Today In Charleston History: June 10


Sam Dodson, master of the ship Katherine lodged an official protest with Governor Robert Quarry. According to the document written by Quarry, Dodson:

proved by oaths of himself and others that appeared having dispatched all his business and cleared and taken out his dispatches for his return to London; Hon. Landgrave [and former governor] Joseph Morton not ignorant but maliciously intending to hinder the voyage prohibited the pilot William Watson to convey the ship and did send William Popell, Provost Marshall, with several armed men on board the vessel who broke open the hatches and afterward on 10 June did cut the hoops of several casks and carry away and damage goods and merchandise of several merchants ensuing much damage … and passengers who may suffer for the detaining of the ship.


“A wicked and barbarous plot” was uncovered which terrified the white population. A group of blacks outside the city were said to have plotted “to destroy all the white people in the Country and then take the town.”

More than a dozen slaves were captured “and burnt … hang’d and banished.” The town watch was given more power to deal with blacks. A well-armed force of twenty-one men patrolled the streets nightly to “Quell any … designs by Negroes.”


Martha Laurens Ramsay died.

As a child, Martha was thought to have succumbed to smallpox and was laid out for burial when an ocean breeze revived her. As a child Martha Laurens demonstrated great eagerness for learning. She could read easily at age 3 & soon learned French, English grammar, geography, arithmetic, & some geometry.  Her father approved of her studious habits but cautioned her that a knowledge of housewifery was the 1st requisite in female education.

Martha Laurens Ramsay

Martha Laurens Ramsay

Her father, Henry, a merchant and planter, was one of the richest men in America.  Their family supported the Revolution’s promises and struggled through its postwar uncertainties. During the American Revolution her father, Henry Laurens, was president of the Continental Congress and later, after capture at sea, languished in the Tower of London as Britain’s highest-ranking American prisoner. Martha’s brother, John Laurens, achieved legendary status for his military gallantry in the war and his controversial proposal that slaves be liberated and armed to help fight for American freedom from England.

During the war, Martha lived in France, caring for her ailing uncle, and then, caring for her father after his release by the British. After the war, in 1787, Martha married Dr. David Ramsay of Charleston, a patriot-politician, and one of the first historians of the American Revolution, Martha bore eleven children. After her death in 1811, her husband edited and published a memoir from her writings, including portions of her diary.

Eight of her 11 children survived childhood.

Today In Charleston History: November 3

1759 –Births.

Martha Laurens was born, daughter of Henry and Eleanor Laurens, the beginning of one of Charleston’s most extraordinary lives.

Martha Laurens (daughter of Henry and Eleanor Laurens). John Wollaston c 1767Her father, Henry, was a successful merchant. Through his London contacts, Laurens entered into the slave trade with the Grant, Oswald & Company who controlled 18th century British slave castle in the Republic of Sierra Leone, West Africa known as Bunce Castle. Laurens contracted to receive slaves from Serra Leone, catalogue and marketed the human product conducting public auctions in Charles Town. His company Austin and Laurens, in the 1750s, handled was responsible for the sales of more than eight thousand Africans.

Three month old Martha Ramsay was pronounced dead of smallpox. Her body was laid out in preparation for a funeral and placed next to an open window. Dr. John Moultrie arrived and pronounced her still alive, speculating she had been revived by the fresh breeze. This event made Martha very special to her father, Henry.

In 1780 Henry Laurens was imprisoned in the Tower of London for “suspicion of high treason” as supporting the American Revolution. After his release he moved to Vigan, France and was nursed back by Martha, where she had spent the years of the War living with her uncle. In 1787 she married Dr. David Ramsay. The two had met while Ramsay writing a History of the American Revolution and reading Henry Laurens’ papers.


Mr. William Laval secured from the state of South Carolina a vague grant to 870 acres of “land” in Charleston Harbor. Acting on this odd grant, Laval made claim to the site of Fort Sumter. This also raised a question in the South Carolina legislature as to what authority the government had acted upon to begin construction. Laval wrote to the engineer in charge at Fort Johnson, Charleston Harbor:


You are hereby notified that I have taken out, from under the seal of the State, a grant of all those shoals opposite and below Fort Johnson, on one of which the new work called Fort Sumter, is now erecting. You will consider this as notice of my right to the same; the grant is recorded in the office of the secretary of state of this State, and can be seen by reference to the records of that office.

Laval’s claim was presented to Robert Lebly, superintendent in charge of the building of fortifications at Charleston Harbor. Lebly forwarded the claim to Brigadier General Charles Gratiot the next day.