Charleston Insider's Guide > Local Info & Maps > History of Charleston, SC
Charleston's history begins around 1663, with Charles II of England granting all the land from Virginia to Florida to the Eight Lords Proprietors, political allies against the puritan rule of Oliver Cromwell. The first group of colonists arrived in April of 1670, and ten years later, moved down the peninsula formed by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, where Charles Towne was founded, making it the oldest English city south of Virginia.
Free land and religious freedom began to draw many more settlers in the coming years, bringing inhabitants from places all over the world, including England, France, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Scotland, and the Caribbean.
The colonists begin planting and selling rice, indigo, and cotton, which become the heart of the growing city's agricultural industry. This huge industry eventually demanded a massive amount of slave labor, and by the mid-1700's a majority of Charleston was of African descent.
In 1776, after the Revolution, Charleston, the fourth largest city in the US at the time, became the capital of the new state of South Carolina. Later in the 19th century, Charleston became a hotbed of secessionist activity, hosting the signing of the Ordinance of Secession of 1860. Six months later, Confederate troops would attack Fort Sumter in the first battle of the Civil War. After the abolition of slavery, Charleston's industry dried up and left behind a sleepy town, caught between eras.
In 1931, Charleston became the first city in America to pass a historical preservation ordinance, and as such, remains one of the most finely preserved monuments in the country to the bygone eras of colonialism and antebellum life.