#Today In Charleston History: April 30


 The Richmond arrived at Charles Town carrying a group of forty-five French Huguenots. Their voyage was subsidized by King Charles II for the purpose of introducing people “skilled in ye manufacture of silks, oyles, wines.” Among the new settlers were farmers, wheelwrights, grape growers, weavers saddlers, smiths, coopers, sailmakers, goldsmiths, brick makers and one doctor. One of the Huguenots,Judith Giton, the mother of Gabriel Manigault, wrote of her Carolina early experience:

After our arrival in Carolina, we suffered every kind of evil. In about eighteen months our elder brother … died of a fever. Since leaving France we had experienced every kind of affliction – disease-pestilence-famine-poverty-hard labor. I have been for six months together without tasting bread, working the ground like a slave.

Helen Chandler

Helen Chandler

Helen Chandler died. She was born in Charleston, South Carolina on February 1, 1906. She began her acting career in New York at the age of nine and was on Broadway two years later in 1917. Her early performances include Arthur Hopkins’ 1920 production of Richard III, which starred John Barrymore, Macbeth in 1921 with Lionel Barrymore; Hedvig in Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck in 1925 and Ophelia in the 1925 modern dress version of Hamlet starring Basil Sydney. By the time of her first film she had been in over twenty Broadway productions.

She made her film debut in 1927 in the silent film The Music Master and in 1930 joined Leslie Howard, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Beryl Mercer for the film version of the stage success Outward Bound. The unusual story told of a group of passengers on an ocean liner who gradually realize that they are all dead and will soon face the Last Judgment. Chandler, with her blonde hair and ethereal quality, was considered to be perfectly cast, and she received critical praise for her performance.

Chandler and Bela Lugosi in "Dracula".

Chandler and Bela Lugosi in “Dracula”.

Chandler is probably best remembered by movie fans as the fragile Mina, pursued and nearly vampirized by Bela Lugosi in the original “Dracula” (1931). In 1937 Chandler left Hollywood to return to the stage, but a dependency on alcohol and sleeping pills haunted her subsequent career, and in 1940 she was committed to a sanitarium. Ten years later she was disfigured in a fire, apparently caused by smoking in bed.

Helen Chandler died (following surgery for a bleeding ulcer) on April 30, 1965. Her body was cremated, and as no relative ever came forward to claim the remains, her ashes now repose in the vaultage section of the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles.

Today In Charleston History: April 29

1710 – Education

The Assembly passed an act to establish a

“Free School … for the instruction of Youth … in grammar, arts and sciences and the principals of Christianity.”

Requirements for the teacher included being able to teach “Latin and Greek and be of the Church of England.”

1753 – Politics

Former Chief Justice Charles Pinckney was appointed Agent for South Carolina in England. His entire family accompanied him to Britain – wife Eliza, sons Charles Cotesworth and Thomas and daughter Harriot. The sons were educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford and France. The sons’ friend, William Henry Drayton, accompanied the family and also entered school in Britain.

1780 – The Seige of Charlestown
John Laurens, 1780 (by Charles Willson Peale)

John Laurens, 1780 (by Charles Willson Peale)

American workers were “employed in closing the Horn Work” behind the lines. Gen. Lincoln informed his officers “that he intended the Horn Work as a place of retreat for the whole army” if the British drove them from the main line. Lt. Colonel John Laurens and his light infantry was assigned in front of the Horn Work to cover any retreat into it.

Remnants of the "horn work" at Marion Square.

Remnants of the “horn work” at Marion Square.

Today In Charleston History: April 28


Two dozen men from the local African Methodist Episcopal churches organized a group called “Friends of the Martyrs” and the Patriotic Association of Colored Men.” They built a white picket fence around the Union burial ground of the Washington Race Course with an arch which read, “The Martyrs of the Race Course.” The location was approximately near the present day intersection of Tenth Avenue and Mary Murray Boulevard.  

Washington Race Track - 1857. A one-mile loop around what is present day Hampton Park. Library of Congress

Washington Race Track – 1857. A one-mile loop around what is present day Hampton Park. Library of Congress


Union graves behind the Washington Race Course.


There was a run on the Freedmen’s Bank branch in Charleston. Within 2 months (after 9 years in business), the entire Bank would collapse.

