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The presence of early Native Americans in present-day South Carolina is evidenced in the presence of ceremonial mounds that had been built by the Mississippian culture or Mound Builders. At the time of European settlement, native occupants included the Yamasee of the Muskogean language group, the Catawba of the Siouan group and the Cherokee of the Iroquoian group.The Yamasee persuaded other Native Americans to join them in ridding the area of white settlers in the Yamasee War of 1715. They were unsuccessful and were driven from the area.The Catawba maintained generally positive relations with the English settlers in the area, but soon saw their numbers dwindle through infectious disease and tribal warfare. A Catawba community remains in South Carolina today.
See Indian Wars Time Table.
Native American Cultural Regions map.
Essential Facts About the South Carolina Colony
The South Carolina Colony was founded by the British in 1663 and was one of the 13 original colonies. It was founded by eight nobles with a Royal Charter from King Charles II and was part of the group of Southern Colonies, along with North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Maryland. South Carolina became one of the wealthiest early colonies largely due to exports of cotton, rice, tobacco, and indigo dye. Much of the colony's economy was dependent upon the stolen labor of enslaved people that supported large land operations similar to plantations.
Sports and recreation
With no professional sports franchises in the state, collegiate athletics attract a large following. Gridiron football is particularly popular, with the University of South Carolina and Clemson University regularly fielding strong squads. Both teams have also had some success in basketball. The University of South Carolina is a member of the Southeastern Conference of collegiate sports. Clemson belongs to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Larry Doby, a native of Camden, was the second African American (following Jackie Robinson) to play in Major League Baseball. Other sports figures of national renown who hail from South Carolina include Joe Frazier (boxing), Althea Gibson (tennis), and Shoeless Joe Jackson (baseball).
South Carolina hosts many music and arts festivals. The most prominent of these is Charleston’s Spoleto Festival, which was founded in 1977 by the Italian opera composer Gian Carlo Menotti as the New World branch of his Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. The annual event features hundreds of actors, singers, dancers, musicians, and other artists in more than 100 performances. A number of annual bluegrass music festivals are held across the state, particularly in the spring and summer months. Many small towns sponsor harvest-based and other local festivals.
Virtual Jewish World: South Carolina, United States
Jews arrived in the British colony of Carolina in the early days of European settlement. A new outpost in the mercantile traffic of the Atlantic basin, Carolina offered economic opportunities and a degree of religious tolerance remarkable for the time. The colony's Fundamental Constitutions of 1669, drafted by philosopher and physician John Locke, who was secretary to one of the eight Lords Proprietors, granted freedom of worship to "Jews, Heathens, and other Dissenters from the purity of the Christian Religion." Although the colonial assembly never endorsed the provision, British Charleston became known as a place where people of all faiths &ndash except Catholics &ndash could do business and practice their religion without interference. In 1696, Jews in Charleston allied with French Protestants to safeguard their rights to trade, and the next year to secure citizenship.
Most of Carolina's first Jewish settlers traced their roots to Spain or Portugal. Expelled during the Inquisition at the end of the 15 th century, the Sephardim dispersed around the globe and established themselves in capitals and port cities in northern Europe, the Mediterranean, and the West Indies. In 1749, Charleston's Jewish community chartered Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim &ndash one of the first five Jewish congregations in America. Like her sister synagogues in New York, Newport, Savannah, and Philadelphia, Beth Elohim was Sephardi in ritual and practice. Charleston's congregation remained so for two generations after the Revolutionary War, though by then the majority of South Carolina Jews were Ashkenazi, hailing from central or eastern Europe.
Following the Revolutionary War, South Carolina's Jewish population surged. When Columbia became the state capital in 1786, seven Jewish men from Charleston were among the first to buy town lots. Jews in Georgetown, Beaufort, and Camden belonged to the business and civic elites. By 1800, Charleston was home to the largest, wealthiest, and most cultured Jewish community in North America &ndash upwards of five hundred individuals, or one-fifth of all Jews in the nation.
Carolina's Jews pursued the same goals as their white neighbors. Those who could afford it owned slaves. The affluent lived in finely furnished houses and traveled abroad. Many Ashkenazim adopted traditional Sephardi practices and assumed an aristocratic view of themselves as "earliest to arrive."
Charleston's highly acculturated Jewish community produced the first movement to reform Judaism in America. In 1824, a group of young Jewish men, mostly American-born, petitioned the governing body of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim for shorter services, a sermon preached on the Sabbath, and prayers in English. Rebuffed in their efforts, the dissidents drafted a constitution and established the Reformed Society of Israelites. For eight years the reformers worshiped separately, then returned to the traditional congregation. But in 1840 the reform faction prevailed. With the blessing of Beth Elohim's popular minister, Gustavus Poznanski, a proposal to install an organ in the new synagogue &ndash a Greek revival temple that replaced the original structure, which had burned in the great fire of 1838 &ndash was adopted by a narrow margin. The traditionalists seceded and formed Shearit Israel (Remnant of Israel), with its own burying ground adjacent to Beth Elohim's Coming Street cemetery. A brick wall separated the dead of the two congregations.
While schism in Beth Elohim divided traditionalists and reformers, a new group of immigrants introduced another brand of orthodoxy to Charleston. People of modest means &ndash peddlers, artisans, metalworkers, bakers &ndash the newcomers gave the city's Jewish population a more foreign appearance than before. As early as 1852, these eastern European Jews began meeting under the leadership of Rabbi Hirsch Zvi Levine, recently arrived from Poland. In 1855, they formally organized as Berith Shalome (now Brith Sholom) or "Covenant of Peace," the first Ashkenazi congregation in South Carolina and one of the first in the South.
As the southern states began seceding from the Union in 1860 and 1861, Jews rallied to the Confederate cause. Thousands of Jewish men served in the southern armies, while Jewish women, in accord with their gentile sisters, threw themselves into the war effort, sewing uniforms, knitting socks, rolling bandages, preparing boxes of clothes and provisions, and working in hospitals to care for the sick and wounded.
After the war, during the period of Reconstruction, some South Carolinians of Jewish descent, including the notorious "scalawag" governor, Franklin J. Moses, Jr., supported the Radical Republicans' drive to build a new society. However, most backed the Redeemers' crusade to restore white rule. Jewish women such as Octavia Harby Moses and Phoebe Yates Levy Pember were prominent in memorializing the "Lost Cause." In the shared experience of defeat, Jewish Confederates demonstrated their fierce sense of belonging.
Beginning in the 1880s, East European migration to America brought about a dramatic increase in the nation's Jewish population. Charleston's Jewish population, which had remained flat for decades at around 700, doubled between 1905 and 1912. The neighborhood where the "greenhorns" settled was called "Little Jerusalem." Immigrant men commonly started out as peddlers, then established small businesses. At one time some 40 stores on upper King Street were closed on Saturday, in observance of the Jewish Sabbath. The men held prayer services above stores. The women kept kosher homes. They trained their African American help to make potato kugel and gefilte fish, and they learned, in turn, to fix fried chicken and okra gumbo.
By World War I, Jewish communities in the midlands and upcountry had grown large enough to support synagogues. Meanwhile, some country clubs, fraternities, and sororities barred Jews, who responded by forming their own social groups and athletic teams modeled on the ones that kept them out. These organizations helped unify Jews around an ethnic identity without regard to place of birth, date of arrival in America, and degree of observance.
The revival of the Ku Klux Klan disturbed southern Jews' sense of well-being. In the heyday of Jim Crow, however, the primary targets of discrimination were blacks. Jews generally found themselves on the safe side of the racial divide. They demonstrated their loyalty to country and region in patriotic parades and party politics. When the United States entered World War II, Jewish southerners joined in the mobilization to fight the Japanese and Nazi foes.
As a result of the Holocaust in Europe, America's place in world Jewry changed radically. Now more than half of all Jewish people were living in the United States. In many ways, South Carolina was a microcosm of the nation. The class of Jewish merchants had begat a generation of lawyers, doctors, accountants, and college teachers, who shifted the Jewish economic niche away from retail business. With the rest of the white American mainstream, urban Jews abandoned the old neighborhoods and moved to the suburbs &ndash a migration that coincided with the first stirrings of the civil rights movement and the rise of Conservative Judaism.
By the end of 20 th century, Jewish populations in most small towns across the South had dwindled, while suburban and resort congregations were continuing to grow. South Carolina's Jews remained prominent in political life. Solomon Blatt, of Barnwell, served for 30 years in the state legislature, ending his final term as Speaker of the House in 1970. Numerous other Jewish lawmakers have filled seats in both houses, and, since World War II, more than a dozen Jews have been elected as mayors of South Carolina towns and cities.
South Carolina mirrors the nation in the drift toward more traditional observance &ndash a trend in all divisions of Judaism. The Addlestone Hebrew Academy in Charleston and Lubavitcher Chabads in Myrtle Beach and Columbia teach Hebrew and religious studies in day schools to an increasingly diverse student population that includes newcomers from other parts of America, and from Russia and the Middle East as well.
In early July 2018, South Carolina became the first U.S. state to adopt and standard, uniform definition of anti-Semitism. The definition, which covers harassment, assault and vandalism, takes inspiration from the U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism and was added as a proviso to South Carolina's annual budget.
As of 2017, South Carolina's Jewish population was approximately 13,820 people.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved. S. Breibart, Explorations in Charleston's Jewish History (2005) B.A. Elzas, The Jews of South Carolina, From the Earliest Times to the Present Day (1905, reprint, 1972) "The Diary of Joseph Lyons (1833&ndash35)," a new and unabridged transcript edited, annotated, and introduced by M. Ferrara, H. Greene, D. Rosengarten, and S. Wyssen, in: American Jewish History, 91:3 (Sept. 2003) B. Gergel and R. Gergel, In Pursuit of the Tree of Life: A History of the Early Jews of Columbia and the Tree of Life Congregation (1996) J.S. Gurock, Orthodoxy in Charleston: Brith Sholom Beth Israel & American Jewish History (2004) J.W. Hagy, This Happy Land: The Jews of Colonial and Antebellum Charleston (1993) Jewish Heritage Collection. Special Collections, College of Charleston Library, Charleston, South Carolina. For excerpts from the JHC oral history archives, see www.cofc.edu/
jhc C. Reznikoff and U.Z. Engelman, The Jews of Charleston: A History of an American Jewish Community (1950) R.N. Rosen, The Jewish Confederates (2000) T. Rosengarten and D. Rosengarten (eds.), A Portion of the People: Three Hundred Years of Southern Jewish Life (2002). See on-line version of the exhibition "A Portion of the People" at www.lib.unc.edu/apop.
