The Tale of a Map

1822 Carey and Lea Map of South Carolina

I recently acquired a map from my Aunt Grace’s estate. While she was in Paris she found an old map of South Carolina in an antique store. The map had lots of interesting information, including the slave population for each county. The information and history intrigued her, and since it was from her home state, she bought it. Aunt Grace knew that I was a map geek and was especially interested in the history of the state. Before she died she expressed her desire that I get the map. I won’t go into the long and sordid details of how it did eventually end up in my possession, but rather delve into the history of the map itself and the cartographers that created this work of art. Continue reading “The Tale of a Map”

Street View Time Lapse

Screen Shot 2013-02-02 at 6.42.00 AM

I’ve been enjoying creating time-lapse videos while driving. Unfortunately, I’ve just been driving back and forth to work or rehearsal, so the scenery doesn’t change much.

So while I was looking at Google Earth the other day it occurred to me – I could use the images from Street View to create the same type of time-lapse. Continue reading “Street View Time Lapse”

How Many Greenvilles?


Perhaps it was the fact that I’ve crossed several state lines recently. More likely it was because I’ve spent several late nights wide awake and coughing. Being sick can make you think weird things, but for some reason the following aphorism popped into my head…

There is a town called “Greenville” in every state. However, Tennessee is the only only one that spells it as “Greeneville.”

I don’t even remember where I heard that the first time. My first intent was to take this at face value and create a Google Earth KML file showing the location of each town called Greenville. (Did I mention that I’ve been sick lately?) That turned into a challenge to test the validity of this statement, and learn a bit more about Greenville, where ever it might be found. Continue reading “How Many Greenvilles?”

Local Paddling Venues

After a spring full of multiple paddling trips, some on consecutive Saturdays, we finally had a weekend to ourselves with no paddling trips planned. Well, actually, I could have gone with my Lowcountry Unfiltered friends to Little Tybee Island on Saturday, but Laura and I really needed a weekend to ourselves at home. Even so, … Continue reading Local Paddling Venues

Little River Blueway

While we were on our photo trek to McCormick Houston and I were scouting paddling locations. We both liked the Clark Hill area, and we were intrigued by the Little River branch, especially where it starts at Calhoun Mill. One of the comments on that post was from Kirk Smith, who pointed me in the … Continue reading Little River Blueway

A Matter of Maps

Fairfield District

I have been enjoying going through the old maps in the Robert Mills 1825 Atlas of South Carolina. However, last weekend’s photo trek to Old Pickens Court House brought out some problems with relying solely on Mills’ maps to find ghost towns. The maps are too early to catch many towns that developed after 1825, only to fade away by the time of the Great Depression. Never fear, though. There are other online resources that can cover later time periods.

Topographical Maps of South Carolina, 1888 - 1975 - Digital Collections - Thomas Cooper Map Library - USC.png by RndConnections on Aviary

The University of South Carolina’s online digital library has an extensive collection of historic topographic maps of the state. The maps cover from 1888 to 1975, but not all quadrangles are available for this time period. For example, the collection contains three maps for the Abbeville quadrangle – 1900, 1918, 1943. The 236 maps in the collection include a mix of 30 minute, 15 minute, and 7.5 minute projections. I haven’t checked to see how extensive the state coverage is, but I’m sure there are parts of the state that are not covered. Continue reading “A Matter of Maps”

Robert Mills’ Atlas of South Carolina

State District

I was talking with my brother Houston sometime back about my Ghost Towns project, and he suggested that in addition to using the GNIS historical data, we should look at old maps of the state to see what towns might have been listed. I agreed that it was an excellent idea, so I set off in search of the one resource I knew would have everything we wanted – Robert Mills‘ 1825 Atlas of South Carolina.

A native of Charleston, Robert Mills was the quintessential Renaissance Man, along the same lines Thomas Jefferson. Mills studied architecture first in Charleston, then later in Philadelphia. Anyone familiar with South Carolina history is aware of Mill’s contributions to South Carolina – the many court houses and civic buildings designed by him. Perhaps, though, he is most famous for his designs for buildings in Washington, D. C., including the Washington Monument.

In 1818…

“…the General Assembly adopted resolutions looking to the preparation of a map of the state, showing a separate map of each district thereof. In 1818 an appropriation of $9,000.00 was made toward procuring such a map, and in 1819 a like amount was appropriated for the same cause.”

-from the Introduction to the 1839 reprint of the Mills Atlas.

In 1820 Mills was appointed commissioner for the Board of Public Works for South Carolina, and was tasked with creating the atlas. He commissioned surveyors to create the separate maps for the then 27 districts in the state. He then personally rescaled the surveyors’ work for inclusion in the atlas, and added a legend reflecting the new scale. He also edited place names, adding or omitting as needed. The legend of each map bears the original surveyor’s name and notes the map was “improved for Mills’ Atlas, 1825.”

Greenville District

Continue reading “Robert Mills’ Atlas of South Carolina”

Coffee Shops vs Churches


Every time one of Laura’s family visits from the West Coast we get the inevitable comment about there being a church on every corner. The comment is valid. Even as a native I’m surprised when I turn a corner to find a large Greek Revival structure I’d not spotted before – and that doesn’t even include the store-front churches that pop-up just about everywhere.

So, I guess my friends here in the Pacific Northwest have the same reaction when I comment about there being a coffee shop on every corner. I’m stating the obvious. After all, this is the home of Starbucks.

Continue reading “Coffee Shops vs Churches”

More Obsessions and New Tools

Chick Springs Springhouse and Gazebo

Photo by Flickr photographer markemark4

I have yet another location-based obsession, possibly even several more. First it was fire towers, then old schools, and lately it’s been ghost towns. You would think I’d have enough abandoned historic stuff to go traipsing about the countryside to photograph and document. But wait! There’s still more!

While visiting Laurens County recently we stopped by Stomp Springs, and this past weekend we found the Shivar Springs bottling cisterns near Shelton in Fairfield County. That got me thinking about mineral springs, and where these might be located.

A 2004 Department of Natural Resources report by H. Lee Mitchell (PDF) gives some of the background of the springs and their locations. The report mentions the historical significance of springs, as well as the development of resorts and bottling facilities. These dot the state, but most are located inland of the Fall Line, as indicated by the map in the report (which I’ve imported into Google Earth as an overlay.)

Mineral Springs GE

Continue reading “More Obsessions and New Tools”