CHARLESTON COUNTY

1713 Map of Charles Town

Charleston County and the city of Charleston, its county seat, are the most historic locations in the state. In 1663 King Charles II granted a charter to a group of eight English gentlemen who become known as the Lords Proprietors. In his honor they called the land Carolina. One of these eight gentlemen, Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, encouraged the settlement of Carolina more than the others, and received the honor of having both rivers which surround the city of Charleston named for him. In early April, 1670 the first settlers arrived aboard the Carolina and an unnamed sloop, and established a town at Albemarle Point on the west bank of the Ashley River. The settlement, named Charles Town in honor of King Charles II of England, was subsequently moved a few miles away to a peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper rivers. In 1712 the province of Carolina became North and South Carolina, each provided with its own governor.

The Powder Magazine, located at 79 Cumberland St., became operational in 1713. Today it is a museum and the oldest public building in the city. In May, 1718 Blackbeard terrorized the city. Capturing a number of the city's leading citizens, he demanded a ransom of food, drugs, and other provisions.

Natives of Scotland, organized the St. Andrew's Society, in 1729, the first such Scottish organization in the world. Named for the patron Saint of Scotland, it lends assistance to widows, orphans, and others in need of help. Henry Middleton began work on his gardens at Middleton Place in 1741. Located about 10 miles from the city on Highway 61, they are today the oldest landscaped gardens in America. The Charleston District was formed in 1769, but portions were later split off to form Colleton (1800) and Berkeley (1882) counties. Present day Charleston County includes the old parishes of St. Philip, St. Michael, Christ Church, St. Andrew, St. John Colleton, and part of St. James Santee.

English and French Huguenot settlers and their African slaves built indigo, rice, and cotton plantations along the area's rivers and on its sea islands, while merchants of many nationalities made Charleston one of the busiest ports on the Atlantic. During the Revolutionary War the American forces defeated the attacking British fleet at Charleston in June 1776; a palmetto log fort (later named Fort Moultrie) on Sullivans Island withstood the British cannon balls, and the palmetto tree was subsequently given a prominent place on the South Carolina flag.

Edgar Allen Poe arrived at Fort Moultrie in November, 1827 and didn't leave until December of the following year. During his stay he gathered material for a number of his works, the most popular being The Gold Bug.

In 1830 "The Best Friend," the first locomotive built in America and used in regular passenger service, became operational. Reaching speeds of 21 mph, it ran on the longest railroad in the world, 136 miles from Charleston to Hamburg, S.C.

At another Charleston fort, Fort Sumter, federal troops were fired on by Confederate forces in April 1861, signaling the start of The War Between the States. The Confederate submarine, H. L. Hunley sank the USS Housatonic in 1864 and became the first submarine to sink a vessel. A replica of the Hunley is in front of the Charleston Museum. To cover this period in Charleston's history, would consume more time than I could possibly take. If you know of sites pertaining to the War Between the States that are informative and have useful information, please let me know so that I can add links to them.

Charleston County has had many famous residents, including three signers of the United States Constitution: Charles Pinckney (1757-1824), Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746-1825), and John Rutledge (1739-1800). Other residents include architect Robert Mills (1781-1855), writers DuBose Heyward (1885-1940) and Archibald Rutledge (1883-1973), slave leader Denmark Vesey (1767-1822), abolitionists Sarah (1792-1873) and Angelina (1805-1879) Grimke, scientist Ernest Everett Just (1883-1941), and civil rights leader Septima Poinsette Clarke (1898-1987).