“The reasons for the bank’s failure are debatable. Some scholars, such as Carl R. Osthaus, argue that the government forgot about the freedmen and made no great effort to relieve their economic plight. Other historians, including Walter L. Fleming, contend that government officials and bankers colluded for individual profit. The legacy of the Bank has been debated, too. Some write that African Americans lost their faith in the American dream and middle-class values and abandoned frugality. Others cite the establishment of black-owned banks less than fifteen years after the collapse of the Freedmen’s Bank as evidence that many African Americans remained enterprising. One thing is certain: freedmen adjusted quickly to the demands of a free-labor economy. In the words of Osthaus, they ‘made a massive investment of money.’ Over the life of the Bank, approximately 70,000 depositors had moved a little over 57 million dollars to and from their accounts.”

Today In Charleston History: April 27


Charles Pinckney

Charles Pinckney

At Mepkin Plantation, Charles Pinckney married eighteen-year old Mary Eleanor (Polly) Laurens, with the blessing of her father, Henry. Pinckney’s friend, John Sanford Dart sarcastically wrote that he had “entered Hymen’s shackles with Miss Laurens.”


At 9:00 p.m., Friday evening, a fire started in shed behind Mrs. Babson’s house near the corner of King Street and Beresford Alley. It spread eastward, destroying about 560 houses and 598 other structures, or as the Daily Courier  reported: “at least one-fourth of the centre of our beautiful and flourishing city”

By 10:00 PM, it had crossed to the east side of King Street, and structures were being demolished to create firebreaks. At midnight, blazes raged down the south side of Market Street toward Meeting Street, and at 2:30 Saturday morning

“the Public Markets as far as Church Street were gone…, all the buildings on the south side of Market, the new Stores on the Burnt Lands, the splendid new hotel, …both sides of Meeting as far as Hasell Street – all, all are in ruins.”

Beth Elohim, 1818. Destoryed by the 1838 fire.

Beth Elohim, 1818. Destroyed by the 1838 fire.

The fire roared down Hasell, Society, and Wentworth streets, all the way to the Cooper River wharves. Most of Ansonborough was consumed, including Beth Elohim Synogogue. Moses C. Levy, however, rushed into the building to save the sacred scrolls.

The Citadel, Orphan House, Medical College, St. Andrew’s Society, Hebrew Orphan House and the German Friendly Society opened their buildings for housing of the displaced people.

1864-Civil War
George Trenholm

George Trenholm

After the fall of Richmond, Confederate Treasurer George Trenholm took flight southward with the rest of the Cabinet, but due to his ill health, was unable to continue running.  He resigned with the approval of President Jefferson Davis but was captured by Union troops and imprisoned at Fort Pulaski, near Savannah, Georgia.


Mayor William Ashmead Courtney agreed to take a leave of absence due to his health. He planned to take a European vacation and return home in the fall. Courtney asked to be released from serving the rest of his term, citing exhaustion. City council advised for him to take a leave of absence “for as long as necessary to regain his health.

Today In Charleston History: April 26


The Proprietors recommended Governor Quarry be “dismissed from the Secretaryship for harboring pirates.”

During the years 1682-1686, there was much upheaval in the Carolina Colony. Due to political moves among the citizens the result was five Governors; Joseph Morton, Joseph West, Richard Kyrle, Robert Quarry, and James Colleton.

Colonel Robert Quarry was elected President of the Executive Council and Acting Governor from May to October of 1685. During the time of his government, a number of pirates put into Charles Town, and purchased provisions with their Spanish gold and silver. Whether the governor was ignorant of the treaty made with Spain, by which England had withdrawn her former toleration from these plunderers of the Spanish dominions; or whether he was afraid to bring them to trial, cannot be determined.

It is true that King Charles II, for several years after the restoration, winked at the pirates’ crimes and the crown actually often profited from their plundering. Charles II knighted Henry Morgan, a Welshman, who had plundered Porto Bello and Panama, and carried off large treasures. For several years these plunderers of the West Indies were successful and spread fear in every quarter of the Spanish dominions.

Their stolen gold and silver ensured to them a kind reception among the merchants in Charles Town who freely conducted business with the pirates. However, the Lords Proprietors, once learning of the encouragement given to pirates by Governor Robert Quarry, dismissed him from the office.

