1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Charleston (South Carolina)

14008211911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 5 — Charleston (South Carolina)

CHARLESTON, the largest city of South Carolina, U.S.A., the county-seat of Charleston county, a port of entry, and an important South Atlantic seaport, on a narrow peninsula formed by the Cooper river on the E. and the Ashley on the W. and S.W., and within sight of the ocean about 7 m. distant. Pop. (1890) 54,955; (1900) 55,807, of whom 31,522 were of negro descent and 2592 were foreign-born; (1910 census) 58,833. It is served by the Atlantic Coast Line and the Southern railways, the Clyde Steamship Line to New York, Boston and Jacksonville, the Baltimore & Carolina Steamship Co. to Baltimore and Georgetown, and a branch of the North German Lloyd Steamship Co., which brings immigrants from Europe direct to the Southern states; there are freight boat lines to ports in the West Indies, Central America and other foreign countries.

The city extends over 3.76 sq. m. of surface, nowhere rising more than 8 or 10 ft. above the rivers, and has about 9 m. of water front. In the middle of the harbour, on a small island near its entrance, is the famous Fort Sumter; a little to the north-east, on Sullivan’s Island, is the scarcely less historic Fort Moultrie, as well as extensive modern fortifications; on James Island, opposite, is Fort Johnson, now the United States Quarantine Station, and farther up, on the other islands, are Fort Ripley and Castle Pinckney (now the United States buoy station). Viewed from any of these forts, Charleston’s spires and public buildings seem to rise out of the sea. The streets are shaded with the live oak and the linden, and are ornamented with the palmetto; and the quaint specimens of colonial architecture, numerous pillared porticoes, spacious verandas—both upper and lower—and flower gardens made beautiful with magnolias, palmettoes, azaleas, jessamines, camelias and roses, give the city a peculiarly picturesque character.

King Street, running north and south through the middle of the peninsula, and Market Street, crossing it about 1 m. from its lower end, are lined with stores, shops or stalls; on Broad Street are many of the office buildings and banks; the wholesale houses are for the most part on Meeting Street, the first thoroughfare east of King; nearly all of the wharves are on the east side; the finest residences are at the lower end of the peninsula on East Battery and South Battery, on Meeting Street below Broad, on Legare Street, on Broad Street and on Rutledge Avenue to the west of King. At the south-east corner of Broad and Meeting streets is Saint Michael’s (built in 1752–1761), the oldest church edifice in the city, and a fine specimen of colonial ecclesiastical architecture; in its tower is an excellent chime of eight bells. Beneath the vestry room lie the remains of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and in the churchyard are the graves of John Rutledge, James Louis Petigru (1789–1863), and Robert Young Hayne. At the intersection of the same streets are also the massive United States post office building (Italian Renaissance in style), with walls of granite; the county court house, the city hall and Washington Square—in which stand a statue of William Pitt (one arm of which was broken off by a cannon shot during the British bombardment in 1780), and a monument to the memory of Henry Timrod (1829–1867), the poet. At the foot of Broad Street is the Colonial Exchange in which the South Carolina convention organized a new government during the War of Independence; and at the foot of Market Street is the large modern custom house of white marble, built in the Roman-Corinthian style. Saint Philip’s church, with admirable architectural proportions, has a steeple nearly 200 ft. in height, from which a beacon light shines for the guidance of mariners far out at sea. In the west cemetery of this church are the tombs of John C. Calhoun, and of Robert James Turnbull (1775–1833), who was prominent locally as a nullifier and under the name of “Brutus” wrote ably on behalf of nullification, free trade and state’s rights. The French Protestant Church, though small, is an attractive specimen of Gothic architecture; and the Unitarian, which is in the Perpendicular style and is modelled after the chapel of Edward VI. in Westminster, has a beautiful fan-tracery ceiling.