South Carolina Becomes First State to Adopt Uniform Definition of anti-Semitism, Haaretz, (July 6, 2018).
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- - This Columbia native was crowned Miss America in 1994 and used her fame to bring attention to the hardships of homelessness. She is the founder of HERO, the Homeless Education and Resource Organization.
- Born in Manning, this long-time public servant and Civil Rights leader was honored in 1993 when a portion of I-26 was named for her.
Marian Anderson - singer
- - Coordinator of youth services for all 82 branches of the New York Public Library, she moved to South Carolina in 1980 and became the University of South Carolina's Storyteller-in-Residence. Each year, Columbia holds a storytelling festival in her honor, aptly called A(ugusta) Baker's Dozen.
- This nursing pioneer inspired countless students during her long career at the Hospital and Training School for Nurses in Charleston. Her legacy lives on long after her death in 1930 today, a wing of MUSC bears her name.
- This newspaper publisher used print media to push for social reform. Her tenacity as a Civil Rights leader propelled her into politics, and in 1952 she was the first African-American woman to run for national office – Vice President of the United States.
- Born to former slaves just 10 years after the end of the Civil War, this Sumter County native decided early on that education was the key to ending the cycle of poverty. In 1904, she started a small school for African-American girls which eventually became Bethune-Cookman University. Under Franklin Roosevelt she served as Special Advisor on Minority Affairs, and in 1935 she founded the National Council for Negro Women to "represent the national and international concerns of Black women." Her portrait hangs in South Carolina's State House in Columbia.
Idella Bodie - Since the 1970s this Ridge Spring author has delighted South Carolina children with her books about life in the Palmetto State. Her award-winning historical fiction titles include The Secret Life of Telfair Inn and The Mystery of Edisto Island. Mrs. Bodie also wrote a series of books about heroes and heroines of the Revolution featuring notable figures in our early history such as Francis Marion, William Jasper, Rebecca Motte, and Thomas Sumter. Written for adults, South Carolina Women chronicles the lives of 51 important women from throughout our state's history.
Ethel Martin Bolden - librarian
Mary Musgrove Matthews Bosomworth - Born in 1700, the future "Queen of the Creeks" was the daughter of an Indian princess and a white man from South Carolina. She married another white man from South Carolina and together they established profitable trading posts which catered to members of both races. Just a year after establishing their first post, Savannah was founded on the same bluff. Her Creek name was Coosaponakesee. Removed as we can't find a substantial SC connection besides dad and hubby.
Gwen Bristow - b. 1903, d. 1980 - bestselling author
Lila Mae Brock - community leader
- Soul singer whose talent was first honed at her childhood church in Kingstree.
- - Recognized for her dedication as a nurse, midwife, and teacher, Maude Callen was the subject of 12-page photographic profile in Life magazine in 1951 which led to the funding of a clinic in Berkeley County.
Harriet Starr Cannon - Religious leader
Sallie F. Chapin - An impassioned supporter of the Confederacy, Sallie Chapin wrote Fitz-Hugh St. Clair, the South Carolina Rebel Boy in an effort to clarify the causes of the Civil War and promote the temperance movement. Surprising, the book was well accepted, even in the North. Sallie would become a sought-after public speaker traveling the east coast in the late 1800s, crusading for prohibition.
- Daughter of SC Governor Stephen Decatur Miller and wife of US Senator James Chesnut, Jr., her A Diary from Dixie is considered one of the most important and enduring portraits of the Confederacy. As a child she lived at Plane Hill Plantation and as an adult she lived at Mulberry Plantation, both near Camden in Kershaw County.
- In 1956, this author, actress, and director was the first woman to win an OBIE award. Her children's books include A Hero Ain't Nothing But a Sandwich and Rainbow Jordan. She was born in Charleston.
Ada Clare - This author, actress, and noted free spirit rose above the social constrictions of the 1800s. Walt Whitman praised her for being. >
- Known as the "Queen Mother of the Civil Rights Movement," Septima Clark was a leader in the NAACP, the Highlander School, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Working together with Esau Jenkins and Bernice Robinson, she helped establish Citizenship Schools across the South. These schools taught black people to read so they could vote, a requirement of the time. In all, these schools enabled two million African-Americans to vote. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he asked Mrs. Clark to accompany him to Norway, saying she deserved the award as much as he did.
– Freedom's Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark - Read more about one of South Carolina's most important heroines.
Elizabeth Boatwright Coker - Renowned author, poet, and lecturer, Elizabeth Boatwright Coker based her writings on exhaustive historical research. (Click link, then scroll down for biography.)
Affra Harleston Coming - owned Comingtree Plantation
- Elected in 1988 to the SC circuit court, Judge Connor was as the first woman to serve as an acting member of the South Carolina Supreme Court.
- Beryl Dakers - first African American on-air news reporter for WIS radio
- Born in Charleston, this professional golfer is one of only three LPGA players to win "Rookie of the Year" and then "Player of the Year" the very next season.
- Born at Singleton Plantation in St Matthews, Viola is the only black woman to be nominated three times for an Academy Award and the only African-American to win the "Triple Crown of Acting" earning two Tonys for King Hedley II (2001) and Fences (2010), an Emmy for TV's How To Get Away With Murder (2015), and the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the screen version of Fences (2017).
Nancy Jane Day - first library supervisor of South Carolina's state schools
Ophelia DeVore-Mitchell - early African-American fashion model, founder of modeling agency
Nettie DuRant Dickerson - aviation pioneer and founder of Bankair
Peggy Dillard-Toone - model
Margaret Abner Dixon, Ed.D. - educator, volunteer
"Tillie" Maude Odell Doremus - stage actress
Julia Caroline Ripley Dorr - An author from an early age, Julia Dorr's first work was published in 1848 when her husband sent one of her poems to a magazine without her knowledge. Click link then scroll down.
– Bibliography of Julia Caroline Ripley Dorr
- Charity Edna Adams Earley - Lieutenant Colonel, US Army
- A native of Bennettsville, Marian Wright Edelman broke barriers in 1964 when she became the first African-American female admitted to the Mississippi Bar. She went on to found the Washington Research Project, which in turn became the Children's Defense Fund. In 2000, she was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award. The Marian Wright Edelman Public Library opened its doors in 2010 to serve all residents of Marlboro County.
Frances Ravenel Smythe Edmunds - early director of Historic Charleston Foundation
- In 1924, she was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina. A short time later she was hired as the first female faculty member of the University of South Carolina. She established the university's chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
- A fervent patriot, Susannah Smith Elliott presented two elegant flags to Colonel Moultrie at what is today known as Fort Moultrie. One flag was red silk and the other was blue, emblazoned with the Latin words meaning "Liberty is more to be desired than Life." The British captured the flags upon the fall of Charleston and delivered them to the Tower of London.
– Hut Plantation - Home of Susannah Smith Elliott
- As Superintendent of Education in rural Jasper County , she sought to improve the education of African-Americans. In 1928, she became the first woman elected to the South Carolina State Senate. In 1995, the General Assembly passed a resolution commissioning her portrait for the Senate Chamber.
- The "Fabulous Moolah" was a pioneer and dominant figure in the development of women's wrestling. She reigned as World Champion longer than any other wrestler in history, man or woman, with titles spanning from 1956 to 1987.
- - Shannon Faulkner won a 1995 US Supreme Court ruling that declared The Citadel's male-only admissions policy unconstitutional. She became the first woman to join the Corps of Cadets, where hostility and hatred towards her ran rampant. During this time she had to be protected by federal marshals. She left the Corps after just one week, but she opened the doors for all future female cadets, who owe their educations in large part to her groundbreaking effort.
– Life After The Citadel: Shannon Faulkner Reflects on Her Historic Battle with the Elite Military College - ABC News report, includes video
- Emily Geiger was a teenager during the Revolutionary War. Though her father's health prevented him from enlisting, Emily decided to make a contribution to the effort. Learning that General Greene could not find a man to carry a message to General Sumter through the Tory-infested countryside, Emily volunteered for the task. Captured by the British, Emily's quick thinking led to her release – with apologies! To keep her document from being discovered, Emily tore it into small pieces and ate it. Having memorized the message, she went on to deliver it verbally.
– Source documents on Emily Geiger
Frances Guignard Gibbes- first woman to attend South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina)
Sarah Reeve Gibbes - The epitome of a Southern woman in the Revolutionary War! When the British surrounded her house, Sarah was so gracious they treated the Gibbes family with utmost respect during the occupation of Peaceful Retreat Plantation. As American troops arrived to end the siege, Sarah collected her family, which consisted of her invalid husband, their eight children, and the six (?) children of her deceased sister-in-law, and fled to a neighboring plantation amidst flying bullets. The Gibbes would return to their home but war still raged on all around them. Sarah's nephew was found badly wounded and left on a nearby battlefield for dead. With pure determination, she nursed him back to health.
- The talents of this Hartsville native encompass many genres of entertainment. Her professional and civic accomplishments have been recognized by both a Congressional Horizon Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She has also won three Emmy Awards.
- Shattering 1950s racial barriers, this Sumter County native became the first African American to win world-championship tennis tournaments such as Wimbledon, the French Open, the Australian Championship, and the US National Championship (known today as the US Open).
– Detailed biographical info
– Includes info on tennis record
- Her first poem was published without her permission when she was only 16. In time, Charleston's adopted daughter would go on to write poems, magazine articles, and books, becoming the South's most famous female writer of the late 1900s.
– Recollections of a Southern Matron - memoir written by Caroline Howard Gilman
>Kate Gleason- businesswoman
>Maggie Wallace Glover - first black woman to serve in South Carolina's state senate
- The Glover family left Orangeburg in 1955 when Vivian's dad received threats as a result of his role in the Civil Rights movement. Though she would travel the world with her career in media, Vivian always felt the tug of home. Her acclaimed book, The First Fig Tree, is set in Orangeburg, where she returned to live in 1992.
edna Janie Glymph Goree - SC's first African-American female mayor
- In 1931, this Laurens County native conducted successful scientific experiments to prove blacks could learn as well as whites. Determined to end illiteracy among South Carolinians, she pioneered adult education programs. She is remembered by her portrait which hangs in the State House, as well as by the school she founded, the Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School.
