The tale of plantation owner John Lambert is highly unusual. He was rumored to have been abandoned as an infant on the Lambert Bridge in South Carolina, for which he was named. The legend claims that he was passed between plantation families as a child, accumulated some money as a young man, went into the livestock business, and then applied for a land grant. By the time he died, John owned nearly 1000 acres. Yet, he never married or had children. According to the legend, he deliberately refrained from marrying – out of fear that he might marry into his unknown biological relatives.
Factually, we know this:
As I previously posted, John encouraged the religious instruction of his slaves - even going so far as to hire the local black preacher named Mingo (a freed man) to make weekly visits to the Lambert Plantation for the religious instruction of his slaves.
Additionally, John Lambert made a very curious request in his will. He stated that his estate (both land and slaves) would be kept whole and continue to operate under the supervision of the Midway Church. The plantation’s profits were to be donated to poor or widowed families in Midway.
As a result:
For the next ~60 years following John's death, his original 31 slaves and their descendants lived and worked free of white oversight, except for the infrequent visits of the trustees. Because of this, the Lambert Plantation became one of the few fragile areas of African American socialization and independence in the South.
The heavy emphasis on religious instruction also fostered Gullah-Geechee culture – where old traditions, immersed in magic and superstition, thrived and mixed with Christian practice.
To this day, Lambert’s reasoning is unknown. Perhaps his generosity was owed to his religious convictions and involvement in the Midway Church. Or, perhaps there was more to this story. Regardless, he was highly-regarded and overwhelming liked throughout both white and black communities, and has since been called “the pride of Midway.” His trust has evolved over the years (and no longer relies on slave labor), still surviving to benefit the residents of Midway.
Posts are a combination of my own research, visits, and conversations, plus various information found around the web. I try to provide sources, but if you have specific questions, feel free to ask!