1700 (September 3) Cyclone

The hurricane of September 3, 1700, cannot be measured according to the Saffir-Simpson scale, but it was certainly among the most powerful of the many storms that have been recorded in Charleston's history. The heavy rain and wind terrified the populace, destroying rice and grain crops ready for harvest, toppling thousands of trees and dozens of buildings, and damaging many more. A few houses were "washed down into ye River," but it was the wreckage of ships in the harbor that fascinated Englishman Edward Hyrne.

Writing home to his wife, Hyrne detailed the destruction: "the greatest mischief fell amongst the shipping, of which about a dozen sail of all sorts were riding at anchor before the town, some of which were driven on shore and broke all in pieces, some were carried a great way up into the marshes and one (a brigantine of about 80 tons) driven clear over the point of land which parts two rivers into Ashley River, in her way breaking down a pair of gallows (from which eight pirates at once were hanged since my coming here).... Captain Man was riding at anchor near the bar, ready to sail, but he was forced to cut away his main and mizzen-masts and much ado to save his ship so; he will make a miserable voyage….

"The greatest and most deplorable loss of all was that of a great Scotch ship called the Rising Sun, which … was riding at anchor [outside the] bar, with design to come in here and refit…. The storm rose and she foundered at anchor, the captain and all the Scots on board, being about 100, miserably perishing."

About a dozen passengers from the Rising Sun avoided the fate of their fellows through a remarkable series of events. Weeks earlier, the ship had sailed from a failed Scottish colony at Darien, on the Isthmus of Panama. After taking severe damage in the storm off Florida, her captain headed north for Charleston, the closest British settlement. On board were refugees from Darien: settlers, sailors, and religious missionaries. When the crippled vessel arrived outside Charleston Harbor, a small party went into town to arrange for repairs.

Members of the congregation of the White Meeting House (now Circular Congregational Church), where Presbyterians, Congregationalists, French Huguenots and other Dissenters worshipped together, soon got news that a Presbyterian minister was aboard the idle Rising Sun. They were without a regular pastor, and immediately sent him an invitation to preach. Therefore Archibald Stobo with his wife, Elizabeth, and a few of the ship's crew, were on shore when the cyclone struck. Stobo was stranded, and the White Meeting House called him to a permanent position. After four years at the White Meeting House, Archibald Stobo moved on to other congregations. Under his leadership, Dissenters from Cainhoy to Jacksonboro and on several of the Sea Islands were organized as Presbyterian congregations.

Calhoun, Jeanne A. The Scourging Wrath of God: Early Hurricanes in Charleston, 1700-1804. The Charleston Museum Leaflet No. 29. The Charleston Museum, 1983.
Fick, Sarah. James Island Presbyterian Church. 300 Years of History. James Island Presbyterian Church, 2006.
Lilly, Edward G. Beyond the Burning Bush. First (Scots) Presbyterian Church, Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston, 1971.