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Biographical Sketch of Stephen Mayfield the Tory of Browns Creek

By Phil Norfleet

 

Stephen Mayfield was born about 1730 in Virginia Colony and died after 1786. Based on the 1784 Spanish Census of East Florida, Stephen had a wife and one son at that time (see below).

Stephen Mayfield in North Carolina

This Stephen Mayfield is probably the same person who appears (along with a certain Robert Mayfield - probably his brother) on the 1766 tax list for Bute County, North Carolina. If Stephen is indeed a brother of Robert Mayfield (d. 1816 in Chester County SC), then he is probably a son of the Abraham Mayfield who died testate in Granville County, North Carolina in 1778.

The following chronological listing summarizes those instances where Stephen Mayfield's name appears in the official records of NC:

Granville County NC:

19 October 1761: Philemon Hawkins has a survey made and certified for 606 acres of land on Fishing Creek in Granville County NC " ... joining Mayfield's corner ... "; Stephen Mayfield is named as a chain carrier for the survey. [See NC Patent Book 11, page 383.]

Bute County NC:

1766: Stephen Mayfield's name appears on the tax list (along with a certain Robert Mayfield - probably his brother) for Bute County, North Carolina.

1771: Stephen Mayfield's name appears on the tax list (along with a certain Robert Mayfield - probably his brother) for Bute County, North Carolina.

 

Stephen Mayfield in South Carolina

Subsequent to the year 1771, Stephen apparently removed to the Browns Creek region of Ninety-Six District, South Carolina -- probably at the same time as his brother Robert Mayfield.  Stephen is mentioned on the 1774 land plat of a certain David George as having land adjacent to George's along Browns Creek.  John Mayfield the Tory (probably a nephew of Stephen) also lived nearby.

During the Revolution, Stephen supported the Loyalist Cause and ultimately left the state, probably some time in late 1779. Unlike his kinsman, John Mayfield the Tory, he apparently refused to take the oath of allegiance to the Whig government of South Carolina and chose to depart the state. As a result, he was proscribed by the State of South Carolina and his name appears on the Proclamation List issued by South Carolina in December 1779.

 

Lieutenant in the South Carolina Royalist Regiment

The next mention of Stephen in any official records is from the muster roll of the South Carolina Royalist Regiment, then stationed in Savannah, Georgia, The regimental muster roll for 1 December 1779 contains the name of Stephen Mayfield as a Lieutenant serving in the company of Captain John Murphy.  Steven's date of commission is given as 13 November 1779.  At this time the regiment was commanded by Joseph Robinson, the same man who, as a Loyalist militia captain,  was active during the events leading up to the arrest of Colonel Thomas Fletchall in December 1775.  Robinson escaped capture and fled to Florida where he ultimately raised a regiment in support of the Loyalist Cause.

 

Stephen Mayfield in East Florida

Towards the end of the Revolution, Stephen seems to have taken up residency in the British Colony of East Florida.  For a period of time he ran a tavern in the northern part of the Colony and was a consort of the infamous Tories Daniel McGirtt and Bloody Bill Cunningham!  When the Treaty of Paris was signed in April 1783, East Florida was ceded to Spain. A census of the inhabitants of East Florida at the time of the Spanish take-over from Great Britain was conducted in 1784.  Stephen Mayfield's name appears in this census (see below). The last mention of this Stephen Mayfield in the official records of Florida (that I have been able to find) was in a letter, dated 07 January 1786, written by the Spanish Governor Zespedes (see below).

Joseph Byrne Lockey, in his well-known book entitled East Florida 1783-1785 (published 1949), at pages 17-19, makes the following statements concerning Stephen Mayfield and his friends McGirtt and Cunningham:

... The story of the banditti is long and circumstantial. Enough of it has been recounted to serve as an illustration of the difficulties which Zéspedes confronted in his dealings with them and with the former governor as well. Neither his nor Tonyn’s plan was given a fair trial. United support for either might have resulted in the achievement of the desired end. That Zéspedes did not at once adopt Tonyn’s plan was due perhaps as much to his lack of a suitable force as to his desire to begin his administration with acts of clemency. Moreover, if he had made use of British arms in Spanish territory he might have subjected himself to the censure of his government. Tonyn, on the other hand, had the force, but doubtful authority to use it. That he acted in disregard of that limitation was probably due as much to his mounting exasperation against the banditti as to his genuine concern for the safety of British lives and property. Whatever the explanation, the chief troublemakers managed to prolong their stay in the province, though by the beginning of 1785 many had gone—some with passports to West Florida and Louisiana, others to British dominions, and still others to the United States, where some of them, declared Zespedes, had “already paid with their lives the just price of their crimes.”

