Paddling to Newry

Newry Mill Parting Shot

Several weeks ago the Greenville Canoe and Kayak Meetup group had a paddling trip on Lake Hartwell up to the community of Newry in Oconee County. I had planned to go, but came down with a ferocious head cold and had to miss the trip. I had been looking forward to it, and was quite disappointed that I couldn’t make the trip.

So, this past Sunday I was able to rectify the problem, and do that paddling trip with my brother, Houston. The delay was probably for the best. Based on the photos I saw, I think we saw and experienced much more than the group that went on the earlier paddling trip. At least, it turned into an interesting day that was a combination of paddling and exploring an old mill. Continue reading “Paddling to Newry”

Ebenezer, Shiloh, Moriah, and Beulah

Mt Carmel Presbyterian
Photo – Mount Carmel Presbyterian Church, Mount Carmel, South Carolina

Saturday afternoon my sister Glynda and I had ridden up toward Saluda, NC, for lunch. She and I both love exploring, so on the way home we were taking several side roads and rambling over the countyside. Our route took us past Ebenezer Church near Tigerville. That led to a discussion about the name Ebenezer, and about Biblical place names in general, and how so many of these have worked their way into our own geography.

A Biblical place name such Ebenezer, Beulah, or Shiloh is often indicative of an older, usually historic congregation. The word “ebenezer” itself is an excellent name for a church – according to 1 Samuel 7:12, it was a stone to commemorate what God had done for Israel – a place to give thanks and dedication. However, in today’s society the word is more likely to conjure up a Dickensian miser, and the word “Beulah” is more likely to bring forth unflattering images of a large woman, rather than a vision of the land of Israel, as Isaiah had intended. (Although, the word did originally refer to a married woman, so the comparison may not be as far-fetched as one might think.)

Modern churches tend to pick names that are more evocative of today’s sensibilities – New Spring, Grace, New Life, etc., etc. – or they are more place specific or pick names of neighborhoods, such as Brookwood. I can’t think of any newer congregation that has selected one of the old Biblical names. Continue reading “Ebenezer, Shiloh, Moriah, and Beulah”

Old School Charm

Old Shiloh School Textured

Perhaps it’s that I’m the son of a school principal, and had run of the various schools that I attended growing up. Perhaps it was the many reunions and covered dish suppers our family attended in various country community centers. Perhaps it was even because I spent college summers working maintenance – painting and waxing all of the schools in our district. It might, in some small part, have something to do with my own long career as an educator. Whatever the reason, I’ve always had a fascination with school architecture. Just about any school can be interesting, but what catches my attention most are the old wooden framed country schools.

Driving through the country these are easy to spot. The architecture is distinctive. The buildings tend to be squarish with hipped roofs. If it’s got an old bell tower, all the better.

Wheeland SchoolFish SchoolGowensville School HDR

Well, OK, they don’t all have to be white frame. There are some cool old brick schools, too.

Recently I was doing some research on the South Carolina State Archives website. There is a marvelous collection of photographs of old schools taken between 1935-1950 for insurance purposes.

Browsing this collection got me thinking about these old schools. They are great subjects for photography, and an excellent symbol of a bygone time. I wanted to see if I could find more of these old schools, and that meant making a list of potential targets using Google Earth. Continue reading “Old School Charm”

Archeology and History Resources for South Carolina

Poole Home Textured

Our recent photo trek through Laurens County raised lots of questions for me. I had seen places about which I wanted to learn more. There were the questions about name origins – Ghost Creek Road and Dead Man’s Curve in particular. I wanted to know if there were documented incidents that led to these names. I also wanted to know more about the spring we found on Bramlett Road – what rallies were held here, etc.

Of course, I first turned to online resources to see what I could find. A simple Google search didn’t reveal much initially. In fact, I was getting a bit discouraged. I even turned to Facebook, and was able to get some anecdotal answers, but nothing documented.

I still haven’t found the answers to these questions, but I did find some great reference materials. First up are the ones I’ve mentioned here before – SC DISCUS (requires login),, and the new South Carolina Digital Archive. All of these have excellent primary source materials, or links to those materials. Continue reading “Archeology and History Resources for South Carolina”

Political Civility and Online Archives


In the current political climate of tea parties and voter polarization, the phrase “political civility” seems like an oxymoron.  It seems like everything has gotten downright nasty, with each group demonizing the other, and the word “compromise” taking on negative connotations.  Ah, for the good old days, when everyone believed in God, motherhood, and apple pie.

