1500-1600: Early Carolina Expeditions and Settlements
1521--(June 24) First recorded Spanish expedition reaches the Carolina coast, probably near Winyah Bay.
1524--First French ship scouts the Carolina coast.
1526--(August) First Spanish attempt at a settlement, San Miguel de Gualdape, probably near Winyah Bay. Colony fails within a year, and only 150 of 500 settlers live to return home.
1540--Hernando DeSoto may have reached Carolina Lowcountry on a trek north from Florida.
1562--First French attempt at a settlement made by Jean Ribaut on Parris Island. Built a fort named Charlesfort. Settlement fails within a year. Similar French attempts to settle in Florida bring about bloody Spanish massacre and equally bloody French reprisal.
1565--Founding of St. Augustine.
1566--Spain decides to build coastal forts to discourage French settlements. First of these, Fort San Felipe (later rebuilt as Fort San Marco), is built near the ruins of Charlesfort.
1585--First attempted British settlement on Roanoke Island founded by Sir Walter Raleigh. It is destroyed by Native Americans and survivors are rescued by Sir Francis Drake.
1587--Second British attempt on Roanoke Island, also funded by Raleigh, fails within three years as all settlers disappear, becoming known as "The Lost Colony."
1587--Spanish withdraw from San Marco after Sir Francis Drake burns St. Augustine.
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1600-1670: The Seeds of Carolina
1604--Founding of the first settlement at Jamestown, VA.
1620--Founding of Plymouth Colony.
1623--First charter for Carolina Colony granted to Sir Robert Heath by King Charles I. Charter would never be used.
1633--Founding of Middle Plantation in Virginia, later to become Colonial Williamsburg.
1640-- Founding of Boston
1649--King Charles I is tried by a court of Puritans, convicted of treason, and beheaded. Oliver Cromwell comes to power.
1650--First settlements near Albemarle Sound, in what today is North Carolina, by frontiersmen from Virginia.
1660--Cromwell dies and his son, Richard, is too weak to take power. The Prince of Wales, Charles II, assumes the throne.
1663-- Charles II, as repayment for their political support against the forces of Cromwell, grants eight ex-generals, the Lords Proprietors, title to Carolina. Charter is later amended to include the Albemarle Sound settlements.
1666-- Capt. Robert Sanford explores and names the Ashley River. On June 23 takes formal possession of Carolina for England and the Proprietors.
1669--(July 21) The Fundamental Constitution of Carolina, written by the philosopher John Locke, serving as secretary to Ashley-Cooper, is approved by the Lords Proprietors. Its guarantee of religious freedom, in language similar to Locke's A Letter Concerning Toleration, will have a profound and lasting influence on the development of Charleston's social fabric, leading to the immigration of such diverse groups as French Hugenots and Sephardic Jews.
1669-- Carolina colonists sail from London on three ships: the Albemarle, the Port Royal, and the Carolina.
1669--(Nov 2) The colonists reach Barbados, where their ships are struck by a hurricane. The Albemarle is destroyed and the Port Royal and Carolina are damaged.
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1670-1720: The Proprietors' Fortress
1670--(March 15) The Carolina arrives in Seewee Bay, and proceeds to anchor at the north end of Bull's Island.
1670--(April) Charles Town is founded as the capital city of Carolina, across the Ashley River from its current site on the main peninsula.
1672-- Charles Town is reported to consist of 30 houses and some 200-300 settlers
1680--(April 30) The Richmond arrives carrying the first large group of French Huguenots.
1685--(October) Louis XIV revokes the Edict of Nantes, which had guaranteed the rights of Huguenots in France. This revocation accelerates the emmigration of French Huguenots to Charleston.
1690-- Charles Town is officially moved to current site on the peninsula. Population is estimated at 1,200, making it the fifth largest city in North America.
1693--"Liberty of Conscience" substantiated, reaffirming the right of locals to worship as they please.
1695-- City walls and six bastions are built about this time
1695-- Possible year of construction of the John Lining House at 106 Broad St., the oldest surviving frame building in Charleston.
