Today In Charleston History: July 23

1775-American Revolution
Rev. Oliver Hart

Rev. Oliver Hart

Rev. Oliver Hart, of the First Baptist Church, and Rev. William Tennant were ardent supporters of the rebel cause and members of the “Association.” They accompanied William Henry Drayton into the backcountry in an effort to explain the causes of the dispute with England, and to build support for the cause.

Due to the effective pamphlet campaign by Royal Governor William Campbell, they were met with either indifference, or adamant opposition.

1822-Denmark Vesey Rebellion

In a letter Mary Lamboll Thomas Beach commented about the Denmark Vesey rebellion:

This business I fear is akin to the French Revolution to think that many of these people growing up like children … could be brought to such a fiend-like temper that they would commit to embrace their hands in the blood of their masters … Ah! Slavery is a hard business and I am afraid we shall in this country have it to our bitter cost some day or other.

1914-Jenkins Orphanage

 Rev. Daniel Jenkins, in London with the Jenkins Band, who were performing at the Anglo-American Expo, sent a letter on his orphanage stationary (deleting “Charleston, S.C.” and replacing it with a typed “London, England”) to South Carolina Governor Coleman Blease. Some of the text of the letter included:

… the salvation of the South between the white and the black man lies in the careful training of the little negro boys and girls to become honest, upright and industrious citizens … Teaching the Negro to read, to write and to work is not going to do the white man any harm … Nine of the Councilmen of London called on me yesterday and congratulated me on the work I am doing for my race. If were able to gain the respect of the people of England, how much more can be done if the Governor and Lawmakers of South Carolina would simply co-operate with me?

Coleman Blease

Coleman Blease

Blease had been elected governor in 1910, because he “knew how to play on race, religious, and class prejudices to obtain votes.”  He was one of the most racist politicians ever elected in South Carolina. He favored complete white supremacy in all matters, encouraged the practice of lynching, and was opposed to the education of blacks. He even once buried the severed finger of a black lynching victim in the South Carolina gubernatorial garden.

In light of Blease’s racist attitude, Jenkins’s letter to the governor is an indication of the reverend’s fierce determination to raise money, no matter how remote the success.

Today in Charleston History: July 12

1822-Denmark Vesey Rebellion.

Gullah Jack Prichard and John Horry were executed. Gullah Jack was accused of not only planning to massacre white Charlestonians, but also to have “endeavored to enlist on your behalf all the powers of darkness.”

During the trial Gullah Jack played the fool so much that some of the judges could not believe he was part of the rebellion.  However, as the trial progressed and six witnesses testified against him, Jack’s demeanor changed. He scowled and gave his accusers hard looks. He made motions and designs with his fingers until the judges admonished him for trying to bewitch the witnesses. From the Negro Plot, Gullah Jack was admonished.

In the prosecution of your wicked designed, you were not satisfied with resorting to natural and ordinary means, but endeavored to enlist on your behalf, all the powers of darkness, and employed for that purpose the most disgusting mummery and superstition. You represented yourself as invulnerable; that you could neither be taken nor destroyed, and all who fought under your banners would be invincible. Your boasted charms have not protected yourself, and of course could not protect others … You will shortly be consigned to the cold and silent grave, and all the powers of darkness cannot rescue you from your approaching fate.

Jack had to be “dragged forth to the scaffold … and gave his spirit up without firmness or composure.” Despite this second round of executions, the authorities saw no end in sight. Each new arrest led to more evidence “that the Conspiracy had spread wider and wider.”

1833

On his way for a tour of the Northeast, James Petigru met with Pres. Jackson at the White House and commented that “the old gentleman looked better than I expected.”

1923 – Jenkins Orphanage
Rev. Daniel Jenkins

Rev. Daniel Jenkins

Because he was a black man traveling across the country during the Jim Crow Era of America, Rev. Daniel Jenkins was forced to carry with him copies of a letter from the Charleston mayor as proof of his honorable character and intentions. The last sentence in the letter is particularly illustrative of the attitude most whites held toward blacks of this time.    

City of Charleston Executive Department, July 12, 1923 

To the Mayor, Board of Alderman and the Officials of any City in the United States

This is to certify that Rev. D. J. Jenkins, President and Founder of the Jenkins Orphanage of this city, has been conducting an orphanage for over thirty-two years, having since connected with it a reform school and industrial farm and a rescue home for girls only. Reports show that he had handled and trained over three thousand little Negro boys and girls. They have been sent here from all portions of the country to be reformed. This he had done practically entirely on voluntary contributions.

There are four brass bands connected with the work, known as the Jenkins Orphanage Bands. We would appreciate anything you may do for him in letting his boys give entertainments and play upon the public streets of your city. It is raising money for a purely charitable work on a small basis, and I will assure you that he has ever managed to keep the order and conduct of his bands so that they have not become a nuisance, but rather a pleasure for the citizens to hear them play.

Rev. Jenkins has a Board of leading white citizens to keep up with the accounts and advise whenever necessary.

Very respectfully,

JOHN P. GRACE

Mayor

Jenkins Orphanage Band, Author's Collection

Jenkins Orphanage Band postcard, Author’s Collection

Today in Charleston History: June 23  

1663 – Early Exploration

Capt. William Hilton exploring the coast for Sir John Yeamans, landed on either present-day Kiawah or Seabrook Island and officially took formal possession of Carolina for England and the Proprietors.

Dr. Henry Woodward, 20-year old ship’s surgeon under Sanford, agreed to stay behind and live with the Port Royal Indians in order to study their culture and language and lay the diplomatic groundwork for the future English settlers. The nephew of the tribal Cassique (chief) returned to London with Sanford.

