About William Henry Gist
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.
Early life and career
Born in Charleston 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 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 study law at South Carolina College. 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 and returned to Union to build Rose Hill Plantation on the land that his father had left him. Bricks were imported from Switzerland to construct the three-story Federal 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.
Gist won election to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1840 as a strong supporter of state rights and was elected to the South Carolina Senate in 1844. He served three terms in the state Senate before being elected by the General Assembly as the 68th Governor of South Carolina. Abraham Lincoln was bitterly opposed by Gist in the presidential election of 1860 and Gist conversed with governors of other Southern states about what course of action they would take if Lincoln was elected. 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. 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.
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 was the cousin of States Rights Gist, a Confederate general in the Civil War. Gist's eldest son William served in the Confederate Army and was killed outside Chattanooga in 1863.
After the war in 1865, Gist took an oath of allegiance in Greenville, South Carolina, and received a pardon from President Andrew Johnson. He remained on his plantation at Rose Hill, which had lost all of its grandeur, and rented out the land to sharecroppers. Gist developed a case of appendicitis and died at Rose Hill on September 30, 1874.