History of Harleston Village and Nearby Neighborhoods
I. Village of Harleston
The Village of Harleston, also frequently called Harleston's Green, more rarely Harlestonborough, and more recently Harleston Village, was originally part of a grant made to John Coming and Henry Hughes in 1671-72. After the death of Coming and his wife, Mrs. Affra Coming, it was inherited by Mrs. Coming's nephew, John Harleston, and his descendants. The section bore the Harleston name when it was developed and streets were opened up in 1770. The Harlestons, during the Colonial period, were active in the government of the Province and were also accomplished breeders of racehorses.
Streets in the Village of Harleston were named for prominent men of the period, in England and the Province. The Royal Governor, Lord Charles Greville Montagu, along with Lt. Gov. William Bull; Hector Beranger de Beaufain, Collector of Customs and member of His Majesty's Council; William Pitt, the British member of Parliament who defended Colonial rights; as well as John Rutledge, Thomas Lynch and Christopher Gadsden, who were active in the Provincial government and later leaders in the American Revolution; all were commemorated.
Despite its early creation, Harleston was but slowly covered with houses, and in 1819, a contemporary described it as indented with marsh and creeks. A large part of Harleston was acquired by Thomas Bennett, Sr., who, with Daniel Cannon, used the ebb and flow of the tides to power large lumber mills. Thus, the part of Harleston near the Ashley River was covered by huge mill ponds. The ponds persisted after the development of steam power, and were not filled until the 1880s.
The first golf club in America, established in 1786 by British merchants, mainly Scots, held its meetings and annual dinners in its "Club House on Harleston Green." (H.A.M. Smith, "Charleston and Charleston Neck," 9-10. Rogers, Charleston in the Age of
the Pinckneys, 110. Smith & Smith, Dwelling Houses, 311-312, 315-317. City Engineer's Plat Book, 57. McCrady, 2: 522, 524, 610.)
II. Free School Lands or College Lands
An act of the Commons House of Assembly, in 1712, authorized the acquisition of land for a Free School. The Commissioners of the Free School were to purchase land and erect quarters for a master and students. In return for the use of the land and
buildings, the master was to teach 12 free scholars. The rest were to pay 4 Pounds a year.
It was required that the master be a member of the Church of England and understand Latin and Greek. In 1724, the Commissioners of the Free School bought from Thomas Pinckney the 10-acre tract bound today by Calhoun, St. Philip, George and Coming streets.
The Free School was built apparently by 1728. From the tombstone of the Rev. John Lambert in St. Philip's Churchyard, we learn that the gentleman, who died in 1729, was a "Master Preceptor and Teacher of Grammar and other Arts and Sciences Taught in the Free School at Charlestown." The school ceased operation in 1744. It was reorganized in 1749 by Hugh Anderson who rented a house and served as Master. Anderson's students included Alexander McGillivray, son of a Scottish trader and an Indian "princess," who became chief of the Creek tribe. Anderson's school continued in operation until 1776. The location of the school is not known.
In 1757, the old Free School building was renovated as quarters of military officers, and barracks sufficient for 1,000 men were built on the Free School Lands. Lt. Col. Henry Bocquet brought to Charles Town in 1757 the British Regulars who were stationed there until they were withdrawn in 1769. The question of whether the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly should provide funds for candles, bedding, beer and other essentials for the Regulars, was part of the ongoing quarrel between Royal and local officials, which preceded the Revolution. During the seige of Charlestown, 1780, the barrcks were used by Patriot troops.
In 1785, the Free School Lands were given to the newborn College of Charleston, which renovated one of the barracks buildings for its own purposes. Subsequently, thecollege had financial reverses and had to divide all but a quarter of the college lands into lots, which were first leased, on long-term leases, but eventually sold. The College Lands were surveyed in 1797 by Joseph Purcell into 30 lots, and College Street and Green Street (the latter presumably named for the College Green), were created. When the lease income proved insufficient, the Court of Equity, in 1817, ordered the lots to be sold to pay the College's debts.
The College Lands were reacquired by the College of Charleston in the 20th century and are part of the College campus. (Stockton, DYKYC, Sept. 10, 1973. Rogers, Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys, 36, 43, 62, 97-98. Easterby, History of the College, 24-27. Smith & Smith, Dwelling Houses, 305-308. Stoney, This is Charleston, 126, 129. Fraser, 22.)
III. Glebe Lands
Mrs. Affra Coming, in 1698, made a deed of gift of 17 acres of land to the Minister of the Church of England in Charles Town, and his successors in office. The tract was that now bounded by George, St. Philip, Beaufain and Coming streets. It was called the Glebe Lands because, in English ecclesiastical law, a glebe is any land belonging to, or yielding revenue to, a parish church or to a church benefice, such as a rectory.
St. Philip's Parsonage was built on the Glebe Lands at some point. The Rev. Alexander Garden, who arrived in Charles Town in 1719, was the rector of St. Philip's and the commisary (representative) of the Bishop of London. In 1744, with contributions from local people and from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in London, Commissary Garden established a school for black and Indian children on the Glebe Lands near St. Philip's Parsonage. It was taught by two black youths, Andrew and Henry (Harry), under the rector's supervision, and continued in operation for 22 years. But when Andrew died and Harry "turned out profligate" the school was discontinued.
In 1770, an Act of the Assembly authorized the opening of streets through the Glebe Lands and through Harlston Village. Both were laid out by William Rigby Naylor, the architect of the exchange, who was also a surveyor. The same Act ordered the building of a new parsonage on four acres to be reserved for that purpose, the rest of the Glebe to be divided into 38 lots. The four acres reserved for the parsonage were on the northwest corner of Wentworth and St. Philip streets. The Parsonage (now 6 Glebe St.) was begun in 1771 and replaced the older parsonage which had been on the northwest corner of Beaufain and St. Philip's streets (now the site of Meminger School).
The Glebe Lands were divided in 1770 between St. Philip's and St. Michael's churches. St. Michael's received most of the portion south of Wentworth Street, with the rest going to St. Philip's. In 1797, the Parsonage lot at Wentworth and St. Philip streets was subdivided into 14 lots, and Glebe Street was cut through the block from Wentworth to George Street. The Glebe lots were at first let to tenants on 31-year leases, with the requirement that the tenants build upon the lots within seven years. Gradually, beginning in the mid-19th century, the lots were sold off, until only a few Glebe lots remain.
(Stockton, N&C, Aug. 5, 1972. Rogers, Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys, 91. Ravenel, Architects, 38. Smith & Smith, Dwelling Houses, 311-313. Deeds, L6-535, V7-5. McCrady, 2:99-100, 245-247. Statutes at Large, 7:95ff.)