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Today In Charleston: January 25

1735

Andrew Rutledge married Sarah Hext, widow of Hugh Hext, one of the richest men in South Carolina. Hext left Sarah a plantation in Christ Church on the Wando Neck and twenty-three slaves. His other holdings were left as a legacy for his eight-year daughter, Sarah, to inherit when she turned twenty-one or upon her marriage, whichever came first. They included: two houses in Charlestown, a 550-acre plantation at Stono and a 640-acre plantation at St. Helena (Beaufort).

1771

Major Pierce Butler of the British Army married Mary Middleton. She was heiress to a vast fortune, the orphaned daughter of Thomas Middleton, a South Carolina planter and slave importer. Two years later Butler resigned his commission in the British Army and settled with Mary in South Carolina.

Pierce Butler

Pierce Butler

The War for Independence cost him much of his property, and his finances were so precarious for a time that he was forced to travel to Amsterdam to seek a personal loan. Butler won election to both the Continental Congress (1787-88) and the Constitutional Convention. In the latter assembly, he was an outspoken nationalist who attended practically every session and was a key spokesman for the Madison-Wilson caucus. Butler also supported the interests of southern slaveholders. He served on the Committee on Postponed Matters. He was one of the four signers of the Constitution from South Carolina. 

His later career was spent as a wealthy planter. In his last years, he moved to Philadelphia, apparently to be near a daughter who had married a local physician. Butler died there in 1822 at the age of 77 and was buried in the yard of Christ Church.

1800 – Slavery

 The freed slave, Telemaque, now called Denmark, choose his former owner’s surname as his own, Vesey. Most freedmen chose a name that cut their ties with their former owners. Denmark knew however, that making his living in Charleston would be hard enough and the linguistic association with a prominent white man’s name would give him a better chance to make his way in the city. 

He was unable to purchase freedom for his wife, Beck and their three children. He was also not allowed as a free black to live in the home of his wife’s master. Due to Charleston’s growth, city expansion and ship building Denmark began to make his living as a carpenter in Charleston. A Freeman carpenter could earn a respectable $1.50 per day so Vesey apprenticed himself to a “free black” carpenter named Saby Gaillard, who lived at 2 Wentworth Street.

Vesey “soon became much respected and esteem’d by de white folks … distinguished for his great strength and activity.”

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