The Tobacco Trail through Allendale County

Crescent Motel Retro 1

I was out exploring Highway 301, the Tobacco Trail. I had driven down early in the morning, trying to resist distractions along the way. Once I finally reached my starting point I visited two old welcome centers, one still in operation, and one finding new life. Now it was time to continue eastward. However, my day was running out, and the trip was much quicker than I would have liked. Continue reading “The Tobacco Trail through Allendale County”

The Tobacco Trail – Getting Started

Highway 301-69

It was time to explore Highway 301. I had done the preliminary research and discovered the importance of The Tobacco Trail as a major route through South Carolina. I was ready to get out and actually take photos of some of these locations. However, I still had a bit of research to do.

The first thing I did was begin collecting old postcards and images from eBay and other sources. This would give me a comparison of what had been with what I would find. The next step was to mark potential locations in Google Earth. I traced the route of 301 through the state, marking motel and other locations as I spotted them. I also added any National Register or other interesting sites I found along the way. These were then uploaded to my GPS so I’d have them for ready reference. Continue reading “The Tobacco Trail – Getting Started”

The Tobacco Trail – An Introduction

Highway 301 Banner

On our last Lowcountry Unfiltered kayaking trip on the Savannah River Larry Easler and I drove back along Highway 301.  We were amazed at the number of old motels and abandoned tourist spots along the way.  I knew it had to have once been a major thoroughfare, now bypassed by I-95, but I wanted to know more about it.  What was its history?  How did this highway through one of the most desolate parts of South Carolina become such a major route?  The answer turned out to be much more interesting than I could have possibly imagined.

In a previous post I wrote about the old auto trails that predated the US Highway System, and the business associations that promoted these routes and the tourist amenities along them. Here’s the story about how Highway 301 became known as The Tobacco Trail, one of the most important north-south routes along the Eastern Seaboard. Continue reading “The Tobacco Trail – An Introduction”

The Mystery of Shiloh School

Shiloh-Queendale School-002

Back last fall we were presented with a mystery. Fellow photographer Hank Myers had contributed a photograph of an old brick school to the SCIWAY.net South Carolina Picture Project. The project editor, Tara Bailey, had initially labeled the school as Shiloh Rosenwald School. After a bit of research, the three of us decided that it wasn’t a Rosenwald school, so Tara edited the photo entry to reflect that new information.

Shiloh School

When Ken and I visited the location we had a couple of potential sites for the Rosenwald School. We checked those out, but couldn’t find any existing schools at those locations. Based on that information, the SCIWAY entry now says that the school is no longer extant.

…or is it? Continue reading “The Mystery of Shiloh School”

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. Continue reading “Lower Richland and the High Hills of the Santee – Part Two”

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.)

Minervaville

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. Continue reading “Lower Richland and the High Hills of the Santee – Part One”

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. Continue reading “Hamburg and the Atomic Towns – Part Two”

Hamburg and the Atomic Towns – Part One

Millett
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. Continue reading “Hamburg and the Atomic Towns – Part One”

Multiple Mountain Meanderings

Blue Ridge Parkway-1
Devil’s Courthouse

Three times this week I have made treks northward, crossing the Blue Wall into the mountains of Western North Carolina.  Two of those trips covered similar ground.  Only one was in the new Mini convertible.  All three covered ground I’ve traversed recently, so some of the photos may look a little…familiar.

Monday – Picnic at Davidson River

Last weekend Laura’s sister and mother were with us.  The weather looked good for Monday, so we decided to take a trek up to Pisgah Forest for a picnic.  We had done this trip with Laura’s cousins a couple of years ago, and her mom had loved the sound of the Davidson River rippling past our picnic area.

For this trip we loaded everyone into the Subaru and first headed up Highway 25 toward Hendersonville.  We took a brief detour through Tuxedo, then turned toward Flat Rock.  At Flat Rock we took Little River Road toward Crab Creek westward, toward Brevard.  The weather was clear and spectacular, with large fluffy white clouds and blue skies. Continue reading “Multiple Mountain Meanderings”

Lowcountry Small Town Tour – The Return Trip

Downtown Cope
Downtown Cope

On my way down to Bluffton I passed through twenty-six small towns. In addition to that I’ve visited two ghost towns, and some of those other towns were about to cross the line into the “ghost” category. For the return trip I had a couple of options for avoiding the Interstate. I decided to retrace my way partially on 321, then branch off on 601 northbound to Orangeburg. That would take me through more small towns.

I was leaving Hilton Head fairly early, and even had time for a good breakfast leaving the island. That would give me plenty of time for exploration. That turned out to be a good thing because of some very unexpected delays, but more on that later.

So, on the way back I hit the following towns that I had visited before.

  • Hilton Head
  • Bluffton
  • Okatie
  • Hardeeville
  • Tillman
  • Tarboro

I didn’t linger too long in these, but continued on until I reached the turnoff for Highway 601.

The towns of Stokes and De Loach were little more than wide spots in the road. In Google Earth Stokes is shown off the main highway down a dirt road. It is a possible ghost town. I didn’t have that information at the time, so I didn’t venture to check it out. Next up was Furman, which I had visited via detour yesterday.

The next town on the list was Hampton, and here is where I ran into the surprising delay. I could see the main road through town was blocked with a police car with flashing lights. I saw pavilions and food vendors set up, and realized I had stumbled onto the Hampton County Watermelon Festival. It looked like there was no way through the town, so I decided to park and explore. Continue reading “Lowcountry Small Town Tour – The Return Trip”