Thursday, August 06, 2009

Thoughts on Malcom's Mystery by Henry Singer

Henry Singer is a great-great-great-great grandson of Samuel and Mary Reed. Born in Savannah, GA, he grew up in Washington State. He and his wife Marlene taught elementary school for 30+ years and are currently enjoying retirement in Tucson, AZ.

His lineage:
Samuel Reed & Mary Clark; Hugh Reed & Jane McSpeddon; James W. Reed & Anne Tyler; James A. Reed & Gertrude Easterling; Marcus Reed & Annie Garrick; Miriam Reed & Henry Singer; Henry Singer, Jr.

Henry has done a superb job of sorting through the information we have available on Samuel, Mary, and Malcom and has submitted the following observations. Thank you, Henry, for relating your thoughts to us. This is exactly the kind of sharing I dreamed of when I started this blog.
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Thoughts on Malcom's Mystery
by Henry Singer

Having read the two versions of the Reed/Clark immigration by D. Graham Copeland and Raymond Boylston, I would like to add some of my thoughts and observations. These are just opinions and certainly subject to challenge and additional research. To begin with, I have tried to note similarities and differences in the stories and see how they match up with actual facts that we have.

I believe that most family stories have a lot of truth to them. However, as oral traditions they are subject to forgotten and/or embellished details. Both of these stories seem to be sincere attempts to relate the story of the Reed/Clark family origins in America. Yet, there are significant differences surrounding a similar theme.

We know that Malcom Clark was in South Carolina prior to April 8, 1771 where there is evidence of his first recorded land survey. The surveys mentioned run until 1774, and thereafter Malcom Clark is further noted as a Justice of the Quorum in 1775 and a Justice of the Peace in 1776. He also has a survey done for his own property in 1774. Thus, it would seem reasonable to me to state that Malcom Clark was fairly well established in South Carolina by the mid 1770s.

Looking at the Copeland and Boylston documents, we see that Copeland says Malcom Clark married in Ireland about 1750. Boylston, on the other hand, has Malcom Clark arriving in South Carolina in 1750. I tend to support the Copeland document in this area for several reasons. One is evidence of two people named Clark arriving in South Carolina on the Betty Gregg in 1768. While we cannot say for certain that this was Malcom and Hugh Clark, it does seem to fit our known timeline a little better. Malcom was clearly well educated for his time and worked as a surveyor for the English. It seems unlikely to me that he would arrive in 1750 yet have no recorded surveys for 21 years. Secondly, having an adult son, Hugh, along would seem to fit with a marriage in 1750. Hugh would have been about 20 years of age, old enough to both leave home and help with surveying in a new land. The Clarks on the Betty Gregg could have been Malcom and his wife, yet Boylston has the wife arriving in the early to mid 1780s in his account. In addition, a thirty year separation seems unlikely to me.

In another area, it does seem safe to assume that Malcom Clark died while going to meet his daughter Mary upon her arrival from Ireland. Whether Malcom died in a shipwreck or while rowing out to meet the ship carrying his daughter may never be known. My personal bias is that the Boylston story of Malcom dying in sight of his family just seems a little too romanticized. But, stranger things have happened and love is a powerful motivator. Shipwrecks, on the other hand, can be shown to have been very common. A real question, however, is who besides the daughter Mary was on the ship? Boylston suggests that Malcom Clark was going to meet his wife, his daughter Mary, and his son Hugh. Copeland suggests that Malcom was meeting his daughter Mary, her husband Samuel Reed and their family. Without a ship's record, it is hard to say for sure which is correct. What we do know is that Hugh Reed (Mary and Samuel Reed's son) says that he was born in Ireland according to the 1850 census. Combine this with a given birth date of 1783 from his tombstone and it would seem to give a little more weight to the Copeland version. It would also seem to place the range of this voyage between 1783-1786. If the notice of Malcom Clark's will in 1786 is accurate, and it took a year for the family to travel through South Carolina, then the voyage might be more closely pinpointed to 1784-1785.

Moving on, it also seems reasonable to me that Hugh Clark died at the hands of Tories/Indians. Both the Copeland and Boylston accounts suggest this. In addition, according to the "Memoirs of Tarleton Brown" by Tarleton Brown (1862) this type of acitivity was very prevalent near the end of the Revolutionary War period 1781-1785, and may have continued for sometime after. It might be worth noting that the United States of America did not actually become the nation that we know today until 1787. Tarleton Brown's stories of the discontent prevalent in South Carolina also seems to fit with Copeland's narrative which states that it took almost a year for Mary and Samuel Reed to reach the Clark land claim due to unrest and turmoil in the colony. One BIG question that I have is this. If Hugh Clark died in the early to mid 1780s at the hands of Tories, why is he listed as the owner of Malcom Clark's property in the 1792 notice of auction? Perhaps a simple answer, but I don't currently have it.

To solve some of these discrepancies will probably require the unearthing of more ship records, land records, marriage records, family lore, etc. I hope my thoughts spur additional questions, ideas, and research. Eventually, I would like to try researching Irish records if they still exist. Malcom Clark's written surveys seem to indicate a well educated man. His competent use of written English would seem to suggest that he was educated in England or what we now know as Northern Ireland. He was also hired by the Crown as a surveyor. I guess I am questioning whether Malcom is of Irish lineage or was simply an Englishman residing in the Irish colony. Clark is also generally regarded as an AngloSaxon, not Irish name. Just thought I would add more confusion to the existing "Malcom Mystery".

Happy researching,


  1. Henry, I have wondered if the ad for the sale of Hugh's land where it says "late the property of Malcolm Clark, and now of Hugh Clark his son" could be interpreted as "late the property of Malcolm Clark, and now [late the property] of Hugh Clark his son." In other words, Hugh had died by the time this land was sold. When he actually died is still anyone's guess.

  2. Marilyn, I think you make an excellent point. We know that both Boylston and Copeland seem to suggest that Hugh Clark died at the hands of Tories, probably in the mid to late 1780s. In addition, I haven't seen any record of Hugh Clark in the 1790 Orangeburgh census. I think the notice could well be interpreted as you have suggested.