1698--(Oct 8) Increasing importation of African slaves prompts a law providing cash incentive for bringing white servants into Carolina.
1700-- Charles Town has grown into a major trading center; plantations appear inland along the rivers.
1700--(Sept 1) Hurricane of 1700 strikes the city
1700--(Nov 16) City Assembly establishes a tax-supported free library, possibly the first public library in America. It operates for 14 years.
1704-- First known map of the Walled City: the Crisp Map of 1704
1706--(Sept 2) Joint French and Spanish attack upon Charles Town during Queen Anne's War is repulsed when Colonial forces capture French vessel and crew.
1710--Powder Magazine at 79 Cumberland St. and Pink House Tavern at 17 Chalmers St. built about this time.
1712--Rhett Mansion is built at 54 Hasell St.
1712--The territory of Carolina is divided into North and South, each having its own governor.
1713--(Sept 5) Hurricane of 1713 strikes the city.
1715--Yemassee Indian War lasts two years in Carolina
1717--City begins to remove fortifications to allow for expansion.
1718--Blackbeard the Pirate sails into Charles Town Harbor with four ships; takes hostages for ransom. Also in this year, the pirate Stede Bonnet is hanged at White Point.
1719--Failure of Lords Proprietors to protect colonists from various threats results in a Revolutionary Assembly. Citizens petition the King to take over the reins of government
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1720-1773: Crown Colony
1721--South Carolina becomes a royal colony. General Sir Francis Nicholson made Governor.
1728--Regular passenger and shipping service begins between Charles Town and New York.
1728--Hurricane of 1728
1729--(July 25) King George buys out the Lords Proprietors, finalizing South Carolina's transformation into a Royal Colony.
1732--(Jan 8) The South Carolina Gazette publishes its first edition.
1732--(April 19) The first known concert in Charles Town is performed by John Salter, organist of St. Philip's.
1733--(Jan. 13)James Oglethorpe and the first settlers for Georgia arrive in Charles Town Harbor on the Anne. Savannah is founded soon after.
1734--(Feb 2) After the death of its first editor, The South Carolina Gazette resumes publication under Lewis Timothy, who is backed by Ben Franklin.
1735--To see an illustration of Charles Town in 1735, click here.
1735-- (Feb 18) The first public presentation of an opera in the colonies is performed at Broad and Church.
1736--(Feb. 3) Organization of America's first fire insurance company.
1736-- One of the first theatres in the country, The Dock Street, opens with The Recruiting Officer.
1739--(Sept 9) Some 40 blacks and 21 whites are killed during a slave revolt along the Stono River.
1740--Fire rages through the waterfront district.
1740--(April 28) News arrives of war against Spain, and plans are made to attack St. Augustine.
1740-- Construction of the East Bay warehouse district, today known as Rainbow Row.
1742--Charles Town's population estimated to be 6,800.
1742--To see an illustration of Charles Town in 1742, click here.
1745--Lots laid out for Ansonborough neighborhood.
1747--(April 18) City leaders sign a treaty with Choctaw Indians establishing trade in return for their attacking French settlements.
1748--(Dec 28) A group of citizens form the Charleston Library Society, a subscription library still in existance.
1751--(June 14) City is divided into two parishes: St. Michael's south of Broad, and St. Philip's north of Broad.
1752--(Sept) Great Hurricane of 1752 devastates the city, killing nearly a hundred.
1761--(Feb. 1) First services are held at St. Michael's Church, the oldest surviving church building in the city.
1767-- The Old Exchange Building is built on the ruins of Half-Moon Battery, the site of the former Court of Guard.
1770--(July 5) A statue of William Pitt, believed the first commemorating a public figure in America, is dedicated at Meeting and Broad.
1770--Development of Harleston Village neighborhood.
1773--(Jan. 12) A committee of The Library Society establishes the Charleston Museum-- the oldest in the country.
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1774-1782: Revolution and the Siege of Charles Town
1774--(July 7) Charlestonians Henry Middleton, John Rutledge, Edward Rutledge, Thomas Lynch, and Christopher Gadsden are named delegates to the First Continental Congress.
