Retirement. That’s not a word one necessarily hears at my age. But, here I am. As of the end of June I will have completed 28 years in education in South Carolina, and I have decided it’s time to retire. Taking into account unused vacation time, my last day in our school district will be … Continue reading Ch-ch-ch-changes


I just spotted that I now have 20,075 photographs on Flickr. The image above is the latest, and it was posted on April 20. I posted my very first image on Flickr on July 20, 2005. It was the image of downtown Pomaria that you see below: That works out to nearly 2,500 images per … Continue reading 20,075

The Ghost Towns of Lake Marion, Part 3 – The Water Rises

Low Falls Lake Stumps Lomo

By the time the town of Ferguson was swallowed by the waters of Lake Marion, it had already been abandoned. That was not the case with other plantations and residences in the area. The Santee-Cooper project was both hailed as a New Deal marvel, and derided for robbing many of their homes. It’s history has been one of controversy.

As with many things that seem to cause trouble in South Carolina (slavery, Civil War, Mark Sanford, etc), that history had its roots in Charleston. While the peninsula makes an excellent harbor situated between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, those rivers don’t really go anywhere. They provided adequate access to the low country plantations, but they don’t penetrate very far into the state. By contrast, Savannah was right on the banks of the Savannah River, which provided an easy way to get goods from far inland down to that coastal city. In this state, boats coming down the Santee River had a long stretch along the ocean beset with tides and storms. There seemed to be no good way to get goods from the interior of South Carolina to its largest city.

In the late 1700’s the Santee Canal Company was formed to explore the possibility of connecting the Santee River with the Cooper River, providing a route into Charleston. Construction was begun in 1793 under the direction of Col. Christian Senf. William Moultrie was one of the principal shareholders, and eventually president of the company.

The canal did a great business until droughts of 1817 and 1818 dried up most of the waterway and left boats stranded. Eventually, railroads replaced the canal traffic, and the canal fell into disuse. However, the dream of a complete waterway connecting the Santee and Cooper Rivers persisted. Continue reading “The Ghost Towns of Lake Marion, Part 3 – The Water Rises”

The Ghost Towns of Lake Marion, Part 2 – Ferguson

Lake Marion Ghost Town Tour (42 of 223)

This weekend’s paddling trip to Lake Marion was nearly perfect. There was fantastic weather, beautiful scenery, excellent food, good company, and a venue with interesting history. Unfortunately, that history has been somewhat tainted and full of controversy.

Names like “Santee” and “Congaree” give indication that the original inhabitants of the area were Native Americans. Colonists also found the Santee River Basin a fertile ground for plantations and farming. Unfortunately, they also brought smallpox, which wiped out the Congaree tribes by the 1700’s. Francis Marion carried out his raids during the Revolutionary War from the dense cypress forests, earning him the name “Swamp Fox.” Lake Marion now bears his name.

As for the town of Ferguson itself, the story starts with two Chicago businessmen, Francis Beidler and Benjamin Ferguson. Post Civil War South Carolina was impoverished, and Beidler and Benjamin were able to purchase huge tracts of forest land at bargain prices. Their holdings included most of the Congaree-Wateree-Santee (Cowasee) Basin. According to an article in the Columbia Star

In 1881, two lumber magnates from Chicago, Francis Beidler and B.F. Ferguson formed the Santee River Cypress Lumber Company and purchased over 165,000 acres of land along the Congaree, Wateree, and Santee Rivers in South Carolina.

Beidler and Ferguson, realizing the forests of the Northeast and Midwest had been exhausted, meant to capitalize on the bald cypress trees they discovered in the virgin Santee floodplain. They built a lumber mill on the Santee River and constructed a “town” in which the workers could live. The new town was called Ferguson.

Continue reading “The Ghost Towns of Lake Marion, Part 2 – Ferguson”

The Ghost Towns of Lake Marion

Ferguson 2

Sometime last year I came across an article about the town of Ferguson, South Carolina. The defunct town is now submerged under Lake Marion. All that remains are some foundations and the old lumber kiln that had been part of the Santee Cypress Lumber Company. While looking for information about the old town, I also came across the location of the old Church of the Epiphany on Church Island. The “Rocks Cemetery” which had been associated with the church is still located on the island. Since these two were fairly close, it seemed that this would be an excellent paddling trip. So, this second Saturday of April, the explorers from Lowcountry Unfiltered decided to take it on.

Friday night I’d had an excellent dinner with Dwight and family, and had planned to spend the night in Santee. Once again, Santee struck me as a particularly seedy little town. Right at the Highway 301 exit from I-26 are billboards advertising some big adult book/video store. At the entrance to Santee are two adult “gentleman’s clubs” right across from each other. There were additional adult video places and what looked like defunct clubs lining the way in. Another active club was just down from the motel where I was staying. It looks like this was a place were guys came to fish and play golf during the day, then get other entertainment in the evenings. Add to that the fact that the main commerce, the Santee Factory Outlet Stores, had closed up and become a ghost town, and the entire effect was of one of decay.

