South Carolina Dower Laws

Today I continue to transcribe some land transactions from Lancaster County (formerly a part of now-defunct Craven County), South Carolina dated in the 1770s and 1780s.  They involve the “lease and release” of a parcel of land originally granted to one of the subjects of my research.  This fella died around 1777 and left a chunk of his land to one of his sons, but an older brother was apparently tasked with handling the land in a way I am unfamiliar with.  There is no will extant for the father, so the particulars aren’t clear.  This older brother leased the land to the younger brother by a “lease and release,” which is defined by Wikipedia ((, citing Bouvier’s Law Dictitonary) as:  “a species of conveyance … [in use] after the enactment of the statute of uses. It is thus contrived; a lease, or rather bargain and sale, upon some pecuniary consideration, for one year, is made by the tenant of the freehold to the lessee or bargainee. This, without any enrollment, makes the bargainor stand seised to the use of the bargainee, and vests in the bargainee the use of the term for one year, and then the statute immediately annexes the possession. Being thus in possession, he is capable of receiving a release of the freehold and reversion, which must be made to the tenant in possession; and, accordingly, the next day a release is granted to him.”  These are the details from the deeds, which are in Lancaster County, SC Deed Book B, pages 296-299:

1777 (only the year is stated):  An indenture between John Wisenor of Craven (now Lancaster) County, SC and Jacob Wisenor of the same; for ten shillings, 100 acres “being part of three hundred acres … held by Jacob Wisenor lately deceased … and bequeathed to his son Jacob Wisenor…”  The “force of the Statute for transferring uses into possession” is later mentioned, as is the rent of “one pepper corn” payable on the last day of the term of one year following.

23 April 1777:  An indenture between “John Wisnor of Craven County … and Ruth his Wife” and Jacob Wisenor, 100 acres of a plantation granted “Unto Jacob Wisnor Decd … at his death Bequeathed unto his son Jacob Wisenor…” For 10 pounds, John and Ruth “do Grant Bargain Sell Alien remise Release and Confirm unto the said Jacob Wisenor in his actual possession now being by Virtue of a bargain and Sale to him thereof made for one whole year and by force of the Statue [sic] for transferring uses into possession and to him his heirs and assigns for ever…”

19 March 1788:  An indenture between Jacob Wisenor of Lancaster County and William Denman, for 71 pounds and change, 100 acres “which is a part of the old Tract possessed by the Deceased Jacob Wisenor which he bequeathed unto his Son Jacob Wisenor…”

So I am now tasked with trying to discover the dower laws in South Carolina for this time period.  Note that the lease was from John to the younger Jacob, but the actual sale 23 April 1777 was from John and his wife Ruth to the younger Jacob.  When Jacob sold the land eleven years later to Denman, he did it alone.  Did the dower laws change in SC during those eleven years?  If Jacob was married, would his wife need to be included on the deed to Denman?  Or does this mean that, when he made the sale, Jacob was unmarried?

Early on, South Carolina, like most of the southern colonies/states, operated within the English common laws, but after the Revolution the laws began to evolve.  So….  What were the dower laws in 1788?

Isn’t research fun???

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