1774--(Oct 22) Henry Middleton is chosen President of the Continental Congress.
1775-- (Jan 11) Carolina's First Provincial Congress convenes at the Old Exchange.
1775--(June 18) Lord William Campbell, the last Royal Governor, arrives.
1775--(Dec 9) The first Chamber of Commerce in America is formed during a meeting at Mrs. Swallow's Tavern.
1775--Charles Town's population estimated to be 12,000.
1776--(Spring) Admiral Sir Peter Parker and General Sir Henry Clinton prepare a campaign to occupy Sullivan's Island as the southern base of British operations. Major General Charles Lee, the American commander of the Southern Department, arrives in Charles Town to take charge of the defense of the city.
1776--(May) Panic sweeps the city at the first offshore sighting of a British armada carrying over 3,000 British regulars.
1776--(June 28) First major naval battle of the Revolution. Fleet of 11 British warships and 1,500 troops under Sir Peter Parker attack Ft. Moultrie and are repulsed.
1776--(August 5) Declaration of Independence arrives at the city. Maj. Barnard Elliot reads it under the Liberty Tree near present-day 80 Alexander St..
1776--William Henry Drayton and Arthur Middleton design the Great Seal of South Carolina; with matrices executed by Charles Town silversmith George Smithson. It would be used for the last time to seal the Ordinance of Secession in 1860.
1777--(Feb. 13) The new state government stipulates that each male citizen shall denounce the King and pledge loyalty to the state.
1778--(Jan 15) A major fire destroyes many buildings on Broad, Elliott, and Tradd Sts. British loyalists are suspected of arson.
1779--(Nov-Dec) Unable to win a decisive battle in the northern states, the British prepare a massive combined sea and land expedition against Charles Town, under the command of Vice Admiral Arbuthnot, General Sir Henry Clinton, and Lord Cornwallis.
1779--(Dec) General Washington orders 1,400 Continentals to join the forces of General Benjamin Lincoln defending Charles Town.
1780--(Feb 10) British troops under Sir Henry Clinton land on Seabrook Island, and make preparations to lay seige to the city. South Carolina Gazette editor Peter Timothy takes a spyglass up the steeple of St. Michael's Church and reports seeing smoke from hundreds of British campfires.
1780--(March) British warships sweep past the forts guarding the harbor entrance to anchor within broadside range of the city. British Army crosses the Ashley River and establishes a line of breastworks 1,800 yards north of Charles Town's defensive line, completing their encirclement of the civilian population.
1780--(March 29) British siege begins; lasts 40 days.
1780--(May 12) After a bitter struggle, General Benjamin Lincoln surrenders Charles Town to the British, their greatest prize of the Revolutionary War. Two-and-a-half year occupation begins.
1780--To see an illustration of Charleston in 1780, click here.
1780--(August 27) British troops arrest prominent citizens for encouraging resistance and imprison them in the dungeon of the Old Exchange. Only those signing an Oath of Loyalty to the Crown are released.
1780--(Sept 3) Henry Laurens is captured by the British on his way to the Netherlands and is imprisoned in the Tower of London.
1781--(Aug 4) Col. Isaac Hayne, a Revolutionary leader of the South Carolina Militia, is hanged by the British just beyond the city limits of Charles Town.
1781--(Nov-Dec) American forces under Gen. Nathanael Greene retake most of South Carolina and advance to within 15 miles of Charles Town.
1781--(Dec) When news reaches London of Washinton's defeat of Cornwallis at Yorktown, the British Parliament resolves to bring the war to an end.
1781--(Dec 31) Henry Laurens is released from the Tower of London in a prisoner exhange for the release of Lord General Cornwallis by the Americans.
1782--(Dec 14) Defeated British Army marches out of city, ending the occupation.
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1783-1860: Antebellum Charleston
1783--(August 13) This date marks the incorporation of the city, and the official adoption of the name Charleston.
1785--(March 19) Assembly grants charter for the College of Charleston.
