The site of Mount Pleasant was originally occupied by the Sewee Indians. The first white settlers arrived from England on July 6, 1680 under the leadership of Captain Florentia O’Sullivan. Captain O’Sullivan had been granted 2,340 acres (950 ha) which included not only the island that bears his name, but also the land that was to become Mount Pleasant. On the earliest map of the time this area was called "North Point."
In 1696, 51 new settlers arrived. Each family was allotted several hundred acres in the area that became known as Christ Church parish. In 1706 the Province of Carolina withstood several attacks by the Spanish and the French and were victorious in defeating French invaders in an area known as "Abcaw".
The area of "Abcaw" was Hobcaw Plantation, located between Shem Creek and the Wando River. Later, it was also known as Shipyard Plantation because its deep water and abundance of good timber made it ideal for a prosperous shipbuilding enterprise. Lands adjacent to Hobcaw Point were owned at different times by several different families, many of which maintained ferries which served Mount Pleasant.
On September 24, 1860, a public meeting was held in Mount Pleasant that produced the first secession resolution of the state. The secession convention met in Charleston December 20, 1860. With the advent of the Civil War, Battery Gary and an adjacent floating battery between Mount Pleasant and Sullivan's Island were instrumental in defense of the town, as well as attacks on Fort Sumter. The town was also defended by a line of fortifications from Elliot's Creek at Boone Hall to Copahee Sound. Mount Pleasant was also the secret training ground for the nine-man crew of the Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley. It was from Breach Inlet in 1864 that this small vessel was launched to attack and sink the USS Housatonic.
As a result of the Civil War, slaves who worked the area plantations were free to seek their own enterprise. Of special note is Scanlonville, one of the first African-American communities to be formed in Charleston after the Civil War which still exists today in Mount Pleasant. Robert Scanlon, a former slave and freedman carpenter, purchased the 614-acre (248 ha) property known as Remley's Plantation bordering Charleston Harbor along the Wando River in Mount Pleasant. Robert Scanlon was the president and founder of the Charleston Land Company, formed by 100 poor African-American men of Charleston who paid $10 per share to purchase large tracts of land in the area. The Charleston Land Company then divided it up for possession by freed slaves seeking to own their own land. Remley's Plantation was divided into farm lots and town lots (which were smaller) to form the community of Scanlonville. The Charleston Land Company and Scanlonville are one of the only four known cooperative ventures among African-American freedmen after the Civil War.
West of Scanlonville was Riverside, the largest and oldest of five black beaches in Charleston County. Riverside "officially" opened in 1930 and featured a dance pavilion, athletics field, bathhouse, playground and a boardwalk along the Wando River. Riverside Pavilion was the only venue for black Charlestonians to see musical legends like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, B. B. King, and Ivory Joe Hunter. Music performances at the Pavilion spawned juke joints, or night clubs, in Scanlonville and eventually a hotel called White's Paradise – where James Brown was known to have frequented. After the original park owner died in 1975, operations of the Riverside property were taken over by Charleston County who eventually sold it to a company that developed it into a gated community.
On September 23, 1989, Mount Pleasant was hit by Hurricane Hugo, a category four hurricane. While the town was spared from the worst of the storm (category 4 conditions were experienced further north of the town), it and its two barrier islands were still hard-hit. Children who lived through the storm were featured in an early episode of Nickelodeon's Nick News along with children from Hurricane Andrew. Ironically the town experienced its largest growth spurt a year after the storm as more people moved to the area, going from a population of roughly 23,000 in 1990 to one of roughly 47,000 in 2000.
Mount Pleasant is separated from Charleston by the Cooper River. For many years it was primarily populated seasonally by Charleston residents wealthy enough to afford summer homes across the river from the Charleston peninsula. The population of Mount Pleasant was centered in an area of the town now known as "The Old Village".
The county seat for Berkeley County was located in Mount Pleasant from 1882 until 1895, when it was moved to Moncks Corner.
In 1928, a bridge from the Charleston Peninsula to Mount Pleasant was built. Spanning Town Creek and the Cooper River and crossing the uninhabited Drum Island, the two-lane Grace Memorial Bridge was opened as a toll bridge. A second and larger bridge, the Silas N. Pearman Bridge, opened in 1966.
On July 16, 2005, the eight-lane Arthur Ravenel Bridge opened for automotive traffic, replacing the two aging bridges. A week before the new bridge, one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the western hemisphere, officially opened, pedestrians were allowed to cross the bridge, and commemorative coins were distributed. Also, a fireworks display was a part of the ceremonies leading up to the actual opening of the bridge. Several cars from the same time period as the Grace Memorial Bridge, including several restored Model A Fords, made a final crossing of the old bridges. The remaining portions of the old bridges were demolished. Local residents watched as the bridges were blown up in spectacular shows over several weeks, ending the following summer in 2006.
In 2004, Mount Pleasant became one of the first cities in the United States to pass a "pay-before-you-pump" gas ordinance.
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