Meeting Street Memories: Daniel E. Huger House of 34 Meeting Street, Part III
By Peg Eastman
As stated in Part II, Colonel Lewis Morris sold 34 Meeting St. to his nephew-in-law Daniel Elliott Huger in 1818. The family progenitor was Daniel Huger (1688-1754), a Huguenot (French protestant) who fled his homeland to avoid the Catholic persecutions in the wake of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Huger had 12 children, many of whom left an indelible footprint in the Lowcountry.
Benjamin Huger (1746-1779), one of Daniel Huger’s sons, was born at Limerick Plantation on the Cooper River. He inherited property from his father in St. James, Goose Creek, Parish as well as five lots in Charleston. In 1769, he purchased 1,711 acres in Prince George Winyah Parish and later acquired a summer residence on North Island.
As befitted a man of his position, he was active in politics and served in the Royal Assembly, the Provincial Congress and the General Assembly. When hostilities broke out, he moved his family to Charleston where he was a member of the Library Society and the South Carolina Society.
Huger became a champion of colonial rights and advanced to the rank of major in the Fifth Regiment of the South Carolina Line by 1776. On June 14, 1777, Huger received the Marquis de Lafayette on North Island en route to Gen. Washington’s Army. According to Robert McAlister’s history of North Island: “On June 12, 1777, a two-masted, square-rigged sailing vessel furled its sails and anchored south of North Island. It showed French colors and the name La Victoire at its stern. A jolly boat was launched from the ship with ten men rowing north along the deserted beach. They reached a narrow inlet at the northern tip of the island and, by moonlight, saw four slaves digging oysters. With their jolly boat stuck in the mud, the Frenchmen climbed into the slaves’ canoe and were taken to the house of their master, Major Benjamin Huger, who offered what Lafayette later described as ‘a cordial welcome and generous hospitality.’ Huger told the Frenchmen that Winyah Bay was too shallow for their ship and promised to find a pilot to guide it to Charles Town. He urged Lafayette to travel by land to avoid being captured at sea by the British.” Lafayette proceeded north and into history.
Major Huger was killed in May 1779 when he strayed too far in the lines before Charleston while inspecting the outer defense works. He was shot accidentally by a South Carolina militiaman.
Benjamin Huger married heiress Mary Golightly in 1767. They had two children before she died in 1771. He later married Mary Esther Kinloch, daughter of Francis Kinloch and Anna Isabella Cleland. They had two children, Francis Kinloch and Elizabeth.
Dr. Francis Kinloch Huger, a physician and artillery officer, was a grandson of Daniel Huger, Sr. He was born in Charleston. When his father entertained the Marquis de Lafayette upon his arrival in North America, he was a small boy. He followed Lafayette’s career as the statesman rose to lead his country during the early years of the French Revolution. As the upheaval escalated, Lafayette became a refugee and was taken prisoner by the Empire of Austria.
Dr. Huger is best known for leading a failed attempt to rescue Lafayette from captivity. After completing his medical studies in London, Dr. Huger decided to tour Europe and happened to meet German doctor, Julius Erich Bollman, from Hanover. Bollman had played a major role helping members of the French aristocracy escape the guillotine and seek asylum in England. Together they hatched a plot, involving letters written in invisible ink, to help Lafayette escape from his incarceration at the fortress of Olmutz near Olomouc in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). The caper was implemented on November 4, 1794. Although Lafayette was briefly freed, he was disoriented and recaptured several days later. Huger was taken prisoner and joined his would-be prize in Olmutz. After eight months of solitary confinement as a security threat to Austria, Huger was paroled on condition that he return to the United States.
Back in South Carolina Huger married Harriott Lucas Pinckney, Governor Thomas Pinckney’s daughter, and built a house near Pendleton. Later he moved back to Charleston.
Lafayette was released from Olmutz with the assistance of Napoleon. In 1824, he was invited to return to America by President James Monroe as the guest of a grateful nation. He wrote Huger a letter of gratitude, ending with the following:
“When shall I be able to express to you even the smallest part of my esteem and gratitude, with which your personal character, your heroic friendship and your sacrifices for me inspire in me and which bind me to you forever with all the feelings that can glow in a heart filled with gratitude and love. Your eternally devoted and grateful, LAFAYETTE.”
By Lafayette’s request when he visited South Carolina, Huger accompanied him from Columbia to Charleston where they were lavishly entertained. (From memoirs compiled by his daughter Elizabeth Pinckney Huger.)
Daniel Elliott Huger, who purchased 34 Meeting Street from Lewis Morris, was the son of Sabina Elliott and Daniel Huger. Born at Limerick plantation in 1779, he was educated at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) and returned to South Carolina to read law in the office of Henry William DeSaussure and began practice with Benjamin Cudworth Yancey in Charleston and James Louis Petigru in Beaufort.
He was a planter and owned considerable property throughout the state in addition to his house at 34 Meeting St. Public service was only natural for a man of his wealth and background. He was a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, 1804-1819; he supported the War of 1812 and was commissioned a brigadier general of State troops in 1814; judge of the circuit court 1819-1830; and a member of the South Carolina Senate, 1830-1832, 1838-1842. He was an outspoken Unionist at the Nullification Convention in 1832. He was elected as a States Rights Democrat to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of John C. Calhoun in 1843, serving until he resigned in March 3, 1845. He was also a delegate to the States Rights Convention in 1852, where he urged moderation.
Locally, he was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati, trustee of the College of Charleston, director of the State Bank, member of the Charleston Library Society, and a commissioner of the Charleston Orphan House, among other offices.
Huger married Isabella Johannes Middleton, daughter of Arthur Middleton and Mary Izard. He died on Sullivan’s Island in 1854 and was interred at Magnolia Cemetery. He was survived by his widow and several of their ten children. At the time of his death, he left his family $104,500 in land, slaves and cash.
The common name for 34 Meeting St. was assumed when Daniel Elliott Huger bought the house in 1818, and it has remained in the extended family since that time.
Two similar accidents occurred at the house. Francis Kinloch Huger was almost killed on the front steps when part of the roof pediment fell and fractured his skull. According to tradition, his mind was saved by Mrs. Huger’s refusal to allow him to be operated on for fear of a permanent injury to his brain. The second accident on the front steps occurred during the earthquake of 1886. A parapet, which had replaced the pediment, was thrown off and crushed a young Englishman who was visiting and attempted to run out while the shock was violent.
Amazingly, the building has remained intact despite the damage by the shelling of the city in 1863-65 and sacking by Union troops in 1865.
My appreciation to Bob Stockton, Charlton DeSaussure and the Right Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison for contributing to this article.
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.