South Carolina from A to Z

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From Hilton Head to Caesars Head, and from the Lords Proprietors to Hootie and the Blowfish, historian Walter Edgar mines the riches of the South Carolina Encyclopedia to bring you South Carolina from A to Z. (A production of South Carolina Public Radio.)

South Carolina from A to Z Archives (April 2011 to Sept 2014)

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“C” is for Checker, Chubby [b. 1941]. Singer. Chubby Checker was born Ernest Evans in Spring Gully, near Andrews, but moved to Philadelphia where he attended high school. In 1961 Checker covered the song, “the Twist.” With television exposure on American Bandstand and the Ed Sullivan Show, “The Twist” became a huge hit and remained the biggest-selling single record of all time well into the 1970s. During the 1960s Checker had thirty more chart hits. Eleven of these reached the top twenty.

“B” is for Blockade-running. Throughout the Civil War, government and civilian goods were shipped into the Confederate states on vessels known as blockade-runners. The vessels that carried these supplies through the northern blockade were vital components in a trade that sustained the Confederate armies. Though South Carolina had numerous harbors and inlets, only Charleston had the proper railroad connections and port facilities to sustain an overseas trade. The majority of the war’s blockade-running firms were formed at Charleston. George A.

“W” is for Women’s Clubs. The core organizations of this movement were the South Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs [SCFWC] and the South Carolina Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs SCFCWC]. Most of the clubs in these organizations initially formed for women’s self-improvement. However, over time the focus shifted to social reform and in the case of the SCFCWC, to racial reform. The South Carolina women’s club movement was a powerful force for social change.

“S” is for Shepard, Charles Upham [1804-1886]. Chemist, mineralogist. A native of Rhode Island, in 1834 Shepard became professor of chemistry at the Medical College of South Carolina. A highly respected and popular teacher, he also arranged mineralogical collections and botanical facilities at the college with specimens gathered from across the United States and Europe. Together with his students he also explored the state’s mineral deposits. Perhaps his greatest contribution to South Carolina was the investigations in the late 1850s of the vast phosphate deposits in the lowcountry.

Plank roads enjoyed a brief popularity in the early 1850s, touted as an inexpensive and effective means of improving short-distance travel. Thick planks were laid across wooden stringers in a roadbed, creating a smooth, level surface for wagons and other road traffic.Russia was the first country to construct plank roads and by the 1850s the idea had spread to Canada and the United States. Between 1849 and 1853, the General Assembly chartered ten plan-road companies. Several were built, the longest, the Edgefield and Hamburg plank road extended twenty-six miles.

Pisé de terre, or “rammed earth,” is an ancient form of building construction. Clay is the basic material in rammed earth buildings. After a foundation of brick or stone is laid, clay is poured into wooden molds and then tamped until solid. Additional layers are added until the walls reach the desired height, and the finished walls are coated with stucco. In the mid-nineteenth century, Dr. William W. Anders of Stateburg used pisé de terre to create two of South Carolina’s most distinctive works of architecture: the Borough House and the Church of the Holy Cross.

“M” is for Mermaid Controversy

Mar 11, 2015

Popular culture and pre-Darwinian history collided in January 1843 when P.T. Barnum’s notorious “Feejee Mermaid” made its way to South Carolina after several months of controversy and acclaim in New York. The three-foot “mermaid” [actually a gruesome forgery cobbled together form a monkey torso and the bottom half of a fish] was exhibited in Charleston with several other curiosities. The local press lined up on opposite sides of a heated and complex debate about the exhibit’s authenticity. The Rev.

After being educated at private academies in Charleston and England, Lowndes read law and was admitted to the bar. As a respected and important member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, he was the author of the so-called Compromise of 1808, an amendment to the state constitution that provided the upcountry with more equitable representation in the General Assembly. In 1810, he was elected to Congress where he became a leading member of the “War Hawks,” a faction of young congressmen who strongly favored a military resolution to the country’s dispute with Britain.

“C” is for Chattooga River

Mar 5, 2015

  The Chattooga River begins as a springs and rivulets near Cashiers in the North Carolina mountains. It flows a narrow, twisting, mostly southwesterly route before joining the Tallulah River in Lake Tugaloo. For most of its forty miles, the Chattooga forms the boundary between Georgia and South Carolina. It drops almost a half-mile as the land transitions from the Appalachians to the upper Piedmont. The Chattooga watershed includes approximately 278 square miles. The 1911 Weeks Law which authorized the Forest Service to acquire land to form the Nantahala, Sumter, and Chattahoochee National Forests, helped protect the Chattooga’s path through these three forests. The Chattooga River is considered one of the best white-water rivers in the southern Appalachians, with challenging Class III to Class V rapids along the lower section.


“W” is for Women

Mar 2, 2015

Although women constitute a majority of South Carolina’s population, they have had to overcome many of the same barriers to equality as have women across the nation. By the 21st century many barriers were gone but women still lagged on many indicators, including education, employment, income, and health care. This may be attributed in part to the state’s conservative culture, in which change comes slowly and women have been seen first and foremost as wives and mothers. Nonwhite women have also had to overcome racial discrimination.

