Today In Charleston History: June 4


During the celebration of King George III’s birthday, Peter Timothy noted that, in comparison to the celebration over the John Wilkes affair and the arrival of the William Pitt statue:

few [houses] were illuminated because the People are not Hypocrites. They will not dissemble Joy, while they feel themselves unkindly treated, and oppressed.


The South Carolina Gazette, ran this advertisement: 

RUN AWAY: Dick, a mulatto fellow . . . a remarkable whistler and plays on the Violin.


Henry Laurens was unhappy with the level of education available in England for his sons. He wrote about Oxford and Cambridge saying:

The two universities are generally, I might say universally censured. Oxford in particular is spoken of as a School of Licentiousness and Debauchery in the most aggravated heights.

1774-American Revolution

The First Provincial Congress adopted the American Bill of Rights and the Articles of Confederation. On that same date, the First Provincial Congress authorized the issue of £1,000,000 in paper currency for military defense of the Province, and appointed thirteen new members to the Council of Safety, with power to command all soldiers and to use all public money in the Province. No military person could now sit on the Council of Safety.

The Congress ordered that 1500 special troops be raised to

go forth and be ready to sacrifice our lives and fortunes against every foe in defense of the liberty outraged in the bloody scene on the 19th of April last near Boston.


The final route of the Charleston & Hamburg Rail Road was confirmed. It was designed with nine turnouts – a parallel track joined to the mainline, an amazing innovation at that time. There were also twelve pumps/watering places for the locomotives.

Map of the rail road route.

Map of the Charleston & Hamburg rail road route.









The Francis Marion Hotel opened for business.  Named for the Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox,”, it was built by local investors at a cost of $1.5 million from plans by noted New York architect W.L. Stoddard. when it opened the Francis Marion was the largest and grandest hotel in the Carolinas. The 1920s was the Golden Age of railroads, radio and grand hotels, and the Charleston Renaissance was in full bloom and the Francis Marion Hotel was “the place to be”.

evening post, june 4, 1924

Charleston Evening Post, June 4, 1924

Today In Charleston History: May 20


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.

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.


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: March 27

1780 – The Siege of Charlestown.

From St. Michael’s steeple, Peter Timothy reported over thirty British flatboats along the Wappoo Cut “skulking in the marsh.”

St. Michael's Church

St. Michael’s Church

During the months leading up to the British siege of Charlestown, St. Michael’s steeple was used as a lookout tower to report on troop movements outside the city. Peter Timothy, editor/publisher of the South Carolina Gazette was a Revolutionary and published passionate pro-Patriot stories. After the British successfully captured Charlestown, Timothy was one of thirty-three patriots arrested and placed in the provost dungeon of the Exchange Building.

During their passage to exile in St. Augustine, Timothy was “lost at sea” according to British reports. 


Robert Newman Gourdin was born at Buck Hall Plantation in St. John’s Parish. He was the son of Dr. Samuel Gourdin and Mary Doughty Gourdin.

Gourdin graduated from South Carolina College in 1831, read law, and was admitted to the bar in 1834. He and his brother Henry were members of the prosperous mercantile firm Gourdin, Matthiessen, and Company of Charleston. Robert Gourdin was active in city and state affairs; he served as an alderman in Charleston and toward the end of the Civil War he served as a colonel in the South Carolina reserves.

Gourdin was a signer of the Ordinance of Secession from St. Philip and St. Michael’s Parishes, Charleston, at the Secession Convention of South Carolina; he was listed in the Journal of the Convention as a commission merchant, age 48, in 1860. He was chairman of the Executive Committee of the “1860 Association” of Charleston. Gourdin, who never married, died in Charleston February 17, 1894, and is buried in Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, South Carolina.

1860. Road To Disunion.

Population trends were going against the South, and Southerners were also becoming dependent on Northern manufacturers. The Mercury noted that:

A church built in Charleston was apt to have its doors, windows, and even pulpit made to order in the North. We thus starve our own artisan-laborers and send out money away to strengthen, enrich and fatten those who are ready to draw the sword of extermination on us.

