The Alstons are a family whose ancestors arrived in the Carolinas in the seventeenth century; the different branches settled the Halifax County area of North Carolina, and the Georgetown District area of South Carolina. The family name was spelled both “Alston” and “Allston.” Both families were extremely wealthy, due to their extensive rice plantations and other agricultural interests in the nineteenth century. Of the five Alston men who attended the University of Virginia in the first fifty years of its existence, four were descended from the South Carolina branch, and one from North Carolina.
William Ashe Alston (16 Mar. 1812-30 May 1842), Theodosius Alston (23 Mar. 1816-1836), and John Ashe Alston (14 May 1817-8 Oct. 1858) were the earliest Alston students at the University; William Ashe attended U.Va. in sessions 7-9 (1830-1833), Theodosius in sessions 11-12 (1834-1836), and John Ashe in session 13 (1836-1837). The Alston family tended to use the same names in each generation, but these birth dates and the name “Wm A. Alston” of Georgetown, SC, listed as “parent or guardian” in the U.Va. Matriculation Books, identifies these students as the sons of William Algernon Alston (1782-1860) of The Oaks, a rice plantation near Georgetown, SC — now a part of Brookgreen Gardens — and his wife, Mary (Allston) Young Alston (1778-1844).
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information about the lives of William Ashe Alston and Theodosius Alston. Neither man is reliably listed in the family genealogies, and when Theodosius appears, he is sometimes listed in error as a female. Theodosius Alston (1816-1836) died when about 20 years old while at the University of Virginia, though he does not seem to be buried in the U.Va. Cemetery. (Barringer)
What little we do know about William Ashe Alston (1812-1842) is that he attended U.Va. for only a few months in session 7, and was released “by letter” to return home in October 1830; he returned to U.Va. in sessions 8 and 9 to complete his education. (U.Va. Matriculation Books) He became a lawyer, and on 18 Apr. 1840, married Anne Porter (1816-1841), daughter of Alexander Porter of Louisiana. He had just returned from a trip to Europe at the time of his death in New York City. (Winyah Observer)
John Ashe Alston (1817-1858), is mentioned in the Minutes of the U.Va. Board of Visitors (August 17, 1837) when he asked “for permission to keep a horse in the vicinity,” a request that was turned over to the Faculty, with the proviso that they might “grant the permission asked so long as it may be deemed important to the preservation of Mr. Alston’s health, and under such restrictions as they may prescribe.” He married Frances Buford Fraser (1820-1897); the couple had the following children: Hugh Fraser, Thomas, Dr. Theodosius, John Ashe, Washington, Helen, Algernon (1) (d. young), Algernon (2), Fanny Buford, and Rowland Alston. John Ashe Alston was a rice farmer, though he also served in the state militia: “Lieutenant Col.” John A. Alston was elected Brigadier General to command the 9th Brigade of the South Carolina Militia in 1844. He was also a supporter of the arts, and was instrumental in founding the Carolina Art Association in 1857, and in organizing a show of the work of artist Charles Fraser in Charleston. John A. Alston is buried in the All Saints Protestant Episcopal Church Cemetery on Pawley’s Island, Georgetown, SC.
William Algernon Alston, mentioned above, served as a SC state Representative, and was the son of Col. William “King Billy” Alston, one of the richest men in South Carolina, and Col. William’s first wife, Mary Ashe (d.1789). William Algernon Alston was the full brother of SC Governor Joseph Alston (1779-1816) — husband of Theodosia Burr, the daughter of Aaron Burr — and of SC state representative John Ashe Alston (1780-1812). Col. William Alston married, secondly, Mary Brewton Motte, and among their children was Thomas Pinckney Alston (1794-1861). Thomas Pinckney Alston was the father of Jacob Motte Alston (1821-1909). This man, who went by the name J. Motte Alston, in 1848 married Mary Ann Fitzsimmons (1830-1866), and became the father of Thomas Pinckney Alston (30 April 1849-7 Nov. 1868), who attended U.Va. in session 43 (1866-1867). Thomas Pinckney Alston the younger was a half first cousin once removed of the sons of William Algernon Alston. While studying at U.Va. he joined Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He was a lawyer, and died unmarried within a year of leaving the University.
