William McWhir

William McWhir – Educator – Clergyman – Slaveholder – born in County Down, Ireland in 1759 and ordained as a Presbyterian clergyman there – was a well-known educator and clergyman of his time in the United States. He knew George Washington well and corresponded with him. After McWhir’s death in Georgia in 1859, he was acknowledged as one of the two most famous educators in Georgia. He was a founding member of the Georgia Historical Society, married the widow of an American Revolutionary War hero, and was an active member of the clergy during the whole of his long life.

Link to Website

He also owned human beings.

McWhir owned at least 20 enslaved people, valued at $8,000, during his lifetime. In 1839, he sold them and lived off the profits from that sale for the rest of his life. The memoirs of McWhir’s life make no mention of this fact, yet it would have been one of the central economic pillars of his life.

How did a man born into a farming family “in comfortable circumstances” in Ireland become the owner of a plantation and enslaved Africans on the swampy, hurricane-prone coast of Georgia?