Today In Charleston History: July 15

Rev. George Whitefield - open air preaching

Rev. George Whitefield – open air preaching

Rev. George Whitefield appeared with his counsel, Andrew Rutledge, before an ecclesiastical court at St. Philip’s Church to answer for his violations of Anglican canons and rubries. He was found guilty and suspended. He appealed to the Lords Commissioners appointed by the King for hearing appeals of spiritual cause in his Majesty’s Plantations in America. Whitefield was allowed to continue to practice his ministry until the appeal.


The Hebrew Orphan Society was organized. Although Jewish children could be placed in the Charleston Orphanage House, evidently some were afraid of the Christian training the youth would get.


In a speech on the Missouri Compromise, Charles Pinckney laid out the unwieldy rationale that permeated most of the Southern leaders:

every slave has a comfortable home, is well fed, clothed and taken care of … The great body of slaves are happier in their present situation than they could be in any other and the man or men who would attempt to give them freedom would be their greatest enemies!

West Point locomotive

West Point locomotive

The West Point locomotive started regular service on the Charleston & Hamburg Rail Road, in place of the damaged Best Friend.

1848-Religion. Slavery

A committee of laymen hired a large room, known as Temperance Hall, over a carriage warehouse on Meeting Street for worship services for Calvary Church.

1861 – Blockade Running

Theodora, originally named Carolina, then Gordon, Theodora and finally, Nassau, intermixed privateering with a blockade running and charter service to the Confederate States as a transport and picket ship.

She was built as Carolina at Greenpoint, N.Y., in 1852 for service as a coastal packet out of Charleston, S.C., occasionally crossing to Havana, Cuba. Upon outbreak of Civil War she was strengthened and refitted as the Gordon, under Capt. T. J. Lockwood, and placed in commission as a privateer at Charleston on 15 July 1861.

1926-Jenkins Orphanage Band

Edmund Thornton Jenkins was admitted to the Hospital Tenon in Paris. The diagnosis was appendicitis and he underwent surgery. After being returned to his bed he fell onto the floor sometime during the night where he remained undiscovered for several hours. He contracted pneumonia and his condition worsened. However, for some inexplicable reason, he was released from the hospital and sent home.

Edmund Thorton Jenkins

Edmund Thorton Jenkins.

Today In Charleston History: June 22

1663-Founding of Carolina

Capt. Robert Sandford, exploring the Carolina coast for Sir John Yeamans, sailed five miles up a “fair river” and came across “a canoe with two Indians.” They informed Sandford that this was the country of “Edistoh.”


The city of Charlestown was incorporated by Governor Nicholson.


In the Gazette, Christopher Gadsden wrote:

It seems amazing, and altogether unaccountable, that our mother country should take almost every means in her power, to drive her colonies to some desperate act; for what else could be the motive (besides oppressing them) of treating them with that contempt she upon all occasions affects to do?

1781-American Revolution

The American prisoners in the British ships in Charlestown harbor were exchanged, and sent to Philadelphia.

1822-Denmark Vesey Rebellion

Frederick Wesner and Capt. William Dove arrested Denmark Vesey at the “house of one of his wives,” most likely his former wife Beck.

1864-Bombardment of Charleston
Gen. Samuel Jones

Gen. Samuel Jones

Gen. Sam Jones (CSA) angrily replied to Gen. Schimmelfenneg’s assertions that the bombardment was aimed at military targets:

The fire has been so singularly wild and inaccurate that no one who has ever witnessed it would suspect its object … the shells have been thrown at random, at any and all hours, day and night …



Edmund Thorton Jenkins

Edmund Thorton Jenkins

Edmund Thornton Jenkins (Jenks) composition for grand organ and orchestra, Prelude Religieuse, was performed at the Queen’s Hall at the Royal Academy.  In a mere two years, Jenks had progressed to the point where his compositions were being performed at one of London’s leading concert halls. As the war raged across Europe, Jenks had something more important on his mind – his musical future.

Listen to one of Jenkins’ compositions, “Charlestonia: A Folk Rhapsody.” 

Today In Charleston History: May 16


Angelina Grimke Weld gave a lecture at Pennsylvania Hall to the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women, a gathering of mixed-race abolitionists, amid a hostile atmosphere on the streets of Philadelphia, packs of mobs parading through the streets protesting the “amalgamation” of people inside the hall. 