1888. Lily Langtry Plays Charleston.

The “fair Jersey lily” as she was called, appeared on the Charleston stage at the Academy of Music. As a young woman, Lily Langtry had been celebrated in New England society for her “beauty and charm. Her looks and personality attracted interest and invitations from artists and society hostesses.” In 1874, the 20-year old Lily married Irish landowner Edward Langtry. For the next decade she became famous in European society, becoming the mistress of the Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, and was befriended by Oscar Wilde and actress Sarah Bernhardt. She also became the mistress of German Prince Louis of Battenberg and Charles Chetwynd, Earl of Shrewsbury.

lily langtry - two views

Lily Langtry, two views. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

In 1881, due to her husband’s financial difficulties (and Lily no longer the official mistress of Prince Albert) she became an actress and quickly was drawing large crowds to the theater, more due to her scandalous celebrity than her skill on the stage.

Her appearance in Charleston met with mixed reviews. Her beauty and style were fawned over in local papers, filled with detailed descriptions of her costumes:

The lower skirt was of satin brocade, trimmed in waves of golden beads, the tight-fitting bodice covered with three glittering pendants … a short puffed sleeve … on the right arm, while from the bare left arm fell a drapery of white crepe which, with the crepe over-skirt and train, gave a very Grecian effect to the whole.

Every seat at the Academy of Music was priced at $1.50; there were no “cheap seats” for Lily’s performance. Although she was praised as a beauty, a reviewer reported that “it was doubtful that one in twenty would care to see her again.”



Today In Charleston History: March 8

1770 – American Revolution – Foundations

In the Gazette, Peter Timothy reported that British merchants had lost £300,000 sterling just in the loss of slave trading, an unreasonable sacrifice in an attempt to raise £13,000 sterling. 


During his visit to Charleston, Josiah Quincy wrote in his diary of his evening at the Miles Brewton House, 27 King Street:

Dined with a large company at Miles Brewton’s, Esq. a gentleman of a very large fortune – a most superb house, said to have cost him £8000 sterling. The grandest hall I ever beheld, azure blue satin window curtains, rich blue paper with gilt … most elegant pictures … a most elegant table, three courses, jellies, preserves, sweet meats, etc … After dinner, two sorts of nuts, almonds, raisins, three sorts of olives, apples, oranges … by odds the richest wines I ever tasted.

Miles Brewton House

Miles Brewton House

Today In Charleston History: February 15

1780-The Seige of Charlestown.

Peter Timothy, editor of the South Carolina Gazette, took the post in the steeple of St. Michael’s Church to report on British land and sea movements. He could see smoke from the British encampments on John’s Island and numerous ships off the Charlestown bar.

The British army crossed the Stono River from John’s Island to James Island, giving them a staging area and view of Charlestown across the Ashley River. They settled in to wait for the British navy to cross the Charleston bar to reinforce and re-supply the army. Over the next five weeks, Clinton’s army seized corn, oxen, cattle, horses, pigs and other supplies from dozens of plantations in the area.


The first Race Week was held at the new Washington Race Course, won by Fox Hunter, owned by Mr. Lynch.


1857 view of the grandstand, published in John Beaufain Irving’s the South Carolina Jockey Club.


Today In Charleston History: November 13

1773. American Revolution – Foundations.

Peter Timothy announced in the South Carolina Gazette that “300 chests of tea were on their way to Charles Town.” He urged the citizens to “band together to take the necessary steps to prevent the landing” of the cargo.

Earlier in the year, Parliament had passed the Tea Act, which allowed the East India Company to export tax-free tea into the American colonies in an effort to help the company recover from near bankruptcy. It was also an attempt to undercut the price of illegal tea smuggled into the North American colonies. The Act was supposed to convince the colonists to purchase Company tea on which the Townshend duties were paid, thus implicitly agreeing to accept Parliament’s right of taxation. Most of the American colonies disagreed.


gazette masthead


Today In Charleston History: October 15


Peter Timothy of the Gazette requested that all people who owed him money pay their debts as soon as possible. He pointed out that in thirty-three years he had never resorted to a summons or an attorney to collect a bill, but such measures may be forthcoming.

