Elizabeth Lucas Pinckney

Elizabeth Lucas Pinckney

(c. 1722-1793)

Elizabeth Lucas was born in the Caribbean, on the island of Antigua, in the British West Indies. The daughter of a British official and army officer, Elizabeth was educated in England, before her father moved his family to the South Carolina Colony in 1738. They settled on the Wappoo River, near the capital of Charles Town.

Lieutenant Colonel Lucas went to England in 1739, leaving his young daughter in charge of her ailing mother as well as the main plantation at Wappoo and two other family properties. Eliza, as she was usually called, responded swiftly to the new responsibilities; she became known as one of the most efficient and charming plantation mistresses in the colony.

Eliza Lucas began to experiment with indigo seeds in 1741. Up to this time, rice had been the principal crop for the South Carolina Colony. Eliza had only moderate success at first. However, with the assistance of an experienced planter her father sent from the Caribbean, by 1744, Lucas had successfully ripened indigo seeds.

She sent her firstindigo shipment—six pounds—to England in 1747. By 1774, the year prior to the American Revolution, the export had risen to an amazing 1,107,660 pounds. In 1744, Lucas married Charles Pinckney, a widower who was twice her age. He built the Belmont plantation on Charles Town Neck and the couple lived in prosperity and social distinction.

Pinckeny was appointed the colonial agent for South Carolina in 1753 and the family moved to England. Charles Pinckney died in 1758, and Eliza returned to South Carolina. She left her two sons in England to receive their education, and did not see them again until the start of the American Revolution.

Though they were schooled in Britain, the sons sided with the Patriot cause, served with distinction during the war, and then went on to fill important positions during the early Federal period.

Eliza’s later years were spent with her family. She lived at the family property at Belmont until 1783, when she went to live with her widowed daughter and her grandchildren at the plantation on the Santee River. During these years, Eliza also became a good friend of George Washington; when she died in Philadelphia at the age of 71, at his own request, President Washington served as one of the pallbearers at her funeral.