Convinced, early in 1785, that he could at last safely proceed to chastise the ringleaders, Zéspedes had Daniel McGirtt, William Cunningham, and Stephen Mayfield with three others arrested and thrown into the fort at St. Augustine. It was now the turn of the former governor to urge leniency. Writing to Zéspedes soon after the event, Tonyn remarked: “I think it possible if these unhappy men were transplanted into another country, that there is yet a ray of hope, that upon proper reflection of their past wicked courses, a reformation might be effectuated. . . . Motives of humanity and commiseration, passions that will creep into the human mind, have been impressed on me by the very decent Mrs. McGirtt, praying to have her husband transported to a British Government; a similar memorial has been presented me by the friends of Major Cunningham and I have engaged to address Your Excellency upon these matters, and to solicit your compliance in gratifying their wishes contained in the prayer of the petition.” Much trouble would have been saved if Tonyn had adopted this attitude six months before.

In his reply, Zéspedes seems to have been attempting to heap coals of fire on Tonyn’s head. He took advantage of the opportunity to review the whole course of his policy in dealing with the outlaws, reminded Tonyn that the arrests had been made on information provided by Tonyn himself, expressed regret that he could not pay the attention he would like to the recommendation in favor of Cunningham, and particularly McGirtt in consideration of his unhappy and decent wife, and finally declared that the only thing he could do would be to send Tonyn’s recommendation and the petitions to Havana, to which place he was about to remand the prisoners under a decree of exile subject to the superior decision of the Conde de Gálvez.

The prisoners were dispatched to Havana late in April, 1785. By that time Gálvez had departed for Mexico to assume his duties as viceroy. The papers—Tonyn’s recommendations and the petitions, together with the proceedings of the preliminary hearings in St. Augustine—followed him and his decision was promptly rendered. He approved the exile, but ordered that the prisoners be given their liberty with permission to emigrate to any part of America not Spanish and to remove their families and property from East Florida. A few weeks later these troublesome individuals left Havana with passports for Providence, where Mayfield arrived; but McGirtt and Cunningham contrived to change their course and land secretly on the coast of Florida. They were again appre­hended, and finally both were transported to Providence—Cunningham late in 1785, and McGirtt early in 1786.

Florida had not yet seen the last of Daniel McGirtt, whatever may be said of the rest of the exiles. Early in 1788 Zéspedes was handed the following note from Lord Dunmore, governor of the Bahama Islands:

“The bearer Mr. MacGirtt goes from Hence to St. Augustine in a sloop named the Mayflower, to settle his private affairs;—he is a British subject, and as such, I beg leave to recommend him to Your Excellency’s protection.”

It would not be rash to assume that McGirtt returned to Florida on some business other than his private affairs. Zéspedes kept him under guard, but out of respect for Lord Dunmore permitted him to have an interview, in the presence of witnesses, with his agent, Francisco Sanchez, and then shipped him back to Nassau on the same vessel that brought him over.

What McGirtt’s secret motive may have been can only be inferred from the course of events. A few weeks after he had gone, Zéspedes had reports that British interlopers from the Bahama Islands had landed on the Florida coast at the mouth of Indian River. Still later, news came that William Augustus Bowles had arrived at the same point with a considerable body of men. He had begun the adventure which was to end in his death some seventeen years later. As he progressed on his way toward Apalache and the lawless character of his enterprise became apparent, a number of his deluded followers deserted him, made their way to St. Augus­tine, and surrendered to Governor Zéspedes. It has been asserted that McGirtt played an important part in Bowles’s undertaking. The available documents do not confirm that view. He was in St. Augustine, however, soon after the deserters arrived. Whether he was one of them, or not, is uncertain. It appears from a vague reference to him in a letter from Zéspedes to the captain-general, dated February 24, 1789,that he was under arrest and was being sent to Havana. That is the end of the documentary trail. Perhaps he returned soon after this, to his old home in South Carolina, as Sabine says, to die. ...

 

Spanish Census Records of 1784

At the Treaty of Paris (signed 3 September 1783), Great Britain agreed to return the Provinces of East and West Florida to Spain.  Transition from British to Spanish rule occurred during the 1783-85 time frame.  In August - September 1784, the incoming Spanish Government conducted a census of all the English residents.

