Today In Charleston History: April 2

1737- Slavery.

The disproportionate numbers of Negro slaves versus white settlers began to concern some citizens. In a letter to the South Carolina Gazette, a writer called “Mercator” argued about the danger of the “importation of Negroes.” He argued that in the four years past there had been imported 10,447 Negroes and in the four years before only 5153. He suggested that some method to prevent the large importation of Negroes must be speedily adopted or else there would be “the most fatal consequence to the province.”

Seal of South Carolina

Seal of South Carolina

A state seal of South Carolina was authorized to be designed by Arthur Middleton and William Henry Drayton.


Charles Pinckney returned to Charlestown and lived at 2 Orange Street, and helped his mother with his father’s estate. The will reserved property valued at £53, 000 and stipulated that “sixty of the worst of my plantation slaves” be sold to pay his debts. He left his mansion on Queen Street to his son, Charles. The remainder of his estate – three plantations, Fee Farm and Drainfield in St. Bartholomew’s Parish and Snee Farm in Christ Church – were to be divided equally among his wife and children.

1864-Bombardment of Charleston.

In a letter to his Aunt Janey, Gus Smythe wrote:

I have got the most responsible post in the Signal corps here & the most dangerous when they are shelling, for they avowedly make this steeple their mark when firing & have made some very close shots. To look down on them from here, all around the foot of the Steeple, in the grave yard, Streets, City Hall, Court House, Guard House & houses, it seems & is miraculous that so far they have missed. I only hope they continue to do so, for tho’ there may be some “glory” there will be little pleasure in tumbling down with the Steeple.

roosevelt, expo

Pres. Roosevelt at the Expo

President’s Day at the South Carolina West Indian Exposition with President Teddy Roosevelt visiting the Ivory City. Thousands of people lined the streets while a parade of three thousand representing all branches of the military marched to the Exposition. The president gave a speech and attended a luncheon at the Woman’s Building.

Today In Charleston History: March 26

1726 – Ansonborough
Lord Anson, 1755

Lord Anson, 1755

Capt. George Anson purchased a tract of land which later would bear his name – Ansonborough – from his winnings at cards. According to local legend, Anson won the entire tract in a single game from Thomas Gadsden. In fact, Gadsden conveyed this tract to Capt. George Anson for £300 sterling. This was an unusually large sum for such a young naval officer to possess, so it is quite possible that Anson’s winnings at cards was the source of his money. 

Anson later led a British expedition that circumnavigated the world and served as Admiral as the British Fleet from 1756-62.

1737 – Crime & Punishment

Alexander Forbes was convicted of “stealing Cloathes and other things.” He was sentenced to “be whipped on the bare back at the cart’s tails through the town.”

1776 – American Revolution. Charleston First

Four months before the Declaration of Independence was signed, South Carolina adopted a state constitution, drafted by the Provincial Congress and the Republic of South Carolina was born. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was chosen to chair the Constitutional Committee. This was the first plan for an independent government in the American colonies. 

South Carolina President (later govenor)  John Rutledge

South Carolina President (later govenor) John Rutledge

John Rutledge was elected as the state’s president, Henry Laurens its vice-president and William Henry Drayton, Chief Justice. The 1776 Constitution was considered a temporary measure until “an accommodation of the unhappy differences between Great Britain and America can be obtained.” It gave the president “absolute veto power” over the acts of the legislature. Due to his power, Rutledge picked up the nickname “Dictator.”

For the second time in its history, South Carolina had forced a change in its government – in 1719 they had overthrown the Proprietors and now they had replaced British rule with a local government.

1820 – Scandal

Charles Pinckney, in Washington, D.C., was caught in an abandoned house with a “mulatto wench.” A butcher who had been robbed saw Pinckney go into the house and thought it was the robber. A group of men surrounded the house and began to holler for the “thief to come out!” Pinckney, panicked, jumped out of window and attempted to run away. Due to his age, he was unable to outrun his pursuers, who released him when they realized their mistake.

