Today In Charleston History: June 11

Henry Laurens

Henry Laurens

Henry Laurens returned from his internship London and opened an import and export business. Through his English contacts, Laurens entered into the slave trade with the Grant, Oswald & Company who controlled 18th century British slave castle in the Republic of Sierra Leone, West Africa known as Bunce Castle. Laurens contracted to receive slaves from the “rice coast” of Serra Leone, catalogue and market the human product by conducting public auctions in Charles Town. His company Austin and Laurens, in the 1750s, handled was responsible for the sales of more than eight thousand Africans

1754-Slavery. Executions

Two female slaves of Mr. Childermas Croft were burned alive for setting fire to their master’s main house and several plantation outbuildings in Charleston.

1766- Arrivals

 New royal governor, twenty-five year old Charles Genville Montagu, Duke of Cumberland, arrived. He presented a petition directing the Assembly to pay former Governor Boone’s salary for two and a half years. Montagu Street and Cumberland Street in Charleston are named after him. 

While in Charlestown, Montagu lived in the home owned by Charles and Eliza Lucas Pinckney, who were living in England at the time. The Pinckney’s house was located at the present corner of East Bay and Guignard streets (now Molly Darcey’s Irish Pub). It was destroyed by the 1861 fire.  

Ruins of the Pinckney mansion

Ruins of the Pinckney mansion, looking west from East Bay up Guignard Street.


Five men and one woman – Robert Stacy, Josiah Jordan, John George, Edward Hatcher, Thomas Smith, and Ann Connely – were hanged for the robbery and murder of Nicholas John Wightman.

1818 –Slavery. Religion

“Black Priests” appeared before the City Council asking for permission to “allow them to hold their meetings in the way they wished.” The Council denied the request, claiming that the “Missionaries” of the Philadelphia AME church were “fire-brands of discord and destruction.”

They did, however, allow daylight meetings as long as a “single white person” was present to monitor the service.

Today In Charleston History: June 10


Sam Dodson, master of the ship Katherine lodged an official protest with Governor Robert Quarry. According to the document written by Quarry, Dodson:

proved by oaths of himself and others that appeared having dispatched all his business and cleared and taken out his dispatches for his return to London; Hon. Landgrave [and former governor] Joseph Morton not ignorant but maliciously intending to hinder the voyage prohibited the pilot William Watson to convey the ship and did send William Popell, Provost Marshall, with several armed men on board the vessel who broke open the hatches and afterward on 10 June did cut the hoops of several casks and carry away and damage goods and merchandise of several merchants ensuing much damage … and passengers who may suffer for the detaining of the ship.


“A wicked and barbarous plot” was uncovered which terrified the white population. A group of blacks outside the city were said to have plotted “to destroy all the white people in the Country and then take the town.”

More than a dozen slaves were captured “and burnt … hang’d and banished.” The town watch was given more power to deal with blacks. A well-armed force of twenty-one men patrolled the streets nightly to “Quell any … designs by Negroes.”


Martha Laurens Ramsay died.

As a child, Martha was thought to have succumbed to smallpox and was laid out for burial when an ocean breeze revived her. As a child Martha Laurens demonstrated great eagerness for learning. She could read easily at age 3 & soon learned French, English grammar, geography, arithmetic, & some geometry.  Her father approved of her studious habits but cautioned her that a knowledge of housewifery was the 1st requisite in female education.

Martha Laurens Ramsay

Martha Laurens Ramsay

Her father, Henry, a merchant and planter, was one of the richest men in America.  Their family supported the Revolution’s promises and struggled through its postwar uncertainties. During the American Revolution her father, Henry Laurens, was president of the Continental Congress and later, after capture at sea, languished in the Tower of London as Britain’s highest-ranking American prisoner. Martha’s brother, John Laurens, achieved legendary status for his military gallantry in the war and his controversial proposal that slaves be liberated and armed to help fight for American freedom from England.

During the war, Martha lived in France, caring for her ailing uncle, and then, caring for her father after his release by the British. After the war, in 1787, Martha married Dr. David Ramsay of Charleston, a patriot-politician, and one of the first historians of the American Revolution, Martha bore eleven children. After her death in 1811, her husband edited and published a memoir from her writings, including portions of her diary.

Eight of her 11 children survived childhood.

Today In Charleston History: June 4


During the celebration of King George III’s birthday, Peter Timothy noted that, in comparison to the celebration over the John Wilkes affair and the arrival of the William Pitt statue:

few [houses] were illuminated because the People are not Hypocrites. They will not dissemble Joy, while they feel themselves unkindly treated, and oppressed.


The South Carolina Gazette, ran this advertisement: 

RUN AWAY: Dick, a mulatto fellow . . . a remarkable whistler and plays on the Violin.


Henry Laurens was unhappy with the level of education available in England for his sons. He wrote about Oxford and Cambridge saying:

The two universities are generally, I might say universally censured. Oxford in particular is spoken of as a School of Licentiousness and Debauchery in the most aggravated heights.

1774-American Revolution

The First Provincial Congress adopted the American Bill of Rights and the Articles of Confederation. On that same date, the First Provincial Congress authorized the issue of £1,000,000 in paper currency for military defense of the Province, and appointed thirteen new members to the Council of Safety, with power to command all soldiers and to use all public money in the Province. No military person could now sit on the Council of Safety.

The Congress ordered that 1500 special troops be raised to

go forth and be ready to sacrifice our lives and fortunes against every foe in defense of the liberty outraged in the bloody scene on the 19th of April last near Boston.


The final route of the Charleston & Hamburg Rail Road was confirmed. It was designed with nine turnouts – a parallel track joined to the mainline, an amazing innovation at that time. There were also twelve pumps/watering places for the locomotives.

Map of the rail road route.

Map of the Charleston & Hamburg rail road route.


Today In Charleston History: April 23


King Charles II bestowed upon Anthony Ashley Cooper the titles, Earl of Shaftesbury and Baron Cooper of Paulet.  

1780-The Siege of Charlestown.
Siege of Charlestown

Siege of Charlestown

The British were close enough to “easily throw a stone” into the American line trenches north of Boundary Street.  Rifle fire was added to siege, in addition to the artillery barrage. 


Capt. Joseph Vesey returned to Haiti with another cargo of slaves. He was informed that his former “pet”, Telemaque, was suffering from “epileptic fits” and a doctor had “certified that the lad was unwell.” His sale was “thereupon cancelled,” meaning that Vesey was forced to repurchase the boy, and was surprised to find that within a few months, the boy had become proficient in the French language.

Vesey put Telemaque back to work again as his cabin boy and miraculously, the epileptic fits ceased as soon as they sailed from Haiti. Vesey must have seen this as more proof of the boy’s intelligence and cleverness, and decided he would be more valuable as his personal servant.

1840 – Marriage

Mary Boykin Miller married James Chesnut, Jr., who was from one of the wealthiest families in the South. The Chesnut family owned 448 slaves and plantations totaling nearly five square miles.


Today In Charleston History: April 21

1704 – Births

Gabriel Manigualt by Jeremiah Theus (1757)

Gabriel Manigault was born in Charlestown, son of French Huguenot Pierre Manigault and Judith Gitton. He would become the city’s most successful merchant.


A slave in Charleston:

who at the beginning of last Month most cruelly murdered several white People at the Congarees was hung in Chains … at the dividing Path between the two Quarter-House.


The Commissioners of Fortifications called for bids to construct a more substantial seawall at White Point.

1775 – American Revolution – Foundations.

The “Secret Committee of Five,” seized the public gun powder at several magazines, including Hobcaw on the Charleston Neck, and the arms in the State House at the corner of Broad and Meeting Streets. In all they stole 800 guns, 200 cutlasses and 1600 pounds of powder.

1782 – Marriage

Eutaw Flag

Col. William Washington married Jane Elliott of Sandy Hill, South Carolina. Elliott and Washington met when she made his regiment a battle flag (the “Eutaw Flag”) that he carried into combat from Cowpens to Eutaw Springs.


William Turpin emancipated his slaves in his will. He left Jenny a two-story brick house on Society Street. He left a “brick house on Magazine Street to five slaves who were to collectively occupy it.” Sarah Gray, a white woman, was allowed to use “one tenement in the house on condition only, that She Shall Reside therein, and act as Guardian & protector to theses coloured people.”


Today In Charleston History: April 5


The South Carolina Gazette announced festivities to honor James Oglethorpe:

Tuesday last being the day appointed for the Review of the Troop and Regiment of St. Philips Charlestown, the two following commissions of his Majesty were published at Granville Bastion, under the discharge of the cannon both there and at Broughton Battery the one constituting and appointing the Hon. William Bull Lieutenant Governor in and over the province, and the other [for] his Excellency James Oglethorpe, General and Commanders of his Majesty’s Forces in the provinces of South Carolina and Georgia … In the evening his Excellency … made a general invitation to the ladies to an excellent supper and ball so the day concluded with much pleasure and satisfaction. 

1740 – Slavery
Stono Rebellion

Stono Rebellion

In response to the Stono Rebellion, the Assembly passed a new Negro Act – placing high import duty on slaves, which effectively cut off new slave trading. Its stated goal was “to ensure that slaves be kept in due subjection and obedience.”

No slave living in town was allowed to go beyond the city limits; the sale to alcohol was prohibited and teaching slaves to read and write was prohibited. Only the Assembly could grant a slave freedom. Any white person who “shall willfully cut out the tongue, put out the eye, castrate or cruelly scald” a slave was subject to a fine. 

1765 – American Revolution–The Sugar Act 

The Sugar Act was passed by Parliament. The British government had increased its debt during the French and Indian War, and was looking at various means to raise revenue. 

1780 – The Siege of Charlestown
Siege of Charlestown

Siege of Charlestown – British batteries outside the city.

After dark Gen. Clinton ordered the British battery at Fenwick’s Point and the Wappoo Cut, across the Ashley River, to fire upon Charlestown. The cannonballs whistling through the dark sky over the city created a “terrible clamor” with “the loud wailing of female voices.”

One of the British cannonballs struck Mr. Thomas Elfe’s house at 54 Queen Street and two damaged Governor John Rutledge’s house on Broad Street. Rutledge wrote that he was appalled at “the insulting Manner in which the Enemy’s Gallies have fired, with Impunity, on the Town.”

Also, the British galley Scourge fired eighty-five times with “every shot … into town.” During the night three British soldiers deserted to the American side. One of the soldiers “paddled himself over on a plank from James Island.”

Siege marker on King Street @ Marion Square

Siege marker on King Street @ Marion Square

Today In Charleston History: April 2

1737- Slavery.

The disproportionate numbers of Negro slaves versus white settlers began to concern some citizens. In a letter to the South Carolina Gazette, a writer called “Mercator” argued about the danger of the “importation of Negroes.” He argued that in the four years past there had been imported 10,447 Negroes and in the four years before only 5153. He suggested that some method to prevent the large importation of Negroes must be speedily adopted or else there would be “the most fatal consequence to the province.”

Seal of South Carolina

Seal of South Carolina

A state seal of South Carolina was authorized to be designed by Arthur Middleton and William Henry Drayton.


Charles Pinckney returned to Charlestown and lived at 2 Orange Street, and helped his mother with his father’s estate. The will reserved property valued at £53, 000 and stipulated that “sixty of the worst of my plantation slaves” be sold to pay his debts. He left his mansion on Queen Street to his son, Charles. The remainder of his estate – three plantations, Fee Farm and Drainfield in St. Bartholomew’s Parish and Snee Farm in Christ Church – were to be divided equally among his wife and children.

1864-Bombardment of Charleston.

In a letter to his Aunt Janey, Gus Smythe wrote:

I have got the most responsible post in the Signal corps here & the most dangerous when they are shelling, for they avowedly make this steeple their mark when firing & have made some very close shots. To look down on them from here, all around the foot of the Steeple, in the grave yard, Streets, City Hall, Court House, Guard House & houses, it seems & is miraculous that so far they have missed. I only hope they continue to do so, for tho’ there may be some “glory” there will be little pleasure in tumbling down with the Steeple.

roosevelt, expo

Pres. Roosevelt at the Expo

President’s Day at the South Carolina West Indian Exposition with President Teddy Roosevelt visiting the Ivory City. Thousands of people lined the streets while a parade of three thousand representing all branches of the military marched to the Exposition. The president gave a speech and attended a luncheon at the Woman’s Building.