Maude McBride: Heritage II

Samuel’s Two Marriages

While working for the Widow James, the family oral history tells us that Samuel McBride, Maude McBride's grandfather, would dress-up on Saturday nights and go out on private business. When the Widow James inquired where he went every weekend, he told her he was looking for a wife and a home of his own. The Widow responded, “Why don’t you look closer to home, Samuel?” It is said that he closed the door, hung his hat on a peg, and shortly thereafter married the widow Sarah James.

Samuel was a farmer of unusual ability, and he soon became a man of note and prominence. His plantation, known as Egypt farms, was considered a model show place of the community. Samuel continued to add to Sarah’s plantation by buying out five contiguous land grants, totaling 4,540 acres, from Robert Tomlinson. After Tomlinson’s death, he followed his heirs, John and Samuel Tomlin, to Tennessee, where he finalized the purchase of the remainder of Tomlinson’s land, until he owned in excess of 7,500 acres. 

When Sarah died in 1838, bearing no children, he added the land he inherited from her. He farmed approximately 1,000 acres of land, which was irrigated with an elaborate ditching system that drained into Mill Branch east of his home. Across from this, he built a large grist mill at one end and farmed 100 acres of rice at the other. Another dam was built west of the lake and in back of his house. The first house is thought to have been a log house near the swamp. This was replaced by a framed house that was later moved behind Rip Raps, the home currently standing, and was used for storage. That had been the home of Sarah James. It collapsed during Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

On June 1 , 1839, Samuel married his second wife, Martha Ruberry of Charleston, who was twenty years his junior. Her grandfather, John Ruberry, was a tailor. Her father, John Ruberry, Jr., died in 1817 of yellow fever and is buried at 138 Meeting Street in Charleston. Samuel and Martha had one son, born January 18,18 41, whom they named James Samuel McBride, after his father and his uncle, Dr. James McBride.

In later years, Martha Ruberry McBride writes a wonderful letter to her granddaughter, Maude McBride Dabbs, describing her marriage to Samuel McBride and her life at the Crossroads raising young James, Maude’s father:

“Your father’s life had been chills and fever. So was mine from first going to Salem tho I never said so. Dr. W said I must go to Sullivan’s Island and let James take salt and sand bath. This was an unheard of great trial. I left home and went. Was the lst lady to go in the bath before hundreds of people in broad day light. Soon a company followed. My child’s life was at stake and I would do anything. I went at night sometimes.”

Young James was a sickly child and, instead of being sent off to school, James was carefully tutored at home. Several mornings a week, he rode over to the next plantation where Mr. George Cooper taught him Greek, Latin, and Mathematics. His father engaged a skilled carpenter to teach James and imported a complete set of English tools for his use.

Insight into the daily routines of the McBride house can continue to be found in this letter from Martha Ruberry McBride to her granddaughter dated 1879:

"My Dear Maude, I am now 74 and will not be able to give dates. I forget so much now. 

“About the 64th year I lost my mother. I next remember
being draped in deep mourning and how sad all seemed to me as Sister Harriett and your great grandmother and father composed the family. Two servants composed our family Mary and Lilly. The year I remember not but war came and father had to leave us with those colored folks. [Editor’s Note: This would have been the war of 1812 .] He had taught us to have great respect for them but I held out they should not cut bread for me with their black hands. The nurse made every day for a time to come in and cut the bread until I was glad enough to eat it. This lesson of obedience has helped me through a long life.

“He was a noble good man the war I pass over. The horrors of it you heard elsewhere. God took great care of us all nicely but Lily was jet black and my trouble was great. One day father took me on his lap and told me he had a secret to tell me. He was to get a white lady to take charge of us. This to me was grand but when I learned it was what they called a step mother how I wept. Poor foolish child little did I know the true happiness it would bring us all. She was Miss Mary Vardell, a most lovely woman took us like her own and loved us with a mother’s love.”

[Editor’s Note: for historical purposes this is a bit confusing. There are two different Mary Vardells in the family. This reference is to the third wife of Martha Ruberry’s father. Later on you will also see a reference to the wife of Guy Lewis Warren, named Mary Vardell. Interestingly enough, the two women are related. Just to muddy the waters further, Mary Vardell Ruberry was the third wife of John Ruberry, Jr. Mary Vardell Warren was the granddaughter of the
first wife of John Ruberry, Jr. When you read later on that James McBride married a “distant” cousin, Sophoronia Warren, this is where the connection is. The family tree constructed by Dorothy Dabbs helps to show the connection better.]

[Martha Ruberry McBride continues to write to her granddaughter describing her marriage to Samuel McBride.] 

“I am truly blessed in this union. Though 20 years older than me he was the perfect gentleman. A model man. Everything went on like clockwork. No overseer ever came to know what to do where the family were. There was a room for this. No servant came for this and that, they had to think and get things at one time. When the cook rang her bell the house servants went in the yard to a long pole with a towel and tubs of water they were in. Needing [Ed. nothing ?] for the table. We always had the table laid for company. If we did not they came. Our breakfast was at dawn of day. When worship bell rang, servants took their seat on a bench and sang with us at worship. House servants I mean. They raised the tune by my giving a name. They were trained in all things when I went there. But long continued sickness made great changes.

“Tho your father [Ed. reference to James McBride] was learned always to put play things up at night. When he was married his playthings were found in a box. This is to let you know he was trained to have everything in its place. It came through his dear Father not me. If you have not acquired it strive hard to obtain it by persistence until you acquire it.

“A common dictionary was kept in the entry. If a big word was used (asking for explanation) the overseer got up and found it, took pencil and wrote it down. This one did not know until a day or two after he would use the word in the wrong place. I oft had to run to the book myself to see if he was correct. My parents dying while I was young and my education was not attended to.

“After a long time of sickness, a truly[sic] happy life, my husband died.”

During his lifetime, Samuel McBride’s involvement with Salem Black River Church was significant, as it has been with all of the McBrides and Dabbses living in the community. Numerous letters make reference to church business. The original frame building was replaced with a brick building in 1802 , and henceforth was referred to by many as “Brick Church.” But this building had significant problems, and after numerous attempts to repair it, a committee that included Samuel McBride was established to make arrangements for a new structure to be built. On December 16, 1846, the committee reported that the work on the new church was completed and the congregation was presented with a bill for $5,845, which included $225 for the Session House. We are told that a quart of whiskey and a bullfrog were left in the north column “by accident” when it was cemented into place. 

Samuel McBride died on January 24, 1850, leaving his wife and nine-year-old son a beautiful home, well staffed with servants, furnished with handsome furniture, and an excellent library. His library of books was donated through his son, James, to Brick Church, where it was housed in the Session House until they were eventually moved to Frances Marion College in Florence on loan. Samuel suffered through a long illness and sent a sad letter of farewell to the members of Salem Black River Church prior to his death. This letter can be found in the church minutes.

His wife would live for another 42 years. following his death, Martha Ruberry McBride married Matthew P. Mayes, who also preceded her in death. She writes fondly of MP Mayes and her acceptance into that family in Mayesville. Martha Ruberry McBride Mayes died on July 4, 1892 , and is buried at Brick Church next to her first husband, Samuel McBride. Evidently there was no room next to Matthew P. Mayes, since he had been married twice before and had already made plans to be buried between the first two wives.