1863 – Civil War. H.L. Hunley sinks

Horace Hunley and seven crew members boarded the submarine, H.L. Hunley, at Adger’s Wharf. There was a small crowd assembled on the dock to watch a demonstration of the Hunley’s capabilities, a dress rehearsal for an actual attack.  They were to submerge beneath the Confederate ship Indian Chief and surface on the other side.

The crowd watched the Hunley cruise away from the dock, submerge but … it never resurfaced. The next day, the Charleston Daily Courier posted this notice:

Melancholy Occurrence – On Thursday morning an accident occurred to a small boat in Cooper River, containing eight persons, all of whom drowned.

General P.G.T. Beauregard ordered that the submarine be raised and then grounded. So far, the Hunley had killed thirteen Confederate volunteers and not a single Yankee. “It is more dangerous to those who use it than the enemy,” he said.

Due to weather conditions in Charleston harbor, it took more than a month for the recovery. It was 60-feet below the surface, its nose buried in silt. On Saturday, November 7, several divers, including Angus Smith who had worked on the first recovery, managed to wrap enough chains around the vessel to raise it. When the Hunley was finally on the dock at Mt. Pleasant, the grim task of removing the eight corpses was begun.

Beauregard wrote, “It was indescribably ghastly. The unfortunate men were contorted into all kinds of horrible attitudes.”


Several different companies started horse-drawn streetcar services in Charleston. No one from the Charleston Animal Society complained about the abuse of horses being forced to carry people around the streets. chas trolly cars

Today In Charleston History: August 27

1706 – Queen Anne’s War.

The six French ships (a frigate, four sloops and one galley) from Martinique, led by Captain De Feboure, crossed the Charles Town bar with more than 700 Spanish soldiers on board. They anchored off Sullivan’s Island, awaiting winds in which to sail into the harbor.

1780 – British Occupation.

old exchange bildgThirty-three people were arrested in Charlestown and charged with encouraging residents to resist British authority. The prisoners, some of whom had been placed under house arrest, were dragged from their beds by British soldiers, and jailed in the Provost Dungeon of the Exchange Building. The arrested men included:

  • Christopher Gadsden
  • Alexander Moultrie
  • Richard Hutson
  • Dr. John S. Budd
  • William Massey
  • John Neufville
  • Joseph Parker
  • Thomas Savage
  • Dr. Peter Fayssoux
  • Dr. David Ramsay
  • Dr. John E. Poyas
  • Tom Singleton
  • Thomas Ferguson
  • Edward Rutledge
  • Hugh Rutledge
  • Thomas Heyward, Jr.
  • Arthur Middleton
  • Thomas Grimball
  • William Johnson
  • Peter Timothy

Within a few days the prisoners were transferred to the ship Sandwich in Charlestown harbor. Edward Rutledge learned of his two-year old son’s death while on board. Being unable to attend the funeral and comfort his wife increased his bitterness toward Britain. Militiamen like Charles Pinckney were paroled to their homes.

1782 – American Revolution.

John Laurens

Col. John Laurens was killed at Tar Bluff on the Combahee River, about forty miles south west of Charleston, in a completely useless skirmish. The British were trying to loot supplies of rice before leaving, and Laurens’ company of fifty men were determined to stop them. John Laurens was the first Patriot killed.

Martha Laurens, living in Vigan, France, did not learn about her brother’s death until three months later. However, during her morning prayers for her family, on this day, she stopped praying for her brother as she “felt there was no longer need.”

Years later, while visiting Charleston, Lafayette stated, “Colonel Laurens was the most valiant officer and accomplished gentleman I ever knew. He was the beau ideal of gallantry.”

In 2015 John Laurens became a more well known cultural figure through the popularity of the Broadway musical “Hamilton.” Laurens was a major character in the the first Act, and Hamilton mourns Laurens’ death in Act II.