Benjamin Simons I ( 1672-1717 ) was born
in 1672 in the region of LaRochelle and the
Ile de Re on the Bay of Biscay. Orphaned early, he was adopted by his aunt Martha
DuPre, the wife of Josias DuPre, a Huguenot minister. When Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, the DuPre family was among the Huguenots who fled from France.
Benjamin went with his foster parents to the Netherlands - to Middleburg -, the capital of
the Province of Zeeland, Walcheron Island, at the mouth of the River Schelde. From here
the family proceeded to England and soon crossed the Atlantic to Carolina; and, although there is no evidence that they came in the Royal Navy Frigate, Richmond, which made
several trips, it is known that by 1686 they were in Carolina, living in the Orange Quarter
on the south bank of the East Branch of the Cooper River.
When he was twenty years old, he married his first cousin Mary Esther DuPre, the
daughter of his foster parents. ( Josias DuPre, Jr., the brother of Mary Esther, married
Sarah Garnier in 1701 and had five children. However, "the two sons of M. DuPre,
unaccustomed to the privations and labors incident to emigrant life soon became tired of it
and returned to La Belle France.") Their first three children were baptized "in the house
of Maptica." As there is no record of a house or plantation of that name, it is believed that this may have been an Indian name applied to the place afterwards called "Middleburg,"
or possibly to the house of the Rev. Josias DuPre nearby. Their fourth child was baptized
in the house near Pompion Hill which Benjamin Simons built and called "Middleburg" in
remembrance of his first place of refuge (see Appendix 2 ).
Benjamin Simons was highly thought of, as these directions to Gov. Ludwell from the
Lords Proprietors show:
We do wish that you would pick out from
amongst the moderate part of the
people honest men industrious of parts and affectionate to us and raise them
to office by degrees that they may in time be qualified to be of the first rank.
We heare well of one Capt. Simons who hath paid the rent due and bought his
land that he may be troubled no more. This man we desire that you will make
a Justice of the Peace. If you have no sufficient reason to the contrary and he
may in time be also an assistant in the County Court for we heare he lives well
with his neighbors and deals fairly with all men and we would have all such men
encouraged and brought up by degrees to be fit for the highest imployment's . . .
He was an extensive landowner at an early
age, for we find 100 acres in Berkeley
County allocated to him as of 15 July 1697, 350 acres as of 5 May 1704, and 1000 acres
granted by the Lords Proprietors 7 May 1709. (This grant is still in the possession of a
member of the family) (see Appendix 1 ). Considering the difficulty of traveling the then
great distance to the county court house to apply for the deeds of allotment, and the length
of time required for the formalities of the large grant to cross and recross the Atlantic,
there is no doubt but that these lands were occupied for some time before the dates of
record. Middleburg Plantation, adjacent to Pompion Hill Chapel of the Parish of St.
Thomas and St. Denis (see Appendix 4 ) on the eastern branch of the Cooper River,
comprised 2,599 acres at the death of Benjamin Simons III in 1789. Benjamin Simons I
and his wife are thought to be buried under the present Pompion Hill Chapel.