Mary Putnam Gridley - first female mill president in SC
Frances "Fanny" Beal Griffin - Revolutionary War wagon driver
Alberta Tucker Grimes - She organized the first SC Head Start program and was also the first African-American woman to serve as a member on the Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.
- - Born in Bamberg, Nimrata "Nikki" Randhawa Haley's Sikh parents immigrated from India in the 1960s. She first ran for political office in 2004 and was elected to the SC House of Representatives – becoming the first Indian-American to hold office in our state. In 2010, she became the first female governor of South Carolina. In January 2017, Haley resigned as Governor of South Carolina after being confirmed as US Ambassador to the United Nations.
Lugenia Key Hammond - community leader
- Captain Hampton was the first female pilot in the United States Army to be killed by enemy fire.
- Hailing from Saluda, she was the first female graduate of the Civilian Pilot Training Program at the University of South Carolina and the first woman to receive a pilot's license in the 11 Southeastern states. She was such a skilled pilot that she would go on to train Navy V-5 aviation cadets in 1941, and in 1943 she was selected to serve as one of World War II's famous WASPs (Women's Auxiliary Service Pilots).
- This US Army nurse from Swansea served in the Philippines during World War II, an effort for which she was awarded a Purple Heart. Her book entitled I Served on Bataan became the basis for the 1943 movie So Proudly We Hail.
Claire Miller Hopkins - artist
- Eau Claire High School's "Miss Shamrock 1978" is still shining bright as a meteorologist featured weekdays on NBC's New York City affiliate and also appeared on the weekend edition of the Today show.
- Born at Woodburn Plantation just one generation out of slavery, Jane Edna Harris Hunter had a tenuous childhood. From an early age, she moved from one household to another, working to earn her keep. Finally her desire for education was recognized by missionaries, and she was allowed to attend school. She would go on to earn both nursing and law degrees. Longing to help other young girls, she founded the Phillis Wheatley Association in Greenville.
- This Due West daughter has made an international mark on the field of journalism. The NAACP's Legal Defense Fund helped her break the color barrier at the University of Georgia in the early 1960s. She graduated with a degree in journalism and immediately became the first African-American reporter for The New Yorker. In 1978 she gained a national television audience as a correspondent on The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. She then moved on to be the chief correspondent in Africa for National Public Radio. Building on this expertise, she next worked in Johannesburg as the Bureau Chief for CNN. Hunter-Gault has received two Emmy Awards for her work on the series "Apartheid's People." She has also earned the New York Times Publisher Award and two Peabody Awards. She is author of the 2006 book entitled New News out of Africa: Uncovering Africa's Renaissance.
- When Anna's sister introduced her to sculpture at the age of eight, she was hooked! Over the years, Anna fine-tuned her craft and became a world-renowned artist. After marrying, she and her husband searched for a winter home. They found themselves captivated with Georgetown and proceeded to purchase four plantations, one of which became Brookgreen Gardens.
– Atalaya - Anna's home (now part of Huntington Beach State Park)
Alice Wyche Hurley - social worker
Helen von Kolnitz Hyer - South Carolina Poet Laureate
- - Legend holds that Issaqueena Falls in Oconee County was named for a young Indian maiden who warned settlers of her tribe's plan to attack. Her betrayal angered her tribe and they chased her through the forest to the waterfall. She pretended to jump in the water but instead hid behind the 100-foot cascade until the pursuers gave up their search.
- - This master craftswoman elevates the utilitarian sweetgrass basket to a high art. Ms. Jackson learned to make baskets at the knees of her mother and grandmother when she was just a child. As an adult, she began to realize that the baskets, made by so many in her Mount Pleasant community, represented a link to her own African ancestry. Her baskets have been exhibited in major museums throughout the country, including the Smithsonian, and in 2008 she was honored with the coveted MacArthur "Genius Grant."
Dr. Sara Dunlap Jackson - This native of Columbia went to work at the National Archive in Washington, DC in 1944. During her 46-year career there, she mentored an entire generation of archivists who came behind her and she earned a reputation as "Archivist Extraordinaire" among her peers. Her areas of expertise included western, military, social, and African-American topics.
– Memorial Tribute: Remembering Sara Dunlap Jackson
- Born in 1935, this Ridgeway native loved baseball. However, because she was African American, she was not allowed to be part of the sport's women's league. Luckily, a scout for the all-male Negro League saw her throw and quickly signed her to the Indianapolis Clowns, where she pitched three seasons. At one of her early games, an opponent is said to have shouted, "What makes you think you can strike a batter out? Why, you aren't any larger than a peanut!" She struck him out in three pitches and the nickname stuck!
Mamie "Peanut" Johnson - b. 1935 - only woman to pitch for Negro Major League
Henrietta de Beaulieu Dering Johnston - Her husband's surviving letters indicate she may well have been the first woman in America to work as a professional artist. She had become an accomplished portraitist when she lived in England and later, Ireland. In 1708 her second husband became the Rector at St. Phillips Episcopal Church in Charleston. When his salary was repeatedly delayed, his letters to the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts revealed that her paintings generated important income for the family. One of his letters stated, "were it not for the assistance my wife gives by drawing of pictures . I should not be able to live."
Clara Louise Kellogg - b. 1842, d. 1916 - opera singer
- Born on an Orangeburg County cotton farm in 1927, Eartha Kitt became a world-famous entertainer with her own star on Hollywood Boulevard. Her 1953 recording of Santa Baby and her recurring role as Catwoman on TV's Batman are familiar examples of her work. While many of her roles epitomized the Hollywood stereotype of "sex kitten," her social consciousness often made it difficult for her to land jobs. Her refusal to perform for segregated audiences effectively relegated her to European venues in the 1940s and 50s. In the 1970s, she was blacklisted by the American entertainment industry when she spoke out against Vietnam at a White House luncheon. But Eartha Kitt's career came back, time and time again. In 1997 she returned to South Carolina to perform a benefit concert at Benedict College, which helped establish a scholarship fund for dance students.
- - She played an Englishwoman in her first major movie role, but her lines were dubbed because her Southern drawl could not be concealed. Despite that unpromising start, she has enjoyed a successful acting career with Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress in Sex, Lies, and Videotape in 1989, Green Card in 1990, and Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1994. Once we were allowed to hear it, many people felt her lovely Gaffney accent only enhanced her talent and beauty
Judith Giton Manigault - b. 1665, d. 1711 - one of the few women among the 160 persons who settled near present day Charleston under a grant from King Charles II of England - Her husband and sons were prominent and amassed significant wealth.
Celia Mann - b. 1799, d. 1867 - freed slave and mid-wife - prominent in Columbia.
Linda Martell - b. 1946 - country-western singer
Grace and Rachel Martin - Revolutionary War patriots
Maria Martin - This Charlestonian was a painter whose work was featured in John James Audubon's natural history books.
– Lecture notes including audio about Maria Martin
- Ms. Matthews has held many leadership positions and was twice appointed to national posts by President Ronald Reagan. In 2013, the Lake City native was elected vice president of Rotary International, the first woman to serve in this position.
- In 1940 she became the first African-American woman admitted to the SC Bar. Ten years later, working in Atlanta and active in the NAACP, she assisted Thurgood Marshall on cases which ultimately overturned the legality of segregated public facilities in the South.
Catherine McKee McCottry, M.D. - b. 1921 - medical doctor - born and educated in NC and at Howard. Came to Charleston with her husband. She was first female African-American OBGYN in Charleston and helped integrated the hospital system.
Carrie Allen McCray - b. 1913 - author, one of the founders of SC Writers Workshop
Janie L. Mines - military, business, and youth leader
- In the 1970s, she championed innovations in childcare for poor working families. She became the first Executive Director of United Communities for Child Development, which worked to promote community-controlled childcare centers. The UCCD model was replicated in other Southern states and Ms. Mitchell became sought after as a consultant at both national and international levels. She is the recipient of the John D. Rockefeller, III, Public Service Award as well as the Marian Wright Edelman Award for Service to Children.
Penina Moise - was born into a large, Jewish family in Charleston in the late 18th century. She wrote poetry and newspaper articles and taught school. She wrote over 190 hymns, some of which remained in the Reform movement's hymnal through the early 20th century.
– More about Penina Moise
- Annie Greene Nelson - b. 1902, d. 1993 - first black woman in SC to write and publish a novel
- - This native of Manning wrote a wide range of children's books but she is best remembered for the Amelia Bedelia series that debuted in 1963.
– More about Peggy Parish including list of Amelia Bedelia titles
- Born at Fort Jackson, Mary Louise Parker's acting career in films, theater, and TV has blossomed since the late 1980s. Her work includes roles in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes and the TV shows West Wing and Weeds. In 2001, Parker won a Tony Award for her work in the Broadway production of Proof, and in 2004 she took home an Emmy for her role in the HBO production of Angels in America.
- The daughter of one-time South Carolina governor Olin Johnston, Liz spent her career in public service. In 1986, she was the first women to be elected to represent South Carolina in the US Congress and would serve three-terms in this position.
Miss James M. Perry - b. 1894, d. 1964 - first woman admitted to South Carolina Bar Association
- In 1929, her novel Scarlet Sister Mary won the Pulitzer Prize for literature. She is remembered for her non-stereotypical depictions of black people, whom she treated with a wholeness and humanity unknown to white writers of the time. This honest outlook earned her the disdain and rebuke of her social class, which ostracized her from its ranks.
– Langs Syne - Julia Peterkin's plantation
- As a planter, she was responsible for the success of indigo as a cash crop in Colonial South Carolina. As a businesswoman, she was savvy enough to realize the growing textile industry was a ripe market for new dyes. Working on her farm near Charleston, she methodically experimented and developed improved strains of indigo. In 1745, only 5,000 pounds of indigo were exported from the Charleston area. Within two years, Eliza's efforts increased that volume to 130,000 pounds.
