Today In Charleston History: March 7

1737 – Slavery

A curfew act was enacted for blacks in Charlestown. Any black that appeared on the street after sundown without a lantern and written permission from their master could be apprehended by any white and taken to the Watch house overnight. They would be whipped in the morning and their owners could claim them after paying a fine.

1773 – Culture
Josiah Quincy

Josiah Quincy

Josiah Quincy visited Charleston in 1773. He was was an American lawyer and patriot from Boston. He was the principal spokesman for the Sons of Liberty prior to the Revolution and was John Adams’ co-counsel during the trials of Captain Thomas Preston and the soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre.

He kept a journal of his visit in the South and recorded his impressions of Charleston. He was not impressed with the church service at St. Philips. The small number in attendance shocked his Boston-Puritan ethic. In addition he noted the minister was:

A young scarcely-bearded boy … preached and prayed as to try an affect a gay air about the service. The sermon was only seventeen and a half minutes, a solemn mockery … … few women or men stood to sing … most people freely conversed with one another during the service.

1780 – Revolutionary War

British engineers constructed a bridge over the Wappoo Cut as preparations of their siege of Charlestown. 

Today In Charleston History: March 6

1724 – Births.
Henry Laurens

Henry Laurens

Henry Laurens was born in Charlestown, son of John Laurens a French Huguenot. The young Henry became friends with Christopher Gadsden during childhood, creating an alliance between two powerful men during the Revolution. Lauren’s son-in-law, Dr. David Ramsay wrote that they were:

…. Attached in their early youth to each other by the strongest ties of ardent friendship. They made a common cause to support and encourage each other in every virtuous pursuit, to shun every path of vice and folly, to leave company whenever it tended to licentiousness … and acquired an energy of character which fitted them for acting a distinguished part in the trying scenes of a revolution …

1837

Senate confirmed the appointment of Joel R. Poinsett as Secretary of War by President Martin Van Buren, and presided over the continuing removal of Indians west of the Mississippi and over the Seminole War.

To read more about Poinsett’s life … click here. 

Today In Charleston History: March 5

1773 – Commerce

Using slave labor, Christopher Gadsden finally completed his 840-foot long wharf at the north end of town on the Cooper River (at the foot of present-day Calhoun Street). It was described as “one of the most extensive of the kind ever undertaken in America.”

Gadsden Wharf on the Cooper River

Gadsden Wharf on the Cooper River

In the late 1760s, Gadsden began the construction of a large wharf on today’s Concord Street between Calhoun and Laurens Street. In January 1767 Gadsden advertised in the South Carolina Gazette for, “Pine logs 16 to18 feet long and from 10 to 12 inches thick.” Work progressed so that in nine months Gadsden announced that he had framed the wharf and had space for two ships that could be loaded and unloaded simultaneously. Gadsden also announced that planters could store their rice at his wharf for a week without charge provided that he was the factor selling the rice. Over the next seven years Gadsden continued expanding the wharf.

 In March 7, 1774 the South Carolina Gazette reported that the,
“Stupendous work was nearly completed and was believe to be the most extensive of its kind ever undertaken by any one man in America.”
In May Gadsden wrote his friend Samuel Adams describing his
“seven years of hard labor to build the wharf, extending 840 feet that included warehouses that could hold 10,000 barrels of rice.”
1778 – American Revolution

The new Constitution of South Carolina was given a third reading and approved. It deprived the President of the state of his veto. It also stated that only Protestants could be legislators or governor. The Anglican Church, was disestablished, but retained all its property.

President John Rutledge resigned his office because he felt this document surrendered all hope of reunion with Britain. Arthur Middleton was elected to succeed Rutledge but he declined. Rawlins Lowndes was then elected and served until Rutledge replaced him in January 1779. Christopher Gadsden was chosen as Vice-President. 

Today In Charleston History: March 4

1788 – City Market

old market stalls - postcardPlans for a “City Market” began to take shape when six prominent citizens donated land to the city to build the new street. Much of the property was a canal created by building up the banks of a tidal creek that ran from the Cooper River to Meeting Street. The donors gave the city four years to fill the canal property from Meeting to Church Street and six additional years to fill it from Church to East Bay. The donors were:

  • Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
  • John Deas
  • Thomas Jones
  • Sims White
  • John Wyatt
  • Mary Lingard

The canal was to be filled to make the street 33 feet wide and divided into what is now North and South Market Streets, with spaces along each side of the canal about 33 feet wide as well.