1780The Seige of Charlestown

Benjamin_lincolnGen. Benjamin Lincoln and his Patriot war council vowed to continue the fight against the British bombardment, although the city was effectively surrounded and the men worked “the whole day under the heaviest cannon and small arms fire.” Due to the hellish nature of the conditions the line soldiers endured, desertions became an issue for the American defenders.

1852-Road to Secession

The South Carolina state convention met in Columbia to consider action against the United States government for “frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States.”  Although no official action was taken, this meeting marked the beginning of a serious secession movement that came to fruition on December 20, 1860.

Read the Declaration of Causes here. 

1860 – Democrat Convention

Resolutions to protect the Fugitive slave law were introduced.  Rhode Island also introduced a resolution:

That we recognize to the fullest extent, the principle that to preserve the Union the equality of the States must be maintained, the decisions of the Courts enforced ; and that every branch of the Federal Government shall exercise all its Constitutional powers in the protection of persons and property both in the States and Territories;

Today In Charleston History: April 25

1660 – Restoration
Charles II

Charles II

Parliament meets and votes to restore Charles II to the English throne, ending 20 years of turmoil that started with the English Civil Wars.  The era of “Eat, Drink & Be Merry” began. 

1716Bloodless Revolution

Governor Craven returned to London. The Assembly asked Craven to plead their case of grievances against the Proprietors before the King, asking to become a Royal colony. Rev. Gideon Johnston accompanied Craven in a sloop out to the harbor to bid him farewell. During the return trip the sloop was swept over by a storm. Johnston drowned, and several days later his body washed up on the same bank of sand on which he had been marooned on the day he arrived in 1708.

Joel Roberts Poinsett

Joel Roberts Poinsett

Joel Roberts Poinsett was offered the position of special commissioner to South America. Secretary of State Robert Rush stated, “No one has better qualifications for this trust than yourself.”  

Poinsett declined the honor explaining to President James Monroe that he had recently accepted a seat in the legislature of South Carolina and could not resign it “without some more important motive than this commission presents.”

1850 – Burial of Calhoun

John C Calhoun was buried in the western cemetery of St. Phillip’s Church in an elaborate funeral ceremony.


Calhoun’s tomb in St. Philip’s cemetery

1860 – Democrat Convention

Opening prayer by Dr. Rev. John Bachman. Most of the day was spent arguing over ground rules for the convention. It was then announced that during the night, John S. Robinson, Vermont delegate, died in his sleep at the Mills House. The Convention adjourned in his honor.

Today In Charleston History: April 24


On Easter Sunday, Dr. Francis Le Jau conducted communion at St. Philip’s. He was dismayed that only twenty-four people received the sacraments.

1780 – The Siege of Charlestown

At dawn, Lt. Colonel William Henderson attacked the British lines with 200 men – South Carolina and Virginia Continentals.  They caught the British troops completely by surprise, killing several with bayonets before retreating. The attack “was done in a few Minutes without our partys firing a Single Gun & in the greatest order.” Capt. Thomas Moultrie (brother of Gen. William Moultrie) and two privates were killed. 

At the same time Cornwallis marched on the American garrison in Mt. Pleasant at Haddrell’s Point and “found no resistance.” The British control of the eastern side of the Cooper River effectively cut off Charlestown’s communication with the back country, and Gov. Rutledge.

1860- Road to Secession.

Democratic National Convention convened at South Carolina Institute Hall. Caleb Cushing of Massachusetts presided over the proceedings. It was a volatile convention as most of the delegates were split along sectional lines. In his opening remarks Benjamin Perry of South Carolina said that “we have a duty to guard [the South] against evils which no one can forsee or foretell” and urged them to choose a candidate who would sustain the Union. His speech was greeted with hissing from the crowd.  

South Carolina Institute Hall, street view, (Harper's Weekly)

South Carolina Institute Hall, street view, (Harper’s Weekly)

1860 Democrat Convention (Harper's Weekly)

1860 Democrat Convention, interior view of Institute Hall (Harper’s Weekly)

Today In Charleston History: April 23


King Charles II bestowed upon Anthony Ashley Cooper the titles, Earl of Shaftesbury and Baron Cooper of Paulet.  

1780-The Siege of Charlestown.
Siege of Charlestown

Siege of Charlestown

The British were close enough to “easily throw a stone” into the American line trenches north of Boundary Street.  Rifle fire was added to siege, in addition to the artillery barrage. 