Charles Julian Poydras Alston of Halifax County, NC (12 Mar. 1818-before 1880) was the son of the Hon. Willis Alston (1769-1837) and his second wife, Sallie Madeline Potts (b. ca. 1780). Willis Alston served for many years in the North Carolina State House and Senate, as well as in the U.S. House of Representatives, and was given the nickname “Congress.” Charles attended session 12 (1835-1836), so he was at the University at the same time as his distant cousin Theodosius Alston. The U.S. census gives his profession as “farmer.” On 27 Oct., 1846, Charles married Mary Janette Clark (1824-1894). Their children were: Dr. Willis Alston, Samuel Clark Alston, Leonidas Alston, Charles Julian Poydras Alston, Jr., and Edgar Alston (d. young).
- “All Saints Episcopal Cemetery [website].” http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~scgeorge/cem_all_saints_a_d.html (Accessed 6/13/2011).
- Alston, Jacob Motte. Rice planter and sportsman; the recollections of J. Motte Alston, 1821-1909. Columbia, SC, 1953.
- Ancestry.com. New York Death Newspaper Extracts, 1801-1890 (Barber Collection) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2005.
- Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1850-1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc.
- [Announcement re: Lieut. Col. John A. Alston.] Greenville Mountaineer, (Greenville, SC). No. 16 (August 30, 1844), col D.
- Barringer, Paul Brandon. The University of Virginia; its history, influence, equipment, and characteristics. New York, 1904. Accessed via books.google.com.
- Beta Theta Pi. Catalogue of Beta Theta Pi. 9th ed. New York, 1917.
- “Death of a Former Resident [Jacob Motte Alston].” The State (Columbia, SC), no. 6705 (July 17 1909), p. 6. (America’s Historical Newspapers. Newsbank).
- “The Death of John Ashe Alston (Editorial).” The Charleston Mercury (Charleston, SC) Monday, October 11, 1858; Issue 10,359; col B. (19th Century Newspapers – Infotrac).
- [Gilman, Samuel]. Catalogue of miniature portraits, landscapes, and other pieces executed by Charles Fraser, Esq. and exhibited at “The Fraser Gallery,” at Charleston during the months of February and March, 1857. Charleston, SC, 1857. Accessed via books.google.com.
- Groves, Joseph Asbury. The Alstons and Allstons of North and South Carolina. Atlanta, GA, 1901. Accessed via books.google.com.
- Heyward, Barnwell Rhett. “The descendants of Col. William Rhett of South Carolina [continued].” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, v. 4, No. 2 (April 1903), p. 110-189.
- Hunting For Bears, comp. Louisiana Marriages, 1718-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2004.
- “The Relatives and Friends of Mr. and Mrs. John Ashe Alston are Invited to attend the Funeral Services of Mr. Alston, at their house on Sullivan’s Island, this morning, at half-past Nine o’clock (Classified ads).” The Charleston Mercury (Charleston, SC) Saturday, October 09, 1858; Issue 10,358; col A. (19th Century Newspapers – Infotrac).
- Rush, Benjamin. Letter to Col. William Alston, 29 Aug. 1789, in “Showplaces of Georgetown.” South Carolina Historical Review, [n.d.], p. 1-2.
- Tombstones of the Alston family, All Saints Episcopal Church Cemetery, Pawley’s Island, SC & The Oaks Cemetery, Murrells Inlet, SC. Findagrave.com (Accessed 6/13/2011).
- University of Virginia. Minutes of the Board of Visitors, Aug. 17, 1837. UVa Text Collection. http://xtf.lib.virginia.edu/xtf/view?docId=2006_06/uvaGenText/tei/bov_18370817.xml (Accessed 8/5/2011).
- University of Virginia Matriculation Books, 1825-1904, Accession #RG-14/4/2.041, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
- Williams, Mary, “John Alston of Chowan Co., NC – Will?” [email dated 13 Nov. 2001]. http://genforum.genealogy.com/alston/messages/626.html (Accessed 6/13/2011).
- Winyah Observer, June 18, 1842, in Rogers, George C., History of Georgetown County, S.C. Columbia, SC, 1970.