2 Your Roots: The William Aiken House

2 Your Roots

Charleston, S.C. (WCBD) – A house named after a man who wore many hats; in this week’s edition of 2 Your Roots, we take a trip downtown to learn about The William Aiken House.

Born in Northern Ireland in 1778, William Aiken Sr.  immigrated to South Carolina with his family and settled near the town of Winnsboro in Fairfield County in 1789.

Aiken grew to be a man with many skills, developing his hand as a merchant, planter, banker, and railroad developer. According to the South Carolina Encyclopedia, Aiken served as director of the Planters’ and Mechanics’ Bank of South Carolina, the Union Insurance Company, and the Charleston branch of the Bank of the United States. He also represented St. Philip’s and St. Michael’s Parishes in the S.C. House of Representatives, serving on the committees on accounts, internal improvements, and ways and means.

“In March 1828 Aiken served on a Chamber of Commerce committee to investigate the feasibility of constructing a railroad from Charleston to the Savannah River near Augusta, Georgia.”

The South Carolina Encyclopedia

Aiken was chosen as president of the newly chartered company and under his direction, a route was selected and track began to be laid between Charleston and the new cotton boomtown of Hamburg, across the Savannah River from Augusta.

“This company {South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company} inaugurated the American steam railroad era at Charleston, Christmas day, 1830, by using for the first time on this continent a steam locomotive in regular service to pull a train of cars on a track. It also was the first in this country to carry the mail.”

The South carolina encyclopedia

In 1811, the Irish immigrant purchased a single brick house on King Street that, according to the Charleston Museum, was used hold meetings for the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company.

Unfortunately, Aiken Sr. did not live to see the completion of his railroad; he was thrown from his carriage in 1831 and died from his injuries the following day. He is buried in the Second Presbyterian Churchyard.

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