CHARLESTON

The city of Charleston was founded and settled by English colonists in 1670. Located at the juncture of the Ashley and Cooper rivers, the city occupies 87 square miles. Charleston grew from a colonial seaport to a wealthy city by the mid-eighteenth century. In 1742 Charleston boasted a population of 6,800, ranking it the 4th largest city in America. The city changed its name from Charlestown to Charleston in 1783 and incorporated, establishing its first municipal government with an intendant (major) and wardens (councilmen). The College of Charleston was chartered by the General Assembly in 1785, making it the oldest municipal college in the country today. In 1808 Charlestonians built the first bridge over the Ashley River. It was large enough for two carriages to pass with ease, and even had a railed path on each side for foot traffic.
The first native-born architect in America, Robert Mills, designed the first fireproof building in America in 1822. The building stood at the corner of Chalmers and Meeting Streets. A native Charlestonian, Mills also designed the First Baptist Church and the Washington Monument in Washington, DC. In 1823 the Medical Society of South Carolina established the Medical College in Charleston.
Charleston was the political, social, and economic center of South Carolina throughout the colonial and antebellum periods, and it served as the state capital until 1790 when it moved to Columbia. Through the mid-nineteenth century, Charleston prospered from the cultivation of rice, cotton, indigo and its port activities. In April of 1861, Confederate soldiers fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, thus signaling the beginning of The War Between The States. Short on capital through the mid-twentieth century, Charleston hung on to its vast inventory of buildings, using and reusing them instead of replacing them with newer structures. After the war, the City gradually lessened its dependence on agriculture and rebuilt its economy through trade and industry.
At 9:51 p.m. on August 31, 1886 the most severe earthquake east of the Mississippi rocked the city causing approximately 80 deaths and damage estimated at $6 million. Though there was not a Richter scale at this time, the magnitude of the earthquake has been estimated at somewhere between 7 and 8. The city sits atop the Woodstock fault causing 2 to 3 tremors a year, but none equal to the magnitude of the 1886 earthquake. 1886 Charleston Earthquake.
Construction of the Navy Yard in 1904, just north of the City's boundaries, pushed Charleston vigorously into the twentieth century. During the first few decades of the 1900's, industrial and port activities increased dramatically. Later the major sources of capital came from the U.S. Naval Base, the medical complex which occupies an eight block area in downtown includes the Medical University of South Carolina, the College of Charleston and growing tourism.
Concern for the needless destruction of historical buildings inspired the forming of the Society for Preservation of Old Dwelling Houses, in 1920, still functioning today as the Preservation Society. In 1929 the first Cooper River Bridge opened with a formal ribbon cutting ceremony. The Bridge extends 2.7 miles, the fifth longest in the world at this time. To help defray the $6 million construction cost, a 50 cents per person toll was charged. The toll lasted until June, 1946. In 1931 Dorothy Legge purchased 99 and 101 East Bay, beginning the renovation of the area between Tradd and Elliot. Originally these valuable mid-1700 homes had been the center of commerce; merchants had stores on the first floor and lived on the floors above. Neglect over time left these valuable building in a state of disrepair. The purchase and restoration by Mrs. Legge inspired others, and today this beautiful array of homes is known as "Rainbow Row".
In 1931 Charleston adopted the first Historical Zoning Ordinance in the United States and in 1947 Charlestonians established the Historic Charleston Foundation to help preserve the city's architectural heritage. To help raise money for this work, the Foundation began its "Festival of Houses"; tours of private homes given each spring from mid-March to mid-April.
Spoleto Festival USA began its first season in 1977 with rave reviews. Deriving its name from a similar event in Spoleto, Italy, the festival offers dance, opera, plays, chamber music concerts, jazz and much more in a city wide celebration during late May and early June.
In 1991, Charleston opened the gates to its Visitor Reception and Transportation Center (VRTC) on Meeting Street. It is housed in an 1856 railroad freight station. The City has salvaged the rustic feel of the old depot including original beams and pine floors. In 1990, the City completed the Waterfront Park - an eight-acre linear park and pier along the Charleston Harbor entry. The park combines fountains, spacious lawns, intimate garden "rooms", plenty of walking and jogging paths and a long wharf with picnic tables and wooden swings.