1825 – Presidential election

John Quincy Adams took the oath of office as President of the United States. John C. Calhoun was sworn in as Vice President of the United States.

1829 –  Presidential election

Andrew Jackson took the oath of office as President of the United States and John C. Calhoun was sworn in as Vice-President. Calhoun was only one of two men to serve two consecutive terms as VP for two different presidents. Two times a bridesmaid, never a bride. The other was George Clinton who served as V-P for Thomas Jefferson and then a term for James Madison. 

Vice President John C. Calhoun

Vice President John C. Calhoun

Today In Charleston History: March 3

1763

Peter Timothy announced he was suspending publication of the South Carolina Gazette because he was unable to procure a printing assistant, his paper stock was depleted and he had been too busy to collect bills due to him. 

1781 – British Occupation

The South Carolina Gazette resumed publication as the Royal Gazette.  The Tory publisher John Wells made sure the paper reflected the British perspective.

1853

Construction of South Carolina Institute Hall began – for the purpose of hosting agricultural and industrial fairs.

South Carolina Institute Hall on Meeting Street. Harper's Weekly illustration

South Carolina Institute Hall on Meeting Street. Harper’s Weekly illustration

Today In Charleston History: March 2

1696 – Fortifications.

The Assembly passed a second act appropriating money for the construction of a brick wall along Charles Town’s eastern edge. It became known as the “wharf wall,” or the “curtain line upon the Bay.” The legislature also considered plans for building a brick “fort” at the east end of Broad Street.

1779 – Births.

Joel Roberts Poinsett, future American statesman and botanist, was born in Charleston. As the American minister to Mexico in 1828 Poinsett discovered a beautiful shrub which the locals called “Flor de Noche Buena” (Christmas Eve flower). Poinsett sent samples of the plant home to his plantations in Charleston and Greenville.  

Most botanists dismissed the plant as nothing more that a weed, but Poinsett shared the plant with friends and other horticulturists whose enthusiasm for its beauty led to it being called the “Mexican fire plant.” In 1836 the plant was officially renamed the “poinsettia”, following the 19th century convention of naming things after their “discoverers.” It is now the #1 selling potted plant in the world. 

greenhouse full of bright red poinsettia

Poinsettias in a warehouse.

1833 – Nullification Crisis

The Force Bill was passed by Congress at the urging of President Andrew Jackson. It consisted of eight sections expanding presidential power and was designed to compel the state of South Carolina’s compliance with a series of federal tariffs, opposed by John C. Calhoun and other leading South Carolinians. Among other things, the legislation stipulated that the president could, if he deemed it necessary, deploy the U.S. Army to force South Carolina to comply with the law.

Today In Charleston History: March 1

1711 – Religion
St. Philips Church, 1723

St. Philips Church, 1723

At the urging of Rev. Gideon Johnston, a law was passed for “Erecting a New Brick Church,” a new St. Philip’s on “the east side of Church-street, a few poles north of Queen-street.”  The Assembly realized the true entrance of the city was not by road (Broad Street) but by ship, so it was determined to build the new church closer to the harbor.

1755

The new State House at Broad and Meeting streets opened. It was the largest and grandest building in South Carolina described as a

“two-story, large, commodious Brick Building … of about 120 by 40 feet … decorated with four … columns.”

1771 – Slavery

Edmund Jones and Joseph Jordan were hanged for “aiding runaway slaves.” Jones, the master of the schooner Two Josephs, and Jordan, a sailor, allegedly had stolen the schooner, taking with them several slaves. Several slaves who had run away on the Two Josephs, were hanged together with Jordan and Jones.

1774
Edward Rutledge

Edward Rutledge

Edward Rutledge married Henrietta Middleton, daughter of Henry Middleton, one of the wealthiest and most influential men in South Carolina with 50,000 acres and 800 slaves. This marriage solidified many alliances with other prominent South Carolina families that would play important roles in the coming Revolution. 

