About the Quash Stevens Letters

South Carolina SC African-Americans Who Was Quash Stevens?

Who Was Quash Stevens?

Records are inconsistent, but Quash Stevens was born a slave in either May 1840 or 1843. In all probability, his father was also his owner, Elias Vanderhorst. The Vanderhorsts owned Kiawah Island, in Charleston County, and as well as Vanderhorst Plantation in nearby Colleton County..

Towards the end of the Civil War, in August 1864, Elias' wife Ann made a deed out to her son, Arnoldus Vanderhorst IV, to "give and deliver unto him my slave, a Mulatto Man, named Quash." Piecing together the fragments of history, Quash was apparently Arnoldus' half-brother.

The Vanderhorst family was broken by the Civil War. They lost virtually all of their possessions and Kiawah was occupied by black freedmen. Elias wrote that, "Nothing was saved in the country, not even my old shoes," and remarked in the same letter, "I hope that Quash remains faithful."

Because of Elias' failing health, the day-to-day operation of Kiawah fell to his son Arnoldus. Quash did, in fact, remain "faithful," although his reasons for doing so are obscure. In 1865 he wrote from Georgetown asking if he should live at Round-O or Kiawah, noting that he could "do well" on either plantation raising cattle. By November 1866 he was on Kiawah, reporting that his potatoes were doing well, but that it was hard to find laborers.

Because Arnoldus was generally absent from Kiawah, Quash sent him written reports. Seventeen of these letters exist today, with all but two addressed to Arnoldus' wife, Adele. The letters cover a period of 30 years, from 1865 through 1895.

Quash became a prominent figure on South Carolina's sea islands, rising from the ranks of a mulatto slave to become both educated (as evidenced by the changing spelling and grammar of his letters) and knowledgeable. By 1880, at the age of about 40, census records reveal that he had four children, Eliza (16 years old), William (12 years old), Annie (9 years old), and Laura (7 years old). Although his wife is not listed in the census, Quash speaks of her in his letters. Arnoldus died in 1881, and twenty years later, in 1901, Quash and his son William purchased property of their own • Seven Oaks on neighboring Johns Island.

Quash Stevens: Credits and Copyright

The articles herein were created in 1994 by The Chicora Foundation, Inc and edited by SCIWAY. All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations used in reviews, no part of this specific publication may be reproduced or transcribed in any form without written permission from both SCIWAY and the Chicora Foundation.

All of the letters reproduced in this publication are found as part of the Vanderhorst collection at the South Carolina Historical Society in Charleston, South Carolina and are cataloged as 12/213/15. We express our appreciation to them for allowing use of these materials.

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