William Henry Gist

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William Henry Gist
William Henry Gist.jpg
Member of the Executive Council of South Carolina
In office
December 14, 1861 – September 29, 1862
Governor Francis Wilkinson Pickens
68th Governor of South Carolina
In office
December 10, 1858 – December 14, 1860
Lieutenant Merrick E. Carn
Preceded by Robert Francis Withers Allston
Succeeded by Francis Wilkinson Pickens
43rd Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
In office
December 12, 1848 – December 13, 1850
Governor Whitemarsh B. Seabrook
Preceded by William Cain
Succeeded by Joshua J. Ward
Member of the South Carolina Senate from Union District
In office
November 25, 1844 – November 24, 1856
Preceded by William Kennedy Clowney
Succeeded by Joseph Fincher Gist
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from Union District
In office
November 23, 1840 – November 25, 1844
Personal details
Born (1807-08-22)August 22, 1807
Charleston, South Carolina
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Union County, South Carolina
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Louisa Bowen
Mary Rice
Profession Statesman

William Henry Gist (August 22, 1807– September 30, 1874) was the 68th Governor of South Carolina from 1858 to 1860 and a leader of the secession movement in South Carolina.[1] He was one of the signers of the Ordinance of Secession on December 20, 1860, which effectively launched the Confederacy.

Early life and career

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, on August 22, 1807, Gist was the illegitimate child of merchant Francis Fincher Gist and Mary Boyden. He moved with his father to Union County, South Carolina, in 1811 and came under the guardianship of his uncle, Nathaniel Gist, upon the death of his father in 1819. His uncle legally obtained the Gist last name for William Henry and sent him to Columbia to study law at South Carolina College (which became the University of South Carolina after the Civil War ended). Gist was expelled in 1827 because he had led a boycott of Steward's Hall due to the living restrictions imposed by the trustees of the college.

Nevertheless, Gist passed the Bar examination and returned to Union to build Rose Hill Plantation on the land that his father had left him. Bricks were made on-site to construct the two and a half story Georgian style mansion, and it took four years to complete. He successfully managed the plantation, and it steadily grew in size and importance. Twice, Gist ran into difficulties with the law for alleged involvement in duels, but both times escaped without punishment.

Political career

Gist won election to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1840 as a strong supporter of states' rights, and he was elected to the South Carolina Senate in 1844. He served three terms in the SC state Senate before being elected by the General Assembly as the 68th Governor of South Carolina. Gist's home at Rose Hill Plantation served as the Governor's Mansion during his term as governor.

Gist was bitterly opposed to the presidential candidacy of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860, and Gist had discussed with governors of other Southern states what course of action they would take if Lincoln were elected. Gist believed that because the United States of America was created through a compact among sovereign states, the states retained their sovereign powers and could leave the Union if the federal government failed to protect their rights and privileges. Receiving assurances from the governors of Florida and Mississippi that they would follow South Carolina's lead, Gist called for a secession convention to be held in Columbia on December 17, 1860. The convention was moved to Charleston because of a smallpox outbreak in Columbia, and Gist was one of the signers of the Ordinance of Secession on December 20, 1860. Florida and Mississippi signed their own Ordinance of Secession in January 1861.

The creation of the South Carolina Executive Council in 1861 provided Gist an opportunity to participate in the state's wartime activities of the Civil War. He was in charge of the Department of Treasury and Finance and later the Department of Construction and Manufactures, but the dissolution of the South Carolina Executive Council in September 1862 ended his involvement in the politics of the state.

Gist had two sons who fought for the Confederacy. His eldest son William was killed by a Union sharpshooter outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1863. Gist was the cousin of States Rights Gist, a Confederate brigadier general who died leading a charge at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, in 1864.

Later life

After the Civil War ended in 1865, Gist took an oath of allegiance in Greenville, South Carolina, and received a pardon from President Andrew Johnson. He returned to Rose Hill Plantation, which had survived the Civil War and Sherman's March to the Sea because the Broad River was in flood stages and the Union troops could not get through. Gist remained at Rose Hill and rented out the land to sharecroppers. He developed appendicitis and died on September 30, 1874. Gist is buried in the family plot near the mansion.

See also


  1. Peevy, Jason. "Rose Hill Plantation - The Union County Home of South Carolina's "Fire-Eating" Governor Today Is a State Park" (PDF). Sandlapper Magazine Archives, Winter 2002-03. Sandlapper Magazine Online. Retrieved 26 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
William Cain
Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by
Joshua J. Ward
Preceded by
Robert Francis Withers Allston
Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by
Francis Wilkinson Pickens