Leonard Vernadeau, Sr.

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Leonard Vernadeau, Sr.

Also Known As: "Varnadeaux", "Vernadeau", "Varnedoe"
Birthplace: Vivarais or Limousin, France
Death: Died in Orangeburg, South Carolina
Place of Burial: Orangeburgh, South Carolina
Immediate Family:

Son of Leonard-Henri Vernadeau
Husband of Sarah Vernadeau
Father of John Eli Varnedow; Leonard Vernadeau, Jr.; Henry Varnadoe; Sarah Varnedoe / Varnedow / Vernadeau; Samuel Varnado, Sr. and 4 others

Occupation: Farmer, soldier, fur & hide trade
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Leonard Vernadeau, Sr.

There are many different spellings of the Varnado name. It seems that the surname spelling changed from descendant to descendant and place to place. Names in this family include

  • Vernadeau
  • Varnedeau
  • Vernadow
  • Varnadow
  • Varnado
  • Varnadoe
  • Varnadore

We know from Phillip Mullins, a Varnado researcher, that Leonard Verndeau came from France in the 1730s to the Orangeburg District, South Carolina where he was a hide trader. He was a patriot soldier in the Revolutionary War while two of his sons fought as Loyalists or Tories.

Oral tradition in his branch gave 1717 as the birth year of Leonard. It is also thought that Leonard and his father Leonard-Henri were the only survivors of the Huguenot percecutions while fleeing the Vivarais Province in France. This part of the tradition is untrue, as there were still Vernadeau in France for at least another hundred years.

The Huguenots were Protestants who had made no secret of their antagonism to the majority Catholic population of France. In 1690 an uneasy truce between the Huguenots and their neighbors broke down and the Protestants were driven out of their villages in France. Many of them fled to England and then scattered to various English colonies in North America and the Caribbean islands.

It seems most probable that Leonard was born in France and fled from his ancestral home in the Limousin District near Limoges or from the Vivarais District. Pierre Vernadeau of Paris wrote that Saint Leonard was a famous local saint in the Limousin area and that the French Vernadeau’s used Leonard as a name frequently up to modern times.

Some time before 1736 Leonard emigrated from France and eventually to the American Colonies, settling in South Carolina, first appearing in the colonial records because he decided to become involved in the hide trade. With this in mind, on Saturday, April 10,1736, he and two other men obtained a trader's license from the Lieutenant Governor of the Province of South Carolinas. This license was supposed to give them and their goods protection on a journey to Savanna Town. Savanna Town was a landing on the Carolina shore of the Savannah River about 100 miles upstream of the present city of Savannah in Georgia. This little village was a major terminus of the hide trade. Leonard Vernadeau and his companion chose to include rum as part of their trade goods. Because they were carrying rum, they became involved in the ongoing struggle between the rival colonies of Georgia and South Carolina for control of the Indian trade in the southwest. Officials of the colony of Georgia had been harassing traders from the Carolinas since Georgia's establishment in 1733. The new colony's backers wanted to get control of the hide trade for the merchants of the Port of Savannah. Until 1803 Georgia claimed land all the way to the Mississippi River and agents of the Province of Georgia throughout this huge area systematically seized trade goods belonging to men operating out of the Carolinas . Leonard Vernadeau had the misfortune to be stopped on the Savannah River by a naval officer of the Port of Savannah . On April 20, 1736, he was accused of importing rum into Georgia. This violated a law preventing the importation and use of rum and brandies in the province. The colony had been founded just three years earlier by a group of London philanthropists as a haven for persons imprisoned in England for debt. To prevent drunkenness among the former convicts, rum and other "strong waters' were banned.

The arresting officer dumped a large quantity of an alcoholic liquor into the river. About 180 gallons of the liquor belonged to either Vernadeau or to William McKenzie, who was the boat's owner. The two men and their boats were then allowed to proceed upstream. The three hogsheads or barrels of rum that Vernadeau lost had an estimated value of thirty-five pounds sterling or about $175.00. Vernadeau's companion, Peter Shepheard, lost some or all of his rum and, in addition, was compelled to post bond of ten pounds sterling.

The incident was reported to the South Carolina House of Assembly in Charles Town and was followed by an angry exchange of letters between Governor Oglethorpe of Georgia and the government of South Carolina. The South Carolina Assembly accused the authorities in Georgia of obstructing the free passage of the River Savannah. The Savannah River was the border between the two colonies. In those days the river was the only route to Savannah Town over which freight could be hauled so traders bound for the west had no alternative routes. Nothing else came of the incident.

