As I trolled for hints on, I found this line about my 9 x g grandfather, Jonas Lynch (1650-1691):

“Imigrated [sic] Developed Rice Cultivation, Ireland.”

I had unlikely visions of some mad experimenting ancestor, with seeds and homemade sunlight deflectors, obsessing about rice 300+ years ago in the Emerald Isle.

“I’m about to Google rice cultivation in Ireland,” I told my husband, who is used to hearing the crazy twists of genealogical research.

He looked up at me.  “If you do that,” he predicted, “they’ll reply, How stupid do you think we are here at Google?”

Well, I did find a cute website that patiently explained to me: Rice is not a potato, and rice is not grown in Ireland.

Never mind. When Jonas Lynch arrived in South Carolina from Ireland in the 1670s, he and others did plan to cultivate rice there.

I wish I could make visible onscreen, at a glance, the long family tree branch leading from me back to Jonas Lynch. Andy Kubrin in his thoughtful blog (check it out) discusses presenting a readable family tree onscreen, in some detail. I like that idea. Diagrams of others’ family trees would help me to read their blogs.

So why did Jonas leave Ireland? He and other Galway Lynches were expelled from Ireland because they had been defeated in the Irish wars between Jacobites and Williamites. Jacobites supported Catholic James II of England and Williamites supported Protestant William of Orange. The wars of that decade—involving the Dutch, French, English, Scots, and Irish—are complex enough to baffle anyone. Eventually, though, William III took the English throne in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. He and his wife Mary II ruled as joint monarchs.

Jonas Lynch

Charles Towne Landing from

Jonas Lynch arrived on the South Carolina coast near Charles Towne “before Apr 30, 1677.” He is listed as a Gentleman, Esquire, and a Justice of the Peace. The record appears to quote his statement about his destination: “of Wattesaw als the blessing.” (1) These words made no sense to me until I found this entry in a local history:

  • BLESSING, THE – This former RICE plantation on the east shore of the Cooper River’s EAST BRANCH was first granted to colonist Jonah LYNCH in 1682, at a“place called Wattesaw also the Blessing.” WATTESAW was the Native American word for the area, meaning unknown. . . . It is presumed that the name “Blessing” came from the ship of the same name that brought Jonah Lynch to the colonies in 1671. (2)

When Jonah arrived, “The Blessing” meant simply the property he had been granted, 780 acres. Today there is a plantation house there on the Cooper River, called The Blessing:

Jonah Lynch, Thomas Lynch, Fraser

Blessing Plantation House. South Carolina Department of Archives and History

A blessing for some was a curse for others. The land of opportunity for a few white families in South Carolina became the land of enslavement for multitudes from Africa.

Those European settlers were serious about their rice cultivation plans. There was even an experimenter with seeds, though it wasn’t my ancestor:

  • The first recorded effort at rice cultivation was conducted by Dr. Henry Woodward. . . . in 1685. Dr. Woodward obtained the rice seed from Captain John Thurber, who had sailed his ship to Charleston from the island of Madagascar. . . . [website]

Yet the white planters of Charles Towne, Jonas Lynch among them, realized how little they knew about growing rice. They needed African slaves to teach them, and it took them years—past Jonas’s lifetime—to get rice cultivation up to speed.

  • The planters’] early experiments . . . were mostly failures. They soon recognized the advantage of importing slaves from the traditional rice-growing region of West Africa. . . . [They] were willing to pay higher prices for slaves from the “Rice Coast,” the “Windward Coast,” the “Gambia” and “Sierra-Leon”; and slave traders in Africa soon learned that South Carolina was an especially profitable market for slaves from those areas. . . . [They] ultimately adopted a system of rice cultivation that drew heavily on the labor patterns and technical knowledge of their African slaves. (3)

Under the duress of chattel slavery, these slaves contributed the knowledge and labor that made Carolina rich. Barbados had already demonstrated to the world, since the 1640s, that slave labor enforced by violence could bring great wealth.

Jonas Lynch, Thomas Lynch

Rice Cultivation in the South.

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.  – Abraham Lincoln 

Coverage of President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address, a few days ago, has often included this passage from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, addressed to the crowd in 1963:

  • [M]any of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

The “destiny” part of this statement has been ironically true since the 1600s, when chattel slaves in South Carolina began teaching white planters how to grow rice. But what about the reciprocal and interwoven “freedom” between races? As a country, we’re still trying to figure that one out.

Next week:  Jonah’s son, Thomas Lynch. Rice plantations flourish, and slaves increase in number.


(1) Agnes Leland Baldwin, First Settlers of South Carolina, 1670-1680. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1969.

(2) Suzannah Smith Miles, East Cooper Gazetteer: History of Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island, and Isle of Palms. History Press: May 2005. 26-27.

(3) Joseph A. Opala, The Gullah: Rice, Slavery, and the Sierra Leone-American Connection.