Of the few small city squares, gardens or parks, the White Point Garden at the lower end of the peninsula is most frequented; it is shaded with beautiful live oaks, is adorned with palmettoes and commands a fine view of the harbour. About 1½ m. north of this on Meeting Street is Marion Square, with a tall graceful monument to the memory of John C. Calhoun on the south side, and the South Carolina Military Academy along the north border. The largest park in Charleston is Hampton Park, named in honour of General Wade Hampton. It is situated in the north-west part of the city and is beautifully laid out. The Isle of Palms, to the north of Sullivan’s Island, has a large pavilion and a wide sandy beach with a fine surf for bathing, and is the most popular resort for visitors. The Magnolia Gardens are about 8 m. up the Ashley. Twenty-two miles beyond is the town of Summerville (pop. in 1900, 2420), a health resort in the pine lands, with one of the largest tea farms in the country. Magnolia Cemetery, the principal burial-place, is a short distance north of the city limits; in it are the graves of William Washington (1732–1810) and Hugh Swinton Legaré. Charleston was the home of the Pinckneys, the Rutledges, the Gadsdens, the Laurenses, and, in a later generation, of W. G. Simms. A trace of the early social organization of the brilliant colonial town remains in the St Cecilia Society, first formed in 1737 as an amateur concert society.

Charleston has an excellent system of public schools. Foremost among the educational institutions is the college of Charleston, chartered in 1785 and again in 1791, and opened in 1790; it is supported by the city and by funds of its own, ranks high within the state, and has a large and well-equipped museum of natural history, probably founded as early as 1777 and transferred to the college in 1850. Here, too, are the Medical College of the state of South Carolina, which includes a department of pharmacy; the South Carolina Military Academy (opened in 1843), which is a branch of the University of South Carolina; the Porter Military Academy (Protestant Episcopal), the Confederate home school for young women, the Charleston University School, and the Avery Normal Institute (Congregationalist) for coloured students. In the Charleston library (about 25,000 volumes), founded in 1748, are important collections of rare books and manuscripts; the rooms of the South Carolina Historical Society are in the same building. The Charleston News and Courier, published first as the Courier in 1803 and combined with the Daily News (1865) in 1873, is one of the most influential newspapers in the South. The charitable institutions of the city include the Roper hospital, the Charleston Orphan Asylum (founded in 1792), the William Euston home for the aged, and a home for the widows of Confederate soldiers.

In 1878 the United States government began the construction of jetties to remove the bar at the entrance to Charleston harbour, which was otherwise deep and spacious and well protected, and by means of these jetties the bar has been so far removed as to admit vessels drawing about 30 ft. of water. The result has been not only the promotion of the city’s commerce, but the removal of the United States naval station and navy yard from Port Royal to what was formerly Chicora Park on the left bank of the Cooper river, a short distance above the city limits. The city’s commerce consists largely in the export of cotton,[1] rice, fertilizers, fruits, lumber and naval stores; the value of its exports, $10,794,000 in 1897, decreased to $2,196,596 in 1907 ($3,164,089 in 1908), while that of the import trade ($1,255,483 in 1897) increased to $3,840,585 in 1907 ($3,323,844 in 1908). The principal industries are the preparation of fertilizers—largely from the extensive beds of phosphate rock along the banks of the Ashley river and from cotton-seed meal—cotton compressing, rice cleaning, canning oysters, fruits and vegetables, and the manufacture of cotton bagging, of lumber, of cooperage goods, clothing and carriages and wagons. Between 1880 and 1890 the industrial development of the city was very rapid, the manufactures in 1890 showing an increase of 229.6% over those of 1880; the increase between 1890 and 1900 was only 6.2%. In 1900 the total value of the city’s manufactures, 16.3% (in value) of the product of the entire state, was $9,562,387, the value of the fertilizer product alone, much the most important, being $3,697,090.[2]

History.—The first English settlement in South Carolina, established at Albemarle Point on the west bank of the Ashley river in 1670, was named Charles Town in honour of Charles II. The location proving undesirable, a new Charles Town on the site of the present city was begun about 1672, and the seat of government was removed to it in 1680. The name Charles Town became Charlestown about 1719 and Charleston in 1783. Among the early settlers were English Churchmen, New England Congregationalists, Scotch and Irish Presbyterians, Dutch and German Lutherans, Huguenots (especially in 1680–1688) from France and Switzerland, and a few Quakers; later the French element of the population was augmented by settlers from Acadia (1755) and from San Domingo (1793). Although it soon became the largest and the wealthiest settlement south of Philadelphia, Charleston did not receive a charter until 1783, and did not have even a township government. Local ordinances were passed by the provincial legislature and enforced partly by provincial officials and partly by the church wardens. It was, however, the political and social centre of the province, being not only the headquarters of the governor, council and colonial officials, but also the only place at which courts of justice were held until the complaints of the Up Country people led to the establishment of circuit courts in 1772. After the American War of Independence it continued to be the capital of South Carolina until 1790. The charter of 1783, though frequently amended and altered, is still in force. By an act of the state legislature passed in 1837 the terms “mayor” and “alderman” superseded the older terms “intendant” and “wardens.” The city was the heart of the nullification movement of 1832–1833; and in St Andrew’s Hall, in Broad Street, on the 20th of December 1860, a convention called by the state legislature passed an ordinance of secession from the Union.