Josephine Lyons Scott Pinckney - b. 1895, d. 1957 - author
– Eldorado - Home of Josephine Lyons Scott Pinckney
- Queen of the Cofitachiqui - The Cofitachiqui ("ko-fit-a-cheeky") were considered one of the most highly civilized tribes of their time. This reputation prompted de Soto to locate the tribe. He kidnapped their leader and demanded that she take him to places of great wealth. After several days, the Queen of the Cofitachiqui escaped, accompanied by several of de Soto's men.
– de Soto's 1540 encounter with Queen of the Cofitachiqui
Jacqueline Rhinehart - b. 1958 - VP of marketing, black music, Universal Records
- Marguerite Eulalie Chaffe Salley - In 1915, ignoring criticism for overstepping her bounds as wife and mother, Marguerite Eulalie Chaffe Salley founded her own real estate company in Aiken which grew to be a successful business venture. After women were granted the right to vote in 1920, Salley continued to advocate for women's rights.
– Eulalie Salley purchased Edgewood Plantation and moved the house to Aiken County where it still stands as the Pickens-Salley House
- Raised on a peach farm near Rock Hill, acclaimed author Dori Sanders writes about what she knows best – farm life and family ties. Her first novel, Clover, published in 1990, became both a best seller and a literary award winner. Ms. Sanders still works on her family's farm, writing and speaking at schools and libraries during the off-season.
- The 1930s and 40s were bleak years for rural South Carolina, especially in the mill towns of the Upstate, where each year people died by the thousands from malnourishment and the lack of basic medical care. During her long career, this Spartanburg physician fought valiantly against everything from pellagra to child abuse. Our state led the nation in maternal and infant mortality, and perhaps her most important accomplishment was to establish America's first family planning clinic for a county health department. She was also our state's first female health officer at a time when there were only 40 female doctors in all of South Carolina.
– More on Hilla Sherrif - In-depth article by American Journal of Public Health examines Dr. Sherriff's profound importance
- Born in Columbia in 1899, Ms. Simkins was a school teacher who was active in the South Carolina chapter of the NAACP. Her experience in the classroom helped attorneys shape a critical lawsuit against Clarendon County. The case became one of a group of similar suits from around the South that led to the US Supreme Court's 1954 decision that separate schools were not equal and thus violated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
Bennie Lee Sinclair - b. 1939, d. 2000 - South Carolina Poet Laureate, 1986-2000
Marlena Smalls - founder of Hallelujah Singers and Gullah Festival, actress
- This South Carolina native serves as the Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Chief of Staff for Nickelodeon.
- This renowned artist was an influential leader of Charleston's thriving art community during what has come to be known as the Charleston Renaissance. In rural landscapes and city scenes, the work of Smith and her contemporaries, notably Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, conveyed a distinctive sense of place which endures as iconic of South Carolina's Lowcountry.
Laodicea "Dicey" Langston Springfield - b. 1759, d. 1837 - Revolutionary War heroine
Lena Jones Wade Springs - d. 1942 - first woman nominated for vice president of the United States
- Ms. Stevenson was first elected to the state legislature as a representative from Charleston in 1975. In 1979 she won her election to become South Carolina's first, and to date only, female Lieutenant Governor. While in office, she established a telephone hotline for citizens to more easily access information about services provided by state government.
- Lily Teresa Strickland was born in 1884 in Anderson. Her family encouraged her musical studies which included Lily receiving a scholarship to the prestigious Institute of Musical Arts in New York, the forerunner to Juilliard. Lily lived and traveled extensively overseas with her husband's job and published 395 pieces over her lifetime.
- - Defying expectations of women in the Revolutionary War era, stories of Jane Thomas reveal her as a fearless foe and first-class friend to the Patriot cause. While her husband fought elsewhere, Jane was left "tending the home fires" of their Spartanburg County farm. Tory troops arrived to capture a supply of ammunition stored on the Thomas property. As soldiers approached the house, Jane and her young children formed a production line and fed bullets as fast as they could to her brother-in-law, Josiah Culbertson. Culbertson fired from one window of the cabin then moved to another so rapidly the Tories thought they were up against a large Patriot guard. Finally, Jane burst out of the cabin, sword in hand, and dared the Tories to advance further. Intimidated, they retreated and the ammunition was saved for America. This remarkable tale of bravery is recorded on the tombstone of one of Jane's daughters in a Union County cemetery.
- As editor and publisher of the South Carolina Gazette, she was America's first female newspaper owner, editor, and publisher. Her husband Lewis began the paper with financial backing from Benjamin Franklin but died in 1738. To continue publication and fulfill their contact with Franklin, the couple's 13 year-old son Peter was named publisher on the Gazette's masthead however it was Elizabeth who edited and published the paper for the next eight years. At the time, the printing process was extremely labor intensive and printed materials were highly prized. When 21-year-old Peter took over the paper in 1746, Elizabeth opened a bookstore and continued to provide books and pamphlets to the colonists of Charles Towne.
- This Columbia native became the first woman to serve as a Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court in 1988 and served as Chief Justice from 2000 until her retirement in 2015.
Jean Hoefer Toal - Justice Toal is the first woman to serve as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina. In 1988, she became the first woman to be appointed as an Associate Justice to the High Court. In 2000, she was appointed to complete her predecessor's unfinished term of Chief Justice, and in 2004, she was elected to serve an additional 10-year term.
- In 1862, this dedicated abolitionist moved from Pennsylvania to St. Helena Island, near Beaufort. Here, after an early and resounding Union defeat, white owners had abandoned 10,000 former slaves. Ms. Towne was one of many northern educators and missionaries who moved south to help these emancipated men and women build new lives. She was unique in that she stayed, making St. Helena her lifelong home. She opened Penn School, known today as Penn Center, where students learned reading and writing along with marketable skills like basket-making, cobbling, and carpentry.
Henrie Monteith Treadwell - educator, scientist, first African-American woman admitted to USC
- Her mother hoped she would become a nurse, but this Aiken native dreamt of flying. She made both of their wishes come true during her 30-year nursing career in the Air National Guard. Even better, she became the National Guard's first African-American woman to achieve the rank of General!
- Angelica Singleton Van Buren - b. 1817, d. 1877 - daughter-in-law of President Martin Van Buren and served as his White House hostess
– Home House Plantation - plantation where Angelica Singleton Van Buren was raised
- In 1938 she became the first woman from South Carolina elected to the US Congress. Her first husband was Representative Allard Henry Gasque, a Democrat who represented the 6th District. When he died in office, she won a special election to fill his seat. She served the remaining three months of his term and did not seek re-election. She later married J. F. Van Exem and continued to contribute to public life as a writer and lecturer.
– Cedar Tree Plantation - Elizabeth Hawley Gasque Van Exem's plantation
- - Born in Bamberg, she established herself as a major soul singer with Dusty Springfield once declaring her as her all-time favorite singer.
Dr. Clemmie E. Webber - Professor of Chemisty at South Carolina State University and mother of three, she was named National Mother of the Year in 1983. Early proponent of women's rights and co-founder of the literacy movement in SC.
Helena Wells - b. 1757, d. 1824 - first South Carolina novelist - works include Constantia NevilleHer significance was as a published female author of fiction and non-fiction in the late 1700s, early 1800s. She was born in Charleston, was loyal to the King. She moved to London where she worked as a governess and wrote there, so her notoriety is quite removed from South Carolina.Her novels were: The Stepmother: a domestic Tale from real life, 1798, 2 vols. and Constantia Neville or, The West Indian, 1800. 3 vols.
- She has been South Carolina's Poet Laureate since 2003.
- Born in 1912 at Fort Motte in Calhoun County, the future Dr. Weston moved to South Carolina's state capital to attend high school. From there she received her bachelor's degree from Benedict College and her master's degree from Columbia University in New York. Upon returning to South Carolina, she served as a professor of education at her alma mater, Benedict College, for 35 years. In 1962, she was the first woman to receive a doctorate from the historically-black school. Dr. Weston was elected State Secretary of the Progressive Democratic Party in 1946. She helped lead voter registration efforts during the early Civil Rights era, and she was a powerful advocate for women in politics throughout her life. She attended the Democratic National Convention multiple times, and was in fact the first African-American woman from South Carolina to do so. She traveled extensively during her career and often lectured about politics and race. President Harry Truman appointed her to the National Committee for the Midcentury White House Conference on Children and Youth.
- In 1868, her biography of Martin R. Delany was published under the pen name Frank A. Rollin, making her the first African American to publish a full-length biography. Her diary from the same year survives as the earliest known diary by a southern black woman.
Dr. Ionia R. Whipper - c. 1874-1953 - doctor and social activist, founder of the Ionia R. Whipper Home
- A formidable Civil Rights pioneer, Lucille Whipper was elected to various state and local offices. She also spearheaded the founding of the Avery Institute at the College of Charleston, a nationally-recognized repository of African-American history. In Charleston, a stretch of US 17 is named in her honor.
- America's most iconic game show hostess has flipped the letters on Wheel of Fortune since 1982. She grew up in North Myrtle Beach.
– Wheel of Fortune's Vanna page - Tour Vanna's dressing room, see her 7,000+ dresses, and more for fans of this Grand Strand Girl!
- An early South Carolina naturalist, Hannah Williams explored the marshlands surrounding her home on the Ashley River in the late 1600s. The samples of plants, animals, and butterflies she sent back to England were added to the official catalog of natural resources in the New World.
- In 1974 Juanita Goggins became the first African-American woman elected to the SC House of Representatives. Other significant "firsts" include being the first African-American woman to serve on the US Civil Rights Commission and the first African-American female member of South Carolina's delegation to the Democratic National Convention. Mrs. Goggins suffered from mental illness later in her life and froze to death in her home in 2010.
Kate V. Wofford - As Superintendent of the Laurens County School Board, Kate Wofford was the first women elected to public office in South Carolina. Her scholarly writings on elementary education were internationally recognized. She was also among the first women to enlist in the US Navy during WWI.
- Dr. Anne Austin Young - b. 1892, d. 1989 - physician, helped deliver an estimated 11,000 babies
Original Inhabitants of South Carolina - History
Orangeburg County Court House - Orangeburg, SC (2008)
One of the early and important actions of the Royal Government was the Township Act of 1730 additional townships were authorized in 1761. The first Act authorized nine townships containing 20,000 acres each, and agents were sent to Europe to recruit families as settlers. The families were offered inducements such as free transportation to South Carolina, free provisions for one year, and free land. The townships neither created nor kept records their functions were solely geographical. Townships, like parishes, were used for some tax districts and appeared as locators in grants and conveyances.
