Spirit of Charleston, Part 1 | Mary Long's Yesteryear (1990)


In 1630, the Mayflower left England to attempt a settlement at present day Charleston. A storm at sea blew the ship off course and it landed in Virginia. It was forty years before the effort at settlement was repeated. This was the first of many natural occurrences which affected the City of Charleston. In this special one-hour Yesteryear, Mary Long looks at the natural disasters that have struck the city throughout history and examines the spirit of the people of Charleston in their efforts to rebuild.

In 1989,.Hurricane Hugo struck Charleston and provided evidence, once again, of the strength that characterizes the people of Charleston, who have shown time and time again that they have the ability to not only withstand such an event, but to recover and rebuild. This program tells their story.

In 1629, Charles I of England granted Sir Robert Heath the charter to establish a settlement in the New World. His ship was the Mayflower, which ten years earlier had taken settlers to Plymouth. This time, the Mayflower met many storms, was blown northward, and landed in Virginia. It would be 40 years before another attempt at colonization would be made. In 1665, Charles II made a new charter for eight men known as the Lord's Proprietors of the vast Carolina lands. The Carolina, the Albemarle, and the Port Royal were provisioned and sailed in August. In Barbados, the Albemarle was destroyed by a hurricane, and the Three Brothers would take its place. As the three ships left Barbados, another storm hit and the Port Royal ran aground and was wrecked in the Bahamas. Those settlers were placed on board a small sloop. and sailed for the Carolinas. The Three Brothers was also lost in a storm, and finally, the Carolina and the sloop entered the Carolina waters, and dropped anchor at Bulls Island. and after conferring with Indians there, they entered Charleston Harbor in April 1670, sailed up the Ashley River and settled at Albemarle Point. A month later, the Three Brothers finally arrived at Charleston Harbor and the settlers on board joined those at Albemarle Point. Beset by storms and attacked by Indians and Spaniards, she had reached her destination. That strength of spirit sustains Charleston today.

In 1672, three colonies were established, at Charles Town, Oyster Point or White Point, and James Island.

In 1697, in Charles Town, a smallpox epidemic struck, and later, the livestock succumbed to a plague, followed by yellow fever in 1699. In that same year, a hurricane struck Charles Town, followed by a series of fires. 

The 18th century was a period of rapid growth for Charles Town and by 1720, it was the fourth largest city in America. It was favored by the British crown because of its loyalty and strict adherence to British law. However, by mid-18th century, the sons and daughters of South Carolina were growing tired of oppression.

Although these years were among the most progressive, they were among its most difficult. Nature struck repeatedly. At one time, five French privateers entered the harbor, hoping for an easy capture, due to a smallpox epidemic. Given only one hour to surrender the city, Governor Johnson called on Col. William Rhett., who gathered enough ships to drive the invader from the harbor. In 1728, a hurricane struck, followed by swarms of mosquitoes, and hundreds died of yellow fever. Ten years later in 1738, another epidemic of yellow fever struck, followed by a major fire in 1740, and in 1748, another hurricane, followed by another four years later, in 1752, and in 1778, another major fire destroyed over 250 buildings. 

(Continue to Part 2)

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ETV Classics Classroom / Mary Long's Yesteryear / Spirit of Charleston