History and Genealogy

The Mystery of the School Car


Pleasant Grove

As I was browsing through the collection of photographs of old schools from the South Carolina School Insurance Collection, I noticed something odd. The same car started showing up in photo after photo.

Car Collage

You don’t notice it while viewing the images one by one on the archives website, but when you look at them en masse, it’s one of the things that jumps out.

Obviously I assumed that it belonged to the agent who was responsible for inspecting and photographing the schools. Stands to reason. I can see it going something like this…He (and I’m most definitely sure it was a “he” given the time period) would park the car in front of the school, do his inspection, then step out front for a photo. Including the car in the photo also proved that he was there, and that he had been the one to take the photo. (more…)

Bell Tower Evolution

Old Shiloh School B&W

Old Shiloh School in Anderson County

My encounter with two old schools with similar architecture made me want to take a closer look at historic rural school architecture in general. Probably the best resource for this in our state is the South Carolina School Insurance Photograph collection housed online at the South Carolina State Archives website.

The early 1900s saw a flurry of school construction. Schools were consolidated, and new rural schools were constructed for both Black and White populations under the Rosenwald grant program. In 1919 the state created the Sinking Fund Commission to provide insurance coverage for public schools and other public buildings.

In 1935 the office of Special Agent was established for the Commission. The duty of the Special Agent was to inspect the state’s property holdings. The result of which was the creation of a collection of photographs of schools, taken from 1935 until 1952, which the Sinking Fund was absorbed into the state’s Budget and Control Board. (more…)

School Multiplicity

Algary Mount Olive 2

Top – Algary School in Shoals Junction, Bottom – Mount Olive School in Laurens County

Glynda and I were on our way back from Prosperity on Wednesday and decided to take the scenic route through the country. Our route retraced part of my trek when I paddled Boyds Mill Pond last week (the dry part, not the pond.) As we were driving on Indian Mound Road I spotted a building, and made a U-turn to check it out. The Mount Olive Community Center has exactly the same design as Algary School in Shoals Junction. It had to be an old school now repurposed as a community center.

Mount Olive School

…and here’s the Algary School for comparison.

Algary School

I love it when I find another matching old school. It’s kind of like historical Concentration (without the turning over cards bit.) It makes, sense, though. Using a consistent floor plan and design saves money We do it today – I helped with the construction of three schools in Spartanburg Five that use the same floor plan, and I know of many in Greenville. The question I had was whether or not this particular design had any historical significance. (more…)

Paddling to Andersonville

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


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

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.)


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

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


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


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


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.


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…)

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