Auction Notice, Charleston, 1772


A Glimpse of Eighteenth Century Charleston

Thomas Corker, a prosperous merchant of Charleston, South Carolina, died 28 January 1771 in his 75th year (1). His life and family is described in the section:
The Corker Cork-Cutters.

An auction notice was printed in the South Carolina Gazette, Charleston, 30 April 1772:

On Thursday the fourteenth of May, will be sold by public outcry,
at the Vendue-House on Rowand’s Wharf, in Charles-Town,
The Lands and Tenements late the property of Thomas Corker, deceased, divided into the four following Lots, viz.
I.   The Lot, and two Tenements thereon, on the east side of Church Street; containing in front, on the said street, forty-two feet ten inches, and in depth, bounding on the Alley leading from Church Street to Union Street, one hundred feet nine inches, or thereabouts; the south side adjoining the lot and dwelling-house of Gabriel Manigault, Esq.
II.   A Lot adjoining the above, and containing in front, on the said Alley (the south side) fifty-three feet six inches, and in depth forty-three feet, or thereabouts. On this lot are some small buildings; of which, one, with a Brick built front on the Alley, measures thirty-nine feet three inches in length, and thirteen feet six inches in breadth.
III.   A Lot adjoining the last, of the same dimensions, both in front and depth, without any kind of building on it, bounding, east, on land of Mr. Manigault, and nearly opposite the dwelling-house of Dr. Lionel Chalmers.
IV.   A Lot with two small wooden Tenements thereon, fronting on the north side of the Alley aforesaid forty-three feet six inches, and in depth fifty-five feet five inches, or thereabouts; bounding, on the east, of land of Captain George Dick.
Good bills of exchange, at par, payable in London, at thirty days sight, will be taken in payment; the property not to be altered until these terms are complied with. The titles, deeds or conveyances, for the said Lands, to the deceased Thomas Corker, may be seen in the hands of John Corker, brother and heir at law to the said Thomas, at his Lodgings at Mr. Nathaniel Bulline’s in Church Street.
At the same time and place will likewise be sold, on the conditions above mentioned.
One thousand acres of Land on Boggy Swamp, in Williamsburg Township, joining Lands of James MacCants, and others. Also, a half acre Lot in the Town of Williamsburg, known by the No. 1, in the grand Plat of the said Town, both originally granted in 1735 to James Fisher, and now part of the estate of Thomas Corker, deceased.

It may be assumed that Lot I included the home of Thomas Corker – after he passed away, a notice for the sale of his household goods, printed in the South Carolina Gazette, 14 February 1771, stated that his house was in Church Street.

From the auction description, a map was constructed as shown below. The three properties marked along the southside of the alley are Lots I, II, and III, belonging to the estate of the late Thomas Corker, offered at the auction sale of 14 May 1772.

Union Street was later renamed to State Street. The alley, leading from Church Street to Union Street (State Street), was also known as Chalmers Alley, now Chalmers Street, ‘for physician and meteorologist, Dr. Lionel Chalmers whose home and apothecary had been at the northwest corner of Chalmers and State streets’ (2).

The auction notice stated that Lot II contained a number of small buildings including a house with a ‘Brick built front on the Alley’, just thirteen feet six inches in width. It seems certain that this is the Pink House, built of Bermuda stone, which has survived to be recognized as a building of historic interest in present day Charleston.

  More Reading: The Pink House, Charleston

The Neighbourhood of Chalmers Alley (Street), Charleston

The ownership of the property along Chalmers Alley (Street), which included the Pink House, can be traced in archival records. The will of Thomas Corker, probated on 4 August 1772, recorded that he owned a property in Charleston ‘known by model of Town Plat by No. 44 but by mistake in the deed is called 49’. Previous owners were named as ‘Mr John Breton late of Charles Town [Charleston] merchant . . . . formerly bought of Noah Royer’ (3). Houses built on the property were let to tenants.

An early plan, or ‘Platt’, of Charleston recorded that Town Lot No. 44 was granted to Noah Royer on 9 May 1694 (4). When Thomas Corker purchased the property from the then owner Breton Cooper in the 1750s the deed of sale noted that in December 1712 the Royer family sold the lot to John Breton, merchant of Charleston (5). The location in Charleston was described as ‘bounding north 217 feet on a small alley running from Church Street to Union Street’. Union Street is now State Street; the ‘small alley’ is now Chalmers Street.

John Breton was buried at St Philip’s Church, Charleston on 13 October 1738 (6). In his will he bequeathed one portion of the town lot to Breton Cooper and the other portion to John Methringham (7). Breton Cooper inherited the southernmost part ‘fronting to the street commonly called Church Street’. This portion had two houses leased to the tenants Dr James Killpatrick (or Kilpatrick, also Kirkpatrick) and David Noble. John Methringham inherited the portion, facing the alley, with a house which had been leased previously to Christopher Smith.