FOLLY ISLAND

Folly Island lies about 10 miles south of Charleston between Kiawah Island and Morris Island. William Rivers received a royal grant to the island in 1696 and early in the 18th century it became a plantation. It witnessed a number of shipwrecks, the most significant of these being the brig "Amelia" which crashed on its shores in 1832 with cholera aboard. Many people died on the island and the city of Charleston desperately sought to keep the disease out of the city.
After The War Between the States, the island returned to private hands. In 1918 the Folly Island Company was formed and it began the development of the island including a causeway which connected it with James Island and Charleston. For many years the island served as an escape for residents of Charleston. In 1934 one of the summer residents was George Gershwin who composed part of "Porgy and Bess" while on the island.
Local government was established in 1936 when the township of Folly Beach was formed. This continued until 1973 when the township became a city. World War II marked a turning point for the island. A large influx of workers into the Charleston area required cheap housing and the permanent residents of the island dramatically increased. Bus service was established between Folly and the naval shipyard in 1942. In the same year the county of Charleston purchased the toll road which was the only land route to the island. In 1989 Hurricane Hugo devastated much of the island causing the loss of about 200 homes with many others receiving heavy damage. In addition the island was cut in two at what had already become known as the Washout. Through massive aid from the federal and state governments as well as payments from insurance companies the island has mostly recovered.
To learn more about Folly Island and Folly Beach go to their web site: www.follybeach.com They have a lot of information about the history and attractions of the island, including what to do and where to stay.

ISLE OF PALMS

The Seewee Indians were the first known settlers of the Isle of Palms. The Seewees were said to have greeted English settlers by swimming to the boats and carrying people to shore. The Seewees tried to reach England in canoes, but were decimated by storms at sea. No one lived on the island for many years, but story has it that huge treasures of silver and gold are buried deep in the ocean from pirate days. During the Revolution a force of 2,500 British soldiers were camped on the island on what is now known as front beach. The Hunley, the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel was lost at sea and was discovered in 1996 off shore. The island did not see direct action from the War Between the States. The island was first named Hunting Island, then Long Island, and in 1899 J. S. Lawrence bought the island and renamed it Isle of Palms. Bridges were built from the mainland and trolley cars made the crossing from Charleston. In 1906, a resort hotel with 50 rooms was opened. In 1912, James Sottile built a spacious pavilion and a huge ferris wheel with cage-like seats. The opening of the Cooper River Bridge in 1929, made the island even more accessible, but it wasn't until 1944 that the island began developing.

KIAWAH ISLAND

Located 21 miles south of historic Charleston on the South Carolina coast, the island was named for the Kiawah Indians who inhabited the Island up to the 1600's. The island was deeded to George Raynor in 1699 by the Lords Proprietors and has changed hands only four times since then. The prominent Vanderhorst family of Charleston kept the Island for 180 years before selling it to C.C. Royal of Aiken in 1950 for hunting and fishing. The Kiawah Island Company Ltd. bought the Island from the Royal family in 1974. Kiawah Resort Associates bought the Island in 1988 and is Kiawah's developer. The island is 10,000 acres, over 10 miles in length and 1.5 miles at the widest point and is bordered by protective sand dunes. The island consists of marshes, lagoons and fresh water estuaries and the Kiawah River, which connects with the Stono River and the Intracoastal Waterway, all together there are 65 ponds or lagoons on the Island. The island has a maritime forest and there are 18 species of mammals including whitetail deer, raccoon, opossum and squirrel, more than 30 species of reptiles and amphibians including alligators and sea turtles that inhabit the island. Kiawah's effort to protect the Atlantic Loggerhead Sea Turtle received national acclaim in 1981 when the Izaak Walton League honored Kiawah's program with a National Conservation award. Kiawah's environmental protection efforts also include the Kiawah Island Wildlife Committee whose purpose is to enhance and protect Kiawah's wildlife and fish species and to promote education, understanding and enjoyment of the natural environment on Kiawah. There are more than 140 species of birds including the Brown Pelican, Wood Ibis, osprey, duck, sea gulls, terns, herons, hawks and egrets.

McCLELLANVILLE

This quiet fishing village on the Intracoastal Waterway between Georgetown and Charleston was established years ago as a summer retreat by planters who lived along the Santee River. Visitors today enjoy the quaint atmosphere and fresh seafood.

MOUNT PLEASANT

Across the Cooper River from Charleston, don't miss the antebellum homes in the original heart of the town, the Old Village, founded in 1680. The many restaurants on both sides of Shem Creek, port for the area's fishing fleet, are famous for their fresh seafood.

SUMMERVILLE

Twenty-five miles inland from Charleston, this town was originally populated by Lowcountry citizens who retreated here in the summer to escape malaria. By 1891, its reputation as a health resort grew nationwide. Summerville's lovingly preserved old homes and gardens reflect its reputation as a "Flowertown in the Pines."

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