One and one-quarter linear feet, 1791-1970 and undated, papers of the Murphy and O’Bryan families of Colleton District, S.C., chiefly regarding the family of Lewis O’Bryan (1808-1860) and his wife Eliza Inabinet (1815-1882) The earliest papers relate to Lewis’ father, Lewis O’Bryan, Sr. (1770-1849) and contain early land grants, deeds, plats, and mortgages. These include a 1791 land grant signed by William Moultrie and an 1809 deed with plat of Doctors Creek Methodist Meeting House. An undated town plan of Walterboro, S.C., shows O’Bryan’s land in relationship to the courthouse square. A letter urges Lewis O’Bryan to sell off lots through General Oswald and to create a crossroads with jail on one corner and courthouse on another (1 February 1824).
Lewis O’Bryan, Jr., rice planter at Round O, was Commissioner of Locations, 1834-1841, and his name appears on many plats among the papers. O’Bryan’s tenure as Treasurer of Colleton Rail Road Company began with an undated resolution authorizing him to get books and funds from the company president. He served the Parish of St. Bartholomew in many public offices and as State Representative, 1852-1856, and State Senator, 1858-1860. While in the Senate, Lewis A. O’Bryan asked his uncle to procure for him an appointment as census taker, 7 March 1859.
O’Bryan was a member of the Southern Rights Convention of 1852. Afterwards A.P. Aldrich writes to O’Bryan –“The more I think about the Secession movement the more astonished I am, that some men, who are all current men of ability, still seem to hold on to the exploded and imbecile attempt which they dignify with the name of remedy. The good hard sense of the people immediately condemned it, and even if the fire would be got up to the level of a French Revolution, they would not adopt it....If nobody will fight us, we would be in the most miserable & degraded position that a people would occupy. But the thing is a failure” (7 February 1853). Lewis O’Bryan died in August 1860, before the people changed their minds and voted for secession. Most of the papers during the war period involved the settlement of his estate and his aunt’s, with A. Franklin O’Bryan as executor of both.
Lewis, Jr., had eight children, but only three figure prominently in the papers: Andrew Franklin O’Bryan (1836-1908), who attended Mount Zion Collegiate Institute in Winnsboro (Fairfield County, S.C.) in 1856, became a doctor, and later moved to Texas; Laurens Burton O’Bryan (1858-1887), who later lived in Allendale, S.C.; and Eliza Lewis O’Bryan (d. 1914), who married William Perry Murphy in 1882. Undated genealogical notes provide further information about the family.
Margaret O’Bryan, sister of Lewis, Sr., married Lewis M. Jones in 1853. A prenuptial settlement signed by Margaret and Jones lists African-American slaves she brought to the marriage. By 1855 Margaret had filed suit against Jones, and an 1858 sale of slaves in trust indicates she was separated from him, possibly divorced. After Margaret’s death, Jones corresponded with Lewis, Jr., and A. Franklin O’Bryan in an attempt to gain property he felt was due him.
During the 1870s and 1880s it is chiefly family correspondence regarding grave stones and legal and financial matters with some family news mixed in. Most of the letters are from Laurens Burton O’Bryan (1858-1887) of Allendale. He relates on 27 June 1887 that the Allendale Base Ball club played the Varnville club at Dr. Stoney’s. By the 1890s A. Franklin O’Bryan is in Texas and corresponding with his son Franklin Marshall O. in Atlanta. Laurie’s son, Charlie B. O’Bryan, is in Texas also. Charlie and Franklin write to Eliza O’Bryan Murphy (Aunt Leila) about the settlement of Lewis and wife Eliza’s estate and disbursement to grandchildren.
Eliza O’Bryan Murphy’s son, William Perry Murphy, became a land surveyor. He worked in New York and West Virginia in the 1920s. He later moved to Walterboro and continued as a land surveyor. The papers contain surveyor’s notes for forty-three properties and projects in Colleton County and surrounding areas, including an undated boundary lines for Walterboro. Also present are the 1961 survey and plans for Thomas Legare Hiers’ house near Walterboro and a set of standard plans for Two Bedroom House Frame Construction from Clemson Extension/USDA #7187, 1970, with accompanying promotional literature.
The papers contain a photograph of Charles and Louise O’Bryan, grandchildren of Lewis’ brother Charles Brown O’Bryan, and copy of photograph of Lewis O’Bryan taken about 1850.