Today In Charleston History: May 30


General Sir Francis Nicholson became the 1st Royal Governor of South Carolina. He had served as governors of Maryland, Virginia and Nova Scotia. He helped found the College of William and Mary and was a passionate supporter of the Anglican Church, making many of the Dissenters nervous. He was also instrumental in positive negotiations with the Cherokee nation but duplicitous in his dealing with the Creek nation. In a treaty he promised the English settlements would not extend west of the Savannah River.  

Nicholson was notorious for his temper. He was “subject to fits of passion.” In one story, an Indian said of Nicholson, “The general is drunk.” When informed that Nicholson did not partake of strong drink, the Indian replied, “I do not mean that he is drunk with rum, he was born drunk.”

nicholson profile

1822-Denmark Vesey Rebellion
John Prioleau House, 68 Meeting Street, Charleston

John Prioleau House, 68 Meeting Street, Charleston

John Prioleau returned home from a business trip and was told about his slave Peter’s incident on the Charleston wharf with William Paul eight days previously. Alarmed that slaves were openly discussing the Haitian Revolution, Prioleau wrote a note and ordered Peter to deliver it immediately to Indendent (mayor) James Hamilton. Prioleau then marched to John Paul’s grocery story and ordered all the male slaves working at the store arrested and taken to the Guard-House.

Hamilton wrote his own note and sent it to the governor of South Carolina, Thomas Bennett, Jr. who lived a few doors down.

James Hamilton

James Hamilton

Political parties organized for the City Council elections in September. Leading the Union Party was Daniel Huger and James Petigru. Leading the Nullification Party was Robert Hayne and James Hamilton, Petigru’s former business partner, and former Charleston mayor.

Today In Charleston History: May 7

1725 – Gov. Nicholson leaves.
Sir Francis Nicholson

Sir Francis Nicholson

Gov. Nicholson returned to London, carrying with him Cherokee baskets that became part of the earliest collections in the British Museum. Arthur Middleton, as president of the Council, assumed the administration of South Carolina.

 1780-The Siege of Charlestown.

Ft. Moultrie fell to the British. This was militarily significant, but for most citizens it was also psychologically devastating. Moultrie had successfully repulsed the British on June 28, 1776. but it was now under the enemy’s control, the British flag flying from its ramparts. The reality that the British were winning the siege of Charlestown was driven home. 

1781-British Occupation

Gen. Clinton issued a proclamation encouraging “Rebels or those serving in Rebel army or militia” to enlist in the British army. For a three-year enlistment, the British promised the “regiment of his choice, six guineas (a gold coin worth £1 sterling) and a grant of land.”


Saturday, May 7, 1791

        Before breakfast, Washington visited the Orphan House at which there were 107 boys and girls, and he was impressed with the management of the house.After touring the house and gardens, the President had breakfast with the children. 

(Note: The Orphan House was being operated out of a building off Market Street at this time. The famous Orphan House building on Calhoun street opened in 1794.)

        Washington wrote in his diary:

I also viewed the City from the balcony (the portico above the clock) of [St. Michael’s] Church from whence the whole is seen in one view and to advantage, the Gardens & green trees which are interspersed adding much to the beauty of the prospect. Charleston stands on a Pininsula [sic] between the Ashley & Cooper Rivers and contains about 1600 dwelling houses and nearly 16.000 Souls of which about 8000 are white—It lies low with unpaved streets (except the footways) of sand. —There are a number of very good houses of Brick & wood but most of the latter—The Inhabitants are wealthy, —Gay—& hospitable; appear happy and satisfied w’ith the Genl. Government.

st. michael's - postcard

St. Michael’s Church, built in 1762.