One of the original townships, Edisto Township was renamed to Orangeburgh Township and was established and first settled by 250 Swiss/Palatine immigrants in 1735. It was located on the banks of the North Edisto River in south-central South Carolina.
The city of Orangeburg was first settled by an Indian trader named George Sterling in 1704. The town was named in honor of William IV, Prince of Orange, the husband of Princess Anne, daughter of King George II of England. The city of Orangeburg was incorporated in 1883. It encompasses approximately 6.38 square miles and boasts a population of 13,891 citizens, as of 2013.
The site was attractive because of the fertile soil and the abundance of wildlife. The river provided an outlet to the port of Charles Town for agriculture and lumber products. The town soon became a well-established and successful colony, composed chiefly of small farmers.
Click Here for a more detailed discussion about the earliest settlers of Orangeburgh. Thanks to Lynne Teague of the Orangeburg German-Swiss Genealogical Society for providing it in February of 2011.
The church played an important role in the early life of Orangeburg. An early church built was of Lutheran denomination but was later the Episcopal Church. The church building was erected prior to 1763 in the center of the village and was destroyed at the time of the American Revolution. A subsequent church building was used as a Smallpox hospital by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman during the American Civil War.
The area is rich in history. The battle of Eutaw Springs fought in the area during the Revolutionary War in 1781 was the last major battle of the war in South Carolina. Large plantations were established in Orangeburg in the 19th century, and the county became a major producer of cotton.
Railroads arrived in the area early - Branchville became the first railroad junction in the state in 1840. Union troops under General Sherman passed through Orangeburg in February of 1865 and burned cotton warehouses, the court house and the jail. Out of these ruins came positive changes and today, community leaders see Orangeburg as a county of opportunities.
Click Here to learn about the "Street Railway" that operated in Orangeburg from 1889 to 1908. The story of the settling of Orangeburg, South Carolina is a page in the history of the state which has never been fully written. The cause of this omission can scarcely be accounted for, as ample materials were within the reach of former historians. Certain outlines have been given, but nothing very satisfactory has been furnished.
"The first white inhabitant who settled in this section of country was named Henry Sterling his occupation, it is supposed, was that of a trader. He located himself on Lyon's Creek in the year 1704, and obtained a grant of a tract of land, at present in the possession of Colonel Russel P. McCord." (Mills, p. 656.)
The next settlers were some three or four individuals, who located themselves at the Cowpens, northwesterly of the lowcountry white settlements these, and the Cherokee and Catawba Indians were all the inhabitants who had preceded the Germans." (Mills, p. 657.)
The colonists of Orangeburg County and town were mostly German and Swiss, who came over from Europe in a large body, occupying several vessels, and even to the present day their descendants are easily recognized by their unmistakable German names, and are found to be the principal owners and occupants of the soil in this portion of South Carolina.
The principal facts concerning the early history of these colonists are mainly derived from the Journals of Council of the Province of South Carolina, as found in manuscript form in the office of the Secretary of State, as well as from the Church record-book, kept by their first pastors, the two Giessendanners, uncle and nephew, written in the German and English languages, which is still extant, and has been thoroughly examined and as these additional facts are now presented for the first time, it is hoped that they may open new avenues, which will afford future historians of the state additional sources of research and information.
That the German element of the Orangeburg colonists came partly from Switzerland, we learn from the records of the Giessendanners' churchbook, as it was the custom of the younger Giessendanner to mention the place of nativity of all the deceased, in his reords of each funeral of the early settlers and as this emigration from that country to Orangeburg occurred only two or three years subsequent to the emigration of a former Swiss colony to Purrysburg Township, it certainly requires no great stretch of the imagination to explain the causes which induced such a large number of emigrants from that country to locate themselves upon the fertile lands of South Carolina, which were described so glowingly by John Pierre Purry and his associates.
Let any one examine the pamphlets, as found in vol. ii of Carroll's Collections, which Mr. Purry published in reference to the province of South Carolina, and which he freely distributed in his native county, in which the fertility of the soil, salubrity of the climate, excellency of government, safety of the colonists, opportunities of becoming wealthy, &c., are so highly extolled, and corroborated by the testimony of so many witnesses, and he will easily comprehend what the Swiss must have fancied that province to be, viz.: the El Dorado of America, the second Palestine of the world.
Mr. Purry's account of the excellency of South Carolina for safe and remunerative settlement went round, from mouth to mouth, in many a hamlet and cottage of the little mountain-girt country, losing nothing by being told from one family to another which, with the additional fact, that many had relatives and friends living in both the Carolinas, whom they possibly might meet again, soon fastened their affections upon that province, and induced them to leave the Fatherland, and make their future homes with some of their countrymen in America. Their little all of earthly goods or patrimony was soon disposed of preparations for a longer journey were quickly made, as advised by Mr. Purry in his pamphlet the journey through North Germany towards some seaport was then undertaken and, with other Germans added to their number, who joined their fortunes with them whilst passing through their country, they were soon rocked upon the bosom of the ocean, heading towards America, with the compass pointed to their expected haven, Charles Town, South Carolina.
These German and Swiss settlers did not all arrive in Orangeburg at the same time the first colony came during the year 1735 another company arrived a year later, and it was not until 1737 that their first pastor, Rev. John Ulrich Giessendanner, Senior, came among them with another reinforcement of settlers whilst Mills informs us that emigrants from Germany arrived in Orangeburg District as late as 1769, only a few years before the American Revolution.
Like most of the early German settlers of America, these colonists came to Carolina not as "gentlemen or traders," but as tillers of the soil, with the honest intention "to earn their bread by the sweat of the brow," and their lands soon gave evidence of thrift and plenty, and they, by their industry and frugality, not only secured a competency and independence for themselves and their children in this fertile portion of South Carolina, but many of them became blessed with abundance and wealth.
From the records of Rev. Giessendanner we learn that there were also a considerable number of mechanics, as well as planters and farmers, among these colonists and the results of this German colonization were extremely favorable to Orangeburg District, inasmuch as they remained there as permanent settlers, whilst many of their countryment in other locations, such as Purrysburg, &c., were compelled to leave their first-selected homes, on account of the want of health and of that great success which they had at first expected, but the Orangeburg settlers became a well-established and successful colony.
It has been asserted that the German congregation established in Orangeburg among these settlers was Reformed, which is evidently a mistake, as any one may perceive from the following facts. On the one hand, it must be admitted that the Swiss came from the land where John Calvin labored, and where the Reformed religion prevails, but where there are also many Lutheran churches established. It is also admitted that the Giessendanners were natives of Switzerland, but it would be unsafe to conclude from these facts that the German congregation at Orangeburg, with all, or nearly all, of its members, and with their pastors, were Swiss Reformed or Calvanistic in their faith. On the other hand, although nothing positive is mentioned in the Record-book of the Church, concerning their distinctive religious belief, yet the presumptive evidence, even from this source of information, is sufficiently strong to conclude that this first religious society in Orangeburg was a Lutheran Church. The facts from which our conclusions are drawn are:
Firstly - Because a very strong element from Germany was mixed with their Swiss brethren in the early settling of this county, which, by still later accession of German colonists, appears to have become the predominating population, who were mostly Lutherans, and the presumption becomes strong that their church-organization was likewise Lutheran.
Secondly - It seems to have been a commonly admitted fact and the prevailing general impression of that time, when their second pastor had become an ordained minister of the Church of England.
Thirdly - In examining their church records one will discover, through its entire pages, a recognition of the festivals of the Lutheran Church, as were commonly observed by the early Lutheran settlers.
Fourthly - In Dalcho's History of the Prot. Epis. Church in S.C., published in 1820, at the time when the son of the younger Giessendanner was still living (see Mills' Statistics, p. 657, published as late as 1826), it is most positively stated concerning his father, that "he was a minister of the Lutheran Church." (Dalcho, p. 333, footnote.) How could Dr. Dalcho have been mistaken when he had the records of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina before him and in that denomination this was the prevailing impression, as was, doubtless, so created from Giessendanner's own statements in the bosom of which Church he passed the latter days of his life.
Fifthly - One of the churches which Giessendanner served before he became an Episcopal clergyman, located in Amelia Township, called St. Matthews, has never been any other than a Lutheran Church, and is still in connection with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of South Carolina.
Sixthly - The Orangeburg colonists, after their pastor departed from their faith, were served with Lutheran pastors entirely, numbering in all about seventeen ministers, and only for a short time a Reformed minister, Rev. Dr. Zubly, once labored there as a temporary supply.
Seventhly - In Dr. Hazelius' History of the American Lutheran Church, p. 64, we have the following testimony, gathered from the journal of the Ebenezer pastors, Bolzius and Gronau, found in Urlsperger's Nachrichten: "Their journal of that time mentions among other things, that many Lutherans were settled in and about Orangeburg in South Carolina, and that their preacher resided in the village of Orangeburg."
It is to be hoped that all this testimony is satisfactory to every candid inquirer, that the first established Church of Orangeburg, South Carolina, which was likewise the first organized Lutheran Church in both the Carolinas, was none other than a Lutheran Church that those early settlers from Germany and Switzerland were mostly, if not all, of the same denomination, and that Dr. Dalcho has published no falsehood by asserting that "their pastor was a minister of the Lutheran Church."
The first colony of German and Swiss emigrants who settled in Orangeburgh village and its vicinity in 1735, as well as those who selected their homes in Amelia Township along Four-Hole swamp and creek, did not bring their pastor with them the Rev. John Ulrich Giessendanner did not arrive until the year 1737 he was an ordained minister and a native of Switzerland, and was the first and, at the time, the only minister of the gospel in the village and District of Orangeburgh we infer this from Mills' Statistics, p. 657, stating that there were but four or five English settlers residing in the District before the Germans arrived, and these few would not likely have an English minister of their own to labor among them.
We infer this, moreover, from the record of Giessendanner's marriages the ceremony of one was performed in the English language during the first year of his ministry, with the following remark accompanying it: "Major Motte having read the ceremony in the English language," from which we conclude that at the time, October 24th, 1737, Rev. Giessendanner was still unacquainted with the English language, and that on this account he solicited the aid of Major Motte in the performance of a clerical duty. That there could have been no other minsiter of the gospel within reach of the parties, who did not reside in the village, otherwise they would not have employed Rev. G. to perform a ceremony under such embarrassing circumstances.
