Ed and I have been online friends for several years now. We started commenting on each other’s photos first on Flickr, then started following and commenting on each other’s blogs, and have both been active on Facebook and Google+. I feel like I know Ed fairly well, but there’s just one catch – we had never met in person. That is, until Sunday. Ed loves history and rambling about as much as I do. So we decided to get together and see what we could find in the Pickens-Oconee areas.
I picked up Ed at his home, then we headed for our first stop, Cateechee. This is an old mill village that has suffered the fate of so many in the upstate. The mill has closed, and has now been torn down. The little community has long been in decline. There are still two churches with active congregations, but any form of commerce is long gone.
Cateechee is an isolated village where the mill is the only real employer, similar to Slater, Newry or Startex. As one enters the main village loop, the old Cateechee School can be seen off to the right.
Some of the brickwork and architectural details are quite interesting. There were No Tresspassing signs everywhere, so we respected the signs and did not enter. I would love to know who owns the old building, and whose permission we would need in order for a visit.
This school does not appear in the School Insurance Photographs collection from the South Carolina Archives. However, I was able to find an old photo on the Pickens County Library Flickr account:
From the old school we continued around the loop until we got to the site of the mill. The mill itself has been torn down, but odd bits and pieces remain, such as a bridge to nowhere…
…and other rusty bits. All of these were blocked off with chain link.
From Cateechee we took Lay Bridge Road down toward Twelve Mile Creek. This area has been in the news lately because of removal of dams on the river. There is some controversy that the removal of the dams is stirring up PCB contaminants, and that this is actually getting on the roads as construction machinery stirs up the rivers.
We stopped to take a look at the dam removal area.
Just beyond this was Lay Bridge itself, an interesting rusty iron bridge.
I’ve heard that the creek will be an excellent whitewater venue once the dam removal is done. The views upstream hint at what’s to come.
Our next stop is one on my list of Ghost Towns. All that remains of the Old Pickens Courthouse is the Presbyterian Church. The rest of the town is long gone.
The doors to the church were locked, and there was a sign saying that it would be open from 2:30 until 5:30 that afternoon. Since it was still morning we wandered around the grounds looking at the cemetery.
The church was built in 1850, and some of the graves are from that era. Some are elaborate, with epitaths and carvings.
Others appeared to be hand-chiseled. Here the word “died” is misspelled.
There also seemed to be lots of children’s tombs.
On the southwest side of the church is an even more unusual cemetery. Evenly spaced rows of markers indicate where graves were relocated when Lakes Keowee and Jocassee inundated the area. Other markers indicated where the graves were originally.
By this time we were getting really hot, and we had other places to visit. Our next stop took us along the banks of the Keowee down to the town of Newry. Both of us had visited before, but Ed had never been inside the old mill. We approached from the same general direction that Houston and I had traveled when we paddled up this way.
We only entered the basement area because the stairs looked a bit treacherous. This time, though, I had my tripod and Ed had his flash. We got some good shots of the interior and of the unique lighting and textures in the old mill.
Again, I could have stayed and explored, but it was rather hot. We headed back to Liberty to grab some lunch, then made a couple of stops in town. First there was a rather large church that had been abandoned. The architecture looks like it was a Baptist or Methodist church, but it now sits empty.
Nearby was an old brick warehouse with interesting angles and textures.
And finally, there was the Rosewood School. As with many former schools, this one had been repurposed as a community center. The old school architecture was still unmistakeable.
It was a fantastic day, and it was great to finally meet Ed in person. As always on these trips, I’m amazed at how each person approaches a subject just a bit differently. Ed has some excellent shots from the day which are definitely worth checking out. I’m hoping this is just the first of many future collaborations.