its fragile condition; use the microfilmed copy (R1046).
Folder 6
Journal, 4 May 1761
An incident of a “Typhone” [typhoon, i.e. hurricane] in Charleston, S.C., is recorded in this volume briefly used by Hart.
Folder 7
Diary, 8 Nov. 1769 - 2 Feb. 1770
Journey from Augusta Co., Va., through upper central North Carolina, including Hillsborough, N.C., and back; weather, sermons, and local color.
Folder 8
Journal, 28 Nov. 1773 - 6 July 1794
Sermon register
Folder 9
Diary, 31 July - 6 Sept. 1775
Hart's journal of the mission to the South Carolina backcountry in an effort by the lowcountry leadership to influence loyalists and the neutral. Decoded and published inJournal of the South Carolina Baptist Historical Society I (Nov. 1975) 18-30.

Diary, 6-15 Oct. 1775
Diary recording his family's flight inland to escape a British Man-O-War in Charleston harbor.

Folder 10
Diary, 26 May 1779 - 14 Sept. 1780
Preachings, funerals, opinions, and reactions to news, including reports of the Battle of Stono Ferry and the early stages of siege of Charleston by the British. After February 1780 Hart retreats to North Carolina and Virginia.

Diary, 11 Nov. 1780 - 24 Apr. 1781
Chronicle of Hart settling in as the minister of Hopewell Baptist Church, in New Jersey, with thoughts and interactions with parishioners, sermons, funerals and weddings, and occasional references to the weather.

Diary, 1 July 1781 - 26 May 1782
Sermon Register

Folder 11
Diary, 27 May - 15 Oct. 1788
A chronicle of a journey to the First Baptist Church in New York City, including sermons, visits with friends and worshippers, and a brief description of the city.

Diary, 2 Sept. 1788 - 1 Oct. 1789
Account of travels, travel expenses, and narrative of Hart's journey from New Jersey to Virginia and back. Includes stops along the way and occasional incidents of weather and local lore. Also included is a record of sermons, marriages and funerals in Hopewell, N.J.

Folder 12
Notes, undated
Believed to be Hart's notes on a confession of faith for use by the Charleston Baptist Association.
Series III: Photographs, ca. 1961

Two photographs of the tombstone of Oliver Hart at Southampton Baptist Meeting House, in Bucks County, Pa.; two photographs of the Southampton Baptist Meeting House; and two photographs of the Hopewell Baptist Church, in Hopewell, N.J.

Folder 13

6 Photographs, ca. 1961
Series IV: Publications, 1760 and 1774

Folder 14

The Transcendant Excellencies of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, In His Person and Characters… (London: Printed for John Ward, at the King's Arms in Cornhill, [1760]). Inscribed: “Francis Pelot, 1761.”
Folder 15
Photocopy of A Confession of Faith, Put Forth by the Elders and Bretheren of Many Congregations of Christians (Baptized upon Profession of Their Faith) in London and the Country. (Charleston: Printed by David Bruce, [1774]). Inscribed “Presented to Mrs. Anne Hart, By her affectionate husband, Oliver Hart” (Original at SCL; call number: 286.173 B22c)
Series V: Sermons and Sermon Notes

Eight sermons and notes with dates preached, scriptural ciations, and points to be made.

Folder 16

8 MSS, 20 Oct. 1754-26 Sept. 1768

Administrative Notes

Access Restrictions

This material is open for research. Use of the manuscript volume of notes, (folder 5 below) is restricted due to fragile condition. Users will be furnished a microfilm copy (R1046) of the volume.
Use Restrictions
Permission to publish material from the Oliver Hart papers must be obtained from the Director of the South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, 910 Sumter Street Access, Columbia, SC 29208.
Processing Information
Refoldering, rearrangement, creation of this finding aid, and detailed description for electronic formats completed by Sam Fore (2003). Updated by Henry G. Fulmer (2004).
Columbia Departments Campus Libraries
Columbia Libraries and Collections