Five Brothers

Moultrie Creek today

Moultrie Creek today

I live on Moultrie Creek just south of St. Augustine, Florida. There is also a town called Moultrie in Georgia, a county in Illinois and Fort Moultrie in South Carolina. These three Moultrie locations are named for one man, William Moultrie, who was a South Carolina patriot and a hero of the American Revolution. My creek is named for his brother, John, a loyalist and the Lieutenant Governor of the British colony of East Florida.

John and his brother, James, came to Florida not long after the British took control of the territory from Spain in 1763. John became the Lieutenant Governor and James became Chief Justice. James died in 1765. John took advantage of the opportunities Florida offered and developed several plantations along the east coast including one at the mouth of Woodcutter’s Creek about five miles south of St. Augustine. He built a large stone house there, calling it Bella Vista.

Back in South Carolina, brother William fought in the Anglo-Cherokee war and later served in the colony’s colonial assembly. He was commissioned as a colonel in the 2nd South Carolina Regiment and in 1776 would organize the defense of a small fort on Sullivan’s Island which stopped the British attempt to capture Charleston. This was the first real victory for the Patriots’ cause and made William an American hero. The Continental Congress made him a brigadier general. In 1778, he would be instrumental in preventing the British capture of Savannah.

Brother Thomas also served in the 2nd South Carolina Regiment holding the rank of captain. He was killed during the battle to save Charleston.

One last brother, Andrew, served as a colonel during the war. When the British captured Charleston in 1780, Andrew was arrested and shipped to St. Augustine with about twenty other Charleston patriots. On their arrival, Governor Grant offered them parole as long as they stayed in the local area. Andrew would stay with his brother, John.

After the war, William would later become the 35th governor of the state of South Carolina. That small fort on Sullivan’s Island was named Fort Moultrie in his honor. Andrew became South Carolina’s first Attorney General. As a result of Britain’s defeat by the Americans, the Florida territory was returned to Spanish control, forcing John to leave the colonies. He spent the rest of his life in Shropshire, England. Although his house at Bella Vista no longer exists, Woodcutter’s Creek is now known as Moultrie Creek.

Bella Vista

Bella Vista

Not long after we moved here, our dog proudly brought us a lead miniball she had discovered in the backyard – near where this photo was taken. That miniball conjured up all kinds of possibilities – from pirates to Indians to enemy attacks. In actuality, the most likely story is a simple hunting party.

Moultrie Creek runs west from the Matanzas River [now a part of the Intracoastal Waterway] approximately five miles south of St. Augustine. It was called Woodcutters Creek until James Grant, the first British Governor of Florida, granted 500 acres of land to John Moultrie in 1770. John Moultrie called his property Bella Vista and the point where the creek meets the river is still a beautiful view. John Moultrie built a lovely house and had hundreds of acres planted, but was only able to enjoy his plantation for a short period for in 1783 Florida again returned to Spanish control. He moved his family to Britain, abandoning the property which was later destroyed by Indians.

John Moultrie had three brothers, William, James and Thomas, along with a half-brother, Alexander. James became the Chief Justice of Florida during British rule, but the other three were Patriots in South Carolina. Thomas was killed in the battle of Charleston. William served in the 2nd South Carolina Regiment and was instrumental in preventing the British from capturing Charleston in 1776. After the war he was promoted to brigadier general and served two terms as governor of the state of South Carolina. Alexander served as the first Attorney General of South Carolina. He was captured by British forces and sent to St. Augustine with dozens of other South Carolina prisoners. The Florida governor offered them parole on their word that they would not try to escape back to the rebel colonies so Alexander stayed with his family at Bella Vista until the end of the war.

It’s not unusual to find historical artifacts in this area. After almost 500 years of explorers, settlers, warriors and travelers, there’s lots of history left behind – just waiting to be discovered..

Sources:

  • Jean Parker Waterbury, et al., The Oldest City: St. Augustine Saga of Survival, St. Augustine Historical Society, 1983.
  • Wikipedia (2007), “William Moultrie”, http://en.wikipedia.org.
  • National Governors Association, “South Carolina Governor William Moultrie”, http://www.nga.org.