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All history is “local history” to someone. And the preservation, interpretation, and presentation of local history rest on the efforts of countless individuals in communities around the Palmetto State. This week, Dr. Edgar talks with three individuals who know well what it takes to discover and preserve the history of local communities: Dr. Eric Emerson, Director of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History; Don Mathis, President of the Lee County Historical Society; and Janson Cox, former director of the SC Cotton Museum.

“C” is for Charleston Single House

Oct 17, 2016

“C” is for Charleston Single House. The single house is the building form most closely associated with eighteenth-century Charleston architecture. It first appeared in the early eighteenth century and emerged as a favored residential form after the fire of 1740. The typical single house stands two or more stories in height and is built on a rectangular plan with its narrow end facing the street. Each floor has two rooms with a central stair-hall in between.

"B" is for Bratton, John [1831-1898]. Soldier, congressman. With secession, Bratton joined a local company. In 1June 1861, he resigned his commission, and enlisted as a private in the Sixth Regiment, South Carolina Volunteers. Rising quickly through the ranks, within a year he was a colonel and commander of the Sixth Regiment. Wounded and captured at the battle of Seven Pines, he was exchanged and rejoined his old regiment. In May 1864 he was promoted to brigadier general and commander of Bratton’s Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia—a position he held until Appomattox.

"U" is for Unitarians

Oct 13, 2016

"U" is for Unitarians. Unitarians in South Carolina boast a legacy of professional distinction and influence disproportionate to their size and numbers. The Second Independent Church of Charleston was incorporated in 1817. Unitarian theology was broad, liberal, and ecumenical. Despite the unpopularity of Unitarian beliefs, members of the congregation and their minister, the Rev. Samuel Gilman, rose to positions of power and influence among the city’s literary, mercantile, and intellectual elite.

"T" is for Taylor, John [1770-1832]. Congressman, governor, U.S. Senator. Taylor was educated at local academies and later graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton). He was a successful planter and lawyer, but spent much of his adult life in politics. He represented Saxe Gotha and Richland Districts in the General Assembly and in 1806 was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1810 Taylor was elected to the U.S. Senate where he was the author of the famed Macon's Bill # 2 which placed economic sanctions on those nations that violated American neutrality.

"S" is for St. George's Dorchester Parish. The Parish of St. George's Dorchester was established in 1717 to accommodate the growing population on the upper reaches of the Ashley River. The earliest settlement in the area, though, dated from 1695 when a group of New England Congregationalists from Dorchester, Massachusetts created a New-England-style township on the river. Beginning in 1752, most of the descendants of the Congregationalists left Dorchester and moved to Georgia. During the unrest caused by the French and Indian War, Fort Dorchester was built in the town.

"R" is for Randolph, Benjamin Franklin [ca. 1820-1868]. Legislator, clergyman. Randolph was born a free person of color in Kentucky, but was reared in Ohio. He was a graduate of Oberlin College, and after graduation was ordained as a Methodist clergyman. He served as a chaplain to the 26th U.S. Colored Troops at Hilton Head and, after the war settled in Charleston. He entered politics and rose quickly through the ranks of the Republican Party.

"P" is for the Palmetto Armory. The Palmetto Armory was a short-lived effort to establish a weapons-manufacturing capability in South Carolina during the secession crisis of 1849-1852. In 1850, following Governor Whitemarsh B. Seabrook's recommendation, the General Assembly created a Board of Ordnance and appropriated $350,000 for weapons and munitions. The Board contracted with the Armory to produce muskets, rifles, pistols, and cavalry sabers—all of which were to be of current US Army pattern. But, they to be manufactured wholly within the state.

"B" is for Brandon Mill. Located two miles west of downtown Greenville, the community of Brandon emerged after the construction of the Brandon Mill in 1901. Founded by J. Irving Westervelt, the original mill had 10,000 spindles and 400 looms. Some sixty cottages for workers were built nearby. Originally called Quentin, Westervelt changed the name to Brandon—after a town near Belfast, Ireland, where textiles had long been produced. The mill was an immediate success and by 1916 had 86,000 spindles. Falling cotton prices and the Great Depression ruined the market for textile goods.