1786--The South Carolina state capital is moved from Charleston to Columbia.
1786--Development of Radcliffeborough neighborhood
1787--(May) A Constitutional Draft for the Convention in Philadelphia is prepared by Charles Pinckney.
1787--(Sept 17) South Carolina delegates Pierce Butler, Charles Pinckney, John Rutledge, and Charles C. Pinckney sign the U.S. Constitution.
1790--To see an illustration of Charleston in 1790, click here.
1791--(May 2) President George Washington arrives in Charleston for a week's visit. His itinerary includes lodging at the Daniel Heyward House (87 Church St.), a reception at the Old Exchange, and a social evening at McCrady's Longroom (153 East Bay).
1799--(Dec 21) The Charleston Water Works, the city's first public utility, is established to bring water from Goose Creek.
1804--(Sept 7) Hurricane of 1804.
1818-- Samuel F. B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph, arrives in Charleston to begin a printing business.
1820--Charleston's population estimated to be 23,300.
1822--(May) The alleged slave uprising of Denmark Vesey is revealed to authorities.
1822--(July 2) Denmark Vesey and five associates are hanged.
1824--A group of members of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim form the Reform Society of Israelites, making Beth Elohim the recognized birthplace of Reform Judaism in the United States.
1824--Founding of the Medical College of South Carolina, the first medical school in the South (today named the Medical Univerity of S. C.).
1828-29--A young Army recruit named Edgar Allan Poe is stationed at Ft. Moultrie on Sullivans Island for a year. Later sets his first published story, The Gold Bug, on Sullivan's Island, incorporating coastal Carolina pirate lore.
1830--(Dec 25) The first steam locomotive in America to pull passengers in regular service, The Best Friend, begins its route between Charleston and Hamburg SC.
1831--(Oct 16) John James Audubon arrives in Charleston to work on his Birds of America.
1835--To see an illustration of Charleston in 1835, click here.
1838--(Jan 30) Osceola, Chief of the Seminoles, dies during imprisonment at Ft. Moultrie.
1838--Terrible fire destroys much of Ansonborough.
1843--(March 20) The Citadel opens for its first class of cadets.
1851--Renowned scientist Dr. Louis Agassiz comes to Charleston to teach at the Medical College of S.C. and establishes a seaside laboratory on Sullivan's Island to study the flora and fauna of the Atlantic Ocean.
1852--To see an illustration of Charleston in 1852, click here.
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1860-1865: From Sumter to Sherman
1860--Charleston's population estimated to be 40,500.
1860--(Nov 7) Abraham Lincoln's election prompts the resignation of federal officials in the city.
1860--(Dec 20) Ordinance of Secession ratified by "a Convention of the People of the State of South Carolina" in Institute Hall in Charleston, proclaiming South Carolina "an independent commonwealth."
1861--To see an illustration of Charleston in 1861, click here.
1861--(April 12) Confederate forces open fire upon Ft. Sumter, the first shots of the Civil War. To see a Mathew Brady Civil War photograph of Ft. Johnson cannons aimed at Ft. Sumter click here.
1861--(Dec 19) Union forces sink the "Stone Fleet" in the harbor channel to begin their blockade of Charleston.
1862--(June 16) Confederates repulse a Union attack during the Battle of Seccessionville on James Island. To read an account of this battle, click here. This link will take you to an online essay by Richard Cote. To return to this Timeline, click the BACK button on your browser.
1862--(June 21) Battle of Simmons Bluff.
1863--(Jan 31) The blockading Federal fleet is attacked by the Confederate ironclads Palmetto and Chicora.
1863--(April 7) Union sends fleet of nine ironclad Monitor warships to attack Ft. Sumter. Attack is repulsed. To see a Civil War photograph taken on the deck of the Monitor Catskill, click here.
1863--(July 18) The Union assault upon Battery Wagner on Morris Island is lead by the 54th Massachusetts, an all black unit. This is the battle portrayed in the film Glory! To see a Civil War photograph of Ft. Wagner, click here.
1863--(August 22) The 587 day Federal bombardment of downtown Charleston begins with the explosion of a shell on Pinckney Street.