Rev. J.U. Giessendanner came to this country with the third transportation of German and Swiss settlers for this fertile portion of South Carolina. In the same vessel also journeyed his future partner in life, who had resided at his home in Europe as housekeeper for twenty-six years, and to whom, on the 15th of November, 1737, he was "quietly married, in the presence of many witnesses, by Major Motte" doubtless by him, as no minister of the gospel was within their reach, to which record he piously adds: "May Jesus unite us closely in love, as well as all faithful married people, and cleanse and unite us with himself. Amen." By this union he had no children, since both himself and his partner were "well stricken in years."
The elder Giessendanner did not labor long among this people. Death soon ended his ministrations in Orangeburgh, and we infer that he must have died about the close of the year 1738, since the records of his ministerial acts extend to the summer of that year, whilst those of his nephew commence with the close of the year 1739. Allowing the congregation time to make the necessary arrangement with the nephew, and he to have time to seek and obtain ordination, as we shall see hereafter, besides the inference drawn from the language of a certain petition, &c., we learn that during the fall of 1738, the Rev. John Ulrich Giessendanner, Sr., was called to his rest, and thus closed his earthly career.
The congregations in Orangeburgh village and District now looked about them for another servant of the Lord to labor among them in holy things, but the prospect of being soon supplied was not very encouraging. The Ebenezer pastors were the only Lutheran ministers in the South at that time, and they could not be spared from their arduous work in Georgia, and to expect a pastor to be sent amonth them again from the Fatherland was attended with many difficulties. Another plan presented itself to them. The nephew of their first pastor, who had prepared himself for the ministry, was induced to seek ordination at the hands of some Protestant denomination, and take upon himself the charge of these vacant congregations in the place of his departed uncle.
From the records of the Orangeburg Church we learn that their second pastor was also named John Ulrich Giessendanner, but he soon afterwards dropped his middle name, probably to distinguish him from his uncle, and so is he named in all the histories of South Carolina, which give any account of him.
Difficulties and sore trials soon attended Rev. John Giessendanner's ministry the Urlsperger Reports state, in vol. iii, p. 1079, that the town of Orangeburgh was then, A.D. 1741, in a worse condition than Purrysburg that the people were leading very sinful lives, manisfesting no traces of piety, and that between pastor and hearers there were constant misunderstandings. It is also stated that their lands were fertile, but, as they were far removed from Charles Town, and had no communication with that city by water, they could not convert their produce into money, and on this account very little or no money was found among them.
Dr. Hazelins likewise gives us an unfavorable account of the state of religion in that community. On p. 64, he remarks: "From one circumstance mentioned with particular reference to that congregation, we have to infer that the spiritual state of that church was by no means pleasing. A Mr. Kieffer, a Salzburg emigrant and member of the Ebenezer congration, was living on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River, whose mother-in-law resided at Orangeburgh, whom he occasionally visited. On one occasion he remarked, after his return, to his minister, Pastor Bolzius, that the people at Orangeburgh were manifesting no hunger and thirst after the word of God he was therefore anxious that his mother-in-law should remove to his plantation, so that she might enjoy the opportunity of attending to the preaching of the word of God, which she greatly desired."
All this testimony, though in the main correct, needs, however, some explanation, and by referring to the Journals of Council for this province, in the office of the Secretary of State, we will soon discover the cause of such a state of things. The people had been but sparingly supplied with the preached word, the discipline of the Church had not been properly administered, and when the younger Giessendanner took charge of these congregations, and attempted to regulate matters a little, whilst the majority of the people sustained him in his efforts, a minority, who were rude and godless, became his bitter enemies, and were constantly at variance with him.
"History of the German Settlements and of the Lutheran Church in North and South Carolina," by G.D. Bernheim, 1872
Click Here to read more on the Lutherans in Orangeburg, South Carolina - the source of what's included above is but a sample. Link is current as of August 2005 and December 2015. As Orangeburgh Court House, the town was granted a U.S. Post Office on September 1, 1794, and its first Postmaster was Mr. James Carmichael. In 1895, the Post Office Department officially changed the name to Orangeburg. It has been in continuous operation ever since inception in 1794. In 1768/9, the Royal Colony of South Carolina passed the District Act and eliminated all references to the old counties and townships with respect to governmental organization. The parishes remained intact, and even two new Parishes were established in 1768 - St. David's Parish and St. Matthew's Parish.
What had been Orangeburgh Township was now part of the much larger Orangeburgh District and within the newly-established St. Matthew's Parish - both created in 1768/9, but the districts were not truly functional until around 1772, right before the American Revolution.
Immediately after the American Revolution, the newly-independent state of South Carolina redefined its internal districts in 1785 and recreated a new version of "counties" quite unlike the mostly-ambiguous and unsurveyed counties that existed prior to 1769. In 1791, South Carolina once again redefined its districts to now include the specific newly-created counties. In 1800, South Carolina decided to rename all existing counties as districts, and the larger term for all "overarching Districts" was now obsolete - no more aggregation of counties into a large district.
During all of this, Orangeburgh Township ceased to exist, but the newly-created Orangeburg District continued and included the newly-defined counties of Lexington, Orange, Winton, and Lewisburg until 1800 when Orangeburg District was reduced to a single entity, no longer including other counties. It was later reduced to form other counties and took its present boundaries in 1908.
To get an idea of where the Orangeburgh Township had been during the Royal Period, find a map of South Carolina and look for Orangeburg County - the heart of the Orangeburgh Township was located where the present-day town of Orangeburg is situated.
The library holds one of the largest Southern manuscript collections in the nation and one of the most important American history collections. South Carolina’s personal, cultural and artistic treasures are being collected to help tell the story of America.
For more than 180 years, the South Caroliniana Library has been a silent witness to the fortunes and reversals of the state of South Carolina. The building, which served as the university's main library for 100 years, today houses the South Caroliniana Library. Recognized as the most architecturally distinctive building on the Horseshoe, the library is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The iconic structure is distinguished by the four white columns and the Reading Room, which is a replica of the room that housed Thomas Jefferson’s personal library in the second Library of Congress. The most significant renovation of the library added two wings designed by J. Carroll Johnson in 1927.
A Storied Past
The First Freestanding College Library
In 1838, South Carolina College President Robert W. Barnwell recommended the construction of a dedicated academic library. The college’s board of trustees petitioned the state legislature for $15,000.00 to construct what became the nation’s first freestanding college library, opening in 1840.
The Influence of Robert Mills
Robert Mills, the first federal architect, was enlisted to design the South Carolina College library. His original drawings were elaborate, with a $64,000 price tag to match. Mills’ diary indicates he was involved in scaling back the design to stay closer to budget at a final cost of nearly $24,000.
A Modern Cultural Asset
In the nineteenth century, the library was home to one of the finest academic libraries in America and withstood the ravages of occupying Civil War troops. In the years following the Civil War, the library benefited from the stewardship of Richard Greener, one of our nation’s greatest African American leaders.
In 1940, the library became a repository dedicated to acquiring, preserving and making available a growing collection of historic materials. These treasures are as unique and rare as the building itself and have drawn researchers from far and near to engage in the study of the state's past and present.
Explore South Carolina's Roots
Explore how South Carolina College grew from a post-Revolutionary War effort in 1801 into a 21st-century academic community.
Delve into the history of the Old Campus and its iconic Horseshoe, where centuries have unfolded since the university’s founding.
Architecture and Green Spaces
Get behind-the-scenes perspective about iconic campus structures and intentional spaces that have meaningful stories to tell.
Indigo in the Fabric of Early South Carolina
Indigo—both as a plant and a dye—forms an important chapter in the early history of the South Carolina Lowcountry. Although its memory flourishes today in conversations and artistic expressions, lingering misconceptions have distorted our general understanding about the real story of local indigo. In an effort to help “grow” this colorful conversation, I’ve crafted a series of common questions and factual responses that address some of the most important points of indigo history that every Charlestonian should know.
Indigo is the name of a large family of deciduous shrubs, identified in modern scientific nomenclature as part of the genus Indigofera. This genus encompasses many hundreds of species of indigo, most of which flourish in tropical areas like India, Africa, and Latin America. Some species are native to subtropical climates, however, and flourish in places like the coastal regions of the American southeast.
Indigo is also the name of an organic blue dye extracted from the leaves a number of plants around the world. For many thousands of years, humans have used this dye to impart a lasting blue color to a wide variety of textiles. From the humble vestments of blue-collar laborers, to royal robes, to tapestries and other artistic expressions, indigo is deeply imbedded in the long history of human culture.
Botanical historians believe that ancient people on the subcontinent of India were the first to domesticate a plant now identified by the scientific name Indigofera tinctoria. The deep blue dye they extracted from its leaves was dried into a powder or small cakes and exported to the east and to the west. Two thousand years ago, the Romans called this product indicum, and that name formed the root of the later English spellings, indico and indigo.
Early trade routes like the Silk Road brought indicum to Medieval Europe, but professional trade guilds actively resisted the introduction of Indian indigo into Europe for many generations. Since ancient times, Europeans had cultivated the woad plant (Isatis tinctoria) to produce a very similar blue dye for textiles, and woad farmers and dyers wanted to protect their traditional trade. As indigo production shifted to the New World colonies in the late sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries, however, Europeans eventually discovered that indigo was cheaper and more colorfast than woad, and that traditional market declined.
What does indigo have to do with South Carolina history?
Indigo was grown in early South Carolina to produce blue dye that was exported to England for use in the British textile industry. Indigo formed a significant part of the South Carolina economy for approximately fifty years, from the late 1740s to the late 1790s. During that period, indigo (or, more specifically, indigo dyestuff) was South Carolina’s second most valuable export, behind rice.
The cultivation and production of indigo also involved the labor of thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of people in the South Carolina Lowcountry. For this reason, the cultural memory of indigo is heightened among members of the African-American community along what is now called the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
Why was indigo cultivated in South Carolina?
