April 25, 2018

Carolina Coastal History Revisited

By Carey Lucas Nikonchuk

The southeastern coast of the United States boasts a rich history that has been lovingly and painstakingly preserved through the efforts of a wide range of individuals and organizations. As a result, the cities of the region are blessed with some of the most gorgeous historic homes in the United States.

How did these cities come to be and how is it that they still maintain their Old World charm and feel? Charleston, Georgetown, Savannah and Wilmington embody this legacy of a Southern culture born in England.

After Charles II became king of England in 1660, following an 11-year period during which the country had no king, he wanted to thank those who had helped him claim his throne. In 1663, Charles granted a charter for the colony of Carolina to eight lords, then known as the Lords Proprietors. Their task was simple: Colonize the area and make money for themselves and their king. While they were at it, they might as well promote the expansion of England's far-reaching empire.

The original land grant that was part of the charter of 1664 stretched from the current northern boundary of North Carolina to the southern boundary of Georgia, taking in what is now South Carolina, of course. Quite a chunk of New World acreage, it also extended west to the Pacific Ocean. As settlers began to colonize Carolina, the Lords Proprietors realized they would need to build towns. As the primary Lord Proprietor, Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, put it in his instructions to Gov. William Sayle and Sir John Yeamans:

And in order to the general good of the plantation I must recommend to you as very necessary to our government the planting of people in townes [sic]. The cheife [sic] thing that hath given New England soe [sic] much advantage over Virginia and advanced that plantation in so short a time to the height it is now at.

Location was the key to the growth of the coastal towns of Wilmington, Georgetown, Charleston and Savannah. All four were important ports that helped fuel the rich plantation economies of Georgia and the Carolinas. Modeled after the towns of New England, they played a huge role in the growth of the Southern Colonies. As history shows, their intended purpose was indeed fulfilled.

Goods were brought in from throughout the plantation region and loaded onto ships bound for England, and the plantation owners and merchants built beautiful homes in the cities so they would have a place to live while they conducted their business. The beautiful homes in these coastal cities have withstood the test of time and now stand as a monument to the storied history of the Southern U.S. coast.

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