The Ghost Towns of Lake Marion

32 thoughts on “The Ghost Towns of Lake Marion”

  1. Thank you for such a great story and wonderful pictures. As a member of the Historic Church of the Epiphany I would love to have you back sometime.

  2. Wonderful pix and thanks for sharing. Did not see mentioned on here but apparently, at one time, there was a railroad bridge for the Ferguson mill’s logging railroad to cross the Santee and log out parts of Clarendon County. What a lot of history is under those waves…

    1. It would make sense that there was a railroad bridge here. The access road for the landing runs along the old rail line, so it stands to reason that it would continue.

      1. I checked my copy of Logging Railroads of SC by Thomas Fetters and sure enough there was a bridge across the Santee River at Ferguson. It was used for last minute logging in Clarendon County by a different company right before Lake Marion was impounded. I wonder what happened to the bridge. Here is the excerpt on Santee River Cypress Company from Fetter’s book:
        Santee River Cypress Company
        The mill at Ferguson, South Carolina, which prompted the Eutawville Railroad to build a branch to the village, was built by B.F. Ferguson and his partner, Francis Beidler, who together formed the Santee River Cypress Company in 1890. The partners purchased 165,000 acres along the southern bank of the Santee River, the lower Wateree and the Congaree Rivers. At Ferguson, South Carolina the company built a large band mill, which was located just upstream from Black Oak Island where a number of well-known Ante Bellum plantations were located.
        Santee River Cypress had its own logging line, which ran from Ferguson across Black Oak Island to the village of Cross, named for M.B. Cross who was interested in the company. Cross was also at the end of Mr. Rogers tram road out of Chicora, South Carolina and the Prettyman Lumber Company line out of Summerville. While this implies some congestion of rival logging trains milling about the village of Cross, reality suggests that the lines existed in the village at different periods of time.
        In 1900, the company cut 80,000 feet per day, mostly cypress, at the Ferguson Mill. The town that developed around the mill had its own hospital, an unusual feature for so small a village, but necessary because of the constant threat of malaria that developed in the deep swamp.
        Santee River Cypress #102, a 4-6-0 steam engine, operated over the logging line, but little is known of the rest of the roster. The company was aggressive toward its goals, and a special act of legislature was signed on February 15, 1909 (Act No. 157), which permitted it to bridge the Santee River from Berkeley County to the company’s property on the northern bank of the river.
        Rivers T. Blount of Eutaw Springs confirmed in 1986 that the steel bridge was, indeed, built although it was largely unknown to the public. The company used the bridge to allow its trains to reach into Clarendon County and the green swamplands of the Santee.
        The company purchased two Lidgerwood Manufacturing Company “pullboats” in 1908 and followed up with an order for two Lidgerwood “Duplex” all-steel, cableway skidding plants, “which were specially designed for this particular operation, all of which is to be conducted from pile-supported railroads running through the tract.” Each of the two plants was built with a “steel tower, which could be lowered, and a swinging loading boom.”
        In addition, Lidgerwood was given an order for a “special traveling log-handling cableway for handling logs in the yard. This will unload logs from the cars, sort and pile them and deliver them to the mill as wanted.”
        The “pullboat” order suggests that the company had several logging camps along the Santee River that transported the cut timber in rafts to the mill at Ferguson. As the waterside camps were cut out, the company turned to pile-supported railway, with the mechanical advantage of using the huge Lidgerwood cableway machines to draw timber through the swamps to the rail line from remote campsites.
        Ferguson died about 1915 and his partner, Beidler, bought Ferguson’s interest in Santee River Cypress, and soon closed the mill and shut down the company before 1920.
        Nearly 20 years later, Holly Hill Lumber was given a contract to remove the timber of the soon to be impounded Lake Marion. It was Rivers Blount who rebuilt the track over the old right-of-way from Eutawville through to Ferguson and out through the swamp to the still standing steel bridge of the Santee River Cypress Company, which still spanned the Santee. Building an approach to the bridge, Rivers ran the track up to the bridge, across it and down into the swamplands of Clarendon County where extensive logging resumed once more. Again, few, if any, in Clarendon County knew of the logging activity since the Santee Swamp provided such an effective barrier.
        Holly Hill operated the line with a Shay locomotive and #2, a coalburning 2-6-0. Approximately 30 to 40 logging cars were used, and at the end of the day, they were hauled to Ferguson to be made into a train. This train then proceeded to Eutawville on Holly Hill Lumber trackage and by trackage rights over the ACL to the town of Holly Hill.
        Operation of the line began in 1939 and continued into 1942. Both Lidgerwood loaders and overhead rigging were used to bring the logs to the gondola-style logging cars that the company used in this Santee clearing operation. Lake Marion’s impoundment began in 1941, shortly before the beginning of the war, and Blount removed his trackwork from the swamp ahead of the waters, but although asked to remove the steel bridge, refused to handle this job as it seemed dangerous with the equipment available to him.
        As the waters rose, the remains of Ferguson were isolated from the mainland on a new island, and in 1986, portions of the mill structure remain, where they can be viewed by the wary boater who watches for old machine beds that lie just beneath the waters.
        From “Logging Railroads of South Carolina” by Thomas Fetters. Heimberger House Publishing, 1990.

