William Ashmead Courtenay

Last updated
William Ashmead Courtenay
William Ashmead Courtenay (cropped).jpg
46th Mayor of Charleston
In office
Preceded by William W. Sale
Succeeded by George D. Bryan
Personal details
BornFebruary 4, 1831
Charleston, South Carolina
DiedMarch 17, 1908(1908-03-17) (aged 77)
Columbia, South Carolina
Political partyDemocrat
Spouse(s)Julia Ann Francis
ChildrenMrs. J.M. Bateman, Mrs. L.M. Barnwell, Rev. Carlisle Courtenay, St. John Courtenay, Ashmead Courtenay, Campbell Courtenay
ProfessionPublisher and journalist
Mayor Courtenay lived at 95 Ashley Avenue in Charleston, South Carolina while serving as mayor of the city 95 Ashley.JPG
Mayor Courtenay lived at 95 Ashley Avenue in Charleston, South Carolina while serving as mayor of the city

William Ashmead Courtenay was the forty-sixth mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, serving two terms from 1879 to 1887.


Early life

Courtenay was born on February 4, 1831, a son of Edward Smith Courtenay and Elizabeth Storer Wade. He attended the Classical and English Academy of Dr. J. C. Faber until he turned fifteen. [1]

From 1850 to 1860 he was occupied in the publishing and book selling business. In 1860, he accepted a position as the business manager for the Charleston Mercury , a leading political newspaper of South Carolina.

Civil War

Courtenay joined the Confederate military in 1861 and served throughout the American Civil War. He contributed to the Charleston Mercury as a war correspondent. [2]

Following the war, Courtenay was destitute, and he worked in Newberry, South Carolina, shuttling materials via wagon to replace the trains that had been damaged during the Civil War.

Later life

Courtenay returned to Charleston in 1866 and started a shipping business. When he was elected in 1879 as mayor, he worked to systematize and simplify city government. He pushed an amendment to the city charter which practically forbade any new debt by the city. He expressed his beliefs on the matter thus: "The money which we handle belongs to the people and no to us. We can only take it from them for legitimate expenses of government. More than this is a robbery. Official generosity is official crime." He ran unopposed in 1883. [3]

In addition to reform of city finances, Ficken had other accomplishments. He oversaw the final settlement of a bequest from William Enston which was finally used for the creation of the William Enston Home. He changed the Charleston fire department from a volunteer force to a paid department.

After leaving political office, he established the Courtenay Manufacturing Company in Newry, South Carolina. [3] He was also a member of the South Carolina Historical Commission which oversaw the state's historic archives. [4]

Courtenay died on March 17, 1908, at his home on Pendleton Street, Columbia, South Carolina. His body was returned to Charleston for burial at Magnolia Cemetery. [5]

Courtney Middle School on upper Meeting Street, Charleston, South Carolina was named in his honor. [3]

Related Research Articles

Battle of Fort Sumter 1861 American Civil War battle

The Battle of Fort Sumter was the bombardment of Fort Sumter near Charleston, South Carolina by the South Carolina militia, and the return gunfire and subsequent surrender by the United States Army, that started the American Civil War.

Robert Barnwell Rhett American politician

Robert Barnwell Rhett was an American politician who served as a deputy from South Carolina to the Provisional Confederate States Congress from 1861 to 1862, a member of the US House of Representatives from South Carolina from 1837 to 1849, and US Senator from South Carolina from 1850 to 1852. As a staunch supporter of slavery and an early advocate of secession, he was a "Fire-Eater".

William Porcher Miles American politician

William Porcher Miles was among the ardent states' rights advocates, supporters of slavery, and Southern secessionists who came to be known as the "Fire-Eaters." He is notable for having designed the most popular variant of the Confederate flag, originally rejected as the national flag in 1861 but adopted as a battle flag by the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee before it was reincorporated.

Francis Wilkinson Pickens

Francis Wilkinson Pickens was a political Democrat and Governor of South Carolina when that state became the first to secede from the United States.

George Trenholm

George Alfred Trenholm was a South Carolina businessman, financier, politician, and slaveholding planter who owned several plantations and strongly supported the Confederate States of America. He was appointed as its Secretary of the Treasury during the final year of the American Civil War.

Courtenay, an unincorporated community on Merritt Island in Brevard County, Florida, United States. It is part of the Palm Bay–Melbourne–Titusville Metropolitan Statistical Area. Courtenay was settled in the 1870s and 1880s by people from Charleston, South Carolina, and was named for William Ashmead Courtenay, a native of Charleston, Confederate veteran and Charleston businessman who later served two terms as Mayor of Charleston.