Despite the creepiness, I got a good night’s sleep and was up early the next morning. I was supposed to meet Alan at Bell’s Marina in Eutaw Springs for breakfast, but I had a bit of time. I decided to check our proposed access points.

This would be a point-to-point trip with different put-in and take-out locations. The plan was to paddle from Ferguson Landing across to Ferguson Island to check out the ruins there. Then we would skirt along the interior of several islands, with a lunch stop at the “Hook” at Sixteen Island. After that we cross about two miles of open water to Church Island, then swing around to Spiers Landing for the take-out. Total trip would be about 8 miles, give or take a bit.

View Lake Marion Ghost Town Tour.kml in a larger map Continue reading “The Ghost Towns of Lake Marion”

Finding Granby

Congaree River

It had been a rough week. We’re getting ready for our Chorale Concert, our district is getting ready for its accreditation visit, and I’ve been working on projects for a graduate course. On Friday I had a state tech leaders meeting, and on Saturday we had a paddling trip scheduled with my friends from Lowcountry Unfiltered. So, I loaded up the boat early, and Friday morning headed southward.

The meeting proceeded about as well as expected, which was not well. I came away with a stress-related headache. Rather than head to lunch with my colleagues, though, I parked myself in an Atlanta Bread Company with my laptop and worked through conference calls that had to be made. My plan had been to head on down to Santee for the night, taking photos along the way. My friend Dwight suggested dinner with his family, so I had a couple of hours to kill. I thought I would see what could be found of the town of Granby.

The town of Granby was first settled in the early 1700s on the western bank of the Congaree River, across from present-day Columbia. The trading post established by James Chestnut and Joseph Kershaw in 1765, became an important gathering place. It was captured by the British during the Revolutionary War. The town served as the county seat for Lexington County until 1818. On Robert Mill’s atlas the town shows up just southeast of Columbia on the other side of the Congaree River.

Lexington District - Granby

According to the Lexington County entry on Wikipedia

In 1785, Lexington County was established, with the township of Saxe Gotha renamed to “Lexington” in commemoration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. The county’s first courthouse was built at Granby, located just south of present day Cayce. From 1800 to 1868, the county was organized as a district with the same name.

With the clearing of upriver lands for the spreading cotton culture, Granby became plagued with floods. The district seat was moved in 1820 when the present town of Lexington was laid out on a high, healthy sand ridge near Twelve Mile Creek.

Continue reading “Finding Granby”

More on Newell

In the previous post I wrote about our visit to the town of Newell. I’ve been trying to find more information about the town, but facts seem to be hard to come by. As early as 1853 the community is listed as a post office in Fanning’s Illustrated Gazetter of the United States. However, the … Continue reading More on Newell

Piedmont-Powdersville Ramble with Brothers

Newell General Store

Our plans for the weekend changed. Friday Houston and I had planned to head down to Sparkleberry Swamp for an early spring paddling trip, but that didn’t work out. Houston had already taken Friday off, so we went with Plan B. We met up with our brother, Stephen, and headed out for a short afternoon ramble through that corner where Anderson, Pickens, and Greenville Counties come together. We made several stops, and found some interesting history along the way.


We started from Stephen’s house in Easley and headed south, generally toward the town of Piedmont. Driving along Highway 86, Steve announced that we were approaching the community of Newell.

Newell, SC

Newell has been on my list of ghost towns for awhile, and I was surprised to see that we were so close. I had seen photos taken by Sean Green and read his blog post about it. His information was also included on a listing of ghost towns for the state. Continue reading “Piedmont-Powdersville Ramble with Brothers”

Return to Pickens Flea market

Pickens Flea Market (25 of 50)

It’s Spring Break, and that means it’s the one time of the year that I can head over to the Pickens Flea Market. This year my brother Stephen and I were going to make the Wednesday trek. We decided to get an early start, so we headed over with the intent to arrive by 8:00 am.

As it turns out, we got there VERY early. While there were lots of vendors already in place, some were just getting set up. Also, it was much cooler than normal. Regardless, we started browsing the stalls.

Pickens Flea Market (13 of 50)

As usual, I came equipped. I had my audio recorders, my smaller Pansonic Lumix camera, and my GoPro camera. Stephen brought his big Nikon. I was going for subtle, but Stephen did otherwise. That actually played to his advantage. I’ll explain in a bit.

I’ve always said that Pickens Flea Market is qualitatively different from the Anderson Jockey Lot. On a “shadiness” scale, Augusta Road Flea Market is at the bottom, Anderson Jockey Lot is is a bit above that, and Pickens is closer to the top (less shady.) On the whole these folks didn’t seem to mind cameras. They weren’t doing anything wrong or shady, they were just there to make sell their goods, so they weren’t as camera shy. A flea market provides some fantastic photographic opportunities, and I saw several folks with DSLRs there. Continue reading “Return to Pickens Flea market”