(Photo by Dreamstime.com)
The American Revolution was fought on land around Lethe, the name given by the school’s benefactor Dr. John de la Howe to his home and farm. It may not even be a stretch to imagine that skirmishes occurred on the property as well.
Although many people think of the American Revolution taking place along the coast of South Carolina and in what is now the Midlands area, the struggle for independence came to the “upcountry.”
Questions still arise as to whether Dr. de la Howe was truly an American patriot or someone who refused to pledge support for either side. The book “Still Caring, Still Dreaming, The First 225 Years of the John de la Howe School,” notes that Patriots, who suffered injuries in one of Andrew Williamson’s military campaigns against the British, were treated in 1776 by Dr. de la Howe at his home in the Upstate.
De la Howe returned to Charleston in 1777 and also had business dealings as a justice of the peace in nearby Jacksonborough. When the British gained control of Charleston in 1780, it has been said that Dr. de la Howe received protection from the crown. But is this a sign that he favored the British?
The British questioned Dr. de la Howe’s loyalty when he offered assistance to the people of Pon Pon near Jacksonborough, some of whom were openly aligned with the Patriots. The Tories were not happy by the doctor’s generosity toward the opposition, and he was imprisoned at the provost dungeon.
The book also tells us that he was “tried for his life on a double suspicion and charge of attachment to the American Interest.”
When he was paroled to the Americans, the patriots confiscated his entire supply of medicines. In discussing this time period, Dr. de la Howe said that he gave assistance to many Americans and was not in the employ of the British.
However, his name is on a register of soldiers siding with the British. His name even appeared on the rolls of Americans who were to be fined for their sympathies toward the Crown, Dr. de la Howe appealed the fine and was reimbursed by the new American government for many of his financial losses. The compensation was enough to ensure that he could live well for the rest of his life.
Dr. Tony Warren Sr., an alumnus of the school and author of “Lethe” which chronicles Dr. de la Howe’s life, says there is no question that the school’s founder was a Patriot. “Absolutely. He suffered in the provost dungeon (in Charleston) for his patriotism. Had he not treated and saved American lives, he would not have been able to submit invoices to Congress, and there would have been no school.”
Warren went on to say that the siege of Charleston cost thousands of American lives and was a major blow to the Patriots, who were subjected to the harsh rule of the British military. “Dr. de la Howe was part of that.”
It is hard to imagine that Dr. de la Howe would have received a payout – and a generous one at that — if he had been sympathetic toward the British.
The story may be complicated, but a great deal of evidence supports Dr. de la Howe’s allegiance to the Patriots and the fight for independence. And certainly during the years leading up to and the years after the American Revolution, Dr. de la Howe’s commitment to a young, growing nation cannot be questioned.
On this week when we celebrate liberty, we can add Dr. de la Howe’s name to those who supported the creation of our United States!