As Angelina took the podium bricks and stones were thrown through the windows, with jeering from the outside easily carrying inside the hall, but she lectured for more than an hour, addressing the mob outside the hall:

What is a mob? What would the breaking of every window be? Any evidence that we are wrong or that slavery is a good and wholesome institution? What if that mob should now burst in upon us, break up our meeting and commit violence upon our persons – would this be anything compared with what the slaves endure? 

The next day a mob stormed Pennsylvania Hall and burned it to the ground. The city’s official report concluded that the fire and riots were the fault of the abolitionists, saying they had upset the citizens by encouraging “race mixing” and inciting violence.

Pennyslvania Hall burning

Pennyslvania Hall burning


Edmund Thorton Jenkins

Edmund Thorton Jenkins

Edmund Thornton Jenkins was awarded the Charles Lucas Prize for Composition at the Royal Academy. Jenks ( as he was called) was the son of Rev. Daniel Jenkins, of the Jenkins Orphanage House in Charleston. The Jenkins Band had been performing at the Anglo-America Expo in London, but the outbreak of World War I caused the Expo to shut down. Jenks remained in London and enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music.

During his fifth year at school Will Marion Cook’s Southern Syncopated Orchestra played at London’s Philharmonic Hall. Jenks looked upon Cook as the type of musician he aspired to be – a serious black musician.

Today In Charleston History: April 9

1894 – Births.

Lena Jenkins gave birth to a son, Edmund Thornton.

Edmund Thorton Jenkins

Edmund Thorton Jenkins

Edmund Jenkins (who was called “Jenks”) was the son of Rev. Daniel Jenkins, founder of the Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston. He grew up playing with the Jenkins Orphanage Band, but longed to play “serious music.” He took piano lessons in Charleston and attended Morehouse College in Atlanta.

In 1914 the Jenkins Band was invited to perform at the Anglo-American Expo in London and Jenks performed with the band until the outbreak of World War I closed down the Expo. Jenks was admitted to the Royal Academy of Music in London where he studied composition. 

His piece, “Charlestonia” was written while he was a student, and later expanded into a finished piece before his death. To learn the entire story of Jenks’ life and the Jenkins Orphanage Band, read my book Doin’ the Charleston.

1906 – Hampton Park

  John Olmsted, the nephew and adopted son of Frederick Olmsted, who designed Central Park in New York City, arrived in Charleston to work on the design of Hampton Park.  He immediately noted that the bandstand, leftover from the South Carolina Exposition that was still in place in the formal garden, should be the most notable presence in the park.

Scene in Hampton Park Charleston, SC

Today In Charleston History: March 21

1917 – Music

From the Musical News, London: 

A song, “How Sweet Is Life” by a student, Mr. Edmund T. Jenkins, showed the composer to be possessed of a vein of melody, not original as yet, and of a style which needs unifying, but his effort was full of promise, especially in the matter of orchestration. The song was well rendered by Miss Marjorie Perkins.

Edmund Thorton Jenkins

Edmund Thorton Jenkins

Edmund Jenkins (who was called “Jenks”) was the son of Rev. Daniel Jenkins, founder of the Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston. He grew up playing with the Jenkins Orphanage Band, but longed to play “serious music.” He took piano lessons in Charleston and attended Morehouse College in Atlanta.

In 1914 the Jenkins Band was invited to perform at the Anglo-American Expo in London and Jenks performed with the band until the outbreak of World War I closed down the Expo. Jenks was admitted to the Royal Academy of Music in London where he studied composition.     

1921 – Music

Ethel Waters had her first recording session for the Pace & Handy Music Company. She recorded two songs –  “Down Home Blues” and “At The Jump Steady Ball.” The songs were composed by her Charleston friend, Tom Delaney, formerly a member of the Jenkins Orphanage Band. Also, two other former members of the Jenkins Band, brothers Bud (trombone) and Gus Aiken (trumpet), were part of the recording.  A twenty-three-year-old former chemistry student named Fletcher Henderson played the piano for the session.

“Down Home Blues” became a hit so Pace & Handy paired Waters and Delaney together and sent them out on tour, Waters on vocals and Delaney on piano.   

To learn more about Charleston’s role in American music … read Doin’ the Charleston. 

doin' the charleston

Today In Charleston History: December 17


The Grand Council voted that Charles Town should move to Oyster Point.

