Originally occupied by the Sewee Indians, Mount Pleasant’s 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 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 fifty-one 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.
In 1770 Andrew Hibben obtained a ferry charter and bought land from Jacob Motte on the south side of Shem Creek. Hibben’s ferry was the first to connect Haddrell’s Point with the city of Charleston.
Mount Pleasant played a leading role in the first major military engagement – and victory – of the Revolutionary War. When Charleston finally fell to the British on November 12, 1775 Cornwallis crossed the Cooper River with 2,500 troops and took possession of Haddrell’s Point. The British headquarters is said to have been the home of Jacob Motte, later known as Hibben House.
The first small settlement to become a village was Greenwich. It was adjacent to Jacob Motte’s “Mount Pleasant” estate and was the home plot of 100 acres belonging to Jonathon Scott. James Hibben (son of Andrew Hibben), who owned the waterfront property adjacent to Motte’s, purchased “Mount Pleasant” in 1803 and divided it into 35 large lots. On December 20, 1837 the village of Greenwich was merged with Mount Pleasant and incorporated by an act of the Assembly. In 1858 the limits of the town were extended to embrace Hilliardsville, an area acquired in 1847 by Charles Jugnot and Oliver Hilliard for a picnic ground. Hilliardsville included a grove of live oaks called Hort’s Grove (now known as Alhambra Park). Lucasville, a settlement on Shem Creek, was merged with Mount Pleasant in 1872.
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 and seven southern states formed the Confederate States of America. 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 CSS Hunley. It was from Breach Inlet in 1864 that this small vessel was launched to attack and sink the Housitanic.
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 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, Louie 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.
In 1883 Charleston County was divided and Mount Pleasant was placed in Berkeley County and named the county seat. Six years later, it was decided that Moncks Corner would be the county seat and Mount Pleasant reverted to its former boundaries in Charleston County.
Twenty years after the war, Mount Pleasant was populated by 783 residents. Four miles of street were laid with shells and the town was known as a pleasure and health resort for the planters of Christ Church parish and people of Charleston. Stores and dwellings rented for ten and twenty dollars a month. Truck farming was a major occupation and Mount Pleasant was the site of a sawmill and brick factory. There were nine stores, mostly owned by residents of German origin. A steam ferry provided transportation between Charleston and the Village until the first Cooper River Bridge was built in 1929.
A newspaper article in 1889 reported, “The health of Mount Pleasant has been unprecedently fine for the past year. The town council expends about $2,000 on the streets and other necessary improvement, and the money is so judiciously applied that Mount Pleasant, in regard to general appearance, is one of the model towns of the state.”
Mount Pleasant continues to stand as a model town, not only in South Carolina, but also in the nation.
(Summary adapted from the History of Mount Pleasant article in Mount Pleasant, S.C. Sesquicentennial Souvenir Program and Scanlonville, Charleston County, South Carolina: the community and the cemetery, prepared by Michael Trinkley and the Chicora Foundation, 2001).