Early South Carolina planters cultivated indigo to satisfy commercial demand for the dye product in the English (later British) textile industry. This activity was one small part of a much larger mercantile economy. From a mercantile perspective, the entire purpose of the Carolina colony was to produce resources and wealth that would enhance the larger British economy and support the expansion of the British empire. The cultivation of indigo in colonial South Carolina was but a cog in that macroeconomic wheel of fortune that revolved around the hub of London.
As with tobacco in Virginia and sugar cane in the Caribbean, indigo was quite literally a foreign commodity to the early settlers of South Carolina. They did not plant indigo here as an extension of farming traditions back “home.” Textile merchants in eighteenth-century England were certainly familiar with indigo dye, but English farmers had no history of cultivating indigo as a crop. For South Carolinians, the foray into indigo production was a purely speculative venture.
Indigo had no value to the early settlers of South Carolina except as a commodity for export. As a plant, one couldn’t eat it, smoke it, feed it to animals, make it into clothing, or build a house out of it. The process of extracting the dyestuff from the plant was costly, time consuming, and labor intensive. The only motivation for investing time, money, and resources into such undertaking was the promise of profit at a market located more than three thousand miles away. Some of South Carolina’s indigo might have been used to dye textiles locally, but, prior to the nineteenth century, we purchased the vast majority of our textiles directly from England, “dyed in the wool.”
Which species of Indigo were cultivated in early South Carolina?
Three distinct species of indigo were cultivated during the first century of the colony of South Carolina. The first and most logical variety is, of course, the native species of wild indigo now classified as Indigofera caroliniana. This is a subtropical species that is found from southern Virginia to Louisiana along the eastern seaboard and Gulf Coast of North America. Colonists did experiment with it here in the eighteenth century, but they deemed its dyestuff to be inferior—in both color and volume—to that of two imported species.
The ancient Indian species (Indigofera tinctoria) came to early South Carolina through contact with English, French, and Dutch merchants trading across the Atlantic and throughout the Caribbean. Because many French planters cultivated this Indian species in their Caribbean colonies, such as Saint-Domingue (Haiti) on the island of Hispañola, eighteenth-century South Carolinians usually referred to this species as “French” or “Hispañola” indigo.
A species of indigo native to Guatemala (Indigofera suffruticosa) also came to early South Carolina through trans-Atlantic and Caribbean trade networks. This Latin American species was cultivated for centuries by the indigenous Maya people of that region, and Spanish colonists began exporting indigo dye from Guatemala to Europe in the 1550s. Thanks to English trade with Spanish and Dutch merchants in the Caribbean, the seeds of Indigofera suffruticosa were available in eighteenth-century South Carolina, where it was usually called “Guatemala” or “Bahama” indigo. Because of its hardy nature and beautiful dye, this Latin American species became the principal species of commercial indigo cultivation in South Carolina.
When did indigo cultivation begin in South Carolina?
Indigo seeds (either I. tinctoria or I. suffruticosa) came to South Carolina with the first English settlers in 1670, along with the seeds of a variety of other plants. In the early decades of this colony, European settlers planted a number of different crops as they tried to learn the qualities of the local soils and the seasonal ranges of the climate. The same process of crop experimentation had led the early settlers of Virginia to focus on tobacco. The early English settlers of Barbados, Antigua, and Jamaica had also experimented with indigo as well as tobacco, ginger, sugar cane, and cotton. Once those Caribbean planters perfected their techniques of harvesting sugar and rum from sugar cane in the 1650s, however, they quickly abandoned their experiments and focused on that most profitable plant. Similarly, when South Carolina planters perfected the cultivation of rice in the late 1690s, they temporarily set aside other crops like indigo and focused on the most profitable commodity.
The French Protestant (or Huguenot) immigrants who came to early South Carolina probably arrived with a greater familiarity with indigo than their English neighbors. Because of France’s traditional commercial ties with Spain, and France’s colonies in the Caribbean, it’s likely that some of the Huguenot settlers who established plantations in the Carolina Lowcountry, especially around Santee River delta, in the early 1700s might have been cultivating indigo for their own use.
White Europeans were not the only people living in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, of course, so the story of indigo in this colony involves many other people. To my knowledge, there is no surviving evidence that the indigenous Native Americans of early South Carolina cultivated indigo, so the local Indians could not have introduced it to the early settlers, as they did with maize and tobacco elsewhere.
It is possible, however, that African captives transported to early South Carolina might have had some experience with indigo cultivation in their native land, or had learned about it in the Caribbean before coming here. Enslaved people were certainly deeply involved in the production of indigo in early South Carolina, but it seems unlikely that they would have had the freedom to cultivate the crop and manufacture the blue dye for their own use.
There is very little surviving evidence of the cultivation and production of indigo in the early years of eighteenth-century South Carolina, but it’s certain that some people were growing it here. An early South Carolina planter named Robert Stevens (died 1720), for example, described the process of extracting the blue dye from the plant in the autumn of 1706. The eye-witness observations of “Allegator” Stevens, as he was apparently known, were later reprinted on the front page of the South Carolina Gazette on April 1st, 1745.
How did indigo become a major crop in South Carolina?
The large-scale, commercial exportation of indigo dyestuff from South Carolina to England commenced in 1747, following a revival of interest in the crop. The principal motivation behind this revival was an economic decline caused by a decade of war with Spain and France (the “War of Jenkins’ Ear” and “King George’s War,” 1739–48). Because much of this warfare unfolded on the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the complex web of colonial trade networks suffered greatly. South Carolina planters who had focused almost solely on rice, for example, saw their profits fall while insurance rates skyrocketed. At the same time, Britain experienced great difficulty in obtaining exotic goods like indigo, olive oil, silk, and wine through their traditional suppliers, France and Spain. In light of these conditions, the governments of both Britain and her American colonies encouraged immediate diversification.
During the late 1730s and early 1740s, hundreds of South Carolina planters experimented with a variety of plants in the hopes of finding new commodities that were both well-adapted to the local soil and climate and valuable to the British economy. In May of 1744, the South Carolina legislature enacted a stimulus package to “grow” the local agricultural economy. To encourage planters to experiment with the production of wine, olive or sesamum oil (see Episode No. 78), flax, hemp, wheat, barley, cotton, indigo, and ginger, the provincial government offered a cash bounty of one shilling (South Carolina currency) per pound of merchantable produce for export.
The bounty enacted in 1744 was to be in effect for a period of five years, but the fast pace of agricultural experimentation led to an important revision in less than two. Benne seed oil and indigo were the front runners in this competition, but indigo was clearly in the lead. In mid-April 1746, the South Carolina legislature cancelled the bounty on indigo only, stating that so much of the blue dye had been produced recently that the continuation of the bounty was impractical.
The economic drive to produce indigo was further enhanced in the spring of 1748 when the British Parliament enacted their own stimulus package. South Carolina merchant James Crokatt, who had returned to England, successfully lobbied the government to offer a bounty (initially six pence sterling per pound) to the British purchasers of American indigo. That cash incentive, which took effect in 1749, convinced most South Carolina planters to cease experimenting with other crops and to focus on indigo.
But indigo was always a secondary crop. When Britain’s war with France and Spain ended in late 1748, the price of rice quickly improved and continued to be South Carolina’s primary export. Indigo production slowed dramatically after the war, however, and didn’t rebound until Britain again declared war on France in the mid-1750s. From that point onward, South Carolina’s indigo exports increased rather steadily over the next twenty years.
Did Eliza Lucas Pinckney create the indigo industry in colonial South Carolina?
Eliza Lucas (1722–1793), who married Charles Pinckney in 1744, was an important contributor to the success of indigo in South Carolina, but her role in this endeavor has been greatly exaggerated in recent times. As a young lady residing on a plantation on Wappoo Creek, west of the Ashley River, she experimented with the process of growing indigo from seeds and extracting the dye from the mature plants. But she was certainly not the only person undertaking such work at that time, and she certainly had help from a variety of sources.
As demonstrated in a series of newspaper articles published by her husband (under the name Agricola) in 1744 and 1745, Eliza Lucas was following the same experimental steps followed by many of her neighbors. That is, she obtained a supply of indigo seeds from contacts in the Caribbean and read published descriptions of indigo cultivation and dye production. In her surviving letterbook, which contains copies of her outgoing mail, Eliza mentioned that she spent countless hours reading in her father’s extensive library. In Charles Pinckney’s letters to the local newspaper in the 1740s, he shared some of the indigo instructions she had used. The South Carolina Gazette printed extracts from John Parkinson’s Theatrum Botanicum of 1640, Philip Miller’s Gardner’s Calendar (first published in 1731), and the manuscript instructions penned by “Allegator” Stevens in 1706.
David Ramsay’s 1809 book, The History of South Carolina, was the first publication to portray Eliza Lucas Pinckney as a kind of agricultural hero, and later authors repeated and exaggerated the claim. Doctor Ramsay had known Mrs. Pinckney personally and obtained biographical details about her through Eliza’s sons, but he purposefully distorted the story to portray her as an idealized model of American feminine ingenuity. Later authors have amplified and romanticized that ahistorical distortion, especially in recent years.
Descriptions of Eliza Lucas Pinckney as a heroic agricultural pioneer too often ignore the important contributions by her contemporaries, including such local men as Andrew Deveaux, Charles Hill, Thomas Mellichamp, and James de la Chappelle, not to mention the enslaved people of Native American and African descent who performed the bulk of the dirty work for Eliza and others. In short, the idea that Eliza Lucas single-handedly created an indigo industry in South Carolina is comparable to asserting that Elvis Presley single-handedly invented Rock and Roll. Yes, she was a major contributor to its success, but she was not alone in that journey.
Here’s another way to think about this topic. The indigo business in colonial South Carolina included three distinct components: the cultivation of the plant, the production of the dye, and the marketing of the produce. Eliza Lucas Pinckney contributed significantly to the local understanding of the plant’s cultivation, but not to the remaining two components of the business. To tell the whole story of indigo in South Carolina, therefore, you have to include the contributions of lots of other people.
Where was indigo grown in South Carolina?
Indigo was grown on hundreds of plantations in eighteenth-century South Carolina, predominantly, but not exclusively, in the Lowcountry or coastal plain. It was almost always grown in conjunction with other crops, such as rice, provisions (corn, beans, etc.), and cotton. There were a few South Carolina plantations that focused almost exclusively on indigo production, but they were a rare exception that existed for just a brief moment before the American Revolution.
