History and Genealogy

Paddling to Andersonville

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Paddling to Andersonville Island

Andersonville Island, Lake Hartwell

Ever since I found out about it I’ve wanted to visit the location of Andersonville. I was finally given that opportunity this week, as fellow paddlers Alan Russell and Jim Leavell joined me for an early week trek out to the island. With this week’s paddle I was able to add another check to my list of South Carolina ghost towns.

Stephen and I had done some previous scouting in this area. Stephen’s brother-in-law, Jim, owns a barbecue place nearby, and he provided some valuable information about the area. Since that time I had been looking for the optimum launch site for a trek over to Andersonville. (more…)

Lower Richland and the High Hills of the Santee – Part Two

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High Hills of the Santee Baptist Church

Dwight Moffitt and I were out exploring parts of the Cowasee Basin area. This area encompasses the river basins of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers where they come together to form the Santee. The basin name is an amalgam of the names of three rivers.

The area is rich in history and nature, and includes several plantations, ghost towns, and forgotten communities in Lower Richland, Western Sumter, and Southern Kershaw Counties. I’ve spent a fair amount of time kayaking its waters and hiking trails through here, but this time we were after ghost towns.

Earlier in the morning Dwight and I had explored the areas around the Eastover and Hopkins communities. We had already covered a LOT of territory, but our day was just getting started. The morning’s rambles had been confined to Lower Richland, but now we would be crossing the Wateree to explore the High Hills of the Santee area. (more…)

Lower Richland and the High Hills of the Santee – Part One

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Eastover Tilt-Shift

Downtown Eastover

Dwight and I had a day available in common, so we decided to do some exploring. I’ve been trying to work through my list of locations of ghost towns, seeing if there is anything of interest at these locations – ruins, an old church or cemetery, or some actual buildings. I had several possible sites in Lower Richland, Sumter, and Kershaw Counties.

As is typical with one of our expeditions, we didn’t get to all of the spots we had marked on the map, and we found a few new interesting places along the way. Plus, I got a chance to try out my new GPS (which is basically a larger version of my old GPS.)

Minervaville

First on my list of places was Minervaville. It had an interesting, but somewhat brief history in the early 1800′s. I really didn’t hold out a hope of finding anything there, but wanted to check it out anyway. (more…)

Hamburg and the Atomic Towns – Part Two

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Ellenton Sign

Ellenton Sign

“It is hard to understand why our town must be destroyed to make a bomb that will destroy someone else’s town that they love as much as we love ours. But we feel that they picked not just the best spot in the US, but in the world.”

Sign created by Bonner Smith
December 1950

I was out on a photo expedition, looking for several ghost towns in the Savannah River Basin. Earlier in the day I had visited the lost town of Hamburg, South Carolina. Now I was after several of the towns that had been displaced by construction of the Savannah River Plant.

Earlier this year my friends Tara and Robin from Sciway.net sent me a DVD on the history of the “Atomic Towns.” “Displaced: The Unexpected Fallout from the Cold War” was a Southern Lens production from SCETV, and told the story of Ellenton, Dumbarton, and several of the other farming communities in the area. I knew about the towns and had them on my list of ghost towns for inclusion in my book, but didn’t thing there was a reason to visit because of lack of access. Watching the video changed my mind, though. Since I was already down here I had to check it out. (more…)

Hamburg and the Atomic Towns – Part One

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Millett

Millet, South Carolina

Laura is out of town for a couple of days, so I figured it was the perfect time to check out some more of my ghost towns. The plan was to leave out very early in the morning and head to the eastern part of the state. But…

I overslept. I tend not to sleep very well when Laura’s not in town. So, the plans had to be altered. Instead of the eastern part of the state, I decided to check out some of the locations in the Savannah River Basin near Augusta.

Since the change was somewhat spur of the moment, I didn’t have all the prep work I usually do for one of these treks. I grabbed my cameras, my DeLorme atlas, and a copy of “South Carolina One Day at a Time” and headed south on highway 25 toward Augusta.

I really should have taken the Interstate. The problem with rural roads is that i pass through so many distractions that could keep me from my target. The towns and communities of Greenwood, Kirksey, Edgefield, Saluda, and many others passed by, and I had to resist the urge to stop and shoot. The Field Trip app on my iPhone kept pinging with nearby historical markers, but I kept going. (more…)

Super Simple Timelines

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I’m just getting around to writing about this, and I’m probably late to the party as far as this product is concerned, but I’ve discovered a very simple, very effect way to create timelines for websites.

