The Bonds Conway House, circa 1812, serves as headquarters for the Kershaw County
Historical Society at 811 Fair Street in Camden, SC 29020. An image of the house forms the
The unique and proud history of this charming cottage is, in essence, the history of
the man who built it--Bonds Conway, the first black man on record in the Kershaw County
Court House to have purchased his own freedom.
Bonds Conway was born in Virginia in 1763. He was a servant belonging to Edwin
Conway, assigned to Edwin's son Peter. Peter Conway and Bonds moved to South Carolina in
1792, joining other members of the Conway family. It is evident, from the following
entry in records at the Kershaw County Court House, that Peter regarded his servant with
trust and respect:
Be it known by all persons that it is by my permission to let my servant Bonds pass
and re-pass to and fro, as he pleases. Also to hire himself, and be free of
mosetation of any person or persons, he having conducted himself in a just and faithful
manner. My servant Bonds also has the right to trade.
(Signed) Peter Conway,
February 10, 1792
In 1793, Edwin Conway sold Bonds to Zachariah Cantey, a prominent local citizen. The
following affidavit was attached to the Bill of Sale:
I hereby ackowledge that I purchased the within named Negro man, Bonds, with his
own money, of Mr. Edwin Conway, and do relinquish any title or claim to him.
Thus, at about the age of thirty, Bonds, who had taken the Conway surname, became a
free man. He used his freedom intelligently and industriously, earning his living as
a skilled carpenter. About 1812 he began to acquire land extending through the
center of the block bordered by York, Market, King and Lyttleton Streets and, by the time
of his death in 1843, he had purchased this entire parcel of land. In his will he
divided his property among four of his eight surviving children. Each of these four
sections had a house on it.
The Conways were a close-knit family, as documented by a treasure of family letters,
now housed in the South Caroliniana Library in Columbia, South Carolina. The last
member to bear the Conway name was Dorcas Conway who gave the family property in 1890 to
her daughter, Mrs. Sally Dibble. In 1906 Mrs. Dibble sold the house to Allen Ross.
The Bonds Conway House was purchased by the Kershaw County Historical Society in 1977
and moved to its present location on Fair Street behind the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw
County. The United States Department of the Interior provided matching funds to
restore the house in 1978, and the restoration was completed in 1980.
In the restoration, the original architectural details, first executed by Bonds Conway,
have been carefully retained. The heart pine floor boards on both floors are
original to the house, as are the roof beams. The ceiling in the main room and the
book room and the framing of the house are also original. Of special notice are the
mantelpiece and the woodwork in the central room. The well proportioned interior and
the trim lines of the exterior are further signs of a naturally talented and conscientious
Today the Bonds Conway House serves as the office of the Kershaw County Historical
Society. A continuing effort is being made to furnish the house in the manner of a
19th century cottage, and appropriate landscaping is an on-going effort of the Society.
Sometimes,, in the restoration of historic homes, the smaller, less impressive houses
are overlooked. The Kershaw County Historical Society is grateful that the Bonds
Conway House, so rich in black history, is firmly entrenched in the heritage of Camden.
The Bonds Conway House is located at 811 Fair Street, between DeKalb and York Streets.
It is open to the public on Thursdays from 1:00 to 5:00 p. m. and at other times by