Home » Charleston Firsts » Today In Charleston History: January 12

Today In Charleston History: January 12

1723

colonel-william-rhettCol. William Rhett died of apoplexy in Charlestown. He was described as “greedy, violent, vulgar, lawless, brave, impulsive, generous … greedily violating law and propriety for bigger profits, insulting the noble and courteous Gov. Craven.” He was also one of the most important citizens of early Charles Town. Rhett served as colonel of the Provincial Militia, receiver general of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, surveyor and comptroller of customs for Carolina and the Bahama Islands. 

In 1706 Rhett commanded a flotilla that fought off a Franco-Spanish attack on Charles Town.Ten years later, he outfitted two ships as pirate hunters – the Henry and the Sea Nymph, each with eight guns and a crew of between 60 and 70 men. Rhett assumed the position of captain of this small flotilla and led it to victory in the 1718 Battle of Cape Fear River, capturing the infamous Stede Bonnet, the so-called “gentleman pirate.”

1760 – Epidemics

One of the most severe small pox outbreaks in colonial America started, most likely brought to the city by returning soldiers from the Cherokee Indian expedition.  More than 6000 people contracted the disease, resulting in 380 deaths among whites and about 350 blacks. This led to the first mass inoculation of the Charlestown population, with more than 2000 people taking the shot within a few weeks, more than 600 in one day according to Dr. Alexander Garden.

Three month old Martha Ramsay was pronounced dead of smallpox. Her body was laid out in preparation for a funeral and placed next to an open window. Dr. John Moultrie arrived and pronounced her still alive, speculating she had been revived by the fresh breeze.

Eliza Pinckney wrote: “Many poor wretches … died for want of proper nursing … smallpox rages the city so that it almost puts a stop to all business.”

1773 – Charleston First

Charleston Museum was established – 1st museum in America.

The Charleston Library Society provided the core collection of natural history artifacts for the founding of the Charleston Museum (the first in America) in 1773. Residents were encouraged to donate objects for the new museum on Chalmers Street. Some of initial acquisitions included “a drawing of the head of a bird, an Indian hatchet, a Hawaiian woven helmet, and a Cassava basket from Surinam.”

The museum also acquired “a Rittenhouse orrery, a Manigault telescope, a Camera obscura, a hydrostatic balance, and a pair of elegant globes.”

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