Yesterday I met a pile of people I have been wanting to discover since December when I bought The 118 in Charleston.
I went to the Tax Assessment office at the grand and handsome 101 Meeting Street to file for legal residence tax. While there I asked where I could find out more about my property. They sent me to the second floor to the R.M.C office (Register Mesne Conveyance) where a Della Reese look alike bellowed a big ole ‘Howdy Do’ and pointed me to the back of the office to find someone to help me.
101 Meeting Street
I followed the halls back until I came upon a ‘lovely older woman’ named Nancy. She had the voice of a Mourning Dove: light, lifted but matter of fact. I told her I was interested to learn who has lived in my house and she kindly guided me through the Charleston County website and after several seconds she sweetly chirped, ‘Well here you go!” She had printed out a page with three names, Peter Walsh, Dexter Wilson and Marie Pelzer Fludd, the deed dates ranging from 2004-2005. I nervously looked at her and said, “Oh thank you for this but I mean the whole shebang since 1890.”
I think I must have said the magic word. Miss Nancy’s eyes began to sparkle and she removed her glasses and said, “Well then, we have some work to do.” And with that she took me on a journey through microfiche, piles of papers and finally to the treasure trove, the original Charleston County real estate books from the 19th century.
It was all a bit of a blur since clearly she has done this for so many other historic home fanatics. As soon as we would adjust the zoom on a microfiche she would read an RMC number from the page, hit print, and move on the the next book. She kept saying, “My, you are lucky all of this is typed out! It makes it so much easier.” But once we got to 1926 it was fill-in-the-blanks and of course by 1892 it was all hand written. At this point she said, “Well this just wont do anymore on microfiche, we need to see the real thing.” And with that she glided through rooms, hallways, security systems until we finally arrived in a freezing room full of those books that just make my eye’s go all spirally.
There they were, those grand old ancient books filled with quill ink and the answers to my questions, we hoped. As soon as she opened the book in question (it was so huge I had to carry it with both hands for her) we are accosted by the glare of Vreeland Red psychedelic marbleizing on the front page. Those wild Edwardians! We then carefully peeled back the pages to 169 and there we found them, Julia M. M. Graves.
From what we can gather she sold the house in 1892 (it was built in 1890) to a mister John N. Graman who I later discovered was a prominent doctor in Charleston. I find it amusing that they mentioned ‘The Sixth Day of October in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Ninety Two on the One Hundred and Seventeenth Day of the Sovereignty and the Independence of the United States of America.”
If that wasn’t riveting enough, we glanced at the deed above mine and it was to the Countess de Choiseul for property on East Bay Street! The Duke de Choiseul (possibly her grandfather?) helped arrange the marriage of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. The Count and Countess mentioned were French consul to Charleston.
Countess de Choiseul's Document!
Now for the historical run down of my little abode:
Julia M. Graves (possibly widowed and with much more property than what is now included, we gather)- occupied from 1890-1892
Sold for $5,000.00 to
John H. Graman and Alice M. Graman - occupied from 1892- 1926
Sold for $4,000 to
Mary Polhemus - occupied from March 3, 1926- July 29th 1926
Sold for $2,600.00 to
Gustave J. Knobeloch- occupied from 1926- 1936
Sold for $2,505.00 to
J.N. Peeksen- occupied from 1936-1941
Sold for $1,541.67 to
William F. Peeksen- occupied from 1941-1961
Sold for $7,000.00 to
Edna W. Peeksen- occupied from 1961- 1975
Sold for $13,000.00 to
Marie Pelzer Fludd - occupied from 1975-2004
Sold for $100,000 to
Decatur Wilson II - renovated the home and flipped it 2004-2005
Sold for $420,000 to
Peter Walsh -occupied from 2005 -2012 (bought for his daughter while in college, later rented out to stinky college dudes and girls)
Sold to ME December 1st, 2012
I feel a huge comfort in knowing who has lived here, loved here, planted, cooked, mourned and laughed in these very rooms over the past 123 years. I hope to discover more about each of them (especially Julia!). I have done some quick googling and managed to find some of their graves located not too far from here on upper Meeting Street.
And one final note on Miss Nancy. When we started this process she said rather sternly, ‘Now you do know each copy is .50 cents?” I did not but was happy to pay. In the end we had printed countless copies and when I was leaving I asked where I went to pay. She slid those glasses back on and whispered, “You don’t owe a thing honey, you just enjoy what we found, ya hear?” I hear, so does Julia and Mary and John and....