north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     Christopher Gustavus Memminger, a prominent lawyer and legislator from Charleston, South Carolina, served as Secretary of the Treasury for the Confederate States of America from 1861 until 1864. In 1838 he built his Flat Rock estate, “Rock Hill,” later the home of Carl Sandburg.

     C. G. Memminger was born in Germany in 1803. His father died soon after his birth, and his mother moved with her parents and infant son to Charleston to escape the Napoleonic Wars. Shortly thereafter, Memminger’s mother died and, at the age of four, he was placed in the Charleston Orphan House. He was eventually taken into the home of Thomas Bennett, a future governor of South Carolina, before being sent to South Carolina College to get an education. Memminger graduated in 1819, and returned to Charleston, where he practiced law before joining the South Carolina legislature in 1836.

     While a member of the assembly, Memminger acted as chairman of the Committee on Finance, gaining a reputation as a proficient financier. He helped draft a provisional constitution for the Confederacy and was appointed by Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis as the Secretary of the Treasury. Under Memminger, the credit and treasury of the Confederacy failed entirely, though it was mostly outside factors that caused this to occur.

     Memminger eventually resigned from his position on June 15, 1864, and moved to Flat Rock until the war was over. In 1867 he was granted a presidential pardon by Andrew Johnson, and returned to Charleston to practice law. During his later years, Memminger championed education through the development of public schools for children of all races and served as the Commissioner of Schools for Charleston for thirty years. He supported the building of a railroad from the South Carolina coastline to the North Carolina mountains and served as the first President of the Asheville and Spartanburg Railroad. Memminger was buried in the cemetery of St John-in-the-Wilderness Episcopal Church in Flat Rock. St John-in-the-Wilderness, originally built as a private chapel for the Baring family, was donated to the Episcopal Diocese in 1836, and Memminger was one of the earliest members.

     Memminger’s house, “Rock Hill,” was built in 1838 in Flat Rock, a community developed by Charlestonians as a summer retreat. The house was built on land purchased from Charles Baring, a South Carolina rice planter and early Flat Rock esident. “Rock Hill” sat below Glassy Rock Mountain and was subjected to raids by renegades living on the mountain throughout Memminger’s tenure there. The estate, renamed “Connemara” by owner Eliison A. Smyth in the early 1900s, is now best known for its last resident, the prolific author Carl Sandburg. Sandburg, who moved into the house in 1945 and lived there until his death in 1967. The house is now a National Historic Site, and is open to the public.


References:
Sadie S. Patton, The Story of Henderson County (1976)
Kenneth F. Marsh and Blanche Marsh, Historic Flat Rock: Where the Old South Lingers (1961)
Leeming Grimshawe, Saint John in the Wilderness, 1836-1936 (1968)
Catherine W. Bishir, Michael T. Southern, and Jennifer F. Martin, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Western North Carolina (1999)
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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