Joel Gascoyne map 1682

Joel Gascoyne map 1682

Governor West and the Grand Council wrote the Proprietors:

We are informed that this Oyster Point is not only a more convenient place to build a town on than that formerly pitched on by the first settlers, but that the people’s inclinations turn thither; we let you know that Oyster Point is the place we do appoint for the port town of which you are to take notice and call it Charles Town.

1765 – SLAVERY.

A possible slave revolt was suspected when slaves were heard on the streets shouting “Liberty!” Henry Laurens thought the threat was exaggerated. In his opinion he believed the slaves merely “had mimck’d their betters by crying out ‘Liberty!’”

Lt. Gov. Bull ordered 100 militia out “to guard the city” and for sailors to stand nightly sentinel duty on the wharves during the holiday season. Whether the slave revolt threat was real or not, it did act as a calming influence on Gadsden and Timothy, as leaders of the mob actions. As Henry Laurens wrote, the hotheads:

did not slacken in their opposition to the introduction of Stamps, but except for a little Private cruising along the Waterside at Nights to see if anything is moving among the Shipping they are pretty quiet & I have been assur’d that more than a few of their Brethren declare their repentance …

1803 – SLAVERY.

Foreign trade was reopened; more than 40,000 slaves would be imported into South Carolina during the next four years.


Moultrieville on Sullivan’s Island was incorporated.


The Medical College of South Carolina was chartered.

1860,  Secession Convention Opens. And Adjourns.  

At noon, 169 delegates gathered at the First Baptist Church in the South Carolina capital, Columbia. Included among the delegates were four former governors, four former U.S. Senators, judges, and more than 100 planters.

first baptist columbia

First Baptist Church, Columbia. Library of Congress

To the disappointment of Barnwell Rhett, David J. Jamison was chosen chairman of the convention. Jamison, a planter of 2,000 acres and seventy slaves opened the convention by quoting Georges-Jacques Danton, leader of the French Revolution, urging the delegates “To dare! And dare again! And without end dare!” The fact that Danton was beheaded for his radical leadership went unacknowledged by the delegates.

A resolution was agreed upon that “South Carolina should forthwith secede” and an ordinance be drafted “to accomplish this purpose” was passed. After that, the members began to clamor for adjournment and move the convention to Charleston. Historically, the reason given has always been of a small pox outbreak in Columbia. However, many of the delegates complained about the “meager accommodations in Columbia.” Charleston, however, offered luxurious hotels and the opulent homes of friends. As John A. Inglis, a delegate from Chesterfield County exclaimed, “Is there any spot in South Carolina more fit for political agitation?”

John Archer Elmore, the Alabama Secession Commissioner, told the crowd:

There should be no hesitation – no faltering and no delay upon the part of this Convention. [South Carolina’s] Ordinance of Secession should take effect at once! … [giving] strength not only to Alabama, but in other states united with her in sentiment.

Charles Hooker, Mississippi’s Commissioner followed Elmore to the podium and declared that South Carolina should:

Snatch her star from the galaxy in which it has hitherto mingled and plant her flag earliest in the breech of battle, sustaining revolution by the bold hearts and willing arms of her people.

While the argument about moving the convention was being held, Charleston delegates had already wired home, and given orders to secure Institute Hall, and as many rooms at the Mills House that could be procured. William Porcher Miles, however, thought that moving after a day was a mistake. He told the delegates, “We would be sneered at. It would be asked … is this chivalry of South Carolina? They are prepared to face the world, but they run away from the smallpox.”

However, the delegates voted to adjourn and make the seven-and-one-half hour train trip to Charleston together. The Columbia-based newspaper, South Carolinian, the next day published this story:

Charleston Police Look Out!

By a letter from New York, there is reason to apprehend that the Lincoln men have been gathering up all the rags they can find from the small-pox hospital, and intend an incursion in the South, to chase the secession conventions and legislature from place to place until they are made powerless.   


The Coterie of Friends at the London Academy of Music performed a concert at Wigmore Hall in London. The publication West Africa described the concert as a tribute to the greatest musical composer of the African race, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

Mr. Edmund T. Jenkins will be the first coloured conductor, other than Coleridge-Taylor himself, to render his work before a British audience. Miss Coleridge-Taylor, the late composer’s daughter, will contribute a musical monologue, set to music by her father.