“S” is for Sheldon Church [Beaufort County]. Prince William’s Parish was established in 1745. In 1757 a sophisticated, temple-design brick church, was completed on land adjacent to Sheldon Plantation. Contemporaries considered it more beautiful than St. Philip’s and more elegant than St. Michael’s.  The building was burned during the American Revolution, but was rebuilt in 1826. However, it was burned during the Civil War and has never been rebuilt. Today, moss-draped live oak trees shade the quiet burial ground that surrounds the ruined Sheldon Church of Prince William’s Parish.

“S” is for Sheheen, Robert Joseph [b. 1943]. Lawyer. Legislator. Sheheen graduated from Duke and USC Law School. In 1976 he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. As chair of the House Judiciary Committee he championed causes including freedom-of-information legislation, the strengthening of local government powers, and  the periodic review of state agency regulatory functions popularly known as “sunset laws.” He was elected Speaker in 1986.

“R” is for Rock Music. South Carolina has been the birthplace of numerous rock music pioneers and nationally and internationally known acts. In the 1920s, the Dixie Hummingbirds were among the African American gospel groups that influenced early rhythm and blues performers.

“P” is for Piracy

Feb 24, 2015

“P” is for Piracy. Piracy flourished along the Carolina coast during the first thirty years of settlement and later during the “Golden Age of Piracy” [1716-1720]. Like merchants in all colonies, Charleston’s traders were accustomed to dealing with smugglers and welcomed the cheap goods and hard money that pirates brought. Among the most notorious buccaneers operating off Charleston were Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet, and Anne Bonney. In 1718, Blackbeard and Bonnet blockaded the port, seized ships, and hostages--eventually ransoming them for valuable medicines.

“M” is for Mepkin Abbey [Berkeley County]. Located on the Cooper River, Mepkin Abbey has a diverse history. In the 18th century, the property served as the seven-thousand acre rice plantation and family home of Henry Laurens. In 1936, publisher Henry Luce purchased the property. Luce and his wife Claire Booth hired architect Edward Durell Stone to construct several modernist brick structures. They also hired landscape architect Loutrel Briggs to create a formal camellia and azalea garden overlooking the river. In 1949, in keeping with Mrs.

“G” is for Grave-site decoration. West Africans transported to South Carolina as slaves had their own belief system regarding death, burial, and the power of the living and the dead. Shiny or reflective materials like mirrors, silver painted objects and tin foil may have represented the desire to steer the spirit on a smooth passage over a body of water. Medicine bottles, dishes, and eating utensils—sometimes turned upside down and broken to possibly free the spirit and break the chain of death. Kerosene lanterns and lamps were sometimes placed to light the way of the spirit back home.

“F” is for Furchgott, Robert Francis [1916-2009]. Pharmacologist. Nobel Prize Laureate. When he was a young boy growing up in Orangeburg, Furchgott’s first interest was natural history. After graduating from the University of North Carolina, he obtained a PhD in biochemistry from Northwestern University. He served on the medical faculties of Cornell, Washington University in St. Louis, State University of New York in Brooklyn, Miami University, and the Medical University of South Carolina.

“E” is for Evans, Josiah James [1786-1858]. Jurist. U.S. Senator. In 1812 Evans was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives from Marlboro District and in 1816 was elected solicitor for the Northern Circuit. From 1829 1852, the legislature regularly elected him to serve as judge on several state courts. While a judge he authored Road Law, a digest of South Carolina law. However, his legal reputation rests with his being lead counsel in successfully defending the estate of Mason Lee against challenges by Lee’s relatives.

“D” is for Drayton Hall [Charleston County]. Established in 1738, Drayton Hall is a historic plantation located between the Ashley River and Ashley River road—about nine miles from Charleston. At the time of its construction, its two-story brick main house with raised basement reflected current English Georgian architecture and was inspired by the designs of Italian renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. John Drayton founded Drayton Hall and it remained in possession of the Drayton family for seven generations.

“C” is for Charleston Library Society. The Charleston Library Society is the third-oldest institutional library in the United States. Established as a private, subscription library in 1748, it received a charter of incorporation in 1755. By 1778, the society’s book and periodical book collection numbered five thousand volumes. Society members promoted the idea of a colonial college and started a natural science collection that evolved into the Charleston Museum. The Charleston fire of 1778 destroyed all but a handful of the library’s books.

“B” is for Black Codes [1865-1866]. In 1865, with little direction forthcoming from Washington, the states of the former Confederacy drew up “Black Codes” to clarify the standing of African Americans. In December 1865, the General Assembly adopted South Carolina’s “Black Codes.” There were three main laws with extensive articles. The first recognized the abolition of slavery and defined “black” for the first time in the state’s legal code. The second set forth restrictions that actually curtailed rights enjoyed by free persons of color prior to the war.

“W” is for Williamson, Andrew [ca. 1730-1786]. Soldier. Williamson immigrated to Ninety Six District from his native Scotland. He was a lieutenant during the Cherokee War. An ardent patriot at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Williamson represented Ninety Six District in the First and Second Provincial Congresses. In November 1775 he commanded a patriot force defending Ninety Six and later hunted down Tories during the Snow Campaign. Promoted to colonel, he led South Carolina troops in a punitive expedition against Native Americans on the frontier.

“T” is for Tynte, Edward [d. 1710]. Governor. Tynