Today In Charleston History: July 31

1736 – Religion 

John and Charles Wesley arrived in Charlestown from Savannah where they had been serving as missionaries. Charles was returning to England due to ill health.

wesley brothers

John Wesley; Charles Wesley

1776 – Deaths. Charleston First.

Francis Salvador, part of the Ninety-Six militia, fell in battle against the Cherokee, and an Indian took his scalp. He died “within three-quarters of an hour” at the age of 29. He was the first Jew to die in the cause of America liberty. 

1852 –Crime.Prostitution
11 Fulton Street, commonly called "The Big Brick" by Charleston locals. Owned and operated by the infamous Grace Piexotto.

11 Fulton Street, commonly called “The Big Brick” by Charleston locals. Owned and operated by the infamous Grace Piexotto.

Grace Piexotto, a “mother of crime” appeared before the city council and asked them to pave the lot in front of her brick house (Gentleman’s Club – House of Negotiated Affection – Brothel) at 11 Beresford Street.

Read more about Grace in the book Wicked Charleston, Vol. II: Prostitutes, Politics & Prohibition. 

1902 
Grounds of the Expo

Grounds of the Expo

A public auction was held for the Exposition property. Eighty-nine bidders showed up, including “three small boys and one decrepit old negro.” Entire buildings were sold for as little as $7 to $115. Most of the bidders were building contractors who purchased for the materials. In less than a week, most of the buildings were being dismantled and were gone by the end of the year. In an article titled “Going! Going! Gone!” the News and Courier wrote:

So the work of demolition will be prosecuted now with all possible speed. In a few days the beautiful Ivory City will be a heap of lumber and debris and every vestige of its splendor will be blotted from the things that be.

1937-Deaths.Jenkins Orphanage

Rev. Daniel Jenkins’ obituary ran in the News and Courier. In part it read:

REV. JENKINS DIES; KEPT ORPHANAGE

Negro Institution Founder Sent Brass Bands to Europe Three Times

The Rev. D.J. Jenkins, founder of the Jenkins Orphanage, whose brass bands have toured the United States and crossed the ocean three times to Europe, died last night after a long illness. He was seventy-four years old.

Jenkins founded the orphanage December 16, 1891, and built it into an institution which has taken care of 5000 Negro boys and girls in the intervening forty-five years.  The orphanage has its main building in Franklin Street, maintains two farms and publishes a newspaper (The Messenger). Boys learn printing, carpentry, shoe making, chair caning and automobile mechanics. Girls are taught to do housework.

In Charleston the orphanage is known best for its bands. There are two now, frequently there have been four, which play at street corners to the energetic directions of a diminutive conductor. These bands have been familiar sights in cities all over the United States, going as far west as Los Angeles. Charlestonians have reported seeking them in many out-of-the-way places. Their silver donations go to the orphanage fund.

In 1914, the Rev. Jenkins took the band to England to represent the negro race at the Anglo-American exposition in London celebrating a century of peace between the nations. The band played before the Queen of England.

The war broke out and Jenkins was able to assist several prominent Charlestonians stranded by the money confusion. They were unable to cash checks but he was paid in gold and loaned money for them to get out of the country.

The Jenkins band marched in the inaugural parade when President Taft was inaugurated and at the St. Louis Exposition. Seventy children in the three groups, now are on the road, playing and singing in Boston, Saratoga (for the races) and New York city.

Jenkins had a flow of language both oral and written calculated to wring the hearts of prospective donors, and he received contributions from some of the most eminent people in the United States. His letters to the newspapers asked alms for his “Little Black Lambs” were powerful pleas that were read by generations of Charlestonians.

Besides being president of the orphan society, Jenkins was pastor of the Fourth Baptist church for forty-six years. 

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: May 2

1739

In a letter to a friend, Eliza Lucas wrote:

Charles Town … is a polite, agreeable place. The people live very Gentile and very much in the English taste … there is two worthy Ladies in Charles town, Mrs. Pinckney and Mrs. Cleland, who are partial enough to me to be always pleased to have me with them and insist upon my making their houses my home with in town. [Note: the Pinckney house was on Union, (now State) Street.]

1780-The Seige of Charlestown.

Loyalist Maj. Patrick Ferguson and sixty American Volunteers marched to Haddrell’s Point to attack a small fort that stood on a causeway that led to Fort Moultrie. The fort, about 150 yards from the mainland, was defended by Capt. John Williams and twenty soldiers of the South Carolina 1st Regiment. The British took the fort while the cannons from Fort Moultrie fired on them until dark. The British soon fortified the fort for a possible attack.

1822-Denmark Vesey Rebellion.

During a midnight meeting at his house on Bull Street, Denmark Vesey, a free black carpenter, told the gathered crowd that:

we were going to have a war and fight the white people … those that did not join must be regarded as an enemy and put to death. Who made you – God – and then aren’t you just as good as your master, if God made him & you, aren’t you as free?

