Misinterpretation of historic sites or names is understandable in a city with a past as extensive as Charleston’s. There are aspects of our history that are not well-docmented or obscured by legend, and any interpretation is worth considering if it is based on some precedent. One common mistake that is often repeated, however, is simply a matter of confusion over similarly-spelled French words. The subject of this confusion is the spiked metal apparatus that adorns several locations in the city, most prominently at the Miles Brewton house on King Street. The spikes were put up as a deterrent to house invasion after a city-wide scare of slave revolt in 1822. The infamous Denmark Vesey conspiracy was uncovered to reveal gruesome details for plans of mass murder, and many in the city continued to be fearful of plans to climb into their homes during the night.

  To create an obstacle that provided protection, Charlestonians turned to a method made famous by Dutch armies in the 17th and 18th centuries during their battles with Spain. Because the Dutch could not counter the fearsome Spanish cavalry, they revived an idea used in the flat northern province of Friesland to hold back invaders – sharp wooden spikes protruding from logs.

 The rows of pointed spikes proved effective in holding back the Spanish horses, and became known as “Frisian horses”, which, in the language of international diplomacy at that time (French), was called “chevaux-de-frise”.  You can see this type of defensive position in Civil War pictures of trenches at various battlefields, and it also became known as “abattis”.

 Charlestonians assumed what worked against horses would also serve against human beings, and for lasting protection, had the spikes wrought from iron to make them impervious to rot and fire.

 The confusion over the old French name came much later, as tours went past old houses, and the term “chevaux-de-frise” was misinterpreted by some who translated “chevaux” as “cheveux”, which means “hair”, and mistakenly added an accent to “frise”, which makes it translate as “curly”.

 Thus was born “curly hair”, which doesn’t have much story-telling appeal, so the translation became “spiked hair”, which is often heard on the streets of Charleston today.

  Sorry folks, they didn’t wear spiked hair in 1822, and the true translation is “Frisian horses”.



Michael Feeding Feline Friend

One of the Charleston’s most anticipated events is the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition each February, featuring world-class wildlife art, exciting live animal displays and exhibits, and some of the best parties on the planet.
Charleston is a natural for nature’s beauty, as our climate attracts an incredible array of wild indigenous and migratory species, and we have always had a kindred relationship with animals in the field.
Starting up above, we are blessed with winged creatures of every size, shape and color. Our official state bird, the Carolina Wren, is tiny, but emits a powerful whistling message that is distinctive and delightful on golden Spring mornings. Swamps and woodlands echo with the uplifting tomes of the Prothonotary Warbler, while marshes reverberate with the staccato sounds of the Clapper Rail.
Drifting high on warming thermals are a variety of birds of prey, from the imposing horizontal wing span of the Great Bald Eagle to the tilting V-shape of circling Vultures. Along the coast, great Blue Herons and Egrets stand statuesquely near tidal creeks, Eastern Brown Pelicans wing over for sensational dives into the sea, and lone Black Skimmers create long streaks in still waters with beaks that drag delicately inches above the surface.
Migratory and game birds abound aplenty in Charleston winters, from floating flocks of Trumpeter Swans and Canada Geese to formation flights of Mallard and Mottled ducks. Cold rivers swarm with American Coots that seem to walk on water as they dash in monstrous melees when startled, and woodlands come alive with gobbling Wild Turkeys, the state game bird, which is surprisingly swift for an animal better known as a dining centerpiece.

Formidable creatures linger in protected habitats, from massive American Alligators, our state reptile, that send shuddering calls during mating periods in the Summer, to graceful White-Tailed Deer, our state animal, that dart effortlessly through mazes of dwarf palmettos. Sightings have been frequently reported of Golden Panthers and Black Bears deep in area forests, and other less-frequently-seen species in the Lowcountry include the Fox Squirrel, the Grey Fox, and the Beaver.
A major star at SEWE has always been the retriever, whether it was a Labrador, a Golden, or a Boykin, which is our state dog, and some of the best athletes in town are the leaping four-leggers chasing Frisbees.

Sullivan’s Island Halves and Half-Nots

Sullivan’s Island was crossed by trolley lines beginning in the 1860’s and was connected to Mount Pleasant ferry boat landings by a cove bridge in 1898. There was an express trolley that went to the newly-created amusement park on Long Island, whose name was changed to the Isle of Palms, and a local trolley that stopped at “stations” located on perpendicular roads that were gradually developed as the island grew. The first group of stations were Mount Pleasant stops, with the first island stop at station 8 across the bridge. The old trolley bridge was replaced with a vehicle span in the 1920’s, which was removed with the creaton of the Ben Sawyer span in the 1940’s. The trolley service ended as well, but the old “station” designations would be revived in the 1950’s as streets were renamed with the station numbers. Today, the first perpendicular station street is number 9, with whole numbers continuing to the island’s north end at Station 32, with several “half stations” at 9 1/2, 14 1/2, 16 1/2, 18 1/2, 20 1/2, 22 1/2, 26 1/2, an 28 1/2. So the correct answer to how many halves  and half-nots at Sullivan’s Island would be 8 and 24, respectively.