…or was it so great?

History is replete with examples of political rivalries that make the current climate look tame in comparison. There is the infamous pistol duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, and the caning of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner by South Carolina Senator Preston Brooks in 1856.

Continue reading “Political Civility and Online Archives”

Chapels of Ease

St. Helena Chapel of Ease

On my way back from my paddling trip to Beaufort I decided to take a brief detour and visit a couple of places I had wanted to photograph. These were the St. Helena Chapel of Ease and the Pon Pon Chapel of Ease. There are only ruins left of both chapels, but both places are filled with history and photographic opportunities.

According to Wikipedia, a “chapel of ease” is “a church building other than the parish church, built within the bounds of a parish for the attendance of those who cannot reach the parish church conveniently.” In colonial South Carolina the large plantations of the sea islands were remote. It was often hard for parishioners to get to the larger towns, so the local Anglican congregations built these chapels to accommodate the parishioners.

Sheldon Church 1

Probably the most famous of the Lowcountry church ruins is the Old Sheldon Church, which was once known as the Prince William Parish Church, located on Sheldon Road northwest of Beaufort. Even though Sheldon Church is often grouped with St. Helena and Pon Pon, this is not technically a chapel of ease, as it was a parish church in its own right. The brick columns and walls are much larger than the typical chapel of ease. I had visited Sheldon on several occasions, and wanted to focus on the other two smaller churches for this trip. Continue reading “Chapels of Ease”

Return to Long Branch

Long Branch Pentecostal Holiness Church

Long Branch Pentecostal Holiness Church…

The name is long in our family lore. The church was established by my grandfather in 1911, as were many of the Pentecostal Holiness churches of this area. My father pastored the church for most of the 1960’s, and it is here that I have my earliest memories of church.

The church was small, and our large family made up a sizable bit of the congregation. My father preached and led the singing, and my mother played the piano after Mrs. Annabelle Brown left that position. It was just a tiny, unique country church, but its effect on us was indelible. The place is etched in our memories, and the myths and legends of Long Branch have grown over time, and have been embellished through retelling. So, today, nearly forty years since I last set foot in the church, I decided to see how close those myths were to today’s reality. Continue reading “Return to Long Branch”

Even More Echo Valley

By some strange coincidence Houston and Lynda were working on family photos when I posted my piece about Echo Valley.  The weird thing was, they were processing photos from 1968, and had just come to our great mountain adventure when we visited the park.  These photos were taken by my father. Last night they gave … Continue reading Even More Echo Valley

Memories of Echo Valley

Echo Valley from the Ridge

In the northern part of Greenville County the Middle Saluda River flows across a long flat valley. Where Highways 276 and 11 come together, and where the Saluda crosses this road, one finds the community of Cleveland, South Carolina. The valley now hosts a post office, convenience store, and a couple of other businesses, but at one time an exciting amusement park occupied this same spot.

It was the late 1960’s and I was seven or eight years old. Dad and Mom loaded five of us (my two oldest siblings were in college) into the Chrysler and we headed toward the Great Smokey Mountains. It was a fantastic trip up through the mountains of North Carolina, with stops at Pisgah National Forest, Maggie Valley, and eventually Gatlinburg, Tennessee. That was the trip that we visited Echo Valley, a Western-styled theme park along the banks of the Saluda River in Cleveland, South Carolina.

Echo Valley Ticket

During this time Western theme parks were all the rage in North Carolina. There was Ghost Town in the Sky in Maggie Valley, Frontierland in Cherokee, and Tweetsie Railroad in Boone. Most of these featured a Wild West town with regular shoot-outs and the endless conflicts between cowboys and Indians. There were also carnival rides and can-can dancers to round out the bill. Echo Valley followed this same pattern, and was developed to capture some of that Wild West market for Greenville audiences.

The late Melvin Jarrard was postmaster of the Cleveland post office and a local businessman. In his autobiography The Mountaineer of Cleveland, South Carolina, Jarrad describes how Harry Stuart brought the idea of Echo Valley to the area, and how that idea had originated with Ghost Town in the Sky. Continue reading “Memories of Echo Valley”