In a quaint brick structure recessed from the south side of Cumberland Street once lived one of the most famous South Carolinians of the colonial era, Chief Justice Nicholas Trott—so says a century’s worth of tourist literature and newspaper copy. Did the affluent Judge Trott really live in this petit cottage, or is there some flaw in this historical tale? The definitive answer lies buried in the archival record, where we find the details of a romantic story spanning three centuries in the life and times of the site now called “Trott’s Cottage.”
Nicholas Trott (1663–1740) is a well-known and controversial figure in the long history of South Carolina, but let’s review for a moment a brief synopsis of his biography. A native of England, he travelled to Bermuda in his early adult life and then studied law in London in the 1690s. The Lords Proprietors of Carolina appointed Trott attorney general of the colony in early 1698, and he arrived in Charleston the following year. He was also elected to the Commons House of Assembly in 1700 and became Chief Justice of Carolina in 1703. In the course of several return trips to England between 1708 and 1714, Trott curried additional favor with the Lords Proprietors, who enlarged his political powers. He was appointed to the prestigious Governor’s Council in 1714 and in 1716 became judge of the Court of Vice-Admiralty, responsible for adjudicating cases of maritime law.
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