1861. Lincoln’s Spies In Charleston. 

Col. Ward Lamon, former law partner to President Lincoln,arrived in Charleston to meet with Gov. Pickens who told Lamon that “nothing can prevent war except acquiescence of the President of the United States of secession.” Any attempt to reinforce the Southern forts would mean war. Lamon responded that no attempt to reinforce Sumter would happen, and that the fort would most likely be abandoned.

Rev. Anthony Toomer Porter met James Chesnut on the street. Toomer expressed his dismay that war was now inevitable. Chesnut, however, was more optimistic. He told Toomer, “There will be no war, it will be all arranged. I will drink all the blood shed in the war.” Henry Gourdin, however, agreed with Porter that “nothing now but a miracle can arrest the onward course towards destruction and war.”


The first Shakespearean play of the 20th century in Charleston was The Taming of the Shrew, at the Academy of Music. “Despite the fact that it was Lent” there was a “very large crowd …. in this most decorous and conventional of cities.”

academy of music

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

Today In Charleston History: November 11

  1775 – American Revolution

hog islandSouth Carolina’s first Revolutionary War naval skirmish took place. William Henry Drayton., president of the Second Provisional Congress of South Carolina,  was on board the newly-commissioned South Carolina schooner Defence, supervising the sinking of the hulks in the Hog Island channel. Captain Edward Thornbrough ordered six shots fired from the HMS Tamar and HMS Cherokee. Drayton replied with his nine-pounders. Over the next several hours the British fired 130 ineffective shots, which rallied public opinion to the side of the Revolutionaries. Lord William Campbell was aboard the Cherokee during the battle.


Charles Pinckney, deeply in debt, signed an agreement with his creditors for a group of trustees to sell his property, which included:

  • 500 acres on the Black and Pee Dee Rivers near Georgetown
  • 1200 acres on the Lynches River
  • 815 acres at Snee Farm
  • Shell Hall, his house at Haddrell’s Point
  • His mansion on Meeting Street
  • Two tracts of land from his father-in-law, Henry Laurens – one in Savannah and one called Mount Tacitus on the Santee River which included a lumber mill and Pinckney’s Ferry
  • 240 slaves

Today In Charleston History: November 1


Ashley Cooper wrote to Captain West and Governor Sayle ordering that the settlement, Albemarle Point, be renamed “Charles Town.”

1765 – Stamp Act.

The Stamp Act went to effect. Ships could not get clearances to leave Charlestown harbor and courts could not conduct any legal business without stamped paper.


Jacob Ramos was convicted of inciting a slave to commit a robbery of Mr. William Sommerfall. The Negro slave was hanged, and Ramos was sentenced to “stand in the pillory for an hour, pay a fine of $350, and receive 39 lashes.” During the time in the pillory Ramos was “most severel & incessantly pelted by an enraged Populace; who nevertheless were so orderly, as to not use any other Materials than rotten eggs, Apples & Onions.”

1775 – American Revolution.

Second Provisional Congress was hastily called into session in to deal with the threat the two British war ships in Charlestown harbor. William Henry Drayton was voted President of the Congress. In anticipation of Lord Campbell sailing up the Cooper River to meet with Loyalists living in the back country, Drayton ordered the blocking of Hog Island Channel by the sinking of four hulks.

1777 – American Revolution

 Upon John Hancock’s retirement due to ill health, Henry Laurens was elected President of the Congress and served until December 9, 1778. During his term, Laurens dealt with the conspiracy to replace George Washington as commander-in-chief, perpetuated by several members of Congress and the military.

dayton and laurens

William Henry Drayton and Henry Laurens


 The South Carolina Institute Fair opened. It was open to all – white and black – from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tickets were twenty-five cents, with more than 12,000 visitors in one day. Inside the hall visitors could see exhibits featuring the most modern agricultural equipment, sewing machines and steam engines. The main building for the South Carolina Institute Fair was on the site of the present day Citadel softball stadium. The building was 300 feet long by 80 feet wide by forty feet tall, had 154 windows and fourteen doors.The Charleston Daily News wrote:

Charleston will do her part in the grand work of building up South Carolina, and extends a cordial welcome to all her visitors, whether they come from North or West or South. There is no sectionalism in commerce, and we can promise to all who now pay our city a visit a hearty and generous reception.


