The Pendarvis Family
For a white plantation owner to take a female slave as a mistress was hardly unique in eighteenth century America. So, few people would have been so shocked to see the wealthy Joseph Pendarvis become involved with a lady of colour. However, Parthena was more than just a slave lover for Joseph. The pair were so close that they had seven children together. And so, when Joseph died, he remembered all of them in his last will and testament. The children, along with their mother, not only inherited a large expanse of arable land, they also took on dozens of slaves. Indeed, in 1830s Carolina, few families owned more slaves than the Pendarvis clan.
In fact, James Pendarvis, the eldest son of Joseph, inherited 1,009 acres of land close to Green Savanna. He was also bequeathed a plantation in nearby Charleston Creek. Moreover, according to the record books of the time, James inherited 113 slaves to work this land, making him the largest non-while slave holder in all of South Carolina. James carried on growing his business interests and so, by the time of his death in 1798, the Pendarvis family owned 155 slaves, the majority of them picking cotton or rice.
James himself left his property as well as his slaves to the next generation. Well into the nineteenth century, then, his heirs were among the most prominent individuals in all of not just their native Collerton County (modern-day Charleston) but of all of South Carolina. Notably, however, the Pendarvis family were not the only people of color to use slave labor to work the rice fields of South Carolina. The history books noted that the Holman and Collins families, both descended from a female slave brought to America from Sierra Leone, both traded in and made use of slaves during the second half of the 18th century.