Governor’s House Middleton Suite History
The Middleton Suite, is named for the family of Governor Edward Rutledge’s wife. Henrietta Middleton was a member of one of Charleston’s most prominent families and lived in this very home beginning in the early 1770’s not long after it was first constructed in 1760.
Henrietta Middleton was born on November 15, 1750 at the Middleton Place plantation located along the banks of the Ashley River. Henrietta married Edward Rutledge on March 1, 1774 and she gave birth to three children, two of whom survived to adulthood: Henry Middleton Rutledge (who later married his first cousin Septima S. Middleton who was the youngest child of Declaration of Independence signer Arthur Middleton and oldest brother of Henrietta) and Sarah Middleton Rutledge. Henriette died soon after the birth of their third child on April 22, 1792 at the age of 41, the same day Edward’s mother died. They had been married for 18 years. She was buried at St. Philips Church Cemetery located on Church Street in Charleston.
Henrietta Middleton was the second oldest daughter and third in line of seven children of the Honorable Henry Middleton. Her mother, Mary Williams, was the only daughter of John Williams, a wealthy landowner, Justice of the Peace and member of the Assembly. Mary’s dowry included the house and plantation that they named Middleton Place. Here, rather than at the Middleton plantation, The Oaks, they made their home. Henrietta’s father Henry was the second President of the First Continental Congress. Henrietta’s oldest brother Arthur Middleton was also an American patriot and just like Henrietta’s husband was signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Henrietta’s great-grandfather, Edward Middleton, was born in 1640 and emigrated with his brother, Arthur Middleton, from England to Barbados in 1655. More than a decade later, in 1668, Edward Middleton immigrated to the Lowcountry of South Carolina, where he became Lord Proprietor’s Deputy and Assistant Justice of the Grand Council, 1668-1684. He received large grants of land on Goose Creek on which he proceeded to establish the plantation he named The Oaks.
Edward’s son, Arthur Middleton, was born at The Oaks in 1681. During his life he inherited estates in England, Barbados and South Carolina. He was also quite active in public life. He became President of the Convention that overthrew the Lords Proprietors in 1719 and became acting Governor of the Colony from 1725-1730. His wife, Sarah Amory, was the daughter of Jonathan Amory, who was appointed by the Crown as Advocate General in South Carolina Admiralty Courts, and became Speaker of the House of Commons.
Middletons In America (1668-1800)
Edward Middleton (1640-1685) married Sarah Fowell (1650-1685)
Arthur Middleton (1681-1737) married Sarah Amory (1690-1722)
Henry Middleton (1717-1784) married Mary Baker Williams (1721-1761)
Arthur Middleton (1742-1787) & Henrietta Middleton (1750-1792)
And five (5) other siblings.
Henry Middleton (1717-1784)
Henry Middleton, the father of Henrietta Middleton, was ranked as one of the wealthiest, most influential and politically active men in the colony during the 1700’s. Henry began construction of Middleton Place in 1741, a home that would become both an intellectual and emotional focus for successive generations of Middletons. In all he owned approximately 20 different plantations that embraced over 50,000 acres. As a public servant Henry was Speaker of the Commons, Commissioner for Indian Affairs and a member of the Governor’s Council until 1770 when he resigned the seat to become a leader of opposition to British policy. As a Patriot Henry was chosen to represent South Carolina in the colonies’ First Continental Congress and on October 22, 1774 was elected President of that august body. He served after the first ever President Peyton Randolph and prior to the Second Continental Congress overseen by President John Hancock. At the time Middleton opposed declaring independence from Great Britain. He resigned from the Second Continental Congress in February 1776 when more radical delegates began pushing for independence. He was succeeded in Congress by his son, Arthur Middleton, who was deemed more radical than his father and thus became a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Henry Middleton was asked to serve another term, but declined due to reasons of health. He wanted to return to his home in South Carolina and spend his remaining years at The Oaks with the knowledge that his son, Arthur, would succeed him in the Continental Congress.
Arthur Middleton (1742 – 1787)
While in his twenties Henrietta’s brother Arthur became keenly interested in politics and was considered a more radical thinker than his father when it came to opposing British Parliament and King George III. Arthur Middleton was elected to the South Carolina Provincial House of Commons from 1772 to 1775. He became a leader in the “American Party” in South Carolina and was appointed by the Provincial Congress in 1775 to a secret committee of five men authorized to place the colony in a “posture of defense.” He recommended a variety of defensive measures for Charleston Harbor. Upon the Committee’s edict, the Royal Magazine of Arms and Ammunition was appropriated for the defense of the Colony. Middleton became a forceful advocate for anti-Loyalist actions, including tar and feathering and the confiscation of estates belonging to Loyalists who had fled the country.
