Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 6: No 2) >> Simms and the Ayer Family of Barnwell County >> Page 26

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Secondary Scholarship | 1998
Transcription Simms and the Ayer Family of Barnwell County

Betty Jane Miller


In 1847, Simms wrote a letter of introduction to James Henry Hammond
for "young Ayer," that is, Lewis Malone Ayer Jr. of "Runnymede" Plantation,
Barnwell District (Letters, H, p. 293). Ayer (1821-1895) had been a
distinguished student at the University of Virginia and studied law at Harvard,
where exists some of his unpublished material. When Simms wrote his letter,
Ayer was 26 years-old and had just spent a day and night with the author. Simms
described him to Hammond as a man "who believes that Mr. Calhoun is
immaculate" and that he backs Hammond as long as Hammond does not come in
conflict with Calhoun. Ayer is also said to be "ambitious of distinction" and
plans to run for the Legislature next session. Ayer desires to meet Hammond, and
Simms arranges it.
Ayer, as Simms notes, is his close Barnwell friend A. P. Aldrich's brother-
in-law. Ayer's sister was Aldrich's wife. Aldrich (1814-1897) was master of
"The Oaks" near the village of Barnwell and located within 25 miles of
"Woodlands." Both Ayer Sr. and Jr. were States Rights men. Ayer Sr., of
"Patmos" and "Harmony" plantations, was born in 1769 and came to the
Buford's Bridge area of Barnwell in 1791. He served as South Carolina State
Representative five terms from 1806 to 1816 and in the State Senate from 1818 to
1822. He was a delegate to the Nullification Convention of 1832 and owned 141
slaves before his death in 1863. He was thrice married and was Commissioner of
Free Schools in the District. (See Chalmers G. Davidson, The Last Foray, USC
Press, 1971, p. 174.) His son, Lewis Ayer Jr., was one of Barnwell's five signers
of the Ordinance of Secession in 1860. In 1861, Lewis Jr. went on to defeat
Simms's close friend and neighbour David F. Jamison (of " Burwood" plantation)
for a seat in the Confederate House of Representatives for the S. C. Third District
In 1863, he beat Robert Barnwell Rhett out of his old seat. Before the war, the
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