        1. I have fished all over that area and new of the mill but did not know of the history , I also fished and camped on church island a many a time before Hugo changed every thing used to camp right by the grave yard what a wonderful time . Thanks for the memories

  3. Forgot to mention that I emailed the link to this page to Thomas Fetters, the author of the book. He was quite delighted and spent some time going over your photos and write up! ( He and I have corresponded in the past over another SC logging railroad line. )

  4. Enjoyed reading this post. If you are interested, I have a couple of items that show the location of the old railroad bridge over the Santee River mentioned here (topo map and old aerial photo), as well as a couple of historic newspaper articles referencing it. I will be glad to share them with you if you wish, by whatever method that you will suggest….Bentley Fishburne

      1. Just let me know how to send it. The file contains 8 JPEG images and 2 PDF documents containing a total of 23.5 MB. The 2 PDF documents are repeated as 2 of the JPEG images – I was unsure if they would transmit as JPEG images of adequate resolution….Bentley Fishburne

        1. Bentley, I sent you an email earlier today with some suggestions. Let me know if you get it. We’ll figure something out. You could put it all in a ZIP file and email it to me.

  5. I have enjoyed this so much,and the pictures are just beautiful,clear and sharp.I am gonna come back and read more of this,
    Thank You so much for this.

  6. I am very glad you and your group took the time to enjoy our part of the county, however I was a little disappointed at your view of Santee until I saw the date of your trip, then I understood. I am happy to report that the town is in the middle of a multi- million dollar revitalizing project that includes extending Hwy 301 across I-95 to Hwy 6, extensive landscaping and the addition of an aquatic park operated by the YMCA of Columbia! There is also a new waste water treatment plant scheduled to go online soon to take the burden from The towns current out of date and low capacity for dinning, one of the old nightclubs you spoke of is now a very nice Mexican restaurant.Another fine place is ClarksResturant owned by Bill Clarks family that has been around since the 1930s.If you are a fan of BBQ,there is also Lone Star BBQ and Mercantile, owned by Pat Williams and family that is constructed out of four early 1900s era country stores,complete with signage, pictures and products from that era, it is practically a step back in time.Check out their website,many Saturdays they have live bluegrass bands! We would love for your group to come back and enjoy your stay, and if you would like to extend it to Sunday, you are always welcome to attend service at Providence United Methodist Church, with the Rev.Terry Martin leading the service in the nearby Providence Community.

  7. My great grandparents were from the Chicora area, so the history of this area is of great interest to me. I am enjoying reading about the railway and the structures from back then, and look forward to more.
    Thank you.

  8. I really enjoyed reading this. Learned a little more history of the great State of South Carolina. Now I’m going to see all of this. Thanks!

  9. If you go outside of eutawville towards pineville francis marion is actually buried out that way.

    1. Raymond, Francis Marion’s current gravesite is on his brother’s former plantation “Belle Isle”. Francis Marion’s homesite is under Lake Marion. My father saw Marion’s house, as a child, before the dam was built and said it was falling in at the time.