Our colonial-era fields of indigo ranged in size from just a few acres to around eighty acres. Why so small? Because the production of indigo dye also required the construction of expensive vats and other apparatus. In a June 1755 essay published in the Gentleman’s Magazine of London, a South Carolinian named Charles Woodmason stated that indigo planters needed one set of vats for every six or seven planted acres of the crop. Indigo production entailed a significant start-up investment, therefore, which tended to keep plantings relatively small. Two hundred acres of indigo, for example, would require the construction of at least thirty sets of production vats, each of which had to be operated by a team of skilled laborers and kept in constant repair. The expense of such a large endeavor was too great for most planters, so indigo was generally planted in smaller quantities than many other crops in South Carolina.
What’s the process of extracting the dye from the plant?
Indigo’s deep blue dye is obtained by different methods in different cultures. The most common method involves the extraction of natural juices from the leaves through a chemical process of fermentation and oxidation. In early South Carolina, laborers placed freshly-cut indigo leaves and branches into a water-filled vat called a “steeper” to precipitate the natural juices from the leaves. The resulting liquid was allowed to ferment over a number of hours, after which the “liquor,” as it was called, was drained into another vat while the leaves and branches were discarded.
In the second vat, often called the “battery,” laborers agitated the clear liquid with paddles or bottomless buckets to induce a chemical change. As the liquid mixed with air, the molecules oxidized and transformed into a heavier, blue substance. Once the agitation had produced the desired shade of blue, the liquid was allowed to rest and settle. The addition of water infused with caustic lime (derived from burnt oyster shells) further encouraged the heavier blue material to separate or subside from the water.
After several hours of stillness, laborers drained away the remaining liquid to reveal a vat filled with a dark blue mud. Laborers then scooped the mud into cotton or linen bags that were placed in a series of wooden forms and allowed to dry. Before the product was completely hard, workers cut the indigo cakes into small cubes or squares, like brownies, and placed them on racks in a shed to harden. The dried cubes or squares were then packed into wooden barrels, which were then transported (usually by boat) to the port of Charleston and loaded onto cargo ships bound for England.
A number of publications from colonial-era South Carolina describe and even illustrate the process of transforming the indigo plant into a marketable dyestuff. I’ve already mentioned the directions published in the mid-1740s by Charles Pinckney under the name Agricola. In 1755, Charles Woodmason published a two-part essay on South Carolina’s indigo techniques in widely-read Gentleman’s Magazine, which includes an crude illustration of a set of indigo vats. Thomas Mellichamp received a reward from the South Carolina legislature in 1760 for his improvements in indigo production, which were then published in the local newspaper. A 1773 map of St. Stephen’s Parish, South Carolina, contains a valuable illustration that attempts to summarize the entire process of indigo manufacture in a single image. Similarly, a 1780 map of South Carolina includes a great illustration of laborers engaged in two stages of indigo dye production.
Who did the labor of cultivating the crop and processing the indigo dye?
The work of planting, tending, and harvesting indigo plants in eighteenth century South Carolina was done almost entirely by enslaved people of African descent. Besides cultivating the crop, they also built and maintained the vats and other apparatus used in the production process. Likewise, enslaved men, women, and children also shouldered the bulk of the labor involved in extracting the blue dye from the plants and preparing the finished product for exportation.
Some of this work demanded brute force, unskilled labor. Much of it, however, required intellectual skills that could only be acquired through long experience. Determining the duration of the plant’s initial fermentation, for example, played a significant role in determining the finished quality of the dyestuff, as did the duration and character of the agitation of the “liquor” in the battery vat. The delegation of such important roles to enslaved workers denotes a level of trust, and perhaps respect, that helps us to understand of the complexities of slavery in early South Carolina.
In his 1755 description of South Carolina indigo cultivation, Charles Woodmason estimated that fifteen “hands” (that is, fifteen enslaved humans) were required to plant and tend fifty acres of indigo. Once that crop matured, Woodmason advised that it would take twenty-five “very able” hands (that is, experienced, skilled laborers) to transform that fifty acres of plants into indigo dyestuff. He estimated fifty pounds per acre to be an average yield. Thus fifty acres of plants would yield an average of 2,500 pounds of dye, and required the labor of at least twenty-five enslaved workers. Because that means an average of one hundred pounds of product per laborer, the planter had to decide whether the ever-mercurial price of indigo on the British market merited the investment of his time, money, and resources.
When and why did commercial indigo cultivation in South Carolina end?
In the year 1775, South Carolina exported more than one million pounds of dried indigo cakes to England. That record-high output was immediately followed by a near collapse of the industry. The commencement of the American Revolution, which followed years of simmering political tensions, permanently dismantled the traditional mercantile links between American farmers and British customers. Some South Carolina planters continued to grow indigo and to produce the dye during the eight-year war, but they had a difficult time finding customers for the product.
The Continental Congress, of which South Carolina was a member, prohibited the exportation of any goods (except rice, until the summer of 1777) to Britain or any of her allies. South Carolina producers of indigo then tried to market their product to customers in the Northern colonies and to French customers in the Caribbean, but their success was limited. The long-standing bounty on American indigo, created by the British Parliament in 1748, expired in 1777.
At the conclusion of the American Revolution in 1783, some South Carolina planters returned to the cultivation of indigo. Its price on the international market increased for a short while, but European merchants generally found indigo produced by the Spanish and French colonies to be superior to that from Carolina, both in quantity and quality. By the early 1790s, there was a worldwide oversupply of indigo dye, and South Carolina planters realized that chasing after indigo profits like they had before the war was now a futile endeavor.
Meanwhile, mechanical improvements to the cotton gin in the early 1790s transformed that crop into a highly profitable commodity. In response, many South Carolina indigo planters abandoned the blue dye and began growing cotton. By the year 1800, South Carolina was riding a boom of cotton exports while the commercial exportation of indigo had quietly faded into oblivion. European chemists found a laboratory method of synthesizing an indigo-blue dye (aniline) around the middle of the nineteenth century, and the subsequent mass production of the synthetic dye doomed the traditional commercial industry that revolved around organic indigo.
What’s the legacy of indigo in the Lowcountry?
Indigo is a very visible and popular topic of conversation in twenty-first century South Carolina and beyond. A small number of people around the world are advocating for a return to the commercial production of organic indigo dye (and other dyes) from plants grown in a sustainable manner. Scientists working in partnership with farmers are experimenting with the cultivation of indigo plants as a means of amending soil and air quality.
Closer to home, modern efforts to renew local interest in indigo have reintroduced the two imported species of indigo (I. tinctoria and I. suffruticosa) and brought renewed attention to the native species (I. caroliniana). But there’s a significant difference between the historic use of indigo and our modern fascination with the topic. While South Carolinians in the eighteenth century undertook the cultivation of indigo plants and the production of indigo dye in the hopes of making a good profit, most efforts to cultivate indigo in this area today focus on education, explorations of cultural heritage, and expressions of artistic vision.
On the eve of the American Revolution in 1775, there were many hundreds—perhaps thousands—of indigo vats scattered across the South Carolina Lowcountry. Most were built of cedar or cypress wood and have long since disappeared, but a few brick vats still survive. The brick vats built around 1770 at Otranto Plantation in what is now North Charleston, for example, were moved in 1979 to a location on Bushy Park Road in Monck’s Corner, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. A few weeks ago, Robert Behre of the Charleston Post and Courier published a fascinating article about a surviving indigo vat on John’s Island.
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, I’ve prepared a short summary of facts about South Carolina indigo history and a list of books and journal articles for further reading. I’ve included a PDF copy of that document at the end of today’s essay. In addition, the Charleston County Public Library periodically hosts indigo-related programs such as lectures, book discussions, and even dye classes, so stay tuned to the library’s website and social media feeds.
Indigo is a beautiful substance that is inexorably linked to a long and painful chapter in the history of South Carolina. By embracing the consoling beauty of indigo and acknowledging the full breadth of its local history, we remember the enslaved people with blue-stained hands whose lives and labors contributed to the success of this community. And we see that indigo truly is part of the fabric of South Carolina history.
 For a biographical profile of Robert “Allegator” Stevens, see Walter Edgar and N. Louise Bailey., eds., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives, volume 2 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1977), 657.
 See Act No. 708 in Thomas Cooper, ed., The Statutes at Large of South Carolina, volume 3 (Columbia, S.C.: A. S. Johnston, 1838), 613–16.
 See Act No. 737 in Thomas Cooper, Statutes at Large of South Carolina: 3: 670–71.
 See the South Carolina Gazette, issues of 8 October 1744, 22 October 1744, 29 October 1744, 1 April 1745, and 23 December 1745.
 For more information on the mythology of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, David L. Coon, “Eliza Lucas Pinckney and the Reintroduction of Indigo Culture in South Carolina,” Journal of Southern History 42 (February 1976): 61–76 and Darey R. Fryer, “The Mind of Eliza Pinckney: An Eighteenth-Century Woman’s Construction of Herself,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 99 (July 1998): 25–37.
 See “The Indigo Plant Described,” Gentleman’s Magazine 25 (May 1755): 201–3 and “On Manufacturing Indigo Into A Dye,” Gentleman’s Magazine 25 (June 1755): 256–59. Both articles were attributed to “C. W.” (Charles Woodmason).
 See South Carolina Gazette, 16–23 August 1760.
 See Henry Mouzon Jr., A Map of the Parish of St. Stephen, South Carolina (London, 1773).
 See the graph of “Indigo Exported from South Carolina: 1747–1775,” in John J. Winberry, “Indigo in South Carolina: A Historical Geography,” Southeastern Geographer 19 (November 1979): 91–102.
The First South Carolina Legislature After the 1867 Reconstruction Acts
Laws passed during Reconstruction, especially the 14th and 15th Amendments, significantly expanded the scope of American citizenship and extended political rights to millions of black Americans. In 1868, South Carolina had the first state legislature with a black majority. This image includes 63 of the legislature’s members, and it was distributed throughout South Carolina by opponents of Radical Reconstruction. 1 This is Handout 8.2 (p. 134) from The Reconstruction Era and the Fragility of Democracy.
This is a photo montage created in 1876 depicting the first South Carolina legislature after the 1867 Reconstruction acts.