George Washington Visits Charleston: Day 3

George Washington’s Visit – Day 3

Tuesday, May 3, 1791

The president had breakfast with Elizabeth Grimke Rutledge at her home on Broad Street (John Rutledge House). Mr. Rutledge (Chief Justice of the S.C. Supreme Court) was on the Circuits and not in the city.

116 broad street - john rutledge house

John Rutledge House, 116 Broad Street. Library of Congress.

Later in the day, at his lodgings, he

was visited about 2 oclcock, by a great number of the most respectable ladies of Charleston – the first honor of the kind I had ever experienced and it was flattering as it was singular.

Today In Charleston History: April 9

1894 – Births.

Lena Jenkins gave birth to a son, Edmund Thornton.

Edmund Thorton Jenkins

Edmund Thorton Jenkins

Edmund Jenkins (who was called “Jenks”) was the son of Rev. Daniel Jenkins, founder of the Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston. He grew up playing with the Jenkins Orphanage Band, but longed to play “serious music.” He took piano lessons in Charleston and attended Morehouse College in Atlanta.

In 1914 the Jenkins Band was invited to perform at the Anglo-American Expo in London and Jenks performed with the band until the outbreak of World War I closed down the Expo. Jenks was admitted to the Royal Academy of Music in London where he studied composition. 

His piece, “Charlestonia” was written while he was a student, and later expanded into a finished piece before his death. To learn the entire story of Jenks’ life and the Jenkins Orphanage Band, read my book Doin’ the Charleston.

1906 – Hampton Park

  John Olmsted, the nephew and adopted son of Frederick Olmsted, who designed Central Park in New York City, arrived in Charleston to work on the design of Hampton Park.  He immediately noted that the bandstand, leftover from the South Carolina Exposition that was still in place in the formal garden, should be the most notable presence in the park.

Scene in Hampton Park Charleston, SC

Today In Charleston History: March 10


Lord Ashley Cooper

A deed of transfer was registered by Lord Ashley Cooper by which the Cassoes ceded “the great and lesser Cassoe [River]” between the Ashley, the Stono and the Edisto for cloths, hatchets, beads, and other manufactured goods.


Henry Peronneau was one of sixty-three petitioners who were granted “the rights and privileges of citizenship.”

1780 – The Seige of Charlestown  

Lt. Colonel William Washington’s regiment joined forces with the remnants of the 1st Continental Light Dragoons at Bacon’s Bridge (20 miles north of Charlestown) to reconnoiter, screen and disrupt the advancing British troop. They felled trees across roads, burned bridges and boats in an effort to slow the march toward Charlestown.

Today In Charleston History: February 24

1698 – Disaster

A devastating fire destroyed about one-third of Charles Town, burning the “dwellings, stores and outhouses of at least fifty families … the value of £30,000 sterling.”


President James Monroe visited the Charleston Orphan House and in the evening attended the Charleston Theater.

orphan house postcard

Charleston Orphan House


1828 – Charleston & Hamburg Rail Road

Charles Parker and Robert K. Payne, at the direction of William Aiken, left Charleston by carriage to examine a potential route for the C&HRR. They

“arrived at the Six Mile House at one o’clock, where Mr. Arnot, the keeper, was requested to provide dinner as soon as possible.”

They paid $1.62 for the meals. Later that afternoon they crossed the Ashley Ferry (later known as Bee’s Ferry).

Over the next several weeks, they traveled west toward Hamburg, South Carolina, using Ashley River Road (passing Drayton Hall, Mangolia Planation, Runnymede, Millbrook and Middleton Place) to Bacon’s Bridge. They crossed the Edisto River at Givhan’s Ferry.

Today In Charleston History: February 23

1915 – Deaths

Robert Smalls died, ending an extraordinary life. 

smallsSmalls was born on April 5, 1839, behind his owner’s city house at 511 Prince Street in Beaufort, S.C. His mother, Lydia, served in the house but grew up in the fields, where, at the age of nine, she was taken from her own family on the Sea Islands.  The McKee family favored Robert Smalls over the other slave children, so much so that his mother worried he would reach manhood without grasping the horrors of the institution into which he was born. To educate him, she arranged for him to be sent into the fields to work and watch slaves at “the whipping post.”

