Anthony (1831-1892) and his son Edward (1868-1915) DesVerney made up one of the richer and more prominent families of Savannah, but their family history is not without great scandal. Anthony Kirk DesVerney was born in Charleston on Oct 11th, 1831 to Peter Prioleau DesVerney, the once-slave who was known for his role as a traitor in the Demark Vesey Affair.
The Charleston Public Library talks about it here.
The final case or cases of public manumission in South Carolina that I’ve found stem from the summer of 1822 and events we might describe as the Demark Vesey Affair. As most of you know, Denmark Vesey was a free person of color who was executed in Charleston that summer for allegedly conspiring to incite a violent uprising against the city’s white population in an effort to liberate the enslaved population. Vesey and thirty-five other men were arrested, tried, and hanged before any action took place, however, and the white authorities expressed great relief that they had managed to discover the “plot” in time to prevent the loss of any white lives.
The fortuitous discovery of the plot—or, to be more precise, the communication of the alleged plot from the enslaved population to the white population—was attributed to two enslaved men, named Peter and George, who independently informed their respective masters that a secret plan for a violent uprising was circulating through the city. Peter’s owner, John Cordes Prioleau, and George’s master, John Wilson, immediately alerted the mayor of Charleston, who then set in motion a series of state-level investigations, arrests, trials, and executions. As a reward for their fidelity to the white population, the South Carolina General Assembly ratified an act to purchase the freedom of both Peter and George, and to pay each of them fifty dollars a year for the rest of their lives. Peter, who adopted the name Peter Desverney (ca. 1787–1860), and George Wilson (died 1848) continued to live and work in Charleston, but they did not survive to witness the death of slavery in 1865.
According to the 1840 Census, Anthony’s father owned 5 slaves (4th row from the bottom):
His father became a free man and a slave owner, thanks to his treachery against the slaves in Charleston who only wanted their freedom. Perhaps the unpopular circumstances of his father’s legacy is what prompted Anthony to come to Savannah in 1866. He was a cotton shipper for Clason and Co., and his son, Edward, was a clerk to Shearson and Hamlin Brokers. Anthony lived at 6 1/2 and at 8 Taylor Street during his life in Savannah, and he owned 540-42 East Taylor Street, built 1870-72.
When Reconstruction started in 1867, the rebel states had to re-register voters, who had to pledge their oath to the Union. This record is from July 9th, 1867, and Anthony’s name can be seen on the 14th row down.
Robert S. Davis of Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, AL wrote about these records here.
To revise the legal machinery for restoring the former Confederate states to the Union, the United States Congress passed a new Reconstruction law on March 23, 1867. Among the changes called for in the law was state-wide elections in each of the former rebel states, except Tennessee, among registered males, black and white, over age twenty-one. Almost all adult males were allowed to vote in these elections after taking an oath of allegiance to the United States.
Below is a newspaper article about a case, Anthony K. DesVerney et, al, trustees vs. Adelaide H. Wayne et al. It looks to concern a jail and money due to a contractor who was building it. I’m not completely sure what side Anthony was on or what role he played. I haven’t been able to find any additional information (If you know any additional information, please send me a note on the contact page).
Below is Anthony’s Will, burial plot purchase, and internment record: