Today In Charleston History: July 7



Henry Laurens left Charlestown with his three sons for Philadelphia, on his way to England to establish his children in school.


Sabina Ellis Ramsay died, age nineteen, leaving Dr. David Ramsay widowed for the first time.


The pardoned Charlestown prisoners arrived in Philadelphia from St. Augustine, where they had been held by British authorities. Charles Pinckney took a room at Mrs. McFunn’s boardinghouse on Second Street with Arthur Middleton.

1849-Religion. Slavery

A riot broke out at the Work House – the Negro Jail – just around the corner, and thirty prisoners escaped.  They were quickly recaptured, tried, and imprisoned.  One of them, Nicholas was hanged.  


During his national speaking tour, Oscar Wilde appeared at the Academy of Music.


Oscar Wilde, 1882

Academy of Music, Market and King Street (present site of the Riveria Theater.

Academy of Music, Market and King Street (present site of the Riveria Theater.



The last hanging in South Carolina took place at Charleston’s Old City Jail on Magazine Street of Daniel Duncan, a Black man who was accused of killing Max Lubelsky on King Street.

Lubelsky had been killed a year before, in the summer of 1910, and a few weeks later his widow was attacked. A mob grabbed a nearby Black man named Daniel Duncan and Duncan was accused of both acts. Many thought that Duncan was innocent, but since African Americans were not allowed on juries in those days and he was pronounced guilty within less than an hour, and was sentenced to hang.

The day of his execution, Duncan gave a note to his pastor, Rev. L. Ruffin Nichols of Mother Emanuel AME Church. It said in part, “Tell them that I am at rest, because I am innocent and the Lord knows that I am today.”

Read the entire story in my book SOUTH CAROLINA KILLERS.

Today In Charleston History: July 4


Captain Joseph West complained that several of the settlers were “so addicted to Rum, that they will do little but whilst the bottle is at their nose” and “grand abuses that prophanely violate the Sabbath.”   

1776-American Revolution

The Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence. The ideals of individual liberty, first espoused by John Locke (partially in his Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina and Two Treatises of Government) were now clearly expressed by Thomas Jefferson.

John Hancock signed the document that day, and it was sent to John Dunlop’s printing shop where 200 copies were printed. Copies were sent across the country to all major cities in America.

South Carolina signers of the Declaration of Independence

South Carolina signers of the Declaration of Independence

All four South Carolina delegates voted for independence.

  • Arthur Middleton, thirty-four years old
  • Thomas Heyward, Jr., twenty-nine years old
  • Thomas Lynch, Jr., twenty-seven years old
  • Edward Rutledge was the youngest signer of the Declaration, twenty-six years old

declaration with SC delegate signature

1778-American Revolution

Dr. David Ramsay gave a public address in celebration of American independence. He stated that “our present form of government is everyway preferable to the royal one we have lately renounced.”


Members of the Union Party “marched sedately to Scots Presbyterian Church” for an Independence Day celebration. The Nullifiers met at the Circular Church and reassembled for an outdoor rally:

Under a splendid Pavilion … from which mere boys of 8 to 12 years old were carried on the backs of servants, completely insensible from drink, while dead drunk seniors staggers and swore up and down the public streets … a complete exemplification of that depravity which the foul doctrine of Anarchy and Nullification is calculated to end in.

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.

Today In Charleston History: March 28



Aerial photo of Middleton Place

Arthur Middleton received 800 acres from the Proprietors. Arthur was active in public life and became president of the convention that overthrew the Lords Proprietors in 1719. His son, Henry, married Mary Williams whose dowry included the property which is now called Middleton Place, a National Historic Landmark. 

Henry’s son, Arthur, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.


In a public letter in the South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, Rev. Charles Woodmason expressed the outrage of the back country people of the most recent election. He publically ridiculed Christopher Gadsden as the “Scriblerus of the Libertine” and claimed he and the Sons of Liberty were hypocrites – protesting British taxation without representation yet turning around and taxing the back country without allowing them fair representation. Woodmason wrote:

Lo! Such are the Men who bounce and make such Noise about Liberty! Liberty! Freedom! Freedom! Rights! Privileges! and what not … and these very Scribblers and Assembly Orators … keep under the lowest Subjection half the Inhabitants of this Province … These are the Sons of Liberty!

1778 – American Revolution

Legislation was passed that ordered all males sixteen or older to swear allegiance to South Carolina and agree to defend the state against George III. This precipitated the first mass exodus of Tories from Charlestown, making the city a predominant Patriot stronghold.

1818- Births

Wade Hampton III was born in Charleston, in the William Rhett house. His grandfather had created one of America’s largest fortunes from cotton. Although opposed to secession, Hampton remained loyal to his state and rose to the rank of Lt. General during the Civil War, seeing action at the First Battle of Bulls Run, the Peninsula Campaign and Gettysburg. After the War Hampton became one of the most prominent men who popularized the “Lost Cause” movement across the South. He was elected governor in 1876.

wade hampton illustration

LEFT: Wade Hampton. RIGHT: 54 Hasell Street (William Rhett House, 1712), Hampton’s birthplace. Currently a private residence in Charleston


Mayor J. Adger Smyth and the Charleston City Council endorsed the plans for an Exposition in Charleston. The newly organized South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition Co. had already raised more than $40,000 and chosen Captain F.W. Wagner as the company’s chairman.

Not everyone was confident of the Exposition’s success. W.D. Parsons wrote in the Inter-State Journal, “The audacity of this little town in sandwiching in an exposition between the great fairs of Buffalo and St. Louis is truly great.”

Today In Charleston History: March 19

1778 – Politics


Rawllins Lowndes

South Carolina President Rawlings Lowndes approved changes to the state constitution that changed the title of South Carolina’s chief executive’s office from president to governor, although he was called “president” until the end of his term. It also disestablished the Church of England in South Carolina.

1785 – Education

The Legislature granted a charter for College of Charleston to “encourage and institute youth in the several branches of liberal education.” The founders of the College include three signers of the Declaration of Independence (Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton and Thomas Heyward, Jr.) and three future signers of the United States Constitution (John Rutledge, Charles Pinckney and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney).

The Act also granted the college almost 9 acres of land bounded by present-day Calhoun, St. Philip, Coming and George streets; three-fourths of the land was soon sold to pay debts,  In 1837 CofC became America’s first municipal college in the country.

Randolph Hall, College of Charleston main campus

Randolph Hall, College of Charleston main campus

Today In History: January 1

1787 – Deaths  

TOP: Arthur Middleton & the Great Seal of South Carolina BOTTOM: Middleton tomb at Middleton Place

TOP: Arthur Middleton & the Great Seal of South Carolina BOTTOM: Middleton tomb at Middleton Place

Arthur Middleton died and was buried at Middleton Plantation. The death notice from the State Gazette of South-Carolina described him as a “tender husband and parent, humane master, steady unshaken patriot, the gentleman, and the scholar.”

He was educated in Britain, at Westminster School, and Trinity Hall, Cambridge.He then studied law at the Middle Temple and traveled extensively in Europe where his taste in literature, music, and art was developed and refined. In 1764, Arthur and his bride Mary Izard settled at Middleton Place.

Arthur Middleton was one of the more radical thinkers in South Carolina politics – a leader of the American Party in Carolina and one of the boldest members of the Council of Safety and its Secret Committee. His attitude toward Loyalists was said to be ruthless. In 1776, Arthur signed the United States Declaration of Independence and designed the Great Seal of South Carolina with William Henry Drayton.  

During the American Revolutionary War, Arthur served in the defense of Charleston. After the city’s fall to the British in 1780, he was one of the 30+ Patriot leaders imprisoned in St. Augustine, Florida.


The City Gazette reported that a man “was paraded through the streets, covered with feathers, stuck in a coat of tar, as a spectacle for the execration of others more honest than himself.

No, it was not a drunken New Years Eve celebration. Apparently, the man had gone “on board of a vessel, where he saw some goods so bewitching as to induce him to break at least one of the commandments, which says ‘Thou shalt not steal.’”

1808 – Slavery.

The foreign slave trade ended by Federal law, as negotiated during the creation of the U.S. Constitution.

1865 – Civil War

Maj. John Johnson, a Confederate engineer wrote, “The first of January 1865, found Charleston gathered within her circle of defenses – Not invested, but much perplexed.”

Today In Charleston History: August 27

1706 – Queen Anne’s War.

The six French ships (a frigate, four sloops and one galley) from Martinique, led by Captain De Feboure, crossed the Charles Town bar with more than 700 Spanish soldiers on board. They anchored off Sullivan’s Island, awaiting winds in which to sail into the harbor.

1780 – British Occupation.

old exchange bildgThirty-three people were arrested in Charlestown and charged with encouraging residents to resist British authority. The prisoners, some of whom had been placed under house arrest, were dragged from their beds by British soldiers, and jailed in the Provost Dungeon of the Exchange Building. The arrested men included:

  • Christopher Gadsden
  • Alexander Moultrie
  • Richard Hutson
  • Dr. John S. Budd
  • William Massey
  • John Neufville
  • Joseph Parker
  • Thomas Savage
  • Dr. Peter Fayssoux
  • Dr. David Ramsay
  • Dr. John E. Poyas
  • Tom Singleton
  • Thomas Ferguson
  • Edward Rutledge
  • Hugh Rutledge
  • Thomas Heyward, Jr.
  • Arthur Middleton
  • Thomas Grimball
  • William Johnson
  • Peter Timothy

Within a few days the prisoners were transferred to the ship Sandwich in Charlestown harbor. Edward Rutledge learned of his two-year old son’s death while on board. Being unable to attend the funeral and comfort his wife increased his bitterness toward Britain. Militiamen like Charles Pinckney were paroled to their homes.

1782 – American Revolution.


John Laurens

Col. John Laurens was killed at Tar Bluff on the Combahee River, about forty miles south west of Charleston, in a completely useless skirmish. The British were trying to loot supplies of rice before leaving, and Laurens’ company of fifty men were determined to stop them. John Laurens was the first Patriot killed.

Martha Laurens, living in Vigan, France, did not learn about her brother’s death until three months later. However, during her morning prayers for her family, on this day, she stopped praying for her brother as she “felt there was no longer need.”

Years later, while visiting Charleston, Lafayette stated, “Colonel Laurens was the most valiant officer and accomplished gentleman I ever knew. He was the beau ideal of gallantry.”

In 2015 John Laurens became a more well known cultural figure through the popularity of the Broadway musical “Hamilton.” Laurens was a major character in the the first Act, and Hamilton mourns Laurens’ death in Act II.