By the time Smalls turned 19, he was working in Charleston. He was allowed to keep one dollar of his wages a week (his owner took the rest). Far more valuable was the education he received on the water; few knew Charleston harbor better than Robert Smalls.

It’s where he earned his job on the Planter. It’s also where he met his wife, Hannah, a slave of the Kingman family working at a Charleston hotel. With their owners’ permission, the two moved into an apartment together and had two children: Elizabeth and Robert Jr. Well aware this was no guarantee of a permanent union, Smalls asked his wife’s owner if he could purchase his family outright; they agreed but at a steep price: $800. Smalls only had $100.

By 1862, Smalls viewed the Union blockade of the Charleston harbor as a tantalizing promise of freedom. Under orders from Secretary Gideon Welles in Washington, Navy commanders had been accepting runaways as contraband since the previous September. While Smalls couldn’t afford to buy his family on shore, he knew he could win their freedom by sea — and so he told his wife to be ready for whenever opportunity dawned.


The Planter

Just before dawn on May 13, 1862, Robert Smalls and a crew of fellow slaves, slipped a cotton steamer, Planter, off the dock, picked up family members at a rendezvous point, then slowly navigated their way through the harbor. Smalls, doubling as the captain donned the captain’s wide-brimmed straw hat to help to hide his face. As they sailed out of the harbor Smalls responded with the proper coded signals at two Confederate checkpoints and sailed into the open seas. Once outside of Confederate waters, he had his crew raise a white flag and surrendered his ship to the blockading Union fleet.

In less than four hours, Smalls had accomplished an amazing feat: commandeering a heavily armed Confederate ship and delivered its 17 black passengers (nine men, five women and three children) from slavery to freedom. “One of the most heroic and daring adventures since the war commenced was undertaken and successfully accomplished by a party of negroes in Charleston,” trumpeted the June 14, 1862, edition of Harper’s Weekly.

On May 30, 1862, the U.S. Congress, passed a private bill authorizing the Navy to appraise the Planter and award Smalls and his crew half the proceeds for “rescuing her from the enemies of the Government.” Smalls received $1,500 personally, enough to purchase his former owner’s house in Beaufort off the tax rolls following the war, though according to the later Naval Affairs Committee report, his pay should have been substantially higher.

In the North, Smalls was hailed as a hero. He lobbied Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to begin enlisting black soldiers and a few months later after President Lincoln ordered black troops raised, Smalls recruited 5,000 soldiers himself. In October 1862, he returned to the Planter as pilot as part of Admiral Du Pont’s South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. According to the 1883 Naval Affairs Committee report, Smalls was engaged in approximately 17 military actions, including the April 7, 1863, assault on Fort Sumter and the attack at Folly Island Creek, S.C.

Two months later he assumed command of the Planter when, under “very hot fire,” its white captain became so “demoralized” he hid in the “coal-bunker.” Smalls was promoted to the rank of captain, and starting in December 1863 on, he earned $150 a month, making him one of the highest paid black soldiers of the war. When the war ended in April 1865, Smalls was on board the Planter in a ceremony in Charleston Harbor at Fort Sumter.

Following the war, Smalls served in the South Carolina state assembly and senate, and for five nonconsecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1874-1886).He died in Beaufort on February 23 1915, in the same house behind which he had been born a slave and is buried behind a bust at the Tabernacle Baptist Church.

“My race needs no special defense for the past history of them and this country. It proves them to be equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.” — Robert Smalls

Today In Charleston History: February 17

1627 – Founding

Barbados was settled by Englishman Henry Powell, who arrived with 80 settlers and 10 slaves who were kidnapped, lower class English or Irish youth. The island was established as a proprietary colony, funded by Sir William Courten, a London merchant who owned the title to Barbados. The first colonists were technically tenants and much of the profits were returned to Courten.  