In 1738 a smallpox epidemic swept through Charleston (8). John Breton’s tenant Christopher Smith, one of the victims, was buried at St Philip’s Church on 28 July 1738. A few weeks earlier, on 8 July, the neighbouring tenant Dr James Kilpatrick had buried his son Thomas, who also succumbed to smallpox (9). This family tragedy motivated Dr Kilpatrick to become ‘one of the foremost champions of the controversial new practice of inoculation’ (10).

Both portions of the town lot that had belonged to John Breton came into the ownership of Thomas Corker. A legal document recorded that in September 1758 Thomas Corker purchased from John Methringham a ‘lot in Charleston bounding on an alley leading from Church Street to Union Street’ which was later granted to John Corker of Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, as the brother and heir of Thomas. John Corker made the sea journey from England to South Carolina to claim his share of his brother’s estate and, in 1772, he sold the property to George Dick (11).

George Dick died in October 1773. In his will he specified that ‘my house or tenement in Chalmers Alley now in the possession of Mr Jonathan Clark silversmith’ was to be offered rent-free as a home for his companion Jenny Dick, who was the mother of his son Alexander Dick. Jenny, a former black slave, had been given her freedom by George Dick (12). George took care to provide for his son – he appointed three trustees to look after the interests of Alexander with the instructions to ‘maintain and support him giving him a proper and suitable education and at the age of fourteen years that they do bind him apprentice to a good carpenter’.


(1) ‘Extracts from the Journal of Mrs. Ann Manigault 1754–1781 (Continued)’, The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. 21, 1920, p. 20 (Internet Archive ).
Ann Manigault née Ashby (died April 1782) was the wife of Gabriel Manigault (died June 1781), ‘the wealthy merchant, for many years Public Treasurer, and reputed to be the richest man of this Province in the eighteenth century’ (notes by Mabel L. Webber to accompany ‘Extracts from the Journal of Mrs. Ann Manigault: 1754–1781’, The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. 20, Internet Archive ).

(2) The story behind Charleston’s cobblestone streets .

(3) The will of Thomas Corker can be accessed from the online catalogue of the National Archives, London. In correspondence dated November 2016, the archivist of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History very kindly provided a photocopy from South Carolina Deed Abstracts. The archivist suggested that more research may be needed to prove that the Pink House on Chalmers Street is on original lot 44; but noted that ‘it does appear, however, that it is’.

(4) Henry A. M. Smith, ‘Charleston: The Original Plan and the Earliest Settlers’, The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. 9, January 1908, pp. 12–27 (online at the JSTOR archive ).

(5) Online records index , South Carolina Department of Archives and History; and
Clara A. Langley, editor, South Carolina Deed Abstracts, Volume 3, 1755–1768, published 1983–84, p. 35. In records, spelling variations for the name Breton are Briton or Bretton.

(6) Register of St Philip’s Parish, Charles Town, South Carolina 1720–1758, p. 257 (Internet Archive ).

(7) Transcripts of the will of John Breton, merchant of Charleston, South Carolina are in the South Carolina, Wills and Probate Records collection, images online at the Ancestry website. The will dated 3 October 1738 was probated on 12 November 1739.

(8) The online article Epidemics (South Carolina Encyclopedia online) states that the smallpox epidemic of 1738 ‘infected more than two thousand of the roughly six thousand people in Charleston and killed more than three hundred’.

(9) Burials were recorded in Register of St Philip’s Parish, Charles Town, South Carolina 1720–1758, (Internet Archive ). The parish clerk noted the deaths from smallpox and assigned sequential numbers to these burials. In the 1738 epidemic, the first burial of a smallpox victim at St Philip’s Church was recorded on May 30.

(10) Biography of James Kilpatrick , South Carolina Encyclopedia online.

(11) Clara A. Langley, editor, South Carolina Deed Abstracts, Volume 4, 1767–1773, published 1984, p. 255:

22 & 23 May 1772: John Corker, gentleman, late of Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, Great Britain, now of Charleston, South Carolina,
[property sale] to George Dick, gentleman, of Charleston, a lot in Charleston bounding on an alley leading from Church St to Union St; which lot Thomas Corker, by L & R [lease and release] dated 29 & 30 September 1758 purchased from John Methringham, planter, of Christ Church Parish [Charleston], and Ann [Bennett] his wife and which lot descended to John Corker, eldest brother and heir of Thomas, by decree of Court of Chancery dated 10 April 1772.
Witnesses: James Keith, John Pringle.   Before George Murray, J.P.
Recorded 8 August 1772 by Henry Rugeley, register.

(12) Transcripts of the will of George Dick, mariner of Charleston, South Carolina are in the South Carolina, Wills and Probate Records collection, images online at the Ancestry website. The will dated 24 October 1773 was probated on 5 November 1773.

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