1734-Religion.

First service was held at the Scots Meeting House at 53 Meeting Street. It was a simple frame structure southeast of the present-day First Scots Presbyterian Church building.

1809

Theodosia Burr Alston wrote her old friend Dolley Madison, now the First Lady of the United States, asking for her assistance to help her father return to America.

You may perhaps be surprised at receiving a letter from one with whom you have had little intercourse for the last few years, but your surprise will cease when you recollect that my father, once your friend, is now in exile; and that the President only can restore him to me and to his country.

1914 – Jenkins Orphanage

 Rev. Daniel Jenkins, in England with the Jenkins Band who were performing at the Anglo-American Expo, sent a letter on

Rev. Daniel Jenkins

Rev. Daniel Jenkins

his orphanage stationary (deleting “Charleston, S.C.” and replacing it with a typed “London, England”) to South Carolina Governor Coleman Blease. Some of the text of the letter included:

… the salvation of the South between the white and the black man lies in the careful training of the little negro boys and girls to become honest, upright and industrious citizens … Teaching the Negro to read, to write and to work is not going to do the white man any harm … Nine of the Councilmen of London called on me yesterday and congratulated me on the work I am doing for my race. If were able to gain the respect of the people of England, how much more can be done if the Governor and Lawmakers of South Carolina would simply co-operate with me?

coleman blease (library of congress)Blease had been elected governor in 1910, because he “knew how to play on race, religious, and class prejudices to obtain votes.”  He was one of the most racist politicians ever elected in South Carolina. He favored complete white supremacy in all matters. He encouraged the practice of lynching, and was opposed to the education of blacks. He even once buried the severed finger of a black lynching victim in the South Carolina gubernatorial garden.

In light of Blease’s racist attitude, Jenkins’s letter to the governor is an indication of the reverend’s fierce determination to raise money, no matter how remote the success.

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: April 1

1766-Stamp Act. 

South Carolina courts shut down, due to lack of stamped paper. Lawyers presented a petition to hold court without stamped paper. They stated:

We claim our rights under Magna Carter, the Petition of Rights, etc … We cannot think ourselves bound by the Stamp Act, which annihilates our natural as well as constitutional rights.

Chief Justice Skinner held that the court had no power to question the authority of an act of Parliament and the fact that there was no stamped paper because of unlawful demonstrations by the people was no excuse not to follow the law.

1780 –The Seige of Charlestown.

Under cover of darkness, 3000 men marched from the British camp at Gibb’s Landing toward Charlestown. – including 1500 laborers. They stopped 1000 yards from the city’s fortifications and began construction of their seigeworks. Due to the sandy soil “the work went quickly” and within one night Gen. Clinton was amazed they “completed 3 Redoubts and a communication without a single shot.”

The following morning, Samuel Baldwin of Charlestown wrote: “We were surprised … at the sight of the works thrown up by our neighbors during the night.”

1844 – Politics

John C. Calhoun became Secretary of State in John Tyler’s Cabinet.

1927 – Doin’ the Charleston

Herbert Wright of the Jenkins Orphanage was paroled on April, 1927. In 1919 he pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to ten to fifteen years in the Massachusetts State Penitentiary.

Harlem Hellfighters Band

Harlem Hellfighters Band

Wright had committed a murder that shocked the nation. He had murdered band leader, James Reese Europe, backstage at Mechanics Hall in Boston. Europe was the leader of the Harlem Hellfighters Band, an outfit which had performed across Europe during World War I and has been credited in introducing jazz music to France. The Hellfighters Band was also the first black group to record music. The band included four members of the Jenkins Orphanage Band – Steve and Herbert Wright (the Percussive Twins), Amos Gaillard (trombone) and Gene Mikell (asst. director).

Read more about James Reese Europe’s life here. 

To learn the complete story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band, the Harlem Hellfighters and the murder of James Reese Europe, read Doin’ the Charleston.

doin' the charleston

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 13

1770 – American Revolution – Foundations.

Henry Laurens and Charles Pinckney, Junior presided over a meeting at the Liberty Tree in which the continuation of the Association was discussed. Thomas Lynch: “rode fifty miles to Charles Town and exerted all his eloquence and even the trope of Rhetorical Tears for the expiring liberties of his dear country, which the Merchants would sell like any other merchandise.” They then voted to discontinue the boycott on all items except tea, and “send a bitter letter to the northern colonies” about their conduct in breaking the Association.

The non-importation crisis had a severe economic impact on the American colonies, with a dramatic drop in imports from 1768 to 1769.

  • New York: £490, 673 to £75,930
  • Philadelphia: £441,829 to £204,978
  • New England (Boston and Rhode Island): £430,806 to £223,694
  • Carolina: £306,600 to £146,273

The stage was now set for Charlestown, and the rest of the American colonies, to shrug off their ties with the British motherland.

1891

daniel_jenkinsDaniel Jenkins discovered four small black children huddled in a railroad box car. Despite the fact that he lived in a two-room house, with his wife and four children, Jenkins brought the orphaned children to his small home. This was the incident that led to the formation of the Orphan Aid Society of Charleston, the founding of the Jenkins Orphanage, the establishment of the Jenkins Orphanage Band. Within ten years, the Jenkins Band had performed in Europe and for Pres. Teddy Roosevelt’s inauguration. They later appeared on Broadway in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Porgy, performed for Pres. William Howard Taft and at the Anglo-American Expo in London. They also had a hand in introducing jazz music to small towns up and down the east coast and helping to popularize a dance that became known as “the Charleston.” 

1. doin book cover (create space) official - frontFor the entire story, read my 2013 book, Doin the Charleston.