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 Whether the governor was ignorant of the treaty made with Spain, by which England had withdrawn her former toleration from these plunderers of the Spanish dominions; or whether he was afraid to bring them to trial, cannot be determined.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 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: March 16

1699 – Piracy

Collector of Customs, Edward Randolph, arrived in Charles Town and announced that the royal government was tightening its grip on all the colonies and was considering voiding all Proprietary charters. Randolph also made it clear that the Royal Admiralty Courts believed the Proprietors allowed:

illicit trade … and sought to establish a sort of independence of the King … traded with the Dutch, welcomed pirates as free spenders and have no regard to the acts of trade.

Randolph also discovered that Governor Blake was “a notorious offender against the act.” He also accused Blake and his brother-in-law, Judge Joseph Morton, Jr. of:

fraudulently condemning vessels as contraband and then colluding to purchase, at auction, ships and cargoes at bargain prices … took bribes to ignore smuggling and traded with pirates and the Spanish in Florida.


Charlestown, 1735


Josiah Quincy, visiting Charlestown from Boston, wrote about race week:

spent this day in viewing horses, riding over the town … am now going to the famous races … well performed … Filmnap beat Little David (who had won the last sixteen races) out and out. The first four –mile heat was performed in eight minutes and seventeen seconds. I saw a fine collection of excellent, though very high-priced horses … Two thousand pounds were won and lost at this race and Filmnap sold at public vendue … for £300 sterling.

Today In Charleston History: January 12


colonel-william-rhettCol. William Rhett died of apoplexy in Charlestown. He was described as “greedy, violent, vulgar, lawless, brave, impulsive, generous … greedily violating law and propriety for bigger profits, insulting the noble and courteous Gov. Craven.” He was also one of the most important citizens of early Charles Town. Rhett served as colonel of the Provincial Militia, receiver general of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, surveyor and comptroller of customs for Carolina and the Bahama Islands. 

In 1706 Rhett commanded a flotilla that fought off a Franco-Spanish attack on Charles Town.Ten years later, he outfitted two ships as pirate hunters – the Henry and the Sea Nymph, each with eight guns and a crew of between 60 and 70 men. Rhett assumed the position of captain of this small flotilla and led it to victory in the 1718 Battle of Cape Fear River, capturing the infamous Stede Bonnet, the so-called “gentleman pirate.”

1760 – Epidemics

One of the most severe small pox outbreaks in colonial America started, most likely brought to the city by returning soldiers from the Cherokee Indian expedition.  More than 6000 people contracted the disease, resulting in 380 deaths among whites and about 350 blacks. This led to the first mass inoculation of the Charlestown population, with more than 2000 people taking the shot within a few weeks, more than 600 in one day according to Dr. Alexander Garden.

Three month old Martha Ramsay was pronounced dead of smallpox. Her body was laid out in preparation for a funeral and placed next to an open window. Dr. John Moultrie arrived and pronounced her still alive, speculating she had been revived by the fresh breeze.

Eliza Pinckney wrote: “Many poor wretches … died for want of proper nursing … smallpox rages the city so that it almost puts a stop to all business.”

1773 – Charleston First

Charleston Museum was established – 1st natural history museum in America.

The Charleston Library Society provided the core collection of natural history artifacts for the founding of the Charleston Museum (the first in America) in 1773. Residents were encouraged to donate objects for the new museum on Chalmers Street. Some of initial acquisitions included “a drawing of the head of a bird, an Indian hatchet, a Hawaiian woven helmet, and a Cassava basket from Surinam.”

The museum also acquired “a Rittenhouse orrery, a Manigault telescope, a Camera obscura, a hydrostatic balance, and a pair of elegant globes.”


A camera obscura box with mirror, with an upright projected image at the top

Today In Charleston History: December 10


Affra Harleston donated 17 acres of land south of George Street to St. Philips Church, known as the “Glebe Lands,” or lands belonging to the church.

1718 – Piracy.

