Stumphouse Tunnel and Tunnel Hill

Stumphouse Tunnel-012

This is part three of our day of adventure. It started in the wee morning hours on Bald Rock viewing the Geminid Meteor Shower, followed by the search for the ghost town Mayucha. Keith and I found some breakfast, and headed north on Highway 28 to find the ghost town of Tunnel Hill, located near the Stumphouse Tunnel.

I had been to Stumphouse Tunnel many times. However, Keith had not. My real goal was not the tunnel, but a spot on the mountain on top of the tunnel. One online source described a cemetery and several foundations – all that remains of the former town of Tunnel Hill. I was hoping to find those.

A Wee Bit of History…

The Blue Ridge Railroad Company was conceived in the mid-1800’s as a way to transfer goods from South Carolina to Knoxville, Tennessee. It was a grand plan, with multiple tunnels and impressive bridges across the Blue Ridge mountains. The “easy” part of the railroad was completed from Anderson to Pendleton, and in the 1850s construction was started on the three tunnels that would be on the South Carolina portion of the railroad.

Tunnel Hill sprang up at the top of the longest tunnel on Stumphouse Mountain. It largely housed the Irish immigrants working on the tunnels. By all accounts it was a violent place, with saloons outnumbering other businesses, and frequent clashes between the Irish workers and the locals who thought that jobs were being usurped by the newcomers. Historian Jim Haughy recounts a description of the town by Rev. J. J. O’Connell, who visited the town in 1854…

Practically all the dwellings were flimsy wooden frame structures that provided little shelter from the elements. While miners with families lived in primitive cabins, unmarried miners often lodged in boarding shanties provided by other railroad workers and their families.

– “Tunnel Hill: An Irish Mining Community in the Western Carolinas”, presented at The Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association 2004

O’Connell decried the free flowing alcohol, and in addition to establishing St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in the village, he was instrumental in forming the St. Patrick’s Temperance Society to get rid of the saloons and improve life in the town. Continue reading “Stumphouse Tunnel and Tunnel Hill”

Mysterious Mayucha and The Wolf Pit

Searching for Mayucha-006

After spending a Night on Bald Mountain (watching the Geminid meteor shower, not listening to Mussorgsky), Keith and I were off to find a couple of ghost towns in Oconee County. We had two locations in mind – Mayucha and Tunnel Hill.

It was still early morning when we left Bald Rock. Our path took us along Highway 11 past Table Rock. There was frost on the fields, and a mist was rising off of Lake Oolenoy.

Frosty Table Rock
Lake Oolenoy Fog Continue reading “Mysterious Mayucha and The Wolf Pit”

Pickens County Ramble

Cateechee School 2

I’ve been going a bit stir crazy. The weather has been perfect for hiking or kayaking, but with this lingering cough I just haven’t wanted to risk getting sick again. Laura was busy writing an exam, so sister Glynda and I decided to head out and find something to photograph.

For this ramble we repeated a trek that I had made with Duckhunter back last year. Our route took us north of Clemson and into some of the old communities of Pickens County.

From Greenville we drove to Easley, then followed 93 to Liberty, then on to Norris. From Norris we headed north to our first stop at the mill village of Cateechee. Glynda had never visited this part of the state, so it was new territory for her. We circled through the mill village and looked at the ruins of the mill, then drove around to the old Cateechee School. Continue reading “Pickens County Ramble”

Rambling in Western Virginia

Mabry Mill with Texture

After a successful wedding we had a couple of days to spend in Roanoke. I got no sleep because of coughing, but I still wanted to make the best of our mini-vacation.

We started with a fantastic breakfast at the hotel, then spent the rest of the morning helping Glynda recover. We got the wedding gifts and other paraphernalia packed away, and got her checked out of her hotel. I drove Aaron’s car, Glynda drove hers, and Laura drove our car up to the hotel where Houston and Lynda were staying, and we got together with them and Chip, Anna, and family for lunch.

Having just married off her daughter, Glynda was exhausted both physically and emotionally. She is normally one of our heartiest ramblers, but that wasn’t going to happen today. She stayed back at the hotel, while Houston, Lynda, Laura, and I set off to see what we could find. Continue reading “Rambling in Western Virginia”

Guidestones and Bridges

Georgia Guidestones

Glynda had asked me to go pick up our brother, Houston’s truck. I had mistakenly thought the truck was in Prosperity. Turns out it was at his house near Watkinsville, GA. So, Sunday I was in for a long drive that I hadn’t really counted on. No matter – I hadn’t been to my brother’s house in awhile, even though he had been up our way lots of times. Also, with a new camera, I didn’t mind another excuse for a ramble.

We decided to avoid the interstate and take the back roads down through Abbeville, Elberton, and across to Watkinsville. After all, you can’t see sights like this from I-85, much less stop and photograph them…

Vulture HouseVulture House Continue reading “Guidestones and Bridges”

North Carolina with the New Camera

Madison County Courthouse

Laura is out of town for awhile traveling with her mother. Saturday morning I dropped her off at GSP for an early flight, then headed out to try out the new camera. My plan was to head up into the North Carolina mountains for a bit and see what I could see. I have to confess, it was quite a bit of a learning curve.

