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Charleston History


A group of colonists sailing from England in 1670 landed in what is now known as Charleston Harbor. They chose a higher piece of land approximately 5 miles upstream as their first settlement & named it Albemarle Point (Charles Towne Landing).



The colonists' journey from England had been sponsored by 8 English noblemen - Lords Proprietors - who had been given a large tract of land in America by King Charles II in return for political favors. These Lords Proprietors planned & governed the colony which flourished over time.

The settlers moved their colony to its present place on the peninsula in 1680 naming it Charles Towne after King Charles. This peninsula location was bounded on 3 sides by water (the Ashley River, the Cooper River & the Atlantic Ocean), making it a better location for trade & commerce, as well as affording better protection from the Spaniards, Indians & pirates.

Wanting their venture across the sea to be successful, the Lords Proprietors decided to offer Charles Towne as a settlement of religious tolerance. As early as 1700, Anglicans, Presbyterians, French Huguenots, Quakers, Anabaptists, Jews & Congregationalists were all worshipping in the Charles Towne settlement. By law, no religious arguments were allowed.

Charles Towne, as it was first called, was established in 1670 by Anthony Ashley Cooper on the west bank of the Ashley River, Charles Towne Landing, a few miles northwest of the present downtown. By 1680, the settlement had grown and moved to its present peninsular location. With a profusion of churches, Charleston to this day is still called the "Holy City".

By 1720, the residents of Charles Towne successfully petitioned the Lords Proprietors' to become a royal colony. By this point in history, Charlestowne (the city spelling under royal rule) had become a prosperous seaport in the trade of indigo, rice & slaves.

By the mid-1700's, Charlestowne was the 4th largest & the wealthiest city in colonial America. Merchants, seeing the wealth that could be made in rice & indigo, themselves becames planters. Some of the largest plantations from this period in history were located along the Ashley & Cooper Rivers. Slavery was the momentum behind the successful achievement of these planters. Most of the slaves were brought in from West Africa & the Barbados. They were already skilled planters & were also immune to the malarial fevers that plagued this area during May through November. Note that some of the mansions seen in Charleston today were the 'town houses' that were built & lived in by the planters during these months.

In 1773, Charlestown revolted against the royal rule's unjust taxes & put on their own version of the Boston Tea Party. Charlestown was a major force in the American Revolution, being home to 4 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Colonel William Moultrie led the first major victory of the Revolution from Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island, where he drove away British forces trying trying to enter Charleston harbor. By 1780, however, the British occupied Charlestown, with imprisonment of leading citizens, fires, bombardments & looting destroying many of the buildings along the waterfront during the 3-year occupation.

Charleston, the name the town was incorporated as in 1783, began rebuilding & once again became a prosperous town. But it wasn't long before Charleston rebelled once again due to the controversy over nullification, state's rights & slavery. Charleston voted to seceed from the Union & on April 12, 1861, Confererate forces at Fort Johnson fired on federally-occupied Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. These shots would become known as the first shots of the War Between the States.

Federal troops bombarded Charleston in a siege that lasted from 1863 - 1865, a period of over 1 1/2 years. The city was in shambles by the end of the war. Although rebuilding progress was slowed by earthquakes, hurricanes, heavy taxes & shortage of capital, Charleston eventually pulled through, although Charleston's place as an important seaport was not fully regained until after World War II. Today Charleston is one of the foremost ports in the United States for container cargo.

Charleston's determination was once again tested when Hurricane Hugo, one of the worst storms to hit the U.S. in the 20th century, came to town. The tidal surge & prevailing winds left few buildings on the peninsula & surrounding islands untouched. Rebuilding began immediately under the watchful eye of Charleston's Architectural Review & Historical Society.

Charleston, considered by many to be a city of renaissance, is today returned to her days of grandeur & is a city recognized for her arts, architecture & historical significance. The entire Historic District of Charleston has been designated as a National Historic Landmark by the Federal Government.





   
 


















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Things to Do & See in Charleston cont.

Recreation
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