The first Native Americans cross into the New World from Siberia 12,000 to 10,000 years ago. The first permanent settlements appear around 1000 BCE
At least 29 distinct groups of Native Americans live in South Carolina prior to European arrival. These include the Catawba, Chicora, Santee, and Cherokee. Many of the tribes that once lived in South Carolina are now extinct due to European diseases and conflicts with settlers.
1520–1668 EARLY EUROPEAN EXPLORATION
Spanish explorer Lucas Vasquez Ayllon explores the area near Pawney's Island. His group takes about 140 Native Americans as slaves, including one man whom they name Francisco Chicora. Chicora is taken back to Spain and taught Spanish. In 1523 the Spanish bring him back to the area to assist in establishing another colony, but he escapes soon after his arrival.
(March 19) Giovanni de Verrazano, sailing for France, sights land around the area of the Carolinas.
The Spanish attempt to found a settlement, San Miguel de Gualdape, near Winyah Bay. The colony fails within a year and only 150 of the 500 settlers survive to return home.
The first Africans are brought to the U.S as slaves for the Spanish settlement.
The French make an unsuccessful attempt to colonize Parris Island near Fort Royal with the assistance of Cusabo Native Americans. They build a fort named Charlesfort, but the settlement fails within a year.
Spain builds coastal forts in the area to discourage French settlements.
Charles I of England grants the first charter for land in the Carolinas to Sir Robert Heath, but Heath never makes a settlement.
(March 24) King Charles II of England awards land in America, known as the Province of Carolina, to eight members of the nobility who assisted with his restoration to the throne.
(June 23) Captain Robert Sanford takes formal possession of Carolina for England. He also explores and names the Ashley River.
1669–1773 SOUTH CAROLINA COLONY
Philosopher John Locke writes the Fundamental Constitution of Carolina. It guarantees religious freedom and leads to the immigration of French Huguenots and Sephardic Jews to the area.
Colonists leave London for Carolina on three ships: theAlbermarle, the Port Royal, and the Carolina. On November 2, the Albemarle is destroyed by a hurricane off the coast of Barbados.
(March 15) The Carolina arrives in Seewee Bay.
(April) Charles Town becomes the first English settlement. Named for Charles II, it is founded across the Ashley River from its modern-day location.
The first group of French Protestant reformers, or Huguenots, arrives, fleeing religious persecution.
Louis XIV revokes the Edict of Nantes in France, which had guaranteed the rights of Huguenots. More Huguenots migrate to Charles Town.
King James II’s Declaration of the Liberty of Conscience affirms the right of English at home and abroad to worship as they please, affording religious freedom in Charles Town.
The increasing immigration of African slaves leads to a law providing cash incentives for bringing white servants to Carolina. Carolina is divided into North and South, each having its own governor. However, both areas remain controlled by the same group of English noblemen, the Lord Proprietors.
The Yamasee Indian War begins/ The conflict pits colonial South Carolina against various Native American tribes. Hundreds of colonists are killed and many settlements destroyed. By 1716 the Cherokee side with South Carolina and begin to attack other tribes, leading to the end of the war. After two years about 7 percent of South Carolina's settlers are killed and 25 percent of the Yamasee population are killed or enslaved.
Edward Teach, better known as the notorious pirate Blackbeard, sails into Charles Town Harbor with four ships and takes prominent colonial hostages for the ransom of a chest of medicine. After eventually receiving the ransom, he releases all hostages, naked but unharmed.
Colonists overthrow the Lord Proprietors for failure to protect them from various threats. The citizens petition the King to take over the government.
After a decade of wrangling, the British government succeeds in buying out the proprietors and South Carolina becomes a royal colony.
(January 13) James Oglethorpe and 130 English colonists arrive at Charles Town.
Approximately 40 blacks and 21 whites are killed during a slave revolt, led by an Angolan slave named Jemmy, along the Stono River. Three slave uprisings occur in South Carolina in this year, leading settlers to pass "black codes" to regulate every aspect of slave life.
Featuring the first formal gardens in the U.S., Middleton Place is founded. It takes 100 people more than 10 years to complete.
Eliza Lucas Pinckney begins the culture and processing of indigo in coastal South Carolina. By the late 1950s, South Carolina produces a million pounds of indigo.
Fifty slaves suspected of plotting a revolt are hanged in Charles Town.
The city of Charles Town signs a treaty with the Choctaw Native Americans to establish trade in return for the Choctaw attacking French settlements.
