The Montgomery (Mont Gomer) family of Normandy joined William in his invasion of England in 1066. For their bravery and loyalty, they were awarded land in the Scottish Lowlands where they became staunch Presbyterians. Later, the King of England sent them across the Irish Sea to quell the barbaric Irish tribes, and again the brave Montgomerys were rewarded with land, this time in Northern Ireland.
Sir Hugh Montgomery owned Grey Abbey in Ulster by 1603. Because of a potato famine and promise of land in America, several Montgomery families joined the Scots–Irish migration from Belfast to Charleston in 1770. Nathaniel’s wife, Jeleba, died at sea, but his three sons (Samuel, John, William) and a daughter (Catherine) made it to The Holy City. Nat found a home for his children and returned Ulster to settle his estate. Poor Old Nat was never heard from again.
The Montgomery boys left Charleston and sailed up the Black River to claim their land grants. Samuel stopped at Cedar Lane on the 1742 land grant from King George II (now on the Black River at the Williamsburg–Clarenton County line). William went into Marion County, and John continued on to Spartanburg. It is from Samuel that my genes flow. Our ancient family cemetery remains at Cedar Lane though the property left the family in the last generation.
One of Samuel’s sons, Hugh, moved north of Kingstree. Serendipitously, while researching the history of Forest Acres and one of its founders, John Hughes Cooper, I was led to the old Cooper homestead in Williamsburg County by the present owner, Nick Davis of Georgetown, where, lo and behold, I discovered Hugh Montgomery’s grave. The family history states that Hugh (1738–1793) and his brothers—James, Robert, and Norman—furnished supplies to Francis Marion’s Brigade during the Revolution.
Fast forward to John Alexander Montgomery who moved from Cedar Lane to Greeleyville around 1900, married Kate Eaves, avoided World War I, and survived the Great Depression by delivering U.S. Mail. Both of their sons, John A. and Miller, moved to Columbia and became journalists ( State-Record and
The Star Reporter ). Miller and his wife, Mary, begat me and my sister, Mimi.
I have always considered Cedar Lane and the Black River as sacred places. The Black River flows from the Pocotaligo Swamp near Manning and joins the Pee Dee and the Waccamaw Rivers to form Winyah Bay at Georgetown, a paddling distance of 75 miles. It became a S.C. State Scenic River in 2001. In the days of Samuel Montgomery, it was easily navigable to Kingstree. Nowadays one can kayak from Pocotaligo to the sea.
In 1974 I kayaked from Cedar Lane to Andrews, a two–day trip complete with hammocks, mosquitoes, and fishing to survive. Two weeks ago, I motored with John Jackson from Brown’s Landing to Debordieu (Debby Do) Island, a six–hour trip with wives and friends waiting with beer, shrimp, and hushpuppies. Both of these trips were emotional pilgrimages for a man whose American history began in the Black River swamps.
Brown’s Ferry to Debordieu
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