Capt. Joseph Vesey returned to Haiti with another cargo of slaves. He was informed that his former “pet”, Telemaque, was suffering from “epileptic fits” and a doctor had “certified that the lad was unwell.” His sale was “thereupon cancelled,” meaning that Vesey was forced to repurchase the boy, and was surprised to find that within a few months, the boy had become proficient in the French language.

Vesey put Telemaque back to work again as his cabin boy and miraculously, the epileptic fits ceased as soon as they sailed from Haiti. Vesey must have seen this as more proof of the boy’s intelligence and cleverness, and decided he would be more valuable as his personal servant.

1840 – Marriage

Mary Boykin Miller married James Chesnut, Jr., who was from one of the wealthiest families in the South. The Chesnut family owned 448 slaves and plantations totaling nearly five square miles.


Today In Charleston History: April 22


The Charleston Courier noted:

A Jury of Inquest was held yesterday, on the body of an African woman, found floating at Craft’s north wharf. The jury brought in a verdict that she came to her death by the visitation of God and supposed her to belong to some of the slave ships in the harbor, and thrown into the river, to save expence (sic) of burial.          

1853 – Slavery

Reuben Roberts, the British Negro sailor, imprisoned in May 1852 sued the sheriff of Charleston, Jeremiah D. Yates, for “for assault, battery, and false imprisonment, the damages being laid at four thousand dollars.” It was a direct challenge of the 1835 Seaman’s Act.

James Petigru

James Petigru

Roberts was represented by the firm Petigru and King, and the sheriff was defended by Attorney General Issac Hayne, with Christopher Memminger and Edward McCready as special counsel.  The Charleston Courier reported:

Although in form an ordinary private action for damages, it is known to all that the case involves and depends upon the constitutionality and validity of the several laws of South Carolina relating to the colored seamen and immigrants …

Ultimately, Petigru won a decision in which British Negro sailors were allowed to stay on board their ships while in port and not arrested.

Today In Charleston History: April 21

1704 – Births

Gabriel Manigualt by Jeremiah Theus (1757)

Gabriel Manigault was born in Charlestown, son of French Huguenot Pierre Manigault and Judith Gitton. He would become the city’s most successful merchant.


A slave in Charleston:

who at the beginning of last Month most cruelly murdered several white People at the Congarees was hung in Chains … at the dividing Path between the two Quarter-House.


The Commissioners of Fortifications called for bids to construct a more substantial seawall at White Point.

1775 – American Revolution – Foundations.

The “Secret Committee of Five,” seized the public gun powder at several magazines, including Hobcaw on the Charleston Neck, and the arms in the State House at the corner of Broad and Meeting Streets. In all they stole 800 guns, 200 cutlasses and 1600 pounds of powder.

1782 – Marriage

Eutaw Flag

Col. William Washington married Jane Elliott of Sandy Hill, South Carolina. Elliott and Washington met when she made his regiment a battle flag (the “Eutaw Flag”) that he carried into combat from Cowpens to Eutaw Springs.


William Turpin emancipated his slaves in his will. He left Jenny a two-story brick house on Society Street. He left a “brick house on Magazine Street to five slaves who were to collectively occupy it.” Sarah Gray, a white woman, was allowed to use “one tenement in the house on condition only, that She Shall Reside therein, and act as Guardian & protector to theses coloured people.”

1920 – Preservation Society Formed 

In the spring of 1920, local Charleston activist Susan Pringle Frost began a campaign to save the 1802 Joseph Manigault house, slated for demolition at the time. On April 21, 1920, thirty-two concerned citizens meet at 20 S. Battery and agree to join forces in the fight for responsible preservation of Charleston as the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings. Now called the Preservation Society of Charleston it was the first locally-based historic preservation organization in the nation.

In 1931 the Society was instrumental in persuading Charleston City Council to pass the first zoning ordinance enacted to protect historic resources. The ordinance established the first Board of Architectural Review and designated a 138-acre “Old and Historic District”. The ordinance limited alterations to the exteriors of historic buildings and made provision for prosecuting violations. In 1957 the Society took on its current name to reflect an expanded mission to protect not only dwellings but all sites and structures of historic significance or aesthetic value.