Kitt R. McMaster III

James Henry Rion

Until now the life of James H. Rion (1828-1886) has been known only in fragments. Many in South Carolina know of him only through the legend, told in countless variations throughout the 20th century, that he was the son of a Montréal dauphin and thus the grandson of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette; others recognize him as one who spent much of his youth with the Calhoun family at Fort Hill and who later became Thomas G. Clemson’s lawyer; while still others are acquainted with him primarily as a celebrated Confederate colonel. But his full story has never been told and few are aware of his many contributions to the Palmetto State during the demanding years of Reconstruction and the Conservative Era which followed the pivotal election of 1876. This book is the first comprehensive biography of one whose many-sided life – scholar and educator, soldier, attorney without peer, railroad man, proactive trustee of a resurgent South Carolina College during the 1880s, devoted husband and father of nine – deserves to be better known. Rion was originally a Canadian, but it was in his adopted state of South Carolina that he “carved his way from humbleness to distinction and renown.” His life coincided with what was perhaps the most exciting and controversial period of the nation’s history and he was a conspicuous player in every phase of it. This is his story.


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