Early Mt. Pleasant, SC History

The first inhabitants of the area were the SeeWee Indians. The SeeWee were a tribe of Indians from the Siouan Language group and their name means “island.” In the year 1600 there were approximately 800 SeeWee who inhabited the area and by 1715 there was only one village made up of fifty-seven Indians who lived in what is today Mount Pleasant. According to early accounts by English settlers they grew corn as their staple crop and were friendly to the Europeans. Quite possibly their first encounter with the white man was when the first English settlers of Carolina landed at Bull’s Bay in northern Charleston County on the 15 of March in the year 1670 on the ship Carolina.

The English settlers came to Carolina as a result of a land grant given to eight noblemen in 1665 as a thank you gift for their help in restoring the Hapsburgs to the throne of England through the person of King Charles II after his father had been decapitated by revolutionaries several years earlier. Thus Carolina derived its name from King Charles as Charles is translated into Carolus in latin.

Many of the place names in the Mount Pleasant area come from the SeeWee and other surrounding Indian tribes such as the Wando and the Yemassee Indians. For example, a couple of the neighborhoods in Mount Pleasant are named Hobcaw which comes from a Native American word which means “between the waters.” Other place names in the area come from the eight Lord’s Proprietors. As with the Ashley and Cooper Rivers which are named for the most noted Proprietor, mainly for his active involvement in the founding and settling of the colony; Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, the Earl of Shaftesbury. However, as the reader will see, many of the names that one encounters in and around Mount Pleasant also come from the original names of plantations and their owners who first peopled the area.

The English that the SeeWee encountered in 1670 traveled south and settled on the Ashley River. The next group of whites that came to the area were led by an Irishman named Florentia or Florence O’Sullivan from whom Sullivan’s Island received its namesake. O’Sullivan, Carolina’s surveyor general was the first to officially own land in Mount Pleasant. In 1680 he received a land grant totaling 2,340 acres. This land, known as the Ferry Tract, included Sullivan’s Island and the neck of land that stretches from Shem Creek, Cove Inlet and then to the Charleston Harbor. Upon the death of Florence, his daughter Katherine O’Sullivan received the land and after this first change of hands the land was then split up.

Once the initial land grant began to be parceled out beginning in 1696 it took on several different names. Others who owned land out of the original grant which to later become Mount Pleasant included John and then Sarah Barksdale, Elias and William Hancock, Peter Villeponteaux, Henry Gray, Jacob Motte, Andrew and lastly James Hibben. However, years later, much of the original grant is now back together as the Town of Mount Pleasant.

The oldest known map of the locality in question only labels one area “North Point.” The land that sat on Shem Creek was first deeded to Thomas Barksdale in 1716.

The second group of settlers that came to the area was Congregationalists that arrived in 1695. There were fifty-one settlers in all each of whom were granted several hundred acres. They built the Old Wappetaw Church. These Congregationalists eventually joined the Presbyterian Church. The area that they settled, north of Shem Creek, soon after became known as Christ Church Parish.

Christ Church Parish was created along with several other parishes in the Lowcountry under the 1706 Church Act. Although settlers throughout the area represented various Protestant denominations, the Church Act made the Church of England or Anglican Church the official state Church of South Carolina. This meant that all births, marriages, deaths and any other public record were kept through Christ Church Parish church. The Church itself was first built on the present site in 1707 or at least had begun to be built. However, this first structure burned down in 1725 and it was rebuilt but destroyed again by the British in 1782. The present building was built in 1800 which is predated by several tombstones found in the cemetery on the property.

One of the most important aspects of Florence O’Sullivan’s ownership of Sullivan’s Island was that he placed a “Big Gun” there to protect not only the settlers in Mount Pleasant but also to warn the growing city of Charles Town as well. In 1708 the gun fired off 5 shots because French ships were sighted and headed toward the settlement. They landed at SeeWee Bay and as they headed toward Charles Town, according to historian Petrona Royall McIver, they burned and pillaged all the way to Shem Creek where they burned down two vessels and a storehouse. Under Colonel William Rhett these Gaulish invaders were routed and 58 were taken prisoner. Some were able to get away and 30 to 40 were killed. As Mrs. McIver points out, Rhett’s “victory was swift and complete.”

A Series of Small Villages and Plantations

When Mount Pleasant was incorporated into a town in 1837 it included two small villages called Greenwich and Mount Pleasant. The town rapidly grew after it’s incorporation as many other surrounding villages were added in. These include Hillardsville, Hibbens Ferry and Lucasville. Today most of what was Christ Church Parish has become part of the town of Mount Pleasant.

Greenwich Village

The village of Greenwich was the first “village” of what is now Mount Pleasant. It began as a one-hundred acre plot of land. Owned by Englishman Jonathan Scott, the land was split in half and the waterfront portion of the plot was turned into town lots and they were bounded by streets that Scott named King, Queen and Pitt Streets (Pitt aptly named for the Prime Minister of England, Sir William Pitt). The rest of the land was created as a common space and today this area is where McCants, Boundary and Pitt Streets lay.  This public space was called the Common. Part of this property was set aside for the use of African Americans. On it a Baptist, Methodist and a Presbyterian Church were built and also a school for blacks called Laing School. The town hall was also built on this common land that included a basement to be used for jailing purposes. This area later became the Berkeley County jail.