The next time Leonard appears in the records it is some six years later and he is married to a German girl named Sarah Hutto who had recently immigrated to South Carolina with her family. In July, 1735, it appears that another 200 persons from Germany arrived in Charles Town from Rotterdam. They arrived on a ship called Oliver after a voyage of nine weeks. Among these new colonists were Isaac Hutto, his wife Maria Catherina and four children. The children included Sarah, who was nine years old and is our ancestor. This family did sell themselves as indentured servants. After their term was finished in 1739, Isaac received a grant of 350 acres six miles west of the village of Orangeburg. Like the other settlers of Orangeburg, he received some tools and provisions from the British government.

Orangeburg was a German-speaking Protestant settlement. The ministers of the town's Lutheran church kept records, in German, through which most of the children of Leonard Vernadeau and Sarah Hutto can be traced. On May 25, 1742, Leonard and Sarah were married. The birth or baptism of all but three of their nine children are recorded in the Geisendanner church records. For the next 16 years the family appears to have moved several times as Leonard tried several professions. In 1758 Leonard and his wife finally settled down on a farm some 16 miles west of the village along the road to a remote settlement called Ninety-six. This farm was on a stream called the Rocky Swamp Creek. In 1767 a younger brother of Sarah received land nearby and there is some indication that Sarah's widowed mother, her mother's second husband and another of Sarah's brothers moved to land along Rocky Swamp Creek in later years.

Not long after his marriage to Sarah, Leonard was enrolled in the garrison of Fort Moore on the Savannah River. Fort Moore was located near Savannah Town, or as it was later called, New Windsor, about 100 miles upstream of the river's mouth. By land Fort Moore was about 60 miles west of Orangeburg. Leonard was stationed there in the service of South Carolina as a sergeant under the garrison commander, Captain Pepper. In March of 1744 Leonard and the men serving under him realized that they could not save any of their wages because of what they called a scheme of Captain Pepper. The captain made the men purchase supplies exclusively from his store by prices nearly double those of neighboring stores. Also the men were made to clear ground, fence and build on Captain Pepper's private plantation during work hours. Leonard and six of the privates petitioned the governor of the colony on March 1, 1744, asking for a redress of these grievances.

The petition alleges "that the petitioners from such usage and hardships...have frequently resolved to quit the service, and have given notice thereof to our said Captain, who towards every pay day begins to heal us with a little more clemency and goodness than before, and takes care then to make us drunk and then take the advantage of enlisting us again."

Whatever the outcome of the petition, Leonard did eventually quit the service and in the spring of 1747 he and Sarah began to raise their family. Sarah gave birth to a child about every two years until their youngest, Anna, was born in March 1758. That year they received a land grant of 200 acres 16 miles west of Orangeburg near the South Fork of the Edisto River. These two hundred acres were granted Leonard by King George II in August 1758. About half of this tract was swamp when Leonard had it surveyed. The land was divided down the middle by a little stream called Spring Branch. This farm was about four miles from the Edisto River on Rocky Swamp Creek. This meant that it was easily accessible by boat. The soil was rich and moist and ideal for farming.

Leonard kept this land until at least 1794 when his oldest son, Henry, received a grant of land adjoining it. Leonard probably spent the rest of his life farming this land. He passed away between 1794 and 1800 when he was about 80 years old. He is the only known Vernadeau to have come to this country and, although his descendants have spelled their names some thirty different ways over the years and use eight variants today, everyone bearing the name Varnado or one of its variants can trace their lineage to Leonard Vernadeau and Sarah Hutto. The name disappeared in France when the last male bearing the name died some years ago.

Abridged from BIOGRAPHY: Leonard Vernadeau: Hide Trader and Leonard Vernadeau: Professional Soldier and Farmer by Phillip Mullins

Links to additional materials:

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Leonard Vernadeau, Sr.'s Timeline

Vivarais or Limousin, France
September 1746
Age 29
Orangeburgh, South Carolina
Age 31
Orangeburg, SC, USA
January 15, 1749
Age 32
Orangeburgh, South Carolina
September 1751
Age 34
Orangeburgh, South Carolina
February 15, 1754
Age 37
Orangeburg, SC, USA
May 12, 1756
Age 39
Orangeburgh, South Carolina
March 10, 1758
Age 41
Orangeburgh, South Carolina
Age 43
Orangeburgh, South Carolina