Friday night I charged up the batteries and got familiar with the menu and controls. The temptation is to start with an absolutely perfect shot – something worthy of such a fine instrument. Didn’t happen. I shot one of the cats, and shot him poorly. So much for breaking the ice.

When the time came the next morning I felt ready for a cursory outing. From the airport I drove north on Highway 14, pausing in Landrum to get some shots of the sunrise through the fog. Here’s the shot I was after…

Landrum Sunrise 2 Continue reading “North Carolina with the New Camera”

Rambling through Greenwood

Dino Cafe Sign

I got a note from fellow explorer Mark Elbrecht the other day mentioning that they were offering tours of Cokesbury College as part of Greenwood’s Festival of Flowers. Mark was able to do the tour on Saturday, but I was off paddling Parr Shoals. My brother Houston was in town, so we stopped by to pick up my sister Glynda and headed down toward Greenwood.

The route from Gray Court to Greenwood cuts across the Laurens County countryside. Southwest of Hickory Tavern we found ourselves at Boyds Mill Pond, an impoundment on the Reed River with a small hydroelectric plant. We stopped to take a few photos.

Boyds Mill Pond Jun 24, 2012 11-039Boyds Mill Pond Jun 24, 2012 11-036

The river below the dam has several fishing access spots. One point looked like it would be an excellent place to launch a kayak, but it was very trashy. There were several folks fly-fishing downstream. Continue reading “Rambling through Greenwood”

Searching for Coopersville

Cherokee Ford on the Broad River

About a month ago SCETV was airing an episode of Palmetto Places on Gaffney, South Carolina. I caught the tail end of a segment about the Coopersville Iron Works. I didn’t catch much of the segment, but heard enough to know that it should be a target for one of my ghost town hunts. It sounded like it would be a perfect rambling trip for this week’s Friday off.

Coopersville was one of a series of Civil War era iron furnace operations in Cherokee County. In addition to this complex, there were furnaces near Cowpens and Thicketty Mountain. Coopersville was the largest, with several factories, a post office and some stores. All of these historic iron works are on private property, and finding information about the actual location proved to be a challenge. The National Register nomination form for Coopersville was severely redacted so that no addresses were visible. Even beyond that, the name “Coopersville” didn’t show up on any GNIS listings, or on any other lists of towns that I had, historic or otherwise.

After several conversations on Google+ with my history exploring friends, Mark Elbrecht pointed me in the direction of an archeological survey done in the 1980s prior to the construction of electrical transmission lines. It contained several maps which were not redacted. I used that map as basis for my ramblings.

Predictive Modeling: An Archeolgical Assessment of Duke Power Company's Proposed Cherokee Transmission Lines Continue reading “Searching for Coopersville”

Old Dorchester and ACE Basin

Old Dorchester-037

I’ve been able to take off on a few excursions over the last couple of months, but Laura really hasn’t had a chance to get away. With her mom in Florida, and since we had at least one day in common for this spring break, we decided to escape down to the Charleston area. However, we weren’t interested in the city itself, but the outlying areas to do a bit of bird watching. Our goal for the first day was the ACE Basin, and Beidler Forest for the second day.

Driving no the interstate was pure madness. It seems that everyone was out for a weekend away. We decided to get off of the interstate and explore some of the side roads. Laura’s comment was that “South Carolina is much prettier once you get off the interstate.”

We drove into Orangeburg, then headed south. On Highway 61 we saw a sign for the community of Sixty-Six. I’d never heard of it before, so we decided to check it out. It was an old railroad community that didn’t turn out to be much. I may have to do some further research. We did drive through Branchville, which has “the oldest railroad junction in the world.” Laura wasn’t sure about that claim, though, so I filled her in on the history of “The Best Friend” of Charleston, one of the first railroads in the US. Continue reading “Old Dorchester and ACE Basin”

Searching for Shoals Junction

Shoals Junction Ramble-027

It’s spring break for most of the Upstate school districts, and I wanted to search for a few ghost towns. Mark Elbrecht and I had bounced around some possible targets, and after looking through the South Carolina section of the Abandoned Rails website, we decided to try to find Shoals Junction, at the end of the abandoned Ware Shoals line. We would also hit a couple of other smaller communities and see what we could find.  Turns out we could hit lots of communities – eight of them in all.  I’ll try to summarize them here.

Ware Shoals

We set out down Augusta Road eventually reaching the eastern terminus of the railroad in Ware Shoals. We took a turn through the town, then headed down to the river. We drove through the riverside park, then circled past the power generation station. There were several workers, and we felt awkward stopping for photos. We retraced our steps upstream and headed beyond the bridge crossing the Saluda River. We soon reached the Ware Shoals Dam.

Ware Shoals Dam-002

Ware Shoals Dam

At the top of the dam water is diverted into a canal so that it can be routed through the power turbines below. With the recent rain lots of water was flowing over the dam.

Ware Shoals Dam-004

Ware Shoals Dam-006

An old masonry staircase led down to the river. As sign pointed to the “Fishing Trail” and “Canoe Portage.” I guess the portage was around the dam, but I couldn’t see where one would take out a canoe at the top of the dam. I guess it would be more obvious if I were on the river. Continue reading “Searching for Shoals Junction”