1774–1789 REVOLUTIONARY SOUTH CAROLINA
(October 22) Henry Middleton from Charles Town is chosen as President of the Continental Congress.
(January 11) In South Carolina, Francis Salvador becomes the first Jew in the colonies elected to public office. In August, while leading a militia group, Salvador is ambushed by a group of Cherokees and later scalped.
Lord North extends the New England Restraining Act to South Carolina, forbidding trade with any country other than Britain and Ireland.
South Carolina adopts a resolution to annex Georgia and threatens to destroy the state by constructing a town opposite Savannah, thus drying up Georgia’s commerce. Georgia had previously refused to ratify the acts of Continental Congress.
(March 24) South Carolina adopts a state constitution, becoming the first independent government in the colonies.
(May) The British armada is first sighted offshore of Charles Town. It carries 3,000 British troops.
(June 28) The Patriots defeat a British fleet of 2,000 attempting to take Fort Sullivan at the Battle of Sullivan's Island. The British make no further attempts at gaining the fort, and the fleet retreats northward to join British forces in the battle for New York.
(August 5) The Declaration of Independence arrives in Charles Town. Major Barnard Elliot reads it for a crowd under the Liberty Tree near 80 Alexander Street.
(February 13) The new state government requires that each male citizen denounce the King and pledge loyalty to the state of North Carolina.
General George Washington orders 1,400 Continentals to join General Benjamin Lincoln's forces to defend Charles Town.
(March 29) The British siege on Charles Town begins. Fourteen thousand troops descend on the town. After four days General Benjamin Lincoln surrenders Charles Town to the British, and a two-and-a-half year occupation begins.
(August 16) At the Battle of Camden, Colonel William Washington attacks a log barn with 107 Loyalists inside. When the Patriots small arms are ineffective, Washington carves a log to resemble a cannon, and the Loyalists surrender, fooled by the fake weapon. These "Quaker guns" are also decisive in the Battle of Hunt's Bluff in South Carolina.
(August 4) The British hang South Carolina revolutionary leader Colonel Isaac Hayne just outside the Charles Town city limits.
(December 14) The British occupation of Charles Town ends when British troops march out of the city.
(August 13) Charles Town changes its name to Charleston when the city incorporates and establishes its first municipal government.
The South Carolina state capital is moved from Charleston to Columbia.
(September 17) South Carolina delegates Pierce Butler, Charles Pinckney, and John Rutledge sign the U.S. Constitution.
(May 23) South Carolina becomes the eighth state in the Union.
1790–1858 INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AND POST-REVOLUTIONARY SOUTH CAROLINA
With the invention of Eli Whitney's cotton gin, cotton plantations rapidly expand throughout South Carolina.
Authorities discover Denmark Vesey’s plan to incite a slave insurrection where thousands of slaves would slay their white owners and seize Charleston. Vesey and five others are hanged in July. A new 9:15pm curfew for slaves in Charleston reflects a growing fear of slave revolt.
Charleston’s Congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim is recognized as the birthplace of Reform Judaism in the U.S. By 1800, South Carolina has the largest Jewish population in the United States.
The United States passes the Tariff of Abominations. Congress raises duties on manufactured goods from abroad on which the South is dependent. South Carolina declares the tariff null and void within its borders, and President Andrew Jackson threatens to send in troops. The tariffs are lowered in 1833.
Edgar Allen Poe is stationed on Sullivan's Island at Fort Moultrie for a year. Later, his story "The Gold Bug" incorporates coastal Carolina pirate lore.
August 31) An angry Charleston mob seizes U.S. mail containing abolitionist literature and burns it in public.
Founded as the result of a legislative act, the Citadel military college opens for its first class of cadets in Charleston.
1859–1899 THE CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION ERAS
(December 18) South Carolina declares itself an "independent commonwealth."
(November 7) Abraham Lincoln's election to the Presidency prompts federal officials in Charleston to resign.
(December 20) South Carolina becomes the first state to secede from the Union by a vote of 169–0 during the "Convention of People of the State of South Carolina" at Institute Hall in Charleston.
(April 12) Confederates attack Union stronghold Fort Sumter at Charleston Harbor, signaling the beginning of the Civil War. U.S. Army Major Robert Anderson surrenders the fort April 14. No one is killed during the bombardment, and Charleston Harbor remains in Confederate hands for the duration of the war.
(December 19) Union forces sink the "Stone Fleet" in the harbor channel to begin blockading Charleston.
(August 22) The 587-day Federal bombardment of downtown Charleston begins with the explosion of a shell on Pinckney Street.
