Meeting Street Memories
The Patriot Charleston forgot: 34 Meeting St., Part I
By Peg Eastman
Colonel Lewis Morris purchased 34 Meeting St. in 1795 from the executors of Mrs. Elizabeth Izard Blake’s estate. As mentioned in Part I, Mrs. Blake was the granddaughter of Captain John Bull who died in 1767 and left the property to his widow Mary Bull who died in 1771. Elizabeth Blake died in 1792.
The colonel had impeccable credentials — his great-grandfather served in Cromwell’s Army during the English Civil Wars and fled to Barbados after the Restoration. He later moved to New Amsterdam where he and his brother purchased the estate of Jonas Bronck, the first settler in Westchester County. His grandfather, Lewis Morris (1671-1746), was orphaned in infancy and was raised by his uncle who died in 1691 and left his considerable estates in New York and New Jersey to his nephew. In 1697, Gov. Benjamin Fletcher granted young Morris a patent that established the estate as the Manor of Morrisania. This Lewis Morris then went on to become the chief justice of New York. In 1738, King George II appointed Morris governor of New Jersey, holding office until his death in 1746.
Morris’ father, the third Lewis Morris (1726-1798) was appointed a judge of the Admiralty Court for the province of New York in 1760. He was elected to the New York Provincial Congress, which sent him to the Continental Congress in 1775 to sign the Declaration of Independence. Lewis was a member of the New York State Senate from 1777 to 1781 and again from 1783 to 1790. When the New York convention met to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1788, he was one of the delegates. Morris was a Federalist presidential elector in 1796 and cast his votes for John Adams and Thomas Pinckney. In 1784 Morris was elected an honorary member of the New York Society of the Cincinnati.
Young Lewis Morris IV followed in his distinguished father’s footsteps and graduated from the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1774. He was an active Whig and by 1776, he was a major in the New York militia, serving as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Charles Lee and Gen. John Sullivan. He was brevetted a lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army during the Rhode Island Campaign (the first attempt at America’s cooperation with France after they entered the Revolutionary War as an ally) for acts of bravery. Morris came to South Carolina in 1780 when Gen. Nathaniel Greene was given command of the Southern Continental Army.
Morris remained in S.C. after the war and in 1783 married Ann-Barnett Elliott, from whom he received a share in Accabee Plantation on the Charleston Neck. He was a wealthy man, who had inherited Morrisania, the family estate in New York, (now known as The Bronx) and owned four lots in New York City, Hillington patent in Otsego County and other acreage in New York, and 1,700 acres on the Pon Pon River in South Carolina upon his death in 1824.
A man of prominence and principle, he voted to ratify the Constitution in 1788 as a representative of St. Michael’s and St. Philip’s parishes and was elected to five General Assemblies between 1780 and 1801 and as lieutenant governor of S.C. from 1794 to 1796. He was an original member of the Society of the Cincinnati, steward of the S.C. Jockey Club, director of the Office of Discount and Deposit (branch of the Second Bank of the United States) in Charleston and a member of the Charleston Library Society.
In 1818, Morris sold 34 Meeting St. to his nephew-in-law, Daniel Elliott Huger. Since that time, it has been known as the Daniel Huger house. Amazingly, the building remained intact despite the damage caused by the bombardment of the city in 1864 to 1865 and the sacking of the city by Union troops in 1865. He died at Morrisiana on November 22, 1824, and was buried in St. Michael’s Churchyard in Charleston.
Although this distinguished family is largely forgotten in Charleston, its members played a prominent role in our history. Not only did Lewis Morris (1726–1798) sign the Declaration of Independence, General Staats Long Morris (1728–1800) was a British Army officer and served in the House of Commons and as governor of Quebec. Robert Morris (1745-1815) was chief justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey and received a recess appointment from President George Washington on August 28, 1790, to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District Court of New Jersey and Gouverneur Morris (1752–1816) signed the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution. Gouverneur Morris served as minister plenipotentiary to France and openly criticized the French Revolution and the execution of Marie Antoinette. He returned to the U.S. in 1798 and was elected to the Senate in 1800. His affiliation with the Federalist Party cost him his re-election bid in 1803 and he went on to serve as the chairman of the Erie Canal Commission.
The Morris name is also associated with Morris County, New Jersey, Morristown, N.J., Morris Township, N.J, and Morris Plains, N.J.
Wake up, Charleston. We still have a lot to learn about Meeting Street’s amazing history.
My appreciation to Bob Sockton for introducing me to Lewis Morris, who has been sadly neglected by local amateur historians.
A Charlestonian by birth, Margaret (Peg) Middleton Rivers Eastman is actively involved in the preservation of Charleston’s rich cultural heritage. In addition to being a regular columnist for the Charleston Mercury she has published through McGraw Hill, The History Press, Evening Post Books, as well as in Carologue, a publication of the South Carolina Historical Society.