Today In Charleston History: September 14

1769 – American Revolution – Foundations

The Gazette reported that, excluding Royal officials, only thirty-one inhabitants of had refused to sign the pledge and join the “Association.” The names of the thirty-one were published in the paper and they quickly discovered themselves unable to sell merchandise.

The “Association” was a group of Charles Town men who pledged to support non-importation of any products of Great Britain, and denounced anyone who did not sign within a month. Many of the aristocratic leaders were upset by the surge of the mechanics (carpenters, etc …) in politics, usurped by men they considered their inferior.

william henry draytonWilliam Henry Drayton condescendingly wrote in the Gazette:

No man who could boast of having received a liberal education would consult on public affairs with men who never were in any way to study, or to advise upon any points, but rules how to cut up a beast in the market … cobble on old shoe … or to build a necessary house.

Christopher Gadsden pointed out that Drayton was exempted from labor to make a living due to his “marriage to a rich heiress rather than from any merit of his own.”

The rally cry of the “Association” became “Sign or die!” Over the next several weeks Drayton and Gadsden published dueling letters in the Gazette, with the attacks becoming more personal rather than an exchange of ideas.

Today In Charleston History: August 3

 1674 – Deaths.

Sir John Yeamans

Sir John Yeamans

Sir John Yeamans died in Carolina.  He was one of original landgraves of the Carolina colonial and became governor. In 1674 Yeamans was removed from office, and at once sailed for Barbados, where he soon afterward died. Robert Weir wrote: 

Yeamans epitomized the enterprising Barbadians who played a large part in settling South Carolina. That some, like him, resembled pirates ashore probably both promoted and retarded development of the colony; it certainly contributed to political factionalism endemic during the early years.

1769 – American Revolution – Foundations.

William Henry Drayton was a twenty-seven year old planter who refused to join the Association. Educated in England, Drayton had expensive tastes and his fondness for gambling left him deeply in debt. He was described as “a rather frivolous young lightweight, unable to get his life in order.”

When Drayton discovered there was no market for his plantation goods, he attacked the Association in the Gazette. The publication of his name was “an infringement of individual rights” and “only the legislature could brand a man an enemy of his country.” He contemptuously called Gadsden: “either traitor or madman who looks upon himself as a monarch … the ruler of the people …[who should be] locked in an insane asylum until the change of the moon.”

1776American Revolution – Continental Congress.  

Most of the members of the Continental Congress officially signed the Declaration of Independence on this day. They then turned their attention to creating a union of the thirteen colonies. South Carolina signers were: Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, Thomas Heyward, Jr. and Thomas Lynch, Jr. 

South Carolina signers of the Declaration of Independence

South Carolina signers of the Declaration of Independence.

1781 – British Occupation.

A group of citizens meet Lord Rawdon at the Miles Brewton House to plead for Issac Hayne’s life. Col Hayne’s son, William Hayne wrote:

I recollect also going with my brother Issac & sister Sarah in Company of my Aunt Peronneau to Lieut. Col. Balfour … and on our knees presenting a petition to him in favor of my father but without effect. 


The trial of Aaron Burr began before a packed house. His daughter,Theodosia Burr Alston, sat in the courtroom next to her Charleston husband, Joseph Alston, during the trial. It was written about her:

There is nothing in human history that is more touching than her devotion during this ordeal. Beautiful, intelligent far beyond the average woman of her time, she was the center of admiration throughout the trial.

1836 – Religion.
Angelina Grimke Weld

Angelina Grimke Weld

Angelina Grimke was moved to speak at a silent prayer at the Orange Street Quaker Meeting in Philadelphia. She was interrupted by Jonathon Edwards, suggesting that she stop speaking. This convinced Angelina that she could no longer live in Philadelphia, since the Quakers were not supportive of her abolitionist views.  She wrote, “The incident has proved the means of releasing me from those bonds which almost destroyed my mind.”

     She became a full-fledged public abolitionist.

1864 – Bombardment of Charleston.

In the North Channel just outside the Charleston harbor during the morning, Union officers were exchanged for an equal number of Confederate officers.