About Charleston Time Machine

The Charleston Time Machine is an imaginary time-travel device created by historian Dr. Nic Butler. It uses stories and facts from the rich, deep, colorful history of Charleston, South Carolina, as a means to educate, inspire, amuse, and even amaze the minds of our community. By exploring the stories of our shared past, we can better understand our present world and plan more effectively for the future.

The Charleston Time Machine is piloted by Nic Butler, Ph.D., an interdisciplinary historian with an infectious enthusiasm for Charleston’s colorful past. A native of Greenville County, South Carolina, Dr. Butler attended the University of South Carolina before completing a Ph.D. in musicology at Indiana University. He has worked as archivist of the South Carolina Historical Society, as an adjunct faculty member at the College of Charleston, and as an historical consultant for the City of Charleston. 

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Recent Trips in Charleston's History

  • The Heads of the Two Toms in 1745

    Has this ever happened to you: There’s a knock at your front door late at night. You open the door to find a messenger with a letter and a soggy burlap bag. You open the letter—it’s news about a series of recent murders. You look inside the bag and find two human heads. What do you do? If you’re the governor of South Carolina, and its January of 1745, you breathe a sigh of relief, and say “Thank you—I’ve been expecting these.” Today we’ll investigate the story of “the heads of the two Toms,” so make yourself comfortable, and don’t forget to tip the delivery boy.

  • Murder at Four Holes Swamp in 1744

    In the summer of 1744, two Native American men of the Notchee tribe murdered several Catawba Indians in cold blood near Four Holes Swamp. Fearing a general Indian war, the government of South Carolina interceded and tried to maintain peace between the tribes while hunting down the murders. This dramatic story has all the elements of a prime-time detective series, but it survives only in the manuscript records of our early government.

  • Squeezing Charleston Neck, from 1783 to the Present

    The historical definition of “the Neck” once encompassed all the land between the rivers Ashley and Cooper, but the steady growth of development whittled it down until it was finally swallowed by annexation in the late twentieth century. In this episode, we’ll complete our chronological tour of Neck geography and consider how the identity of this once blighted area is about to be reborn as the final frontier on the Charleston peninsula.

  • Grasping the Neck: The Origins of Charleston’s Northern Neighbor​

    How well do you know “the Neck,” that curious stretch of no man’s land bounded by the rivers Ashley and Cooper, and squeezed between the urban centers of Charleston and North Charleston? The geographic identity of "the Neck" evolved in multiple stages over the past three centuries, in step with the growth of the local population and with the rise of commercial development, but few know the details its transformation. It’s not just a neglected part of our local history—it’s also a big part of our community’s future.

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