In Search of Andersonville and a Retreat
Stephen and I had the day open on Friday, so we decided to do a bit of photo rambling. I’ve been wanting to explore the environs of Andersonville, one of the ghost towns on my list, and from there it would be one of our typical rambles, with multiple stops along the way.
Old Andersonville is now mostly under Lake Hartwell. There is a two mile island where some of the town had been located. We didn’t expect to see much of the ghost town on this trip, but were mainly scouting access points for a future kayak trip out to the island.
I picked up Stephen at his house in Easley, then we headed down 178 toward Anderson. As with all of our rambles something catches our eye, and we have to stop. In this case it was the community around Lebanon Baptist Church. A small country store, a couple of sheds, and an old school were located in the vicinity of the church.
We stopped to get some shots of the old cemetery. There were several old headstones, but no real signature stones. The only one we found had the initials SM stamped into it. However, there were some interesting ones there…
…and one distressing one…
Oddly enough, I didn’t take any photos of the church itself. Here’s a shot from Streetview…
We continued down 178 toward Anderson. Just north of the town we turned west toward Lake Hartwell, then headed out Whitehall Road. At one point Steve told me to stop at a roadside vegetable stand. As it turns out, the produce stand is owned by his brother-in-law. In addition to vegetables, Whitehall Produce was full of antiques and other interesting items collected by Jim Holcombe, the owner.
We spoke with Jim’s mother, who was minding the shop, and one of the farm hands, Buddy Buck. They gave us some information on where we might find out more about Andersonville.
From Whitehall Produce we continued to highway 187, and headed south. Not far from Whitehall Produce is Sadlers Creek Barbecue, Jim’s main business. The restaurant is only open Saturdays, so it was closed when we stopped by. However, we spotted Jim and one of his friends out front, so we pulled in.
We asked Jim about Andersonville, and he had more suggestions for us. He also invited us in to see some of his collection. He had a couple of 100 year old Coke bottles, and he also had an astounding collection of mill store tokens. These were just a few of the items around the restaurant.
I was really disappointed that the restaurant was only open Saturdays, and we couldn’t sample some of the wonderful smells coming from the cookers. To add insult to injury, Jim took us out back and opened up the cooker to show the slow cooking pork shoulders and pork butts. I’m definitely going to have to come back.
As it turns out, we weren’t far from our target. Just a few yards from the barbecue place Dobbins Ferry Road turns west toward the old town. About a mile down the road we came to Andersonville Baptist Church. The current church sanctuary was constructed in 1972, and is in the classic Greek style with steeple seen in so many other Baptist churches. The cemetery, however, was of more interest. The church had originally been located at the site of the old time, and was moved when Lake Hartwell was constructed. The graves were also relocated.
Some of the headstones had signatures, although none of the White and Walker signatures with which I’m familiar.
It looked like some of the stones had repair work when they were move, and these repairs have obscured any potential signatures. Regardless, there were quite a few old graves at the location.
Continuing down Dobbins Ferry Road brought us to a dead end lined with private homes. Google Earth shows the road bed continuing on, but there would be no access from this location. We drove back to the church and took Sloan’s Ferry Road back toward the lake. Jim had told us that a large water pumping plant had been built on the point, so once again we were thwarted.
We left this area and began a search for better access to the lake. Not far away we found the Five Forks Recreational Area, with a day use area and boat ramp. From this ramp we could see Andersonville Island not far away across the lake. It looked like this would be a great place to launch an assault on the island.
I knew that Andersonville was in the forks of the Tugaloo and Seneca Rivers, and that any remains would be somewhere on the two-mile island. I just wasn’t sure where that might be until I got home and started playing with some maps. Robert Mill’s 1825 map of Pendleton District shows the town at the forks of the river.
Using this map as an overlay in Google Earth, along with a topo map of the area, I was able to locate the town at the south end of the island.
It looked like the Five Forks area would be a bit more of a paddle than we wanted. In fact, I was able to find a couple of paddling trip descriptions, one of which described a 9-mile trip out to the location. While that’s not a long paddle for me, combining a long paddle with a long exploration on foot might be a challenge. We discussed the possibility of finding a motor boat to run us out there.
We headed back to highway 187, then turned south. Before we knew it we were at Highway 29, and we turned west. One of my favorite stops along that stretch is the old Shiloh School. This is another building rescued from the rising waters of the lake. Apparently it had at one time been closer to the Savannah River, but someone moved it to this location. Now it sits collapsing and abandoned in the middle of a field.
After Shiloh we stopped at the Lake Hartwell Dam and walked stairs to the dam itself. We stayed for a few minutes and took photos, even though we spotted a sign saying that photography was forbidden. Oh well.
From the dam we crossed the river and headed toward the town of Hartwell. Just this side of town a sign caught our eye…
We wondered what in the world a “Bunnytuna” was, whether some mutant animal or something else. We pulled in and asked the folks selling produce out of their pickup truck. They had no idea, but Stephen still bought a watermelon from them.
Later I found out that this was the location of a trailer company. Apparently Mr. Bunny Tuna was the owner. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sounds weird enough.
We drove through town, then headed north on highway 77. We paused briefly at the location of Parkertown and Parkertown Mill, but didn’t really see anything.
We picked up I-85 to cross the lake back into South Carolina, then headed north on Highway 11. I had another place for us to find.
The community of Old Retreat, originally known as “Bachelors Retreat,” was settled in the late 1700’s. The name shows up on Robert Mill’s 1825 Atlas.
We turned off of Highway 11 onto Retreat Road at Retreat Baptist Church and missed an opportunity. Just beyond our turn was the old Retreat School, and old Rosenwald school that now serves as the Pleasant Hill Community Center. I’m still kicking myself for missing that one, but at least I have a photo from a prior visit to the area.
After about a mile on Retreat Road we came to Retreat Presbyterian Church. The church was established in 1851, and served a regular congregation until 1968. Now only an annual reunion is held there in October. The building itself was built in 1859.
Stephen and I explored the church area and surrounding cemetery. There were several Confederate soldiers commemorated with small flags.
I used the new flash I bought for my camera to get some shots of the interior through the glass windows.
Fascinating place – I’d love to come back in October for the reunion.
We continued on Retreat Road until we reached the heart of the community – the old Barrett Plantation and the Retreat General Store and Post Office. I understand that former Congressman Gresham Barrett grew up in this house.
We circled back around to Highway 11. We were almost done with our tour, but we had a couple more stops. We first paused to photograph the Oakway fire tower…
…then continued until we reached Center Methodist Church. I had stopped here a couple of times before. At that time, there was no signage, and I had no clue what church this was. It looks like renovations are going on – the place had a new tin roof and inside all the pews had been pushed aside and there was scaffolding.
The small cemetery outside had a few old stones, but a fair number of modern ones. One in particular was at least entertaining.
From Center Methodist we drove through the community of Tokeena, then headed back, skirting Clemson to avoid the game weekend traffic. Here’s a map of our travels…
…and here is a slide show with all of the photos I took. I’ll try to post a link to Stephen’s when he puts them on Flickr.