2 Your Roots: The History Behind Calhoun Street

2 Your Roots

Downtown Charleston, S.C. (WCBD) – A street named after a man who wore many hats: in this week’s edition of 2 Your Roots, we take a trip to Calhoun Street.

Born in Abbeville District in 1782, John C. Calhoun grew up to attend Yale and Litchfield Law School in Connecticut. According to The South Carolina Encyclopedia, “Calhoun returned to Abbeville and began the practice of law, which he disliked. He quickly turned his attention to politics, winning election to the S.C. House of Representatives in 1808.”

He served in the House of Representatives for 2 years and, from 1811 to 1850, he worked in the federal government as congressman, secretary of war, secretary of state, senator, and vice president (twice). The Electoral College elected Calhoun for vice president by an overwhelming majority. He served under John Quincy Adams and continued under Andrew Jackson.

A historical marker along John C. Calhoun Memorial Highway describes Calhoun as a brilliant parliamentarian, an able administrator, and a patriotic American. It explains, “In 1957, the U.S. Senate voted Calhoun one of America’s five “outstanding” senators of the past.”

Calhoun’s home “Fort Hill” is located in Pickens County. A marker erected by the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor reads, “John C. Calhoun married Floride Bonneau Calhoun in 1811 and their daughter Anna Maria Calhoun married Thomas Green Clemson in 1838. Following John C. Calhoun’s death in 1850, Clemson, a diplomat to Belgium and the first acting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, controlled and managed the plantation until his death in 1888.” Calhoun is buried in Saint Phillips Church.

A monument in Marion Square honors Calhoun. In recent years, there have been calls to remove the statue.  Some believe the marker is racist and supports white supremacy. Calhoun led the pro-slavery faction in the Senate and is said to have believed that slavery was the key to the success of the “American dream”. To learn more about calls for removal, click here.

If you have a street, landmark, or a piece of history you want Temple Ricke to help uncover, email tricke@wcbd.com.

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