1748 – Weather

The temperature fell to ten degrees Fahrenheit, the coldest day in Charlestown in the 18th century. The cold killed the orange trees in the area.


H.L. Hunley Submarine Sinks U.S.S. Housatonic (CLICK HERE For Entire  Hunley Story)

1865 – Civil War

Sherman’s troops burned Columbia, South Carolina. The bells of St. Michael’s Church, hidden beneath the floorboards of a shed next to the construction site of the new State House, were “melted and calcinated from a state of former beauty to little more than lumps.”


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: February 14


Governor Colleton imposed a large fine on a minister for a sermon he found displeasing and declared martial law due to the opposition of his heavy-handed administration. He quickly retracted this when he could not even control the militia. 


The Old Exchange opened as the central post office of Charleston. It became a Confederate Post Office in 1861 during the War. It was restored as a Federal Post Office in 1865, and would serve in this role until 1896. 

Exchange Building, 1823

Exchange Building, 1823

1835 – Disasters

St. Philip’s Church was destroyed by fire.

St. Philips, 1723, destroyed by fire.

St. Philips, 1723, destroyed by fire.

1865- Bombardment of Charleston

The Charleston Daily Courier reported that William Doran, of 5 Bedon’s Alley, lost to his arm to a Federal shell that passed through his wall. He was the last person to be injured during the bombardment, and it was the last shell that was thrown into the city.

Today In Charleston History: February 13


To generate support for their proposed railroad, to the Savannah River, the Charleston & Hamburg Rail Road Company built a test track of rail 150 feet long in the middle of the cobblestoned Wentworth Street in Charleston. They added flanged wheels to a small flat cart, which they then loaded with forty-seven bales of cotton. A single mule, hitched to the cart, was able to pull this load, four times a normal load, with ease, amazing the spectators. 


James O’Neill appeared as D’Artagnan in The Three Muskateers at the Academy of Music, with Maud Odell, billed as “the beautiful South Carolina girl.” Odell was born in Beaufort, S.C. and had appeared in several productions in New York.


Maud Odell, Library of Congress 

Odell’s first major success was The Prisoner of Zenda, in which she appeared for 400 nights in New York. She later performed in Show Boat, and Tobacco Road. Her career spanned almost 40 years.

Odell was found dead of a heart attack in her dressing room just before a performance of Tobacco Road. She was buried at the cemetery of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Beaufort, South Carolina.

academy of music

Academy of Music, Market and King Street (present site of the Riveria Theater.

Today In Charleston History: February 11

 1724 – Crime (and Punishment) 

The citizens of Charlestown learned of Judith Dutartes’ pregnancy by an unidentified member of her family and:

a warrant was issued for bringing her before the Justice to be examined, and bound over to the general sessions, in consequence of a law of the province, framed for preventing bastardy.

Captain Simmons and six men of the Charles Town militia attempted to serve the warrant against the Dutartre family and Peter Rombert.  Rombert told the family that:

God commanded them to arm and defend themselves against persecution, and their substances against the robberies of ungodly men; assuring them at the same time that no weapon formed against them should prosper.

The family opened fire on the militia as it approached the compound. Simmons realized his small group had no chance of delivering the warrant and retreated back to town, where a plan was formulated to take the Dutartres’ home by force.

Two days later, a militia of fifty men attacked the compound. Captain Simmons was killed and several other members were wounded. Within half an hour the militia had taken the property and:

killed one woman within the house, and afterward forcibly entering it, took the rest prisoners, six in number and brought them to Charlestown.

The prisoners taken were:

  • Peter Dutartre: the father
  • Peter Rombert: the prophet
  • Christian George: the minister
  • Michael Boneau: husband of a Dutartre woman
  • Judith Dutartre: daughter
  • David Dutartre: son
  • John Dutartre: son

To read more about the Dutartre family and the Orange Quarter … go here.

1785 – Politics
wm moultrie

Gen. William Moultrie

William Moultrie became the thirty-fifth governor of South Carolina.