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Timeline of Colonial South Carolina

June 1521 - January 1803

Jun 1521

The Spanish explore the South Carolina coast, probably reaching Winyah Bay.


The French scout the SC coastline via ship.

Aug 1526

The Spanish establish a settlement, San Miguel de Gualdape, now believed to have been near Winyah Bay. San Miguel de Gualdape fails in less than 12 months. Only 150 of the original 500 settlers live to return home.


Hernando DeSoto's expedition leaves Florida to explore the coast..They may have reached as far north as the South Carolina Lowcountry.


The first French settlement is attempted on Parris Island. Led by Jean Ribaut, they build a fort named Charlesfort. The French attempt fails within a year. The Spanish massacre French colonists when they attempt to settle Florida. The French exact bloody reprisals on Spanish settlements.


Spain builds coastal forts to discourage French settlements in South Carolina and Georgia. First of these, Fort San Felipe (later rebuilt as Fort San Marco), is built near the ruins of Charlesfort.


Sir Francis Drake burns St. Augustine. The Spanish withdraw from Fort San Marco.


England's King Charles I grants the first charter for a Carolina colony to Sir Robert Heath. However, Heath does not pursue colonization.


Oliver Cromwell comes to power in England. King Charles I is convicted of treason and beheaded.


Richard Cromwell is too weak to take power when his father dies. Charles II, the Prince of Wales, assumes the throne.


Charles II grants eight ex-generals title to Carolina. This is repayment for their political support against Cromwell. The eight are known as the Lords Proprietors. The Charter is later amended to include the Albemarle Sound settlements in present-day North Carolina.


The Lords Proprietors name the land Carolina, from the Latin for Charles, in honor of King Charles II. Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper encourages the settlement of Carolina more than the others.

Jun 23 1666

The Lords Proprietors commission Robert Sandford to go to Carolina. He sails up the North Edisto River and takes formal possession of Carolina in the name of England & the Lords Proprietors.

Jul 10 1666

Robert Sandford visits present-day Charleston harbor, naming the two converging rivers Ashley and Cooper in honor of Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper.

Jul 21 1669

John Locke, serving as secretary to Ashley-Cooper, writes The Fundamental Constitution of Carolina. It is approved by the Lords Proprietors. This document will have a profound and lasting influence on the development of South Carolina Lowcountry, since it guarantees religious freedom. This guarantee eventually leads to the immigration of such diverse groups as French Hugenots and Sephardic Jews.

Sep 11 1669

The first South Carolina settlers attempt the maiden voyage. They are forced to return, but begin again on the 17th.


Carolina colonists sail on three ships: the Albemarle, the Port Royal, and the Carolina.

Nov 02 1669

A hurricane strikes the colonists near Barbados. The Albemarle is destroyed and the Port Royal and Carolina are damaged.

Apr 1670

In early April the first settlers arrive aboard the Carolina and another sloop. They establish the first settlement up the Ashley River at Albermarle Point. Today, this area is Charles Town Landing, a state park.

Apr 1670

Charles Town is founded as the capital city of Carolina, on the southerns bank of the Ashley River. This is across the river from its current site on the main peninsula.

Jun 25 1670

Governor Sayle predicts that "this is likely to be one of the best settlements in the Indies."

Sep 10 1670

A colonist writes Lord Ashley that "the country proves good beyound expectation abounding in all things, & the land produces anything that is put into it."


Charles Town is reported to consist of some "263 men able to bear arms, 69 women, and 59 children or persons under 16 years of age."

Apr 30 1680

The Richmond arrives carrying the first large group of French Huguenots.

Oct 02 1684

Approximately 150 Scots arrive, passing through Charles Town on their way south to establish the settlement of Stuart Town (near Port Royal).

Feb 06 1685

King Charles II, Charles Town's namesake, dies at age 54 at his Palace of Whitehall.

Oct 1685

France's Louis XIV revokes the Edict of Nantes, which had guaranteed the rights of Huguenots. This revocation leads to a large inflow of Huguenots to the area, the beginning of such names as Laurens, Ravenel, and Manigault.


A Spanish invasion of the colony is stopped by a "wonderfully horrid and destructive" hurricane. This is one of many Spanish attempts to destroy the early settlement.

Oct 15 1686

The Carolina colonists prepare to launch an attack on Spanish St. Augustine. The foray is canceled by the newly arrived Gov. Colleton in hopes of encouraging peace between England & Spain.

May 05 1687

Ralph & Mary Izard convey the S.E. corner lot at Church & Queen for use by the French Church in Charles Town. A Huguenot Church still stands on this lot.


Charles Town is officially moved to current site on the peninsula. Population is estimated at 1,200 --making it the fifth largest city in North America.

May 19 1694

The city developed the "Grand Model," designed to avoid the irregularities of other cities.


City walls and six bastions are built.


The oldest surviving frame building in Charleston, the John Lining House at 106 Broad St, is constructed.

Jan 26 1696

Dorchester, along the Ashley River (and named for Dorchester, Mass.), is settled by a group of New Englanders.


Smallpox and yellow fever both appear and cause 200 to 300 deaths. In addition a fire destroys one-third of the city.


A hurricane hits in the autumn of 1699, then an earthquake.

Jan 03 1803

The German Friendly Society opens its school for the male children of its members. The curriculum includes Latin, Greek, Hebrew & physical science.

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