The following records from that 1784 census, pertaining to Stephen (Estevan in Spanish) Mayfield, Daniel McGirtt, James (Jacabo in Spanish) McGirtt and Bill (Guillermo in Spanish) Cunningham, have been taken from The Last Days of British Saint Augustine 1784-1785 -- A Spanish Census of the English Colony of East Florida by Lawrence H. Feldman (published 1998):

Name Census Page Number Place of Birth Family Status Occupation Lawrence H. Feldman's Other Remarks
Cunningham, Guillermo 1 Virginia Single None Mentioned "William Cunningham in a statement of five Americans who are disturbing the piece of the country of 15th July of 1784, Wishes to avail himself of Spanish protection and settle in Louisiana.  He is unmarried and has seven slaves and four horses."
MacGirit, Daniel 4 South Carolina Wife, 2 children, 2 nephews Farmer "In 1784 intends to move to Louisiana.  His house lot was bought from Captain Butler. As Daniel McGirth, he was named in an address of the Inhabitants of the River St. John of 25th of January 1785 as an arrested leader of robbers and murderers ... In January 1786 he and his entire family was deported to the Bahamas"
Mayfield, Estevan 120 Virginia Wife and 1 son Farmer "As Stephen Mayfield, named as an arrested leader of robbers and murderers in an address of 25th January 1785." [see below]
MacGirit, Jacobo 136-137 South Carolina Wife and 2 children Farmer "He lives on the vacant land of Senor Rolles. He intended in 1784 to leave via West Florida for New Orleans. In 1786, identified as Jayme MacGirt, Lutheran, age 50 ... He was identified ... as James McGirt, a member of the McGirt gang that settled down in Saint Augustine and joined respectable society"
Cargan, Daniel 137 Virginia Single Day Laborer "He lives in the house of Estevan Mayfield. In 1784 intended to move to Louisiana."

 

Mention of Stephen Mayfield et al. in Official Correspondence

The book entitled  "East Florida 1783-1785" by Joseph Byrne Lockey (published 1949) contains transcripts of many original letters and other documents pertaining to the history of East Florida during those transitional years. Stephen Mayfield, Daniel McGirtt and Bill Cunningham are mentioned (unfavorably) in several documents which are transcribed below in chronological order.

 

25 January 1785 - The Inhabitants of the River St. John's to the New Spanish Governor Vicente Manuel de Zespedes:  

To:  His Excellency Don Vincent Emanuel De Zespedes, Brigadier General, Governor and Commandant General of the Province of East Florida &c &c &ca

River St. John, January 25, 1785

The Humble Address of the Inhabitants of the River St. John and Part Adjacent

May it Please your Excellency

We the Underwritten, Inhabitants of the River St John and Part adjacent, under the Protection of His Catholic Majesty, in His Province of East Florida Take this Earliest opportunity to Testify to Your Excellency our Most Sincere Thanks and Hearty Acknowledgements for your Excellency’s Providential Care of our Lives and Property, in Having Secured the Persons of Daniel McGirth, William Cunningham, Stephen Mayfield and Others. Who in Defiance of all Law have for these many years past, Disturbed this Province, Plundered many of its Inhabitants and Had our Lives and Property instantly at their mercy, which Rendered our Abode unsafe and Precarious. [Emphasis added]

By having arrested the Leaders of those Robbers and Murderers, we apprehend Ourselves at present perfectly secure under Your Excellency’s Government, and we make Bold to assure Your Excellency, that we will exert ourselves in Every Occasion to Procure the Peace and Tranquility to Remain Undisturbed amongst Us, in this Province Offering to Your Excellency all the assistance that may be required at any time to Pursue and Arrest any Person or

Persons that should dare to Act contrary to Your Excellency’s Orders and Proclamations—And we Promise to Behave in every Respect Becoming the Duty we owe to His Catholic Majesty for His Royal Protection, while He may be pleased to Permit us to Remain in His Dominions.

We shall continually Pray for Your Excellency’s Health and Happiness and Have the Honor to Subscribe ourselves with the Utmost Respect

Sir, Your Excellency's most obedient and most Humble Servants,

John Scot                     Robert Bolton

Frances Starlin             William Bogan

Drury Fort                   Phillip Goodbread

Phillip Proctor             Alex Ramcy

William Mitchel           William Godfrey [Rubric]

William Bishop            Henry Flicks

Joseph Summerlin        John C. Ladson

Thos Hall                    Charles Hall [His Mark]

John Matlet                 Sam Williams

Thos Justin                 Joe Wigengs

Wm Graystock            Ja' Chatworth

Joseph Burcham         George Brakor

Joseph Fenner             Randolph MacDonell

Robbin King                A Macdonell [Rubric]

Thomas Rennick         John Bowdn [Rubric]

Gaspard Barber           William Mangum

Jesse Hesters               Wilson Williams

John Gray [Rubric]      Timothy Hollingswirth

Wm Evans                  John Burnett

Angus Clark                John Burnett Jun' [Rubric]