Today In Charleston History: February 28

1752 – Births
William Washington

William Washington

William Washington was born in Stafford County, Virginia. He was second cousin to George Washington and would later play an important role during the Revolution in South Carolina.  

Washington was elected a captain of Stafford County Minutemen on September 12, 1775, and became part of the 3rd Virginia Regiment, Continental Line on February 25, 1776, commanding its 7th Company. His lieutenant and second-in-command was future President of the United States James Monroe. 

On November 19, 1779, was transferred to the Southern theatre of war, and marched to join the army of Major General Benjamin Lincoln in Charleston, South Carolina. On March 26, Washington had his first skirmish with the British Legion, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, which resulted in a minor victory near Rantowle’s Bridge on the Stono River in South Carolina. Later that same day, during the fight at Rutledge’s Plantation Lt. Col. Washington again bested a detachment of Tarleton’s dragoons and infantry.

Washington and Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens

Washington and Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens

During the Battle of Cowpens, January 17, 1781, Washington’s cavalry was attacked by Tarleton’s forces again. Washington managed to survive this assault and in the process wound Tarleton’s right hand with a sabre blow, while Tarleton creased Washington’s knee with a pistol shot that also wounded his horse. For his valor at Cowpens, Washington received a silver medal awarded by the Continental Congress executed under the direction of Thomas Jefferson.

September 8, 1781, the Battle of Eutaw Springs was the last major battle in the Carolinas, and Washington’s final action. Midway through the battle,  Washington charged a portion of the British line positioned in a blackjack thicket along Eutaw Creek. The thicket proved impenetrable and British fire repulsed the mounted charges. During the last charge, Washington’s mount was shot out from under him, and he was pinned beneath his horse. He was bayoneted and taken prisoner, and held under house arrest in the Charleston area for the remainder of the war.

The British commander in the South, Lord Cornwallis, would later comment that “there could be no more formidable antagonist in a charge, at the head of his cavalry, than Colonel William Washington.”

After the war Washington married Jane Elliott of Charleston and for the remainder of his life lived at 8 South Battery and on the Elliott family plantation at Rantowles.

William Washington House, 8 South Battery, Charleston

William Washington House, 8 South Battery, Charleston

1758

A “New Barracks” of pine-timber was constructed for British soldiers on what is now the site of the College of Charleston. Lt. Col. Bouquet again demanded that the Assembly pay the officers’ rents in private homes. The legislature refused, claiming that the traditional right of Englishmen to be free of quartering soldiers was being violated. 

1774

The South Carolina Gazette reported of “a most infamous and dangerous Set of Villains, of whom the Public had entertained very little Suspicion.” Two slaves were arrested as “Principals” in “several of the Burglaries and Robberies, which had been so frequent of late.” After questioning the slaves, authorities also arrested “John Thomson, an Umbrella-maker and Shop-keeper, Richard Thomson, who kept a Livery Stable, and George Vargent, a Coachman.”

The two slaves received a death sentence and were hanged a few days later. The three white men were sentenced to sit twice in the pillory where they were “most severely pelted,” given a whipping of thirty-nine lashes each, and fine from 25 to 500 pounds.

Today In Charleston History: February 27

1719

The Assembly passed an act providing funds to pay the debts incurred by Gov. Johnson and Col. Rhett in their actions against the pirates.

1785-Religion.
asbury

Francis Asbury

Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury and Rev. Jeese Lee held the first service of Methodists in Charleston at the deserted Baptist Meeting House. During the Revolution, the Meeting House had been used by the British army for the storage of provisions.

Due to their rigid morality and their passionate evangelism, Methodists infuriated many people. They were quick to point out to sinners their fiery fate unless they repented. The services continued every evening for fourteen days.

Today In Charleston History: February 26

1670 – Carolina Expedition

The expedition took on several new passengers in Bermuda, including 79-year old William Sayle, the newly appointed Governor of Carolina. They left Bermuda with a plan to settle at Port Royal (current location of Hilton Head, SC.)

1687

Arnold Bruneau, Esq., Paul Bruneau, Esq. and Josias Marviland, Esq. formed a partnership for the construction of a mill (wind or water) to saw timber.

windmills carolina

Illustration of Dutch-designed windmills used in the Carolinas.