(January 16) General Sherman begins a march through the Carolinas. Sherman issues an order that sets aside land in Georgia and South Carolina for freed slaves.
(April 9) The Civil War ends when General Robert E. Lee surrenders to General Ulysses S. Grant.
(December 6) The 13th Amendment is ratified, officially abolishing slavery.
South Carolina is readmitted to the Union.
The racist organization Ku Klux Klan arrives in South Carolina from Tennessee.
Jonathan Jasper Wright becomes the first African American to hold a major judicial position when he is elected to the South Carolina Supreme Court.
(March) President Grant sends federal troops to South Carolina to suppress violence instigated by the Ku Klux Klan.
(October 12) President Ulysses S. Grant orders the South Carolina Ku Klux Klan to disperse and disarm within five days and suspends writ of habeas corpus in response to Klan violence. By the end of November, approximately 600 Klan-related arrests are made.
Former Confederate leader Wade Hampton is elected governor of South Carolina, confirming suspicions that the South is not committed to Reconstruction.
Headed for Liberia, the ship Azor leaves Charleston with 206 people of African descent. The African country was created as a haven for repatriating former slaves.
(August 27) A hurricane hits Florida and the Carolinas, killing approximately 700 people.
The growing popularity of tobacco spurs massive growth in the town of Mullins. Two hundred tobacco barns spring up throughout the community, and the first of the crop is sold on August 28. By the following year, it will become the largest distributor of tobacco in the country.
African Americans are denied the right to vote by the 1895 South Carolina Constitution.
1900–1929 EARLY 20TH CENTURY
(January 28) South Carolina rejects the 19th Amendment, denying women the right to vote. It is ratified federally on August 18.
Susan Pringle Frost forms the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings, later renamed the Preservation Society of Charleston. This marks the beginning of organized historic preservation in the U.S.
Boll weevils, beetles that feed on cotton buds and flowers, devastate the cotton crop, contributing to the economic woes of Southern farmers during the 1920s.
A new dance craze begins in the pubs and dancehalls around Charleston and soon spreads across the nation. Appropriately, it becomes known as "the Charleston."
1929–1949 THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND WORLD WAR II
Composer George Gershwin arrives in Charleston to research and write Porgy and Bess, which becomes the first American opera.
South Carolina rejects African-American suffrage.
1950–PRESENT MODERN SOUTH CAROLINA
Statewide racial integration of public schools begins.
South Carolina bans tattoo parlors. The State Supreme Court upholds the ban in 2002, arguing that tattooing is not a form of expression protected by the First Amendment. The state finally overturns the ban in 2004, but institutes extremely strict zoning laws for the practice.
(February 8) The Orangeburg Massacre. Local police officers in Orangeburg fire into a crowd of young people who are protesting segregation at a bowling alley. The police kill three men and injure 27. Most are shot in the back.
South Carolina becomes the 44th state to ratify the 19th amendment, granting women suffrage.
(September 21) The Category 4 Hurricane Hugo severely damages many historic buildings in Charleston. Total losses are estimated at $2.8 billion.
Divers find a Confederate submarine, the H.L. Hunley, in the waters off Sullivan's Island.
South Carolina removes its provision against interracial marriages.
At the age of 100 years and 6 months, Senator Strom Thurmond dies while in office. He is the longest serving U.S. Senator, having been elected to eight consecutive terms.
Click to enlarge an image
1524: Giovanni da Verrazzano
1623: Charles I portrait by Anthony van Dyck
1669: John Locke, physician and philosopher
1680: John Calvin, Protestant Reform leader
1685: Edict of Nantes
1718: Engraving of Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard
1733: James Edward Oglethorpe, British general and philanthropist
1774: Henry Middleton
1779: Benjamin Lincoln, American army officer
1780: Battle of Camden
1787: John Rutledge
1788: South Carolina quarter including year of statehood
1794: Whitney's cotton gin patent
1824: Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue
1828: Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe
1829: Illustration for Edgar Allen Poe's "The Gold Bug"
1861: The Confederate Flag flies inside Fort Sumter.
1861: Bombardment of Fort Sumter by George Edward Perine
1865: Ruins of Charleston as seen from the Circular Church
1870: Jonathan Jasper Wright
1881: Map of Atlantic hurricane season
1925: Josephine Baker dancing the Charleston
1989: Hurricane Hugo before landfall on South Carolina
1995: Drawing of the H. L. Hunley from 1863
1995: The H. L. Hunleysuspended from a crane during its recovery from Charleston Harbor five years after being descovered