Lewis Fatio [Rubric]    David Auston

Henry Williams           Joseph Ashworth

Solomon King             Alison Stuart

Samuel Williams

 

09 February 1785 - Letter from the new Spanish Governor (Zespedes) of East Florida to the Viceroy of Mexico :

To:  Bernado de Galvez [the Viceroy of Mexico]

St. Augustine, Florida, February 9, 1785

My Dear Sir:

The greatest number of rogues, including those openly and secretly such, who infested the outlying areas of this densely wooded and swampy country, particularly the banks of the St. Johns and Nassau rivers and as far as St. Mary’s River, when I took over this government caused me to decide that it would be best to temporize with them.  ... If I had attempted to suppress and punish a few excesses with armed force greater harm and scandal would have resulted in this country which, as the result of the civil war between England and America, is overrun with desperate men capable of all kinds of wickedness.  Major General Patrick Tonyn said in one of his letters that this province contained sixteen thousand British subjects, but of this number at least twelve thousand were exiled Americans. ...

... I judged that it was for the highest good of the royal service ... to give this large number of desperate and abandoned people time to quit the country ... by the beginning of this year some of the principal known and secret malefactors had left the province.  Some had gone with my passport to Pensacola and Louisiana, others to the British dominions, and still others to the United States, where some have already paid with their lives the just price of their crimes.  Consequently it seemed to me that the time had arrived when I could safely proceed to the chastisement of these rogues, and I had the following taken into custody on the 20th of last month:  Daniel McGirtt, one of the outlaws under the English government and the ostensible chief of the highwayman of this country; William Cunningham, a worse man than the preceding; and Stephen Mayfield -- who always harbored in his inn every thief who presented himself there -- with three of his accomplices. [Emphasis Added]  I shall institute proceedings against all of them as soon as I dispatch the ship now here to Havana.  When the trial is concluded I shall send the criminals and the papers to Your Excellency, so that being informed of the charges against them Your Excellency may pronounce the corresponding sentence.  I consider it to be my duty to say to Your Excellency that even if the evidence is not conclusive, it would be in the interest of the royal service and the public tranquility to banish forever from this province and those of Louisiana and Pensacola these incorrigibles who have several times previously been guilty of capital offenses, especially McGirtt and Cunningham.

May God preserve Your Excellency many happy years as is my need.

Your most obliged humble and obedient servant kisses Your Excellency's hand,

            /Signed/  Vicente Manuel de Zespedes

            [Governor of East Florida]

 

07 November 1785 - Letter from the Inspector of Troops in Cuba to the Governor of East Florida:

To:  Vicente Manuel de Zespedes [Governor of East Florida]

Havana, November 7, 1785

My Dear Sir:

Daniel McGirtt, William Cunningham, and Stephen Mayfield having been given their liberty by an order of the Conde de Galvez [Viceroy of Mexico] communicated to this captaincy-general with permission to proceed without hindrance to any English colony they might choose, though under no conditions to any of our possessions, this government authorized the said three persons to buy a boat, which they manned with four foreign seamen and one Negro slave belonging to Cunningham.  The corresponding passport having been given them, they set sail for providence on September 31 last. [Emphasis Added]

But two of the four seamen later presented themselves in the district of Jaruco, and their depositions having been taken, they testified that they understood their plan was to sail to the coast of East Florida, and, going ashore, remain in hiding among the Indians until McGirtt could manage to penetrate into the town by night and acquaint himself with the state of the province.  The deponents had succeeded in getting free by contriving to have themselves thrown out in the harbor of Juruco.  To this confession they added that when they got outside of Havana harbor, a guadano drew alongside and left on board their boat two Spaniards, one called Cristobal, the other Agustin.  The surnames they did not know; but the last mentioned, an inhabitant of regla, must have been the one who was to pilot the small boat in which McGirtt, Cunningham and Mayfield had sailed. [Emphasis Added] 

I am transmitting this information for Your Honor's guidance.

May God preserve Your Honor many years.

Your most attentive servant kisses Your Honor's hand.

                        /Signed/ Bernardo Troncoso

                        [Inspector of Troops in Cuba]

 

07 January 1786 - Letter from Governor Zespedes to Bernardo Troncoso:

In January 1786, Governor Zespedes wrote to Troncoso informing him that Stephen Mayfield had made his way to the island of Providence, in the Bahamas, without returning to Florida.  Cunningham and McGirtt did return to Florida but were captured.  As of the date of the letter (7 January 1786) Cunningham had been shipped off to Providence and McGirtt was about to be sent there also.

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