Hobcaw Barony is a 16,000 acre tract on the Waccamaw Neck, between the Winyah Bay and the Atlantic Ocean in Georgetown County, SC. Once owned by the investor, philanthropist, presidential advisor, and South Carolina native Bernard M. Baruch, the property was used as a hunting preserve between 1905 and 1907. It is now owned and operated by the non-profit Belle W. Baruch Foundation as a site for research in the environmental sciences.

"B' is for Branchville [Orangeburg County; population 1,083]. Incorporated in 1858, Branchville is known as Orangeburg County’s “railroad town” because of its recognition as the oldest railroad junction in the world. The South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company completed its track to Branchville from Charleston in 1832. From this place, the railroad would later branch off to serve Columbia. This was not the first time that travellers had to choose a route at Branchville. A Native American trail forked here. One path led to Orangeburg and the other headed towards Augusta.

"M" is for Magrath, Andrew Gordon [1813-1893]. Jurist, governor. After graduating from the South Carolina College, Magrath studied law at Harvard and with James L. Petigru. In 1856 his appointment as a federal district judge brought him national attention and controversy. In the cases surrounding two ships seized for being slave traders—the Echo and the Wanderer—Magrath declared that the federal statues on piracy did not apply to the slave trade. His decision was hailed in the South and condemned in the North.

"L" is for Lamar Riot

Oct 3, 2016

"L" is for Lamar Riot. The Lamar Riot, on March 3, 1970, the most violent reaction against court-ordered school desegregation in South Carolina Schools, happened in the small rural Darlington County community of Lamar. The riots occurred when a mob of 150-200 white men and women, armed with ax handles, bricks, and chains overturned two school buses that had delivered black students to Lamar elementary and high schools. They clashed with about 150 South Carolina highway patrolmen and State Law Enforcement Division agents.

"C" is for Camp Croft

Sep 30, 2016

"C" is for Camp Croft.

"C" is for Camden

Sep 29, 2016

"C" is for Camden.

"B" is for Bamberg County

"A" is for African Americans in the Revolutionary War

"A" is for African Americans in the Revolutionary War  

"K" is for Kershaw, Joseph Brevard [1822-1894]. Soldier, Jurist. Kershaw, a native of Camden, was a member of the General Assembly and of the Secession Convention. In April 1861 he was a colonel of the Second South Carolina Regiment which played an active role in the Confederate victory at First Manassas. The next year he was promoted to brigadier general and given command of the brigade that saw action at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg.

"J" is for Jakes, John

Sep 22, 2016

"J" is for Jakes, John [b. 1932]. Novelist. Born in Illinois, Jakes is a nationally known best-selling novelist and historian. For several decades, he maintained his primary residence on Hilton Head Island. After graduating from DePauw University, he spent a number of years working for pharmaceutical and advertising companies. Then, in 1973 he published the first of eight volumes of the Kent Family Chronicles—a series that depicted the American Revolution through the eyes of one fictional family.

"I" is for indigo

Sep 21, 2016

"I" is for indigo. Indigo, a plant that produces a blue dye was an important part of 18th century South Carolina's economy. It was grown commercially from 1747 till 1800 and was second only to rice in export value. Eliza Lucas Pinckney experimented with its cultivation in the 1730s and 1740s. In 1749 Parliament placed a bounty of six pence per pound on the dye. Indigo was grown on lands not suited to rice cultivation and thus fit nicely into the existing agricultural economy. By the eve of the Revolution, the colony exported more than one million pounds of dye.

"W" is for Wright, Mary Honor Farrow [1862-1946]. Educator. Born into slavery in Spartanburg County, Wright received her early education from northern teachers who came to South Carolina after the Civil War. In 1879, after graduating from Claflin University, she accepted her first teaching position in Inman, where she held classes in a brush arbor. She later organized schools and taught in mill villages and churches in Spartanburg and Saxon. In 1904 she organized a school in her home for black children who were to young to walk to the nearest black school.

