The Boykins and the Chesnuts had an effective spokesperson in Mary Boykin Chesnut who also left a diary. When the first of the someday-to-be very wealthy Chesnuts came into the area Mary Chesnut recorded he was "a lad [who] arrived after leaving his land in Virginia; and being without fortune otherwise, he went into Joseph Kershaw's grocery shop as a clerk"
The painting was shown at the Brooklyn Museum in 1917 with this information:
"John Chestnut was born in the Valley of Virginia. He was brought to South Carolina by his mother and step-father (Jasper Sutton) when he was thirteen years old. At the outbreak of the Revolution he became attached to the Third South Carolina Regiment and served as paymaster with the rank of captain. He later obtained command in the militia and served during the Georgia campaign. He was taken prisoner on the evacuation of Charleston in 1780, and paroled to his plantation at Knight's Hill. Refusing the demand of Lord Rawdon to take up arms against his countrymen in August 1780, he was thrown in prison and chained to the floor, and bore to his grave the marks of the irons upon his ankles."
"Let the shop of a hundred years ago rest for a while. Upon my soul, I have a desire to go in there and look at the Kershaw tombstones. I am sure they have put it on their marble tablets that we had an ancestor one day a hundred years ago who was a clerk in their shop."
"In the second generation the shop had so far sunk that the John Chesnut of that day refused to let his daughter marry a handsome, dissipated Kershaw, and she, [Mary's husband's Great Aunt Harriet Chesnut] a spoiled beauty, who could not endure to obey orders when they were disagreeable to her, went up to her room and therein remained, never once coming out of it for forty years. Her father let her have her own way in that; he provided servants to wait upon her and every conceivable luxury that she desired, but neither party would give in."
Mary was apparently quite irritated with the Kershaws because she continued about a Kershaw/
Chesnut lawsuit over an estate, in which her father lawyer Stephen Decatur Miller had some interest. She quoted the letter begging her father-in-law not to pursue the claim as it would "beggar Miss Mary Kershaw [who] still owned a few negroes and some land and was highly respected by all the Camden world." This must have been in the 1830s or earlier as Mary's father died in 1838.
James Chesnut dropped the suit. Mary thought that it was because James's Chesnut's father had "been kindly treated" as a clerk in the pre-Revolutionary grocery shop, "He would never allow anything to be done when the family lost their prosperity which could in any way annoy them."
Young Johnny: "Barring marrying them."
By then the Chesnuts were paupers too, but the hostilities probably went on. Let's hope nobody invited any Kershaws and Chesnuts to the same quilting party.