For those of you who may not have met Harriott Johnson, she is a lifelong parishioner at St. Michaels. She remembers the Rev. Albert Stuart giving a “very strict” confirmation course, for he made them learn practically every prayer in the book. In those days, Holy Communion was given only once a month, and during the Lenten season, the children attended a service every Friday afternoon. Since then, many of those children have migrated to Bishop Gadsden, so Harriott is happy to welcome new faces at St. Michael’s because her four children and nine grandchildren live elsewhere.
Harriott is descended from some distinguished Americans, several of whom are buried in St. Michael’s churchyard. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, signer of the U. S. Constitution, is buried right behind the church. Harriott serves on the Altar Guild, and she and others would delight in pouring the surplus consecrated wine over his tombstone to “give Uncle Charlie a Sunday drink.” Harriott Pinckney, C. C. Pinckney’s daughter, is buried nearby. Miss Pinckney left a lasting legacy by providing the land to build the Seaman’s Home and Seaman’s Chapel on the Charles Pinckney property fronting East Bay Street before Pinckney descendants donated it for the City Market expansion.
With all the controversy associated with the cruise ships, it is interesting to note that Harriott’s great grandfather was Charles Parsons, the New York financier who helped bring the money and expertise to develop the railroads and expand the port capacity. Her Parsons grandparents lived at The Oaks, the old Edward Middleton plantation in Goose Creek. Harriott has done a tremendous amount of research on Parsons and his connections with the former Reconstruction Governor Daniel Chamberlain who left South Carolina in defeat and returned in triumph to help rescue the port’s transportation system. This interesting odyssey has recently been published in a book now for sale at St. Michael’s bookstore.
Harriott has anonymously shared other interesting tidbits in St. Michael’s cookbook. A catchy bit of whimsy is how to identify “Real Charlestonians,” for there are just four classes of citizens. The “First Charlestonians” are those who are descended from families who immigrated in Proprietary times (1670-1719). Then came “New Charlestonians,” the descendants of those who came between 1720 and the close of the American Revolution. Those who arrived between then and 1865 are “Green Charlestonians,” leaving everybody else to fall into a final group, lovingly known as “Visitors.”
On Sundays, Harriott likes to sit with Jan Beebe at the 10:30 service. Be sure to say hello, and she will be glad to tell you more.