Edmund Thorton Jenkins

Edmund Thorton Jenkins

Edmund Jenkins was the son of Rev. Daniel Jenkins, founder of the Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston. Jenks (as Edmund was called) had grown up playing with the Jenkins Band and attended Morehouse College in Atlanta to study music. He had traveled to London in 1914 with the Jenkins Band to perform at the Anglo-American Expo. When the Expo was shut down by the events that led to World War I, Jenks convinced his father to allow him to remain in England and enroll in the Royal Academy.


Today In Charleston History: September 30

1745 – Weather Obersvations

Dr. John Lining noted in a letter that “in the summer the shaded air of about 2 or 3 in the afternoon is frequently between 90 and 95 degrees.”

1799 – Slavery

Capt. Joseph Vesey’s manservant Telemaque (Telmak, or “Denmark” as he now preferred to be called) purchased an East Bay Lottery ticket #1884. 

1926 – Deaths

The funeral for Edmund Thornton Jenkins was held in Charleston on a Thursday at the New Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church on Palmetto Street. The Jenkins Orphanage Band marched through the Humane Friendly Cemetery and played a dirge at the gravesite. Jenks was buried next to his mother, Lena Jenkins.

In July Jenks had undergone surgery for appendicitis. After being returned to his bed he fell onto the floor sometime during the night where he remained undiscovered for several hours. He contracted pneumonia and his condition worsened. For some reason he had been released from the hospital and died at home on September 12.  The American consul in Paris cabled Rev. Jenkins to inform him of his son’s death. The six hundred dollar cost of having his body embalmed and shipped to America was paid by Rev. Jenkins.

jenks cemetery


The world premiere performance Porgy and Bess took place at the Colonial Theatre in Boston. This was the traditional out-of-town performance for any show headed for Broadway.

17b. porgy and bess (loc) blank pg. 170

Original Broadway cast of “Porgy and Bess.”

Today In Charleston History: September 12

1718 – Pirates!

Charles Town had been thrown into terror at reports of pirate ships off the coast. Governor Johnson Colonel gave a commission to Colonel William Rhett to organize an expedition to protect Charles Town against  Charles Vane, rumored to be in the area. Two sloops were pressed into service, the Sea Nymph (eight guns and seventy men) and the Henry (eight guns and sixty men.)

1743 – Religion. Slavery. 

Dr. Alexander Garden opened a free school for “educating Negro children,” with more than sixty pupils.


1766 – Backcountry

woodmason journalRev. Charles Woodmason returned from England, and was assigned to St. Mark’s Parish on the South Carolina frontier. It was rough country. The parish had a growing population, yet had few roads and even no amenities. Woodmason’s circuit included 26 regular, periodic stops in the parish. In two years he traveled 6,000 miles. He found very little in backcountry life to his liking. The people lived in open cabins “with hardly a Blanket to cover them, or Cloathing to cover their Nakedness.” Their diet consisted of “what in England is given to Hogs and Dogs” and he was forced to live likewise. He wrote:

They are very Poor – owing their extreme Indolence for they possess the finest Country in America, and could raise by ev’ry thing. They delight in their present low, lazy, sluttish, heathenish hellish Life and seem not desirous of changing it. Both Men and Women will do any thing to come at Liquor … rather than work for it – Hence their many Vices – their gross Licentiousness, Wantonness, Lasciviousness, Rudeness, Lewdness and Profligacy. They will commit the grossest Enormities, before my face, and laugh at all Admonition.

1925 – Culture

porgy_dustjacketDubose Heyward’s novel Porgy was published. The story of a crippled beggar on the streets of Charleston was notable because it was one of the first major novels written by a white Southerner through the viewpoint of black characters.  

During a dice game, Porgy witnesses a murder committed by a rough, sadistic man named Crown, who runs away from the police. During the next weeks, Porgy gives shelter to the murderer’s woman, the haunted Bess, in the rear courtyard of Catfish Row, a rundown tenement on the Charleston waterfront. Porgy and Bess fall in love. However, when Crown arrives to take Bess away Porgy kills him. He is taken in by police for questioning for ten days. He is released because the police do not believe a crippled beggar could have killed the powerful Crown. When Porgy returns to the Row, he discovers that while he was away Bess fell under the spell of the drug dealer Sportin’ Life and his “happy dus’.  She has followed Sportin’ Life to a new future in Savannah and Porgy is left alone brokenhearted.

1926 – Death. Culture. 

jenks001Edmond Thornton Jenkins died in Paris at age 32 from pnemonia, due to complications from surgery. The son of Rev. Daniel Jenkins, founder of the Jenkins Orphanage, Jenks (as he was called) had graduated from the Royal Academy of Music, was living in Paris as a musician, playing in jazz clubs and working as a composer.