Stede Bonnet, Gentleman Pirate, was hanged, supervised by Col. Rhett. Bonnet stood clutching a posey of wild flowers. He was “swung off” the cart and died “the agonizing death of strangulation.” During one month’s time, the province of South Carolina executed forty-nine pirates, an unparalleled event.

Illustration from: Kate Bonnet: The Romance of a Pirate’s Daughter, 1902 – Library of Congress

Stede Bonnet execution

Stede Bonnet execution

1719 – Bloodless Revolution.

Angry Carolinians met in Charles Town and formed a Revolutionary Assembly. They refused to recognize the Proprietors’ vetoes and asked Governor Johnson to:

hold the reins of government for the King till his Majesty’s pleasure be known, for the people are determined to get rid of the oppression and arbitrary dealings of the Lords Proprietors.

Governor Johnson refused the Assembly’s request, supported the Proprietors and ordered the Assembly dissolved.


In response to the catastrophic November fire, The Assembly passed an Act for Rebuilding which required all buildings to be made of brick or stone and fixed the prices of building materials.


Joseph Alston was elected governor of South Carolina.

1843 – Marriage.

Mary Baker Eddy, 1850

Mary Baker Eddy, 1850

Mary Baker Eddy married George Washington Glover, a Charleston businessman, in her family’s home in Boston. They moved to Charleston for a short period, living in his home at 51 Hasell Street.   In June 1844, after six months of marriage, Glover died of yellow fever during a business trip to Wilmington. Eddy who was with him in Wilmington was six months pregnant and had to make her way back to New Hampshire, 1,400 miles by train and steamboat, where her only child, George Washington II, was born on 12 September in her father’s home. In the 1860s Eddy founded the Christian Science religion. 

Today In Charleston History: November 30


Landgrave Thomas Smith, one of the richest men in Carolina, was commissioned to be Governor.  

1706 – Religion

The Council received word that Queen Anne had repealed the Establishment Act (November 1705). They promptly passed a new Church Act, establishing the Church of England as the official church of South Carolina, dividing the colony into ten parishes. Six of the ten parish names duplicated those in Barbados.

The Act also stipulated that the rector of St. Philip’s was to receive £150 a year and other rectors £50 a year for three years, then £100 afterward. A registry was to be kept of marriages, births, christenings and burials of all white people within the parish.


Stede Bonnet, the Gentleman Pirate, ran into another pirate fleet in the Leeward Islands, commanded by Edward Teach, Blackbeard. The two pirates decided to join forces.  Captain Hume of HMS Scarborough reported on “a Pyrate ship of 36 Guns and 250 men, and a Sloop of 10 Guns and 100 men.”

Sixteen-year old, red-haired Anne Cormac started frequenting the waterfront taverns of Charles Town. She quickly picked up a reputation as a drinker and fierce brawler, quick to anger. It was reported “That once, when a young fellow would have lain with her against her will, she beat him so that he lay ill of it a considerable time.”

bonnet and bonny


St. Andrew’s Society was organized due of a growing presence of Scots in Charlestown. The hall on Broad Street became part of the social life of upper-class Charlestonians. It was used for balls, banquets, concerts, and meetings of organizations like the South Carolina Jockey Club and the St. Cecilia Society.

st. andrews society hall

St. Andrews Society Hall

1830 – Charleston & Hamburg Rail Road

By this date, five miles of railed road had been laid from Line Street to San Souci, a small community north of Charleston.

1831 – Charleston & Hamburg Rail Road

The Charleston & Hamburg Rail Road began delivering mail from Charleston to the 12 Mile House, where it was transferred to horse-drawn mail stages. Expansion on the line was slowly progressing at about three-quarters of a mile of track per month, due the swampy land the crew was building on.



Today In Charleston History: November 10


Peter Boez was fined £2 for “knocking down Mr. Pinckney, a Negro.” Mr. Tributed was fined 10s (shillings) for “retailing Rum on Sunday.”