South Carolina in the American Civil War

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union in December 1860, and was one of the founding member states of the Confederacy in February 1861. The bombardment of the beleaguered U.S. garrison at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861 is generally recognized as the first military engagement of the war.

Charleston in the American Civil War

Charleston, South Carolina, was a hotbed of secession at the start of the American Civil War and an important Atlantic Ocean port city for the fledgling Confederate States of America. The first shots against the Federal government were those fired there by cadets of the Citadel to stop a ship from resupplying the Federally held Fort Sumter. Three months later, the bombardment of Fort Sumter triggered a massive call for Federal troops to put down the rebellion. Although the city and its surrounding fortifications were repeatedly targeted by the Union Army and Navy, Charleston did not fall to Federal forces until the last months of the war.

States Rights Gist

States Rights Gist was a lawyer, a militia general in South Carolina, and a Confederate Army brigadier general who served during the American Civil War. A relative of several prominent South Carolinians, Gist rose to fame during the war but was killed at the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864. His name was based on the Southern states’ rights doctrine of nullification politics of his father, Nathaniel Gist. Nathaniel Gist was a disciple of John C. Calhoun and chose his son's name to reflect his own political sentiments.

William Enston Home United States historic place

The William Enston Home, located at 900 King St., Charleston, South Carolina, is a complex of many buildings all constructed in Romanesque Revival architecture, a rare style in Charleston. Twenty-four cottages were constructed beginning in 1887 along with a memorial chapel at the center with a campanile style tower, and it was reserved for white residents. An infirmary was added in 1931 and later converted into a superintendent's home.

Newry, South Carolina Census-designated place in South Carolina, United States

Newry is a census-designated place in Oconee County, South Carolina, United States. According to the 2010 United States Census, the population of the CDP was 172.

Ashmead may refer to:

William Courtenay (1342–1396) was an Archbishop of Canterbury

History of Charleston, South Carolina From 1663 to present day

The history of Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the longest and most diverse of any community in the United States, spanning hundreds of years of physical settlement beginning in 1670 through modern times. Charleston was the leading city in the South from the colonial era to the Civil War The city grew wealthy through the export of rice and, later, sea island cotton and it was the base for many wealthy merchants and landowners.

<i>Charleston Mercury</i>

The Charleston Mercury was a secessionist newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, founded by Henry L. Pinckney in 1819. He was its sole editor for fifteen years. It ceased publication with the Union Army occupation of Charleston. After the American Civil War, publication resumed in November 1866 before the paper closed permanently two years later in 1868.

James Adger Smyth former mayor of Charleston, South Carolina

James Adger Smyth was Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina for two terms between 1896 and 1903.

R. Goodwyn Rhett

Robert Goodwyn Rhett (1862–1939) was the fiftieth mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, completing two terms from 1903 to 1911. From 1916–1918, he served as president of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States.

George D. Bryan

George D. Bryan (1845–1919) was the forty-seventh mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, completing one term from 1887 to 1891. Bryan was born on September 26, 1845, in Charleston to United States judge George S. and Rebecca Louisa Dwight. He died on June 4, 1919, and is buried at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston.

James Henry Ladson (1795–1868) was an American planter and businessman from Charleston, South Carolina. He was the owner of James H. Ladson & Co., a major Charleston firm that was active in the rice and cotton business, and owned over 200 slaves. He was also the Danish Consul in South Carolina, a director of the State Bank and held numerous other business, church and civic offices. James H. Ladson was a strong proponent of slavery and especially the use of religion to maintain discipline among the slaves. He and other members of the Charleston planter and merchant elite played a key role in launching the American Civil War. Among Ladson's descendants is Ursula von der Leyen, who briefly lived under the alias Rose Ladson.


  1. William Ashmead Courtenay, Preservation Society of Charleston
  2. McNeely, Patricia G. Knights of the Quill: Confederate Correspondents and Their Civil War Reporting. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 2010
  3. 1 2 3 "Capt Wm A. Courtenay Is Dead". Charleston News & Courier. March 18, 1908. p. 1. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  4. Wates, Wylma Anne (1979). "In the Beginning: South Carolina Hires Its First Archivist". The South Carolina Historical Magazine. 80 (2): 186–191. ISSN   0038-3082.
  5. "William Ashmead Courtenay (1831-1908)". Find a Grave. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
Preceded by
William W. Sale
Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina
Succeeded by
George D. Bryan