Today In Charleston History: June 1

1734 – Culture

A billiard table was advertised for sale at Ashley Ferry in the Gazette.

1738 – Treatment for Pox

The Gazette published Dr. Pitcarn’s treatment for small pox to help stop its spread. It consisted of bloodletting and the use of a syrup of white poppies. By the end of the summer 2112 people had come down with the disease, killing more than 400.  It was reported that there were not:

sufficient number of persons in health to attend the sick, and many persons perished from neglect and want. There was scarcely a house in which there had not been one of more deaths. Inoculation was at this time first attempted with some success and the disease soon after abated. 


William Henry Lyttelton arrived in Charlestown as the Governor on the HMS Winchelsea. Crowds of citizens gathered to toast the new governor but Lyttelton’s term would be riddled with controversies. 

1775-American Revolution – Foundations.

 The Secret Committee of Five ordered the tarring and feathering of James Dealy and Laughlin Martin for rejoicing (supposedly) that Catholics, Negroes and Indians were going to be armed in an uprising against the people.  The two men were carted about the streets and banished from town.

1776-American Revolution
Lord William Campbell

Lord William Campbell

Lord William Campbell, who, several months before, had left Charleston in the middle of the night in fear of being attacked, had been urging a major expedition against South Carolina to crush the rebellion in the South. On June 1, the British fleet, commanded by Sir Peter Parker and Sir Henry Clinton, appeared and “displayed about fifty sail before the town, on the outside of the bar.”

Col.  Moultrie described their effect on Charlestonians:

The sight of these vessels alarmed us very much, all was hurry and confusion, the president with his council busy in sending expresses to every part of the country, to hasten down the militia; men running about the town looking for horses, carriages and boats to send their families into the country; and as they were going out through the town gates to go into the country, they met the militia from the country marching into town…

1782 – Culture

Hamilton Stevenson advertised his services as a “painter of miniatures or a hair sylist.”

1822-Denmark Vesey Rebellion

Mingo Harth and Peter Poyas were interrogated by city officials. Another Slave, William Paul, had named them as part of a “conspiracy” against the whites.  Poyas laughed and called William Paul a young fool. Intendent (mayor)Hamilton was impressed that “these fellows behaved with so much composure and coolness.”

1825 – Politics

Joel Roberts Poinsett was appointed the first United States minister to Mexico.

1832 – Death
Statue of Gen. Sumter on the courthouse lawn, Sumter S.C.

Statue of Gen. Sumter on the courthouse lawn, Sumter S.C.

Thomas Sumter died, the last surviving Revolutionary War generals.

In February 1776, Sumter was elected lieutenant colonel of the Second Regiment of the South Carolina Line. He subsequently was appointed brigadier general, a post he held until the end of the war. Perhaps his greatest military achievement was his partisan campaigning, which contributed to Lord Cornwallis’ decision to leave the Carolinas for Virginia.

Sumter acquired the nickname, “Carolina Gamecock,” during the American Revolution for his fierce fighting tactics. After the Battle of Blackstock’s Farm, British General Banastre Tarleton commented that Sumter “fought like a gamecock”, and Cornwallis paid him the finest tribute when he described the Gamecock as his greatest plague.

1865 –  Reconstruction

By this time, more than 30,000 cartloads of material and debris had been removed out of the city under the U.S. Army’s supervision, using more than 200 laborers and 50 teams of animals. The debris was dumped in the marshes as landfill.

One visitor described the city as:

The splendid houses are all deserted, the glass in the windows broken, the walls dilapidated, the columns toppled over … arches demolished, mantels shattered, while fragments, great and small, of every description strew the floors … but where are the owners of these estates – where are they?

Charleston, after the War and fire destruction. Looking  west at St. John's Lutheran and Unitarian Churches

Charleston, after the War and fire destruction.

1882 – Politics 

The “Eight Box Law, written by Charlestonian Edward McCrady, Jr. and passed by the state assembly went into effect. The law got its name from the requirement that, on Election Day, there were to be eight separate ballot boxes for different offices. A voter had to be able to read in order to know where to place his ballot. At this time illiteracy rate among blacks was five times greater than whites. Another provision of the law was that every voter must re-register before June 1, 1882, or be forever banned from voting.

Within four years, tens of thousands of black voters in South Carolina were disenfranchised. Voting districts were redrawn, leaving only one majority black district. The state’s last 19th century black congressman was defeated for re-election in 1896

Today In Charleston History: April 17

1763 – Marriage

Lord William Campbell, a captain on the HMS Nightingale stationed in Charlestown, married a South Carolina heiress, Sarah Izard. Campbell would later serve a short term as South Carolina’s last Royal governor before being unceremoniously run out of town in 1775.


The “Secret Committee of Five,” organized by the First Provincial Congress, headed by William Henry Drayton and Arthur Middleton, seized the mail arrived from England on the Swallow. The official British dispatches made it clear that British authorities would not hesitate to use force to keep and restore order in the colonies.

1806 – Births

William Gilmore Simms

William Gilmore Simms was born in Charleston. His mother died soon afterward and his father joined Coffee’s Indian Fighters so Simms was raised by his grandmother, Jane Miller Singleton Gates, who told him stories of Indians, pirates, the colonial era, and the American Revolution, thereby stimulating his imagination and furnishing him with a vast fund of material on which he would draw for his later writing.

His writings achieved great prominence during the 19th century, Edgar Allan Poe declared Simms to be “The best novelist which this country has, on the whole, produced” and “immeasurably the greatest writer of fiction in America”.  His short story collection, The Wigwam and the Cabin, was singled out by Poe as “decidedly the most American of American books.”  He is also remembered for his strong support of slavery and for his opposition to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in response to which he wrote reviews and a pro-slavery novel, The Sword and the Distaff.

