The Unknown Tongue

Speaking in Tongs

A weird chain of events led to an interesting investigation into history tangentially related to my family. This morning I participated in a webinar on the South Carolina Digital Newspaper Program, sponsored, in part, by the University of South Carolina Libraries. One of the presenters mentioned the possibility of doing genealogy research using the archive. I decided to try a few search terms associated with my family history to see what I found. I actually didn’t find much about my family, but I did find another tale, full of conflict, misunderstandings, racism, and corruption.

The newspaper archives are hosted on the Library of Congress website as part of their Chronicling America series. The newspapers cover all states from 1836 – 1922. Any family search would have to be within those target dates.

I decided to start with my grandfather, Rev. O. E. Taylor, since he would fit within the tail end of that time frame. I restricted my search to issues of the Laurens Advertiser. Unfortunately, his name didn’t return any hits, even when I expanded it to all newspapers in the state. It did return a Rev. E. O. Taylor, who was an episcopal bishop in the state at the same time.

I changed tactics and started searching for churches where I knew my grandfather had preached, and there I hit pay dirt. The first term I tried was “Long Branch.” I grew up in Long Branch Pentecostal Church, which was founded by my grandfather and which my father later pastored. My grandmother taught at Long Branch School, and I have lots of other relatives in the area. The term returned several hits in The Laurens Advertiser, almost all of them relating to an issue of religion being taught at the public Long Branch School. Continue reading “The Unknown Tongue”

Kingville, Kingsville

Kingville Station

I came upon Kingville quite by accident. I was looking for information on another ghost town in Google Earth when I spotted this name near the confluence of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers. When I zoomed in a bit further I saw that the the place indicated by the name was all wooded – there was no town there. Street View also showed just a wooded area, and not enough buildings to even justify keeping this as a place name. This intrigued me, so I did a bit of research, and it turned out to be an interesting ghost town location itself.

Kingville Google Earth

According to information on the Kingville Historical Foundation’s website, the town got it’s start in 1842 when a spur railroad line from Aiken was completed to Columbia. I checked Robert Mill’s 1825 atlas of the area, and the name Kingville does not appear. In 1850 a branch line was completed to Camden, and the town began to grow because it was now located at the juncture of two major railroad lines.

Research on the town was initially confusing. According to the historical marker for the site…

Kingville is thought to be named for its status as “king” of the railroad line between Charleston and Columbia and between Columbia and Camden.

However, the town was first called “Kingsville” with an “s”. For awhile I wasn’t sure if I was finding information on the same town. For example, this is an excerpt from an 1870 map of the Port Royal railroad in the southern states. It clearly shows the spelling with an “s”. The town’s name on this map makes it look almost as big as Columbia, but this is deceptive. Since this was a railroad map, the emphasis was on major junctions, rather than the actual towns.

Kingville_1870 Continue reading “Kingville, Kingsville”

More on New Bordeaux

While we were on our McCormick County Photo Trek we had trouble locating the old town of New Bordeaux. I had it on my list as a potential ghost town target, but finding the actual town was elusive. Since we’ve returned from the trip I’ve been able to find out a bit more information, but … Continue reading More on New Bordeaux

McCormick County Photo Trek

Mount Carmel Presbyterian Lomo

Houston and I had a day off in common, so it was time for one of our mid-winter photo treks. I really like exploring the area south of Abbeville, McCormick, and Edgefield. That part of the state is rather remote and rich in history, including our family history. Even though we’ve been down that way several times, I never seem to cover all of it, so it was ripe as another target.

Our exploration group was larger than usual. In addition to the two of us, Houston’s wife, Lynda, was coming along, as was our sister Glynda. The plan was to meet Houston and Lynda Sunday morning in the parking lot of Calhoun Falls Pentecostal Holiness Church. From there we would head south and see what we would find. Our route would take us past paddling venues, ghost towns, fire towers, and several important genealogy spots. It had the makings of a perfect day. Continue reading “McCormick County Photo Trek”

Same As It Ever Was

Same as it ever was, Same as it ever was, Same as it ever was, Same as it ever was, Same as it ever was, Same as it ever was, Same as it ever was, Same as it ever was! —David Byrne, Once in a Lifetime I finally finished reading Walter Edgar’s tome, South Carolina: … Continue reading Same As It Ever Was

Spirits of Springwood

Spirits of Springwood-31

This past Sunday Laura and went on the Spirits of Springwood Tour sponsored by the Upcountry History Museum. Springwood Cemetery features many historic graves and lots of interesting headstones and carvings. I’ve visited many times on photo walks, but thought it would be interesting to get an “official” tour.

There were two tours scheduled – one starting at 5:00 pm and one at 6:45 pm.  I initially wanted to do the 5:00 pm tour because the lighting would be so much better for photography.  However, Laura convinced me that the 6:45 tour with flashlights would be fun, and that this wasn’t really a photography tour.

Photography tour or not, I came prepared.  I had my DSLR with a 50mm f/1.8 lens, my trusty Nikon S70 sidearm, and the little infrared point-and-shoot I’d used on our Blue Ghost excursion.  I knew a tripod wouldn’t be appropriate for a tour, so I brought cameras that would work well (mostly) in low-light situations.

As usual, we arrived early. I took advantage of the waning afternoon light to take a few photos. Continue reading “Spirits of Springwood”

Union County Photo Trek

Pinckneyville Panorama

It started with a cryptic e-mail which began as follows:

Hello Tom,
I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but I do know about your fascination with ghost towns.

Mark Elbrecht had contacted me through this website, and he had a proposal. Mark is a fellow Flickr photographer, and it seems that he and I have similar interests as far as subject matter is concerned. He had arranged to meet with a representative of the Union Historical Society and get access to the Pinckneyville site, a ghost town I’ve been wanting to visit for quite some time, and he invited me to come along. There was absolutely no way I was going to pass up this opportunity.


My brother Houston joined me, and this past Saturday we made the trek from Greenville to Union to join up with the group. We arrived a bit early, so we wandered the main street of Union and took a few photos of the architecture, including the spectacular court house…

Continue reading “Union County Photo Trek”

Millstone Mystery

Last Friday afternoon I was copied on an e-mail from my boss regarding a discovery. This summer they are doing some sewer work at Reidville Elementary School, and according to the e-mail the construction workers had dug up an old mill stone behind the school. The e-mail was addressed to the principal of the school, … Continue reading Millstone Mystery

The Sad Fate of Chappells

Chappells Ruins

After our Saluda River kayaking trip and post-paddling excursion to Chappells, I became somewhat obsessed with the ghost town and its history. Several left comments on that last post also expressing interest in what happened to the town.

Ghost towns fascinate me. At one time this street was bustling with traffic and activity, and now it’s completely overgrown and deserted. The how and why towns die out are varied, but in this case there are some straightforward reasons why Chappells didn’t survive. It appears that weather and bad luck dealt the worst blows. Continue reading “The Sad Fate of Chappells”

Exploring Chappells

One my posts that seems to get the most hits and generates the most discussion is the one on the Ghost Towns of South Carolina. In that post I mentioned that probably weren’t many true ghost towns, but only near-ghost towns — towns with a dying city center, but a thriving community around it. Monday … Continue reading Exploring Chappells