Today In Charleston History: July 7

JULY 7

1771

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

1776-Deaths

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

1781

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.  

1884

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

Oscar_Wilde_Sarony

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.

 

Today In Charleston History: May 29

1630-Births

Charles II was born at St. James’s Palace in London. He was to become the namesake of Charleston, SC. 

1660-Restoration
Charles II

Charles II

Charles II arrived in London on his 30th birthday and restored the English monarchy. He granted amnesty to most of Cromwell’s former supporters, including Baron Anthony Ashley Cooper. Fifty people, however, were excluded from the King’s amnesty; nine were hanged, drawn and quartered, and the rest were given life imprisonment. Charles II extended baronages to thirteen loyal gentlemen of Barbados, including Sir John Colleton and Sir John Yeamans, who became early leaders of the Carolina colony.

1787-Constitutional Convention-Pinckney’s Draught
Charles Pinckney

Charles Pinckney

At the Convention, Charles Pinckney presented a complete outline of a constitution. James Madison wrote in his diary:

Mr. Charles Pinkney [sic] laid before the house the draught of federal Government which he had prepared to be agreed upon between the free and independent States of America.

Pinckney’s Draught (as it came to be known) included thirty-one of the provisions of the Constitution as finally adopted. They included:

  • A strong central government consisting of three separate and distinct branches
  • Legislative branch divided into a Senate and a House of Delegates, elected proportionate to the white population; blacks would be counted as three-fifths.
  • Control of the President over the military
  • Federal power to order militia into any State
  • House with powers of Impeachment.
  • “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the authority of the United States.”
  • The president should annually report on the “condition of the United States” – a state of the union address.

Pinckney reminded the delegates that the citizens were watching the Convention:

From your deliberations much is expected. The eyes, as well as hopes of your constituents are turned upon the convention; let their expectations be gratified. Be assured, that, however unfashionable for the moment your sentiments may be, yet, if your system is accommodated to the situation of the Union, and founded in wise and liberal principals, it will, in time, be consented.

Albert Herter's painting of the Constitutional Convention.

Albert Herter’s painting of the Constitutional Convention. Charles Pinckney is seated to the left of the table, pointing.  John Rutledge (SC) is standing to the left in green coat, next to Benjamin Franklin.

Today In Charleston History: May 20

1758

Charles and Eliza Pinckney returned to Charlestown from London, with their ten-year old daughter Harriot. Their sons, Charles Cotesworth and Thomas, remained in England to attend school. Charles contracted malaria soon after their arrival.

1767   
Henry Laurens

Henry Laurens

Henry Laurens sent his schooner, Wambaw, loaded with provisions, to his Georgia plantation without clearing Charlestown customs. The Wambaw offloaded her cargo and took on 50,000 cypress shingles as ballast and sailed back to Charlestown. Customs Collector Moore refused to allow the ship legal clearance of the harbor and seized the vessel.

1780-British Occupation. 

Most of the American militia were given parole and allowed to return to their homes. Many of the important men, stripped of their property, had little recourse than to pledge loyalty to the Crown.

John Wells of the South Carolina and American General Gazette quickly swore allegiance to the King to save his property. He was allowed to resume publication in July.

Peter Timothy’s paper, the South Carolina Gazette, was seized by the British and given to the Tory Robert Wells.

miles brewton house

Miles Brewton House, 27 King Street

The Miles Brewton home at 27 King Street was made headquarters for Gen. Henry Clinton, and later Lt. Col. Nisbit Balfour, commandant of Charlestown, and Lord Rawdon, supreme commander of British troops in South Carolina.

Rebecca Brewton Motte, with a sick and invalid husband, refused to give up her brother’s home to the occupying force. Although she was at the mercy of her “guests”, she always “sat at the head of her table in the large drawing-room and commanded the respect, at least, of his lordship and followers.” The officers “showed her the greatest courtesy and referred to themselves as ‘her guests’.”

Rebecca’s main concern was the safety of her three daughters and the care of her husband. The Motte family was crowded into a small area of the house on the third floor while the British lived in comfort in the large rooms on the lower floors.

1835-Deaths

Capt. Joseph Vesey died at the age of eighty-eight. Vesey was a notorious figure in Charleston. His former slave, Denmark Vesey, had been executed in 1822 as the leader of a large slave insurrection. 

Today In Charleston History: May 17

1751
South Carolina Society

South Carolina Society

The South Carolina Society was incorporated by the Assembly, making it one of the most important organizations in the colony.

In 1732, a French Huguenot named Elisha Poinsett opened a tavern in Charleston.  Several friends agreed to help him out his business by spending an evening or two each week in his tavern. They began to collect two bits (sixteen pence) a week for a fund to help any of their members with a need; they soon became known as the “two-bit society.” When Poinsett’s business no longer needed their help, they formalized their association with the idea that education would be their main charity.

1781 – British Occupation

In violation of Gen. Lincoln’s terms of surrender, Charles Pinckney and other militiamen on parole were arrested and placed aboard two British prison ships in the Charlestown harbor – the Pack Horse and the Torbay. Conditions on the ships were horrendous. More than one third of the prisoners held in Charlestown by the British died in captivity.

Charles Pinckney wrote a letter to Colonel Balfour complaining about:

a most injurious and disagreeable confinement … the idea of detaining in close custody as hostages a number of men fairly taken in arms … is so repugnant to the laws of war and the usage of civilized nations …

1787-Constitutional Convention
Indian Queen Tavern, Philadelphia

Indian Queen Tavern, Philadelphia

John Rutledge arrived in Philadelphia and found lodgings at the Indian Queen Tavern on Third Street, which he described as having “sixteen rooms for lodgers, plus four garret rooms … greeted by a liveried servant in coat, waistcoat, and ruffled shirt.” Other delegates who stayed at the Tavern included George Mason and Alexander Hamilton.

Charles Pinckney stayed at the home of Mrs. Mary House, at the corner of Fifth and Market Street, with James Madison.

1828   

Horatio Allen, chief engineer of the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company, met with officials of the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company and discussed the type of road to build and recommended using a steam locomotive. Allen had studied steam locomotives in England and was positive that steam locomotives were the future.

1840-Births
John Reeks aka ... Francis Dawson

Austin John Reeks (Francis Dawson)

Austin John Reeks was born in London. The Reeks were one of the oldest Catholic families in England and traced their roots back to the War of Roses. He would later join the Confederacy under the name Francis Warrington Dawson and re-locate to Charleston where he would become publisher of the News and Courier.

Today In Charleston History: April 27

1788

Charles Pinckney

Charles Pinckney

At Mepkin Plantation, Charles Pinckney married eighteen-year old Mary Eleanor (Polly) Laurens, with the blessing of her father, Henry. Pinckney’s friend, John Sanford Dart sarcastically wrote that he had “entered Hymen’s shackles with Miss Laurens.”

1838-Disasters

At 9:00 p.m., Friday evening, a fire started in shed behind Mrs. Babson’s house near the corner of King Street and Beresford Alley. It spread eastward, destroying about 560 houses and 598 other structures, or as the Daily Courier  reported: “at least one-fourth of the centre of our beautiful and flourishing city”

By 10:00 PM, it had crossed to the east side of King Street, and structures were being demolished to create firebreaks. At midnight, blazes raged down the south side of Market Street toward Meeting Street, and at 2:30 Saturday morning

“the Public Markets as far as Church Street were gone…, all the buildings on the south side of Market, the new Stores on the Burnt Lands, the splendid new hotel, …both sides of Meeting as far as Hasell Street – all, all are in ruins.”

Beth Elohim, 1818. Destoryed by the 1838 fire.

Beth Elohim, 1818. Destoryed by the 1838 fire.

The fire roared down Hasell, Society, and Wentworth streets, all the way to the Cooper River wharves. Most of Ansonborough was consumed, including Beth Elohim Synogogue. Moses C. Levy, however, rushed into the building to save the sacred scrolls.

The Citadel, Orphan House, Medical College, St. Andrew’s Society, Hebrew Orphan House and the German Friendly Society opened their buildings for housing of the displaced people.

1864-Civil War
George Trenholm

George Trenholm

After the fall of Richmond, Confederate Treasurer George Trenholm took flight southward with the rest of the Cabinet, but due to his ill health, was unable to continue running.  He resigned with the approval of President Jefferson Davis but was captured by Union troops and imprisoned at Fort Pulaski, near Savannah, Georgia.

1886

Mayor William Ashmead Courtney agreed to take a leave of absence due to his health. He planned to take a European vacation and return home in the fall. Courtney asked to be released from serving the rest of his term, citing exhaustion. City council advised for him to take a leave of absence “for as long as necessary to regain his health.

Today In Charleston History: March 26

1726 – Ansonborough
Lord Anson, 1755

Lord Anson, 1755

Capt. George Anson purchased a tract of land which later would bear his name – Ansonborough – from his winnings at cards. According to local legend, Anson won the entire tract in a single game from Thomas Gadsden. In fact, Gadsden conveyed this tract to Capt. George Anson for £300 sterling. This was an unusually large sum for such a young naval officer to possess, so it is quite possible that Anson’s winnings at cards was the source of his money. 

Anson later led a British expedition that circumnavigated the world and served as Admiral as the British Fleet from 1756-62.

1737 – Crime & Punishment

Alexander Forbes was convicted of “stealing Cloathes and other things.” He was sentenced to “be whipped on the bare back at the cart’s tails through the town.”

1776 – American Revolution. Charleston First

Four months before the Declaration of Independence was signed, South Carolina adopted a state constitution, drafted by the Provincial Congress and the Republic of South Carolina was born. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was chosen to chair the Constitutional Committee. This was the first plan for an independent government in the American colonies. 

South Carolina President (later govenor)  John Rutledge

South Carolina President (later govenor) John Rutledge

John Rutledge was elected as the state’s president, Henry Laurens its vice-president and William Henry Drayton, Chief Justice. The 1776 Constitution was considered a temporary measure until “an accommodation of the unhappy differences between Great Britain and America can be obtained.” It gave the president “absolute veto power” over the acts of the legislature. Due to his power, Rutledge picked up the nickname “Dictator.”

For the second time in its history, South Carolina had forced a change in its government – in 1719 they had overthrown the Proprietors and now they had replaced British rule with a local government.

1820 – Scandal

Charles Pinckney, in Washington, D.C., was caught in an abandoned house with a “mulatto wench.” A butcher who had been robbed saw Pinckney go into the house and thought it was the robber. A group of men surrounded the house and began to holler for the “thief to come out!” Pinckney, panicked, jumped out of window and attempted to run away. Due to his age, he was unable to outrun his pursuers, who released him when they realized their mistake.

Today In Charleston History: March 19

1778 – Politics
Rawlins_Lowndes

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