Jenks’ former music professor at Morehouse College Benjamin Brawley stated:

Let us remember this: he not only knew music but at all times insisted on its integrity. For him there was no short cut to excellence. He wanted the classic and he was willing to work for it. He felt, moreover … that there was little creative work in the mere transcribing of Negro melodies. For him it was the business of a composer to compose, and he did so … The music of the Negro and of the world suffered signal loss in the early death of Edmund T. Jenkins of Charleston, South Carolina.

Today In Charleston History: September 9

1670 – Carolina Colony

The Carolina sailed to back to Barbados for passengers and supplies. A letter asking for a clergyman was written and signed by Florence O’Sullivan, Stephen Bull, Joseph West, William Scrivener, Ralph Marshall, Paul Smith, Samuel West, Joseph Dalton and Governor Sayle.

            Florence O’Sullivan also wrote a letter to Ashley Cooper:

… the country proves good beyond expectation, abounding in all things, as good oak, ash, deer, turkeys, partridges, rabbits, turtle and fish; and the land produces anything that is put into it – corn, cotton, tobacco … with many pleasant rivers … pray send us a minister qualified according to the Church of England and an able councellor [lawyer] to end controversies amongst us and put us in the right way of the managem’t…

            Joseph West wrote to Ashley Cooper, with a warning:

Our Governor … is very aged, and hath much lost himself in his government … I doubt he will not be so advantageous to a new colony as we did expect.

1739 – Slavery – The Stono Rebellion.

The largest slave revolt in the British colonies prior to the Revolution took place about 20 miles from Charleston.

stono markersstono_rebellionLed by an Angolan named Jemmy, a band of twenty slaves organized a rebellion on the banks of the Stono River. After breaking into Hutchinson’s store the band, now armed with guns, called for their liberty.  As they marched, overseers were killed and reluctant slaves were forced to join the company. The band reached the Edisto River where white colonists descended upon them, killing most of the rebels.  The survivors were sold off to the West Indies. More than 40 blacks and 20 whites were killed during the insurrection. 

The revolt led to stricter slave codes with the Negro Act of 1740, dictating such things as how slaves were to be treated, punished, and dressed. It forbade them from assembling with one another or being taught to read or write. The 1740 slave codes were largely unaltered until emancipation in 1865.

      William Bull submitted his account of the Rebellion to the British authorities:

My Lords,                                                            
I beg leave to lay before your Lordships an account of our Affairs, first in regard to the Desertion of our Negroes. . . . On the 9th of September last at Night a great Number of Negroes Arose in Rebellion, broke open a Store where they got arms, killed twenty one White Persons, and were marching the next morning in a Daring manner out of the Province, killing all they met and burning several Houses as they passed along the Road. I was returning from Granville County with four Gentlemen and met these Rebels at eleven o’clock in the forenoon and fortunately deserned the approaching danger time enough to avoid it, and to give notice to the Militia who on the Occasion behaved with so much expedition and bravery, as by four a’Clock the same day to come up with them and killed and took so many as put a stop to any further mischief at that time, forty four of them have been killed and Executed; some few yet remain concealed in the Woods expecting the same fate, seem desperate . . .         

It was the Opinion of His Majesty’s Council with several other Gentlemen that one of the most effectual means that could be used at present to prevent such desertion of our Negroes is to encourage some Indians by a suitable reward to pursue and if possible to bring back the Deserters, and while the Indians are thus employed they would be in the way ready to intercept others that might attempt to follow and I have sent for the Chiefs of the Chickasaws living at New Windsor and the Catawbaw Indians for that purpose. . . . 

My Lords,

 Your Lordships Most Obedient and Most Humble Servant 
Wm Bull 

1920 – Jenkins Orphanage

Edmund Thornton Jenkins … Jenks.

Edmund Thornton Jenkins performed a concert at his father’s church, the Fourth Tabernacle Baptist. Jenks (as he was called) grew up performing with the Jenkins Orphanage Band. His father, Daniel Jenkins, had established the Orphan Aid Society in 1891 for the “black lambs” of Charleston. Jenks attended the Royal Academy of Music for seven years in London and became an accomplished composer, pianist, and multi-instrumentalist. After graduation, he returned to visit his family in Charleston and discovered that, after years in Europe, he could no longer live in the South comfortably as a black man.