March, 2011 – Charleston, South Carolina – A Little History

Posted on November 16, 2011


Settlers arrived in the English colony of Carolina in 1670 and established a town on the Ashley River.

Originally named Charles Town by King Charles II in honor of his father, Charles I, it was re-named “Charleston”  in 1783.  Charleston served as the state capital until 1790.

Charleston’s early economy was built around cotton, rice and indigo plantations, making the city one of the busiest early ports on the Atlantic.

As a crop, rice requires copious amounts of water, so the tidal swamps along South Carolina’s coastal rivers provided the perfect spot for its cultivation. The crop also involves a lot of  very disagreeable labor in fields full of bugs, snakes and worse, which meant it required slaves, and plenty of them.

Today, approximately 100 varieties of rice are grown in the United States.  Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and California produce 12% of the world’s total crop.  Can you guess who is the number 1 world-wide rice producer?  Yep, China.

Indigo, originally obtained from the leaves of a blue-flowered tropical plant, was also grown here – again depending on slave labor.  Used to provide a blue dye for cloth (think blue jeans),  it is today produced synthetically.

Cotton is still grown commercially in South Carolina, but over the years acreage has decreased in favor of more profitable crops.

However, the sea doesn’t change, so Charleston is still an important Atlantic port.  As the nation’s fourth busiest container port, it handles shipments from all over the world.