Dr. Charles Joyner
Courtesy of Coastal Carolina University

Becoming Southern Writers: Essays in Honor of Charles Joyner (2016, USC Press) is a collection of essays that pay tribute to the late South Carolinian Charles Joyner’s more than fifty years as a writer of Southern history, folklore, music and literature. (Dr. Joyner died on Tuesday, September 13, 2016.) The contributors, exceptional writers of fact, fiction, and poetry, describe their experiences of living in and writing about the South.

"W" is for Wright, Louis Booker [1899-1984]. Historian, library administrator. After graduating from Wofford, Wright earned his Ph.D. in English literary history from UNC. For nearly two decades he was a member of the research staff at the Huntingdon Library in California. In 1948 he was appointed the director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. During his twenty-year tenure at the Folger, he arranged major acquisitions of rare early imprints and the library became a world-class research institution.

"K" is for Kensington Plantation, located in lower Richland County. Rather than follow the Greek-revival style so favored by his fellow Southern planters, Matthew Richard Singleton chose to transform his simple upcountry farmhouse into a Renaissance-inspired mansion that recalled the country villas of northern Italy. Kensington is a frame house set on a raised basement. The domed central section is flanked by two gabled wings with arched colonnades and fronted by a porte cochere with Corinthian pilasters.

"J" is for Jackson, Mary [b. 1945]. Artist, basket maker. Born in Mount Pleasant, Jackson grew up in an African American community of basket makers and learned the craft as a child from her mother. In the mid-1970s she began creating baskets seriously and soon mastered a variety of shapes and types including the rice-winnowing tray called the “fanner,” grain storage baskets, and flower, market, and sewing baskets for domestic use. She had a solo exhibition at the Gibbes Museum of Art in 1984 that introduced her to the public.

"I" is for Indian Mounds. Along the state's rivers and streams are vestiges of South Carolina's prehistoric past. Indian mounds offer fragmentary evidence of the cultures that thrived before Europeans arrived. There are two distinct cultural groups associated with the mounds: Woodlands peoples and Mississippian Indians. Woodlands period mounds are located primarily along coastal rivers, while Mississippian mounds are found along inland rivers near the fall zone. Beaufort County has the largest number of identified mounds, followed by counties in the midlands. Built between C.E.

"H" is for the Hallelujah Singers, a nationally-recognized performance troupe offering unique cultural programming by preserving, performing, and celebrating the rich heritage of the Sea Island Gullah culture. Organized as a vocal ensemble by Marlena Smalls in 1990 and based in Beaufort, the group promotes Gullah culture through song, story, dance, and dramatic performance. The group has developed programs that combine storytelling and Gullah music—a music form steeped in a rich African American spiritual tradition.

Molly Pitcher, long one of the few images an American Woman active in the Revolution, is likely a composite image inspired by the actions of several real women.
Currier & Ives, via Wikimedia Commons

  In her book, Revolutionary Mothers: Women and the Struggle for American Independence (2015, Knopf) Dr. Carol Berkin makes the argument that the American Revolution is a story of both women and men. Women played an active and vital role in the war; although history books have often greatly minimized or completely left out the contributions of women in the creation of our nation, or greatly romanticized their role.

"G" is for Gaffney

Sep 12, 2016

"G" is for Gaffney [Cherokee County; population 12,968]. In 1804 an Irish immigrant, Michael Gaffney bought land in the area and constructed a house, barns, a store, and a tavern. The property, variously known as Gaffney's Cross Roads or Gaffney's Old Field, became a local gathering place, but failed to compete with nearby Limestone Springs. In the early 1870s, Michael Gaffney’s widow, Mary, lured the Southern Railway to her property with the promise of free right-of-way from the Cross Roads to the Broad River.