On June 14, 1751, the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly passed an act dividing the city of Charleston into two parishes. St. Philip’s Parish previously encompassed the entire city, but because of steady growth St. Philip’s Church could no longer accommodate the city’s Anglican worshipers. The new parish, St. Michael’s, included the city of Charleston south of Broad Street. The cornerstone of the parish church was laid on February 17, 1752, at the corner of Broad and Meeting Streets, and construction was completed nine years later. The new church, boasting a 185-foot steeple with a clock and bells, continued to be a landmark in downtown Charleston at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Charleston was the capital of South Carolina until 1790 and was the cultural and social center for the people of the surrounding parishes. Many planters had homes in the city, living in Charleston during the social season and during the summer when their country homes were deemed too unhealthy for habitation. Charleston was also a major port, shipping rice and cotton grown throughout the state to the North and to Europe.
A census taken in the city in 1848 recorded 26,451 residents, of whom 1,492 were free blacks and 10,772 were slaves. Unlike the other lowcountry parishes, St. Michael’s and St. Philip’s Parishes were combined for the purpose of electing the city’s delegation to the General Assembly, and they jointly elected two senators since each parish and district was allotted one delegate to the state Senate. After the parish system was abolished by the constitution of 1865, St. Michael’s Parish was incorporated into Charleston District.
Fraser, Walter J., Jr. Charleston! Charleston!: The History of a Southern City. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989.
Linder, Suzanne Cameron. Anglican Churches in Colonial South Carolina: Their History and Architecture. Charleston, S.C.: Wyrick, 2000.