Charleston has several times been attacked by naval forces and has suffered from many storms. Hurricane and epidemic together devastated the town both in 1699 and in 1854; the older and more thickly settled part of the town was burnt in 1740, and a hurricane did great damage in 1752. In 1706, during the War of the Spanish Succession, a combined fleet of Spanish and French under Captain Le Feboure was repulsed by the forces of Governor Nathaniel Johnson (d. 1713) and Colonel William Rhett (1666–1721). During the War of Independence Charleston withstood the attack of Sir Peter Parker and Sir Henry Clinton in 1776, and that of General Augustus Prevost in 1779, but shortly afterwards became the objective of a more formidable attack by Sir Henry Clinton, the commander-in-chief of the British forces in America. In the later years of the contest the British turned their attention to the reduction of the colonies in the south, and the prominent point and best base of operations in that section was the city of Charleston, which was occupied in the latter part of 1779 by an American force under General Benjamin Lincoln. In December of that year Sir Henry Clinton embarked from New York with 8000 British troops and proceeded to invest Charleston by land. He entrenched himself west of the city between the Cooper and Ashley rivers, which bound it north and south, and thus hemmed Lincoln in a cul-de-sac. The latter made the mistake of attempting to defend the city with an inferior force. Delays had occurred in the British operations and Clinton was not prepared to summon the Americans to surrender until the 10th of April 1780. Lincoln refused, and Clinton advanced his trenches to the third parallel, rendering his enemy’s works untenable. On the 12th of May Lincoln capitulated. About 2000 American Continentals were made prisoners, and an equal number of militia and armed citizens. This success was regarded by the British as an offset against the loss of Burgoyne’s army in 1777, and Charleston at once became the base of active operations in the Carolinas, which Clinton left Cornwallis to conduct. Thenceforward Charleston was under military rule until evacuated by the British on the 14th of December 1782.

The bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter (garrisoned by Federal troops) by the South Carolinians, on the 12th and 13th of April 1861, marked the actual beginning of the American Civil War. From 1862 onwards Charleston was more or less under siege by the Federal naval and military forces until 1865. The Confederates repulsed a naval attack made by the Federals under Admiral S. F. Du Pont in April 1863, and a land attack under General Q. A. Gillmore in June of the same year. They were compelled to evacuate the city on the 17th of February 1865, after having burned a considerable amount of cotton and other supplies to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy. After the Civil War the wealth and the population steadily increased, in spite of the destruction wrought by the earthquake of 31st August 1886 (see Earthquake). In that catastrophe 27 persons were killed, many more were injured and died subsequently, 90% of the buildings were injured, and property to the value of more than $5,000,000 was destroyed. The South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, held here from the 1st of December 1901 to the 1st of June 1902, called the attention of investors to the resources of the city and state, but was not successful financially, and Congress appropriated $160,000 to make good the deficit.

Much information concerning Charleston may be obtained in A.S. Salley’s A Guide and Historical Sketch of Charleston (Charleston, 1903), and in Mrs St Julien Ravenel’s Charleston; The Place and the People (New York, 1906). The best history of Charleston is William A. Courtenay’s Charleston, S.C.: The Centennial of Incorporation (Charleston, 1884). There is also a good sketch by Yates Snowden in L. P. Powell’s Historic Towns of the Southern States (New York, 1900). For the earthquake see the account by Carl McKinley in the Charleston Year-Book for 1886. See also South Carolina.

  1. At an early date cotton became an important article in Charleston’s commerce; some was shipped so early as 1747. At the outbreak of the Civil War Charleston was one of the three most important cotton-shipping ports in the United States, being exceeded in importance only by New Orleans and New York.
  2. The special census of 1905 dealt only with the factory product, that of 1905 ($6,007,094) showing an increase of 5.1% over that of 1900 ($5,713,315). In 1905 the (factory) fertilizer product of Charleston was $1,291,859, which represented more than 35% of the (factory) fertilizer product of the whole state.