Judy Shippey, Guest Columnist
It was late in the afternoon in the year 1716, near Lambert’s Bridge in South Carolina. A husband and wife were going home after a day’s excursion for shopping and errands in a nearby town. As they prepared to cross Lambert’s Bridge, the wife was chatting on and on about conversations she had had with her friends in town that day and repeating little gossipy tidbits to her husband.
All of a sudden, he motioned her to be quiet and listen.
“Ah, there it is again,” he said. “There now, didn’t you hear it too?”
His wife said, “Now I do! What is it? What is making that noise?”
The husband got down from the wagon and carefully made his way to the bottom of the bank beside the bridge.
A moment later, he was back at the wagon, holding a basket in his hands, a bemused expression on his face.
“You’re never gonna believe it!” he told his wife. “It’s a baby!” “A baby?” his wife echoed in shock and disbelief. “A baby?”
Carefully, they pulled back the covering from the baby’s face, and there, beyond doubt, was a baby boy! Where the baby came from, or who his parents were, was never discovered. He was, indeed, completely a foundling!
The couple took him home with them and prepared to raise him as their own. They were childless, so the experience of having a baby suddenly becoming their responsibility was a blessing to them! They named him John Lambert because of the name of the bridge where they found him. The future was looking good for all of them! However, sadness again struck John Lambert in that while he was still young, his adopted parents died. He was friendless and penniless! John’s fortunes began to change when he found an Indian pottery jug while he was digging for fishing bait one day.
He traded the jug for a hen and went into the chicken business. Then he branched out into pigs and cows. He was also able to obtain a tract of land. After this his financial matters really improved, and when he moved to Midway, Georgia, in 1784, he was considered a man of no small means. He quickly became one of the most highly respected citizens of Midway and served three times on the board of selectmen of the Midway Congregational Church.
In less than three years, he built up a large plantation.
Somewhere along the way, John Lambert acquired high moral values and sound religious principles. When he died in 1786, he left a considerable fortune to be used for “. . . charitable and pious purposes.”
His will was left in the hands of executors to be disbursed according to the above guidelines, as they deemed fit. John Lambert’s will is couched in somewhat unique terms. A quote from it will prove this assertion: “My will and desire is that my estate be kept together and the yearly income be applied to any religious or good purpose at the discretion of my executors and trustees, either for support of the gospel in back parts of the state, for the relief of the poor and hard pressed, or wherever any good and pious purpose may be encountered in the church of Midway, or any other that may be needed, for the carrying on and assisting the intended academy in Sunbury, or promoting of any public schools or seminary; the bringing up orphans and the like.” The Lambert estate is still being administered today here in Liberty County. The men who are selected to be trustees of the estate consider it a great honor. The trustees work quietly, without fanfare or publicity, much like the man whose assets they disburse.
John Lambert lived and died without family or a name. However, he who had no name made a name for himself. All the people and organizations who have benefitted from his benevolence have become his family!