History of Charles Town

I have been living in Charleston for just under two months, can you believe it? 

Yeah, me either. 

I feel as if I have been MIA, which I have, because I have been hosting guests for the last 4 weeks! While it is tiresome, this is probably one of my favorite things about traveling. Having the opportunity to share my new city exploration with the people that I love most! 

How lucky am I that I am fortunate enough to have people that want to get on a plane, or take a roadtrip to the places I am staying.

When I was planning on adding Charleston to my list of places to visit, I was instantly excited and looking forward to my stay. Knowing just  how much I enjoyed my time in Savannah, I knew that I was going to enjoy my time in this sister city just as much and I have not yet been disappointed. 

Now since we can’t get on a carriage ride and go on a historical tour together, I guess this will have to do. 

Charleston, originally coined Charles Town in honor of King Charles II, first got on the map during the early 1660s and was the first planned town in the Thirteen Colonies. In total, it took seven years before the Lords Proprietors appointed by the King could arrange settlement of this area.

During this time the Lords worked to attract more colonists to relocate and settle in this area. 

The relocation enticements consisted of religious toleration, political representation in an assembly that had power over public taxes and large land grants. As you can imagine, during this period of time, these were a big deal and would be a big drawing factor for relocation. 

The Lords welcomed just about anyone but those that claimed to be atheists. Which brings me to my next point. 

Charleston became home to over 400 places of worship. It is nearly impossible to take in the views of the city without seeing at least one church steeple. Due to this large number of places of worship and religious tolerance it is easy to see why it is often also referred to as “The Holy City”.

The city quickly grew in popularity and became the 5th largest town in North America by 1690. Quite possibly the largest contributor to its popularity was the fact that this town was located on a natural harbor. 

During the 1700s the city was plagued by smallpox, yellow fever, hurricanes and pirates. All which lead to widespread death and disaster, thus, leaving a very haunted history in its wake as well.

It would be callous of me to discuss the history of Charleston and bypass the most negative aspects of its history. While it is difficult to approach and discuss the subject matter of slavery, it has undoubtedly shaped our nation's history and in particular, the history of this city. 

I am not a subject matter expert by any means, but I have done some research and have learned some information that has allowed me to have a better insight to this period of time. It is my hope that I discuss the topic with humility and respect. 

From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, Charleston and the surrounding Lowcountry area established and maintained a slave society. Chattel slavery, domestic slave trade and the trans-Atlantic slave trade all played roles in the cities economy. The largest being that of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. 

It has been estimated by Scholars that over 40% of all enslaved African Americans sent to North America entered through the Charleston Harbor. Making Charleston the largest point in North America for these African Americans to disembark on the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade route. 

These enslaved people were further forced into domestic slave trade but the majority were sold as chattel property to slaveholders in the Lowcountry area. Cash crops produced through enslaved labor, in particular the Carolina Gold rice, made the Lowcountry planters some of the wealthiest and most influential individuals in North America during the post-Revolutionary years. 

By 1820, Charleston’s population had grown to 23,000, with a black majority. Which remained the case until after the Great Migration of the early 20th century where many Blacks moved from the rural Lowcountry to the northern and midwestern industrial cities to escape the Jim Crow laws. 

While the legal transportation of African slaves ended in 1808, the smuggling of these individuals remained signifiant and the domestic slave trade was booming. The continued trade relied heavily on the port of Charleston.

Charleston played a major part in the Civil War and it was deemed as a pivotal city as both the Union and Confederate Armies fought for control over it. 

The Civil War began in the Charleston Harbor in 1861 and ended after the Union forces took control of the city in 1865. 


The Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery in 1865. 


Following the defeat of the Confederacy, federal forces remained in Charleston during its reconstruction era. The war shattered the city's prosperity, but the African American population surged as newly freedmen and freedwomen moved from the countryside to the major city. 

In 1875, African Americans made up 57% of the city’s population and 73% of the country's population. It was not until the late 20th century when area gentrification took place and rent prices rose did their population become outnumbered by whites. 

Just as any deeply southern state or city, the history runs just as thick as the humidity on a summer evening. When both visiting and living in an area such as this, I cannot express enough the importance of both learning, respecting and understanding the history that comes along with it. 

Should you have the chance of visiting Charleston, I encourage you to do your due diligence when it comes to learning about the history. 

I look forward to continuing my exploration and learning within this city.

Back to blog


Great historical information.
Beautiful photos as well.
It sounds like you are enjoying the role of tour guide!
Thank you for sharing. ❤️

Susan Greenslait

Incredible research! Thank you for talking about this topic!

Sariah Folston

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.