Affra Harleston of Dublin was one of the first Irish migrants to the Carolina Colony in 1670. She married John Coming who captained ships to the Carolina Colony. They built a plantation at the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper rivers called the Commingtee. In her will of 1698, Affra Harleston Coming made her nephew John Harleston of Dublin co-heir with her husband's nephew Elias Ball (1675-1757). Her niece Elizabeth Harleston, also of Dublin became the first wife of Elias Ball.
Less than a year after their arrival in the Carolina Colony, John Coming sailed the Carolina back to England and returned with six indentured servants, John Chambers, Rachel Franck, George Gantlett, Samuel Lucas, Michael Lovering and Philip O' Neill. John Coming was granted nine hundred acres for this group of servants. John Coming went on to captain many ships and did not retire until 1682.
In 1672, Affra Coming, while her husband was at sea, brought charges against three of her indentured servants including the Irishman, Philip O'Neill in particular for his 'gross abuses.' The court ordered that O'Neill receive twenty one lashes. In Feb. 1678 John and Affra Coming laid claim to further land at the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper, (previously named Etiwan), rivers. This became known as the Coming's T and later CommingTee. In the period 1678 to 1695, the Comings began to purchase enslaved people to clear their land and plant crops.
John Coming died 1 November 1695 and in his Will left Coming's T and all his 'chattles' to his wife Affra. In 1698, after the death of her husband Affra Harleston Coming endowed St. Philip's Church, Charleston with seventeen acres, the first Anglican Church in South Carolina. Affra Coming made her Will on 28 December 1698. Since the Comings were childless, she instructed that all her land and enslaved people be given to her nephew John Harleston of Dublin, Ireland and her husband's nephew Elias Ball, of Devon, England. Elias Ball and John Harleston came to Coming's T in c.1698 to claim their inheritance. In 1698, Elias Ball married Elizabeth Harleston of Dublin, the niece of Affra Harleston Coming and sister of John Harleston. In 1702, Elias Ball bought one hundred and fifty acres called Silk Hope, neighbouring his existing property and over the next two years bought a further seven hundred acres. In 1708, John Harleston, his co-legatee, moved out of Coming's T to Fish Pond and married Elizabeth Willis.
Copy of original Land Warrant (https://ancstry.me/2UZ5Ff7) (28 April 2019).
Copy of original Will of John Coming (https://ancstry.me/2GDlo9I) (28 April 2019).
Will of Affra Harleston Coming 1698 (https://ancstry.me/2W9o1Xe) (28 April 2019).
Anne Simons Deas, Recollections of the Ball Family of South Carolina and the Comingtee Plantation (Charleston, 1909),
St. Julien Childs, 'The First South Carolinians' in The South Carolina Historical Magazine, 71:2 (April 1970), pp 101-8.
Edward Ball, Slaves in the Family (2nd ed., New York, 2014).
Elias Ball added a further eight hundred acres to his property in 1716 and in 1719, twelve hundred acres. Elizabeth Harleston died in 1721 and Elias remarried in the same year. He then separated his holdings from those of John Harleston and began a ledger which was maintained for fifty eight years. In 1727, Elias Ball reported property of 4,328 acres and forty-three enslaved people. By 1750 the family of Elias Ball owned five plantations: Commingtee, Hyde Park, Kensington, St. James and Strawberry. In his will dated 1757, Elias Ball named his sons-in-law Henry Laurens, and Henry's business partner George Austin, and William Brown as executors of his will. Henry Laurens and George Austin were men of significant wealth. They were merchants and slave traders.
John Harleston, Affra Coming's nephew acted as attorney to the Hon. John Colleton and served as Justice of the Peace in 1734 and again in 1737. He also served as Trustee to the Childsburry School. In the will of John Harleston, son of John Harleston Senior, 1768, John Junior refers to his father's purchase of two lots of five hundred acres each purchased from Peter Manigault. Both Elias Ball and John Harleston continued to build on their inherited wealth.
This study identifies several features of Irish migration to the Carolina Colony. Chain migration was a factor even at this early stage of the Colony. Affra Harleston Coming, the pioneer, was followed by her niece Elizabeth and her nephew John. She had maintained correspondence with her sister-in-law Elizabeth and her sister, Ann Bulkeley in Dublin. In spite of being childless, she maintained her wealth within her family: her nephew John, by inheritance and her niece Elizabeth by her marriage to Elias Ball, John Coming's nephew and John Harleston's co-legatee. Affra Harleston Coming was however unusual in some aspects. She received land in her own right as a free settler. She appears to have run the plantation herself during her husband's long absence at sea until 1682 though she may well have had support from her neighbour Joseph Dalton, who travelled with her on the voyage to the Colony. She petitioned the Court in her own right to deal with her fellow Irishman and indentured servant, Philip O'Neill in 1672.
Will of Elias Ball 1757 (https://ancstry.me/2GSv8gz) (28 April 2019).
Will of John Harleston Junior 1768 (https://ancstry.me/2LaBbSR) (28 April 2019).
Theodore Jervey, 'The Harlestons' in The South Carolina Historical Magazine, 3:3 (Jul., 1902), p. 155.
The socio-economic impact of Affra Harleston's migration was substantial. As late as 1934, a letter to the editor of the State newspaper gave recognition to her gift of 1698 which supported the building of schools and educated 'the Pinckneys, Ralph Izzard and the Laurens ... and so were fitted to become the foremost citizens of a new country and to help win its independence and shape its constitution.' The letter went on to state that her gift had benefited hundreds and thousands of people over the three hundred years since her death. Her participation in the institution of slavery however, paved the way for a devastating impact on approximately 100,000 people living in the United States today who are descendants of the people enslaved by her Ball descendants. In this she was not alone. Clearing land and growing crops was labour intensive. The assumption of all the early colonists was that the only way to build their farms into plantations was by the use of enslaved people. Affra Harleston, her nephew John and niece Elizabeth integrated seamlessly into this mindset.
State, 10 Sept. 1934.
Edward Ball, Slaves in the Family (2nd ed., New York, 2014).
St. Julien Childs, 'The First South Carolinians' in The South Carolina Historical Magazine, 71:2 (April 1970), pp 102-4. With the exception of W. Sayles’ 'Negro servants' John Senior, Elizabeth and John Junior, no other enslaved people are named.
If you are researching families enslaved by the Ball family, Edward Ball's book Slaves in the family gives information from the records kept from 1721.
Martine Brennan (Curator)
Enslavement to citizenship: African Americans in Irish Slaveholder records by Martine Brennan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.