 During the meeting Vesey set Sunday, July 14 as the date of the revolution. Why Sunday? On Sunday, thousands of people came into Charleston by river for worship services or to sell and purchase goods at the Public Market. The blacks recruited for the revolution were instructed to bring “their hoes, hatchets, axes and spades, which might be used as offensive weapons, or as instruments to break open doors.” The leaders of the Rebellion were:

  • Ned Bennett: A trusted and loved slave in the household of Governor Thomas Bennett who lived at 19 Lynch Street (now Ashley Avenue), less than three blocks from Denmark’s home. On the night of the revolt, Ned’s job was to seize the State Arsenal and distribute the weapons, which included more than 200 muskets, bayonets and swords.
  • Rolla Bennett: Also a slave in service of Governor Bennett. Although Rolla admitted that governor treated him like a son, he volunteered to murder his master and his family on the night of the rebellion.
  • Batteau Bennett: Yet another trusted slave in the house of the governor. Batteau claimed he would rather murder his master or die violently resisting than continue his life as a privileged slave.
  • Monday Gell: Monday’s master, John Gell, owned a livery stable at 127 Church Street and regarded his slave as intelligent and dependable. Monday was an excellent harness maker and his master hired him out to a shop on Meeting street, letting his slave keep a portion of the earnings for himself.
  • Bacchus Hammett: An early and eager convert to Denmark’s vision. He stole a keg of gunpowder which was hidden for weeks at Denmark’s house.
  • Peter Poyas: A ship’s carpenter who “wrote in a good hand” and owned by James Poyas lived at 49 King Street and operated a shipyard on Bay Street. Peter had his own weapons and agreed with Denmark that “we are obliged to revolt.” Poyas may have been more eager than Denmark for the rebellion to take place. He often urged Denmark that “we cannot go on like this.”
1828
Thomas Tudor Tucker

Thomas Tudor Tucker

Thomas Tudor Tucker, a Charleston native, died in office as the Treasurer of the United States, a position he held for 26 years. He also was President James Madison’s personal physician.

1914

Rev.  Daniel Jenkins, who operated the Jenkins Orphanage House, received a telegram from Jules Hurtig that read “Bring with you the best musicians you have of small boys.

Hurtig was a booking agent on Broadway. He had seen a production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in which the Jenkins Orphanage Band played a role. Hurtig was quick to realize the band’s commerical potential. He was also responsible for supplying American acts for Anglo-American Exposition, scheduled to be held in London, and he thought the Jenkins Bands would be a major draw.

Jenkins Orphanage Band "The Pickaninny Bands"

Jenkins Orphanage Band at the Anglo-American Expo in London.

Hurtig offered Rev. Jenkins a contract that paid $100 a week for a ten-week engagement, in addition to new uniforms for the band, all transportation and board for the band and caretakers. Jenkins agreed immediately. He was smart enough to bring more than just “young boys” to the Expo. The band would be performing a rigorous five hour program each day in London, on a regular stage in front of thousands of people, so Jenkins decided to bring several of his older, more accomplished and seasoned players in their late teens. He recognized that this was the most significant opportunity for the Jenkins Band to prove they were a serious musical entity. 

doin' the charlestonFor the entire story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band history, read Doin’ The Charleston.

Today In Charleston History: December 21

1800 – Birth.

Robert Barnwell Smith (Rhett) was born. 

Rhett2-246x300After entering public life Robert Smith changed his last name for that of his prominent colonial ancestor Colonel William Rhett.  He studied law and became a member of the South Carolina legislature in 1826 and also served as South Carolina attorney general (1832), U.S. representative (1837–1849), and U.S. senator (1850–1852). He was pro-Southern extremist he split (1844) and one of the leading fire-eaters at the Nashville Convention of 1850, which failed to endorse his aim of secession for the whole South.

One of the original “Fire-Eaters” Rhett was was dubbed the ‘Father of Secession’ and called the ‘Lone Star of Disunion’ by his enemies in the Whig Party. In her famous diary, Mary Chesnut called Rhett “the greatest of seceders.”  During the War Rhett continued to express his radical views  through editorials in the Charleston Mercury newspaper, edited by his son. After the other Southern secession in 1861, Rhett was considered one of the leading candidates for President of the Confederate States. bit In the end, he was viewed as too radical for the position and the more conservative Jefferson Davis was selected as chief executive. 

Robert-Barnwell-Rhetts-grave-300x225Rhett was critical of the Confederate Government for many reasons, including government intervention in the economy. He had previously envisioned a Confederacy that also included the Caribbean and even Brazil, but the Confederate States didn’t live up to Rhett’s dream and criticized Jefferson Davis’ adminstration as strongly as he had once criticized Washington, DC. After the War Rhett refused to apply for a Federal pardon. He died of cancer in 1876 and is buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston.

1842

The Citadel, a military college, was founded in response to the Denmark Vesey rebellion. Charleston City Council established a “municipal force of 150 men … for an arsenal, or a ‘Citadel’ to protect the preserve the public property and safety.”

1891  – Jenkins Orphanage  

Daniel Jenkins preached a sermon at the New Tabernacle Fourth Baptist Church titled “The Harvest is Great by the Laborers Are Few.” It was an appeal to the congregation to “to help these and other unfortunate children.” The congregation was just a poor as Jenkins. The donated money did not last long; it paid for some food and clothing and the rental of a small shack at 660 King Street.