At first, Southern readers, especially those in his home town of Charleston, did not support Simms’s work because he lacked an aristocratic background. Eventually, however, he was referred to as the Southern version of James Fenimore Cooper, and Charleston residents then invited him into their prestigious St. Cecilia Society.

1937 – Eleanor Roosevelt in Charleston

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a series of newspaper columns. Here is the column of her day in Charleston.

eleanor roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt

CHARLESTON, S.C., Friday—We had tea yesterday afternoon with my friend Mrs. Huntington. The only other guests were the Mayor and Mrs. Maybank, Miss Pinckney, Mrs. Camman, and Dr. Canby. It was a nice, leisurely tea, served in an exquisite old china tea set, and everyone went at intervals to look at the changing light in the garden. Charleston is a leisurely place, and it was seriously suggested that I remain over a few days in order to see the vine at the back of the house in full bloom. It would be a lovely sight, but I receive the Children of the Revolution next Monday in Washington.

It was cloudy in the evening and rained hard during the night, but this morning brilliant sunshine greeted us again. Mrs. Huntington came for us, and we have visited houses and gardens to our heart’s content all morning. I have never seen a greater wealth of carved woodwork and panelling and more beautiful mantelpieces. The houses which have been restored seem on the whole to have been done with extraordinary taste and feeling, and the gardens, with their high walls and careful planting, give one a sense of complete privacy. One gentleman pointed out some interesting facts. As we looked back from one corner of his garden, we seemed to get a vista of an endless number of tree tops going on into a far distance, and he remarked: “That has been done so cleverly in Charleston. You get a sense of infinite space, even in small gardens.”

We ended up our morning by a look at Catfish Row, which, they tell me, was originally called “Cabbage Row,” and a rather hurried visit to the Heywood House. Now we are off in a few minutes to lunch with an old friend, Mrs. Victor Meyrowitz, and this afternoon we will visit St. Philip’s and St. Michael’s churches and the City Hall, where they have a museum and some historic portraits after which we are to have tea with the Mayor and Mrs. Maybank. There seem to be an endless number of trips, so that we are sorry we have to leave early tomorrow morning. It will be a long run tomorrow, for we have to be in Washington by noon on Sunday.

I am taking back with me a most interesting looking book called A Carolina Rice Plantation of the Fifties. It contains some lovely reproductions of water colors by Alice R. Huger Smith and the tale at the end of life as it was lived in the old plantation days, given in combination apparently by Herbert Ravenel Sass and D. E. Huger Smith.

People have been endlessly kind and have invited us to do so many things that I wish we could forget that there is such a thing as work, even when one is on a vacation. We have, however, devoted our evenings to doing the mail and such other pieces of work as we had brought with us. I am not going back with a clean slate, but I have done a few things.

Sometime this Summer I must spend several days in the kitchen, for I’ve been given Two Hundred Years of Charleston Cooking, a superlative cook book, and the call to try some of these delicious sounding dishes is going to be more than I can withstand.

Today In Charleston History: September 15


Judge Trott wrote in defense of the Church Act: “The reason why we passed the Act to exclude them (Dissenters) from being chosen was because they never did any good there nor never do any.”

1718 – Piracy

Col. William Rhett’s expedition left searching for Charles Vane. Information indicated that the pirates had sailed up the Edisto River. However, the search was in vain. Rhett found no trace of the pirates and sailed north to Cape Fear to continue his patrol.


The Commissioners of Fortification reported they had “viewed the fortifications on White Point and find the whole in ruinous condition and some parts broke through by the sea …”

1775 – American Revolution. Charleston First

Lord William Campbell was injured on June 28, 1776 during the battle of Sullivan’s Island on board the HMS Bristol. He later died of his wounds.

Lord William Campbell discovered that Patriot leaders learned of his coordinating with back country Loyalists. Fearing attack from Revolutionaries in Charlestown, Campbell fled his house on Meeting Street in the early morning hours to HMS Tamar. This effectively ended British rule in South Carolina.

Almost immediately, Colonel William Moultrie led a local militia unit with Captain Francis Marion, seized Fort Johnson and its twenty-one guns, with no resistance from the British. Lord William Campbell, on board the Tamar, considered this action an overt act of war. The fact that this was done in plain view of two British warships, practically under Campbell’s nose, made it particularly insulting.

Moultrie was then directed by the Council of Safety to devise a flag. He chose the blue of the 1st and 2nd Regiments and the silver crescent which adorned their hats. This flag was raised over Ft. Johnson – the first American flag to replace the Union Jack. 

1832 – Nullification Crisis

 The Union and Nullifier Parties signed a formal agreement to prohibit late night meetings and abolish free liquor to all supporters. They set a 10:00 p.m. curfew for all meetings to end. This was an attempt to limit the number of drunken brawls and shootings that had plagued the city during the run-up to the election.


Wreck of the Central America

The S.S. Central America sank in a hurricane off the Charleston coast. It was a 278-foot steamer sailing from Panama to New York City carrying 30,000 pounds of California Gold Rush-era coins and ingots – giving rise to the name Ship of Gold. Four hundred and twenty-five passengers and crew were lost. At the time of its sinking, Central America carried gold then valued at approximately $2 million. The loss shook public confidence in the economy, and contributed to the Panic of 1857.

On September 11, 1988. The ship was located by the use a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The total value of the recovered gold was estimated at $100–150 million. A recovered gold ingot weighing 80 lb sold for a record $8 million and was recognized as the most valuable piece of currency in the world at that time. Currently only “5 per cent of the ship has been excavated. 

Read an August 2014 story from Newsweek about the excavation.