  10. I am trying to find the lat and long of the submerged bridge at Angels landing. Does anyone have them. charts show stumps,railroad but no bridge.

  11. Hi Tom,
    I thoroughly enjoyed all of your posts about this trip and photos so much so that a group of friends and I took the same trip just yesterday(Sept 27,2015.) I added the photos to a dropbox page and added a link to the website section of this reply…I posted the photos I took at Ferguson and Church Island Cemetery. I thought you and the members of your trip might like to take a look at them…I’m trying to gather pictures the other members of our group took and post them there as well. Thanks again for the great post and photos…if it weren’t for them we may have never even known about this great trip and the history behind it.

    1. Forgot to mention if you check out photo number 6 you can see what looks like a post sticking up out of brick and concrete and at the top of the brick and concrete mound a curved piece sticking up…both of these are pieces of railroad rail…not sure if this may have been where the railroad originally came to the island or not. This is on the north side of the island past where the lumber kilns are.

      1. Chris, these photos are great! Thanks for sharing. It’s amazing how much lower the water was. I wish I had been out there with you.

  12. Chris Bailey….I visited the mill site in 2012 when the water was even lower than it is now. It was even lower than that in 2007, and I truly wish I’d had the opportunity to visit it then. According to Page 34 of the July 10, 1913 edition of LUMBER WORLD REVIEW, the Ferguson mill was rebuilding due to an earlier fire. On my visit, I took a photo of the same clump of rubble and concrete with the bent railroad iron that you mention as your photo no. 6. I noted at the time that I took mine that the rubble and iron showed signs of having gone through a fire. I suspect that the rubble and iron had gone through that earlier mill fire, and were mixed with concrete and used, probably as foundation, in the rebuilding of the new mill. The railroad did come to the millsite and town of Ferguson from Eutaw Springs, and thence in a NNW direction nine-tenths of a mile to the Wateree River. There, it crossed on a bridge that the company had built to access and log their property on the other side of the river. Being an old retired forester, I find this subject fascinating, and look forward to each new bit of information with relish. Thanks for the new photos….Bentley

  13. Might have been a fishing tournament going on. Would explain all the boats. Appreciate the history lesson. Very interesting.

  14. Back in March of 2015, Bentley Fishburne was going to send some maps and two photos of the Steel Bridge. Assuming you got these, could you send the aerial photo of the Steel bridge to me?
    I need to correct a few things. The railroad out to Ferguson from Eutawville was built by the Eutawville Railroad, that later became the Charleston, Sumter & Northern that operated passenger service from Charleston up to Pregnalls, then over CS&N track to connect with track to Fayetteville and to Hamlet. The ACL saw this as a SAL possible acquisition to get to Charleston, so they bought it and broke it into five other entities. The bridge from VANCE to St. Paul was burned and ended all through service. The Northwestern of SC got the Sumter to St. Paul section, and merged it with their Wilson & Summerton line. The track south of St. Paul was used by several lumber companies such as Penn Lumber and Brooklyn Cooperage, but when the lake filled in, in 1941, the line was abandoned.
    The Santee River Cypress Lumber Company received some logs in over the ACL from Eutawville, and shipped lumber out to market over the ACL. The SRCL Co. Steel Bridge was known to many who hoped to get the SAL to come down from Sumter, pass through Manning , cross the bridge and head southeast to Strawberry to get to Charleston over the Charleston Northern, an SAL line.
    The Ferguson KILN was ELECTRIC, not a fire kiln.
    SRCLCo also had a third rail electric railroad service from the mill to the storage yards and to the kiln. I found that a new employee was electrocuted by the third rail while working (See Orangeburg Times).
    I have a complete history of the SRCLCo story but no publisher interested.
    Currently working on the Alcolu Railroad and the Alderman logging lines in Clarendon, Florence, Sumter and Williamsburg Counties. Any photos of the mill or logging trains will help.

    Tom Fetters

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