Mount Pleasant Village

The name Mount Pleasant comes from the plantation once owned by Jacob Motte. James Hibben purchased the plantation in 1803 the land was surveyed and divided into town lots. There were thirty-five altogether and ten of his children inherited the larger of these. All of these lots were butted and bounded by several streets which still exist to this day. Beach Street was actually a beach with no marsh and there were six lots that sat on that stretch of land. Bennett Street was named for James Hibben’s stepfather William Bennett. Whilden Street carries the name of the famed Elias Whilden who had five sons that fought for the Confederacy. Boundary Street was not aptly named because there were lots that sat beyond the street past where the old Moultrie School once sat. Lastly Venning Street was named for Nicholas Venning who also owned Belvue Plantation off of what is now Long Point Road.

When Hibben bought the Mount Pleasant property from Jacob Motte he moved into Motte’s home which stands to this day. The home at 111 Hibben Street is called the “Hibben House” and is the oldest home in the City of Mount Pleasant. Built in 1755, the home has a rich history that includes the fact that the British used the home as their headquarters during the Revolution. In fact it is said that General William Moultrie, for whom Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island is named, was held captive in the home. Many others have owned the home even Mrs. Petrona Royall McIver, Mount Pleasant historian, who purchased the home with her husband William Whilden McIver in 1912.

Mount Pleasant Village and Greenwich Village merged in 1837 into one town which became the Town of Mount Pleasant. The town grew gradually as more and more villages and tracts were added to the original two villages of Mount Pleasant and Greenwich. The first of these to be added to the town was the Hibben Ferry Tract. The tract was added to the Town of Mount Pleasant in 1872 and this land was also the area from which ran people across the Charleston Harbor into the City of Charleston.

Owned by Andrew Hibben, the ferry charter was obtained by Hibben in 1770. According to Mrs. McIver this was the first ferry that connected Haddrell’s Point to Charleston. The ferry carried passengers and their carriages and often their cattle. It cost $.33 for a single passenger to take the ferry. The ferry continued to run even after the death of Andrew Hibben by his son James. In 1847 the Hibben family ceased their involvement with the ferry system and the business was handed over.

The Ferry Tract

The land that was known as the “Hibben Ferry Tract” included blocks on Bennett, Hibben, and Beach Streets and was also bounded by Shem Creek. This is one of the oldest settlements in the Town of Mount Pleasant. Purchased in 1770 by Andrew Hibben, the land became part of the town in 1872. The act to include this area was approved on March 12 and states that the corporate limits of the town of Mount Pleasant be, and the same is hereby, extended by continuing the eastern line of Boundary Street northwardly to Shem Creek, from which point the said creek and the waters of Charleston harbor shall be the boundary.

Hilliardsville

Originally part of a tract of land owned by William Hort, the Hillardsville section of Mount Pleasant includes what is today Alhambra Park and Alhambra Hall.   The section that includes Alhambra Park was originally a grove of live oak trees called Hort’s Grove.   Part of this tract was purchased in 1847 by Charles Jugnot and Olivier Hilliard and the two developed the land into a picnic ground. The two also owned a ferry company and used a section of the property called Shell Hall to construct a wharf. The Mount Pleasant Ferry Company not only built a wharf but they developed the picnic area constructing an octagonal hall which ultimately became the first Alhambra Hall. The park that the surrounded the area was sprinkled with swings and sometimes a traveling carousel would visit. Hilliardsville was annexed to the Town of Mount Pleasant in 1858 and thus Common (now Royall) Street, Pitt Street, Center Street were added to the town along with a piece of land that was later built into a road and named McCormick Street.

Lucasville

Added to Mount Pleasant by an act of incorporation in 1872 along with the Ferry Tract, Lucasville was bounded by Bennett, Hibben, Boundary (Simmons Street today) Streets and Shem Creek. The area was named after Jonathan Lucas whose son William first developed the land. Jonathan Lucas and his family gained fame in South Carolina for the invention of the rice mill. Born in Cumberland, England in 1754 he was shipwrecked off the coast of South Carolina and made a name for himself by building several rice mills throughout the Carolina Lowcountry. One of these mills was built on Shem Creek at Haddrell’s Point and it was a combination rice and saw mill. The mill no longer stands but there is a Lucas burial ground that still exists on the property today.

According to an article published in the “Mount Pleasant, S.C. Sesquicentennial Souvenir Program” in 1885 there were only 783 residents in Mount Pleasant. “Four miles of street were laid with shells and the town was known as a pleasure and health resort for the planters of Christ Church parish and the people of Charleston.” Mount Pleasant has grown since its many additions in the nineteenth century from a cozy little seaside town to a major metropolitan area that includes wonderful shopping, gorgeous views of the rivers, creeks and harbors that surround her and with the many neighborhoods that have been built throughout recent years. However, through all of this growth, the city has some how managed to maintain her historic charm and elegance.

If you would like a complimentary tour of the Historic Homes in Mt. Pleasant, SC.  Please call Bob at (843) 345-6074