The Treaty of Augusta was signed by the governors of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, and the chiefs of the Cherokees, Creeks, Chickaswas, Choctaws and Catawbas. John Stuart, Superintendent of Indian Affairs presided.

1860 – Road to Secession

The South Carolina delegation to Congress resigned and left Washington, D.C. South Carolina legislature was conducting an emergency secession conference in reaction to the election of  Republican Abraham Lincoln. They were meeting at the First Baptist Church due to the construction of the new State House.

James Petigru was in Columbia, SC for business, was stopped on the street and asked by a stranger for directions to the state insane asylum. Petigru replied, “The building, my friend, stands upon the outskirts of the town, but I think you will find the inmates yonder,” he pointed to the First Baptist Church.

first baptist columbia

First Baptist, Columbia

Today In Charleston History: November 8  



Philip Ludwell

Sir Nathaniel Johnson led the “Goose Creek men” in opposition against Governor Sothell, forcing his retirement.  The Lords Proprietors appointed Philip Ludwell “Governor and Comander in Cheif [sic] of Carolina” with the authority “to apoint [sic] a Deputy Governor of North Carolina.” 

Colonel Ludwell lived at Middle Plantation (which later became Williamsburg) in the Colony of Virginia. In 1676, he supported Virginia Governor William Berkeley during Bacon’s Rebellion. Later, Ludwell married Berkeley’s widow, Frances Culpeper Berkeley of Green Spring Plantation. After serving in Carolina, Ludwell returned to Virginia, where he served as Speaker of the House of Burgesses in 1695–96. Around 1700 he moved to England, where he died.

1718 – Piracy

 Stede Bonnet’s crew was found guilty by Judge Trott. The twenty-nine men from his crew were hanged that day. Their bodies were dumped in the marsh beyond the low-water mark.

1781 – American Revolution

Gen. Green established the Continental Army at Round O, about 45 miles west of Charleston.

1786 – Theater

Because of a sore foot, Mr. Godwin of the Harmony Hall theater could not perform his popular comic dance “The Drunken Peasant.” The audience hurled bottles on stage, which Godwin tossed back and charged the audience with a drawn sword.  After the death of his leading lady, Godwin was forced to close his theater.


Poe in uniform

Poe in uniform

Private Edgar Perry (Edgar Allan Poe) arrived on Ft. Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island an articifer – an enlisted tradesman who prepared shells for artillery.

1864 – Bombardment of Charleston

During the overnight Federal bombardment, a shell crashed through the roof of the house of John and Mary Mullane, killing them in their sleep.


To celebrate the conclusion of the South Carolina Institute Fair, a three inning baseball game was played with the Palmettos beating the Schachte team 27-16.

1870 baseball - Atlantics vs. Red Stockings. Harper's Weekly

1870 baseball – Atlantics vs. Red Stockings. Harper’s Weekly

Today In Charleston History: November 5

1718 – Piracy. 

Early this morning off the Charles Town bar, Governor Johnson’s fleet was waylaid by a sloop, the Eagle, which raised the black flag and called on the ships to surrender. Johnson raised the King’s standard, threw open his ports and delivered a broadside which swept the deck of the pirate ship. The Eagle surrendered.

Johnson discovered the ship was not that of Christopher Moody, but the captain was Richard Worley who had captured the Eagle in Virginia. Worley had been killed by the broadside, but his crew of twenty-four were arrested. The cargo included 106 convicts and covenant servants, thirty-six of whom were women, bound as settlers in Maryland.

1768 – Backcountry


Rev. Charles Woodmason

Rev. Charles Woodmason presented a petition to the Assembly which argued that the leaders of the low country (Charlestown planters and merchants) treated the inhabitants of the back country worse than their slaves. He pointed out that the area along the coast had forty-four representatives in the Assembly, while the back country only had six – despite containing two-thirds of the white population of South Carolina.

1779 – Births

 Washington Allston was born on a rice plantation on the Waccamaw River near Georgetown, South Carolina. He would grow up to pioneer America’s Romantic movement of landscape painting. 


Washington Allston, self portrait