In June, 1776, Arthur was one of 13 chosen for the Council of Safety. This council took measures to organize a military force, the officers of which received commissions at their hands and under their signature. He engaged in drafting a state constitution and designed the great seal of South Carolina working with William Henry Drayton.
When his esteemed father Henry Middleton became ill, Arthur took his place in the Continental Congress where it was reported that he spoke forcefully and frequently. That most important period in our nation’s history culminated in the signing of the Declaration of Independence. After taking part in that momentous event Arthur returned home and as an officer of the local militia actively engaged in the defense of the City of Charleston.
British forces landed near Charleston in 1780 and ravaged the surrounding area and many of the plantations, including Middleton Place. While the buildings remained intact, the British and Loyalists stole anything of value they could carry, while destroying everything they could not carry. The Middleton family escaped capture at that point by fleeing to Charleston ahead of the British raid.
When the British occupation of Charleston began, three South Carolina signers, Arthur, his bother-in-law Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward were captured, taken from their homes and were incarcerated for almost a year in Saint Augustine, Florida. In July, 1781 the three were freed in a prisoner exchange, and Arthur was appointed by Governor John Rutledge (the brother of Edward Rutledge) to the state senate. He was re-elected to that seat in 1782. In November of that year, he returned to South Carolina to visit his family from whom he had been separated so he might to view for the first time the plundering and devastation wrought by the British during their occupation of Middleton Place.
When peace was assured Arthur decided to return home to Middleton Place for good in 1783, after declining another seat in the Congress, preferring instead the pleasure of retirement and enjoyment of his estate. He began restoring order to his plantation. Much of what is seen there today was influenced by the Middleton family’s travels abroad. He did serve in the State Legislature and also became one of the original Trustees of Charleston College.
Arthur Middleton died in 1787, the year of our Constitution, at the young age of 44, but by then his work was finished, and his legacy assured. He was buried in the family mausoleum in his beloved 18th century garden at Middleton Place.
The Middleton family continued their tradition of patriotism and service to country throughout succeeding generations. Arthur’s son Henry followed in his father’s footsteps with an education in England and then served in both houses of the State Legislature and a term as Governor of South Carolina. He served as Minister to Russia during the entire decade of the 1820s, after serving in Congress.
Henrietta’s other brother, Williams, was Secretary for the American Legation in Russia and was instrumental in negotiating the first treaty between the United States and Russia relative to navigation, fishing and trading in the Pacific Ocean and establishments of the north and west coasts. Later Williams became active in the politics of his day. He supported States Rights and signed the Ordinance of Secession separating South Carolina from the Union. During the ensuing war, Middleton Place was once again the scene of destruction, burning, pillaging and looting of valuables by Union troops.
Middleton Place is now owned by the Middleton Place Foundation and is a National Historic Landmark. It has been devastated by wars, earthquakes, hurricanes and the ravages of time but fortunately visitors today may still visit this historic site, touring the gardens, rice paddies, stable yard and the house which has been furnished with Middleton family possessions. The entire stately manor overlooking the butterfly lakes is no more with only one flanker remaining of the main house. Despite the devastation from history the legacy of the Middleton family still stands as tall today as it did in years past.
USS Arthur Middleton APA-25
One of the US Navy attack transports built during World War II was named the USS Arthur Middleton in honor of the signer, and saw service in the Pacific Theater. The ship was designed to transport troops and their equipment to hostile shores to execute amphibious operations. They carried a substantial number of landing craft, and were heavily armed with anti-aircraft weaponry to protect their valuable cargo of troops from air attack. The USS Arthur Middleton served almost exclusively in the Pacific Theatre taking part in many of the Navy’s island hopping campaigns
In Washington, DC, on the mall near the Washington Monument, is a park and lagoon dedicated to the signers of the Declaration. On one of the 56 granite markers there carries the engraved name of Arthur Middleton.
Not far away in the Rotunda at the National Archives is the famous painting by John Trumbull entitled “The Declaration of Independence.” Middleton is shown standing on the left in a group of five delegates. He is the figure on the extreme right of the group leaning forward directly in front of the door frame.