Back in the 1990s Tom Snyder Productions made some of the coolest EdTech software around. One of my favorites was Timeliner. Users could input dates and events, then print out long timelines on fan-fold printer paper with a dot-matrix printer. Along with Print Shop, it was one of my go-to tools for classroom printing.

Timeliner is still around, and has been updated to take advantage of modern technology. I haven’t played with it in ages, so I don’t know what the new version has, and, quite frankly, I no longer need to. I’ve found a much, much better (and free!) product in Northwestern University’s Knight Lab’s Timeline JS. (more…)

Visiting Cross Hill and Mountville – Part 3

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Mountville-015

Mountville Buildings

So far our crew from the Laurens County and Clinton Museums had visited several locations in Cross Hill (Part 1, Part 2). Now we were on to our last stop, a true ghost town.

While Cross Hill is not yet a ghost town, Mountville has reached that stage. I hesitated to add it to my list because there is still an active post office, a couple of active churches, and I have cousins and friends with Mountville mailing addresses. It is still a viable community. However, any semblance of a town is long gone.

We pulled up to what is left of the center of commerce – three lone buildings just off of Highway 72.

Mountville-002
Mountville-014

All that remains is the grange building, a warehouse, and an old store front. We took some time to explore as best we could. (more…)

Visiting Cross Hill and Mountville – Part 2

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Cross Hill School

Cross Hill School

Our group from the Laurens County and Clinton Museums had already spent considerable time exploring the little town of Cross Hill. The day was early, and we still had more to see.

Cross Hill School

Just off of Main Street, northeast of the town center, is the old Cross Hill School. The two-story school building is located behind the fire department and a small park, where it sits abandoned with broken windows and locked, boarded doors. We pulled in to take a look around.

Cross Hill School-012

The back part of the building had collapsed completely and there was yellow caution tape marking off the area. In addition to broken windows, the whole building was covered in vines.

Cross Hill School-003
Cross Hill School-004 (more…)

Visiting Cross Hill and Mountville – Part 1

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Leaman Brothers Store

Leaman Brothers Store

Saturday morning I joined several folks from the Laurens County Museum and the Clinton Museum for a trek across lower Laurens County. Our route would take us through the communities of Cross Hill and Mountville. Both museums have recently received grants to develop tours of the area, and our intent was to find and document locations that might be included.

On this day the trek party would consist of Mary Ellen Lives and Julius Bolt from the Laurens County Museum and Elaine Thorpe from the Clinton Museum. Sean Green from Pickens would serve as the official photographer. I was tagging along to add my expertise in GIS/mapping and media development. I would be taking photos, too, but mainly I was just thrilled to be included, and looking forward to gaining access to some locations I’d not been able to visit.

Clinton Museum

We gathered at the Clinton Museum, located in an old house on North Broad Street just north of the town square. Sean was already waiting for us. Sean is another one of those folks I’ve known online for a long time, but had never met in person. His Flickr stream came to my attention when he was finding some interesting abandoned places, some of which led to ghost towns that I’ve documented. He also has an extensive collection of contra dancing photos. Laura and I used to dance all the time, and now Sean is documenting those dances.

Soon we were joined by Mary Ellen, Julius, and Elaine. I had already met these folks, and we had met a few weeks back for an initial discussion about how they wanted to create maps for the tours. The initial tours would be walking tours because the grant was for health-related activities. Today we were looking at areas we might want to include if we were to develop driving tours as well. (more…)

Composite Greenville History

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On our latest Lowcountry Unfiltered trip down to Bonneau Ferry I enjoyed creating some composite images from old photographs. These show a historic photo of of the plantation superimposed over a present-day photo. The photos proved popular, and I wondered if I could do more with local historic photos.

I love historic photos. I’m a sucker for those little historic images books from Arcadia Press. When I first got involved with multimedia design for the classroom, one of my first projects was to create an interactive display comparing historic images of Greenville taken from the same vantage point over time.

Finding suitable images can be tricky. Copyright issues aside, I could scan the images from my books, but I’d prefer to find something available online. The best, most extensive collection is the Coxe Collection. The Greenville Historical Society has those locked away, available only at low resolution and watermarked to hell and back. The Library of Congress has some good images, as do the South Carolina Digital Library collection and the Greenville County Library.

Recently I discovered that Greenville History Tours had been posting some cool photos of Greenville on their Facebook page. Some of these were perfect for my project, and I spent one afternoon greedily downloading images from their site.

Thursday of this week was a beautiful day, and seemed like a perfect opportunity to put my project to the test. I printed out copies of the historic images so that I could try to line up my photos with the original. I think some of these turned out quite well. I’m going to be posting larger than usual images in this post because of the nature of the project, so I apologize ahead of time to the bandwidth-challenged. (more…)

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