We are finishing up a great week in Charleston, SC. What a great little city this is! We have been camping at a county park in a section of Charleston called James Island. It’s only about a 7 mile drive south of the city proper, so very accessible. We don’t have parks like this in New England, run by the county with all kinds of activities plus a campground and cottages that look really nice with 3 bedrooms and all the amenities including a screened porch overlooking an expansive marsh. The park has a water park for cool summer fun, tennis courts, paved multi-use paths, playgrounds, kayaks/paddleboards/canoes for rent, fishing and the most enormous dog park we’ve ever seen. Plus, we just happened to be here for the testing of the Christmas lights which happened last night.
The city of Charleston is one of the best preserved historic cities we’ve ever seen. The Preservation Society of Charleston is the oldest such organization in the country having been founded by a handful of women in 1920. Despite being impacted by about 60 hurricanes and major tropical storms since the 1600’s and an earthquake in the late 1800’s that is estimated to have been approximately a 7 magnitude (before development of the Richter scale), Charlestonians always put the city back together again with the help of the Preservation Society. We saw streets where repairs are still being made to historic buildings damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2018. There are so many ways that the historic buildings can be destroyed down here that “earthquake bolts” have been added to hold the masonry exteriors to the timber frames. The bolts are such a prominent feature of Charleston buildings that many are decorative as well as functional.
We took a walking tour of the city with “Two Sisters Tours.” The sisters are both retired attorneys who grew up in downtown Charleston and are seventh-generation Charlestonians. They love to walk, love this city and love talking to people, so becoming walking tour guides was a natural next step for them after retirement. Our guide, Therese, pointed out that Charleston’s history goes much farther back than the Civil War, it also figures prominently in the Revolution. As a matter of fact, the first “tea party” happened in Charleston just thirteen days before the famous Boston tea party! The biggest American defeat of the Revolution happened in Charleston in 1780 when 10,000 British troops stormed what was then “Charlestown” capturing 3,000 Patriot troops. One year later, however, led by Nathanael Greene, Thomas Sumter and Francis Marion, Patriots pushed General Cornwallis and the redcoats back to Virginia where Cornwallis surrendered to General Washington in 1781.
We visited the Middleton Place plantation, 110 acres of beautiful grounds on the Ashley River that was originally purchased by John Williams in the 1730’s. His son-in-law, Henry Middleton, President of the First Continental Congress, took ownership of the plantation followed by his son, Arthur Middleton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Arthur’s son, Henry, later took ownership and became a Governor of South Carolina. Arthur’s son, Williams Middleton, was a signer of the Declaration of Secession that led to the Civil War. The political history of this family is really interesting.
Of course, being a southern city, there is also a deep history of slavery here. It’s believed that 40% of the enslaved people brought to the United States came through Charleston. And over the course of 127 years, Middleton Place plantation enslaved around 3,000 people. There is a huge list on a wall at Middleton Place naming each of them as they were listed on census records with their monetary “value.” The list was a sickening thing to see. Our tour guide from Two Sisters had brought up slavery several times on our tour, stressing that it is something that must be talked about, acknowledged and owned up to as it did happen and it is part of our history. You can’t ignore history, no matter how horrific it is.
Folly Beach was a short seven mile drive from our campground. It is a very broad ocean beach with a wonderful, old pier that will be torn down soon and replaced with a more modern pier. We wanted to visit the pier because the next time we visit Charleston the old one will probably be gone.
As always, we have met some very interesting people here. There was a couple here from Switzerland and another couple from England. They both shipped their motorhomes across the pond to the US. Steve Coe, from England, is the founder of a company called “Worn Free.” They reproduce t-shirts worn by famous musicians at various concerts. The couple who spent a couple of days in the site right next to us, Greg and Tracy, are from Westport, MA, and Tiverton, RI. While doing laundry in the campground, I met a couple from Windsor, CT! Rita and Mark are making their way to Florida like us, and their next stop is the same campground that we’ll be in near Savannah, GA! We look forward to sharing a happy hour or two with them in the near future!
I’ll end this blog post with a short video from the Christmas light display in James Island County Park. At least 2-½ miles of lights, many animated, and we were lucky enough to be able to drive around last night and view them without being stuck in a parade of cars.
A storm blew through here last night dropping the temperature from humid mid-70’s to the chilly 40’s! Time to head further south!!
One thought on “Charleston, Y’all!”
Thanks for sharing your journey and for the history lessons. Love it!