1864-- The Confederate submarine CSS H. L. Hunley rams the Housatonic; the first submarine to sink a vessel in war. To read about the rediscovery of the wreck of the Hunley, click here.
1865-- (Feb 23) Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's troops reach Middleton Place Plantation, leaving it in ruins. Charlestonians fear imminent invasion, but Sherman's forces turn toward Columbia. Their subsequent burning of Columbia destroys many records and valuables which Charlestonians had sent there for "safekeeping."
1865--(April 14) Federal photographers under the supervision of Mathew Brady arrive to record the flag-raising ceremony at Ft. Sumter, marking the anniversary of Maj. Anderson's surrender to Confederate forces. They then move through the city, documenting damage from bombardment and fire. To access the complete list of photographs, click here.
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1870-Present: Modern Era Begins
1886--(August 31) The Lowcountry is struck by an estimated 7.5 earthquake, resulting in 83 deaths and $6 million in damage.
1900--Charleston's population estimated to be 55,807.
1901--The South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition, a forerunner of the World's Fair, attracts 700,000 people from around the nation to Hampton Park.
1920--Susan Pringle Frost and others form the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings, later to be renamed the Preservation Society of Charleston, marking the formal beginning of organized historic preservation.
1925--Author Dubose Heyward writes tragic novel Porgy, set in Cabbage Row across from his house on Church Street (changed to Catfish Row in the book).
1925--A new dance craze begins in Charleston's pubs and dancehalls and spreads across the nation; soon to be named "the Charleston."
1931--The City of Charleston adopts a Planning and Zoning Ordinance establishing the "Old and Historic District," protecting some 400 residential properties in a 23-block area south of Broad Street.
1934--Composer George Gershwin arrives in Charleston to research and write Porgy and Bess, the first American opera, including its famous song "Summertime."
1935--Founding of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.
1947--The Historic Charleston Foundation is established to oversee a revolving fund with which to purchase threatened historic properties, restore them, and sell them with protective covenants.
1951--Charleston Judge J. Watis Waring dissents from a Federal District Court decision upholding the "separate but equal" doctrine in Briggs v. Elliott.
1954--(May) The U. S. Supreme Court accepts Judge Waring's dissent in Briggs v. Elliott as the basis for their unanimous opinion overturning the "separate but equal" doctrine in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka.
1957--Italian composer Gian Carlo Menotti comes to Charleston at the instigation of Countess Alicia Paolozzi who owns a home in the city, and begins negotiations to make Charleston the American site of Menotti's Festival of Two Worlds, later called the Spoleto Festival.
1963--(September) Charleston's Rivers High School becomes the first racially integrated high school in South Carolina.
1966--Following the destruction of the landmark Charleston Hotel, the Historic District is tripled in size to include Ansonborough, Harleston Village, and other areas between Broad and Calhoun streets.
1977--(May) The first Spoleto Festival USA is held, and Charleston is designated the permanent American home for this "Festival of Two Worlds."
1982--(May) The construction of Charleston Place, a hotel-shopping-convention center, sets off a building and rehabilitation boom in the downtown business district.
1989--(September 21) Hurricane Hugo, a powerful category 4 hurricane with winds of 131-155 mph slams into the city with a 12-17 foot wall of water rolling over Ft. Sumter around midnight. The barrier islands are inundated as an estimated 80% of homes on Sullivan's Island and Folly Island are badly damaged or destroyed . Many homes in the Historic District sustain 10 to 24 inches of flooding. While about three quarters of the 3,500 significant structures suffer some damage, only twenty-five historically important buildings are severely damaged. Total losses are estimated at $2.8 billion.
1995--(May) Author Clive Cussler announces that his team of divers has discovered the wreck of the Confederate Submarine H. L. Hunley in the waters off Sullivan's Island. To read about the latest efforts to study and recover the CSS Hunley, you can visit two pages: one maintained by the Subwar Network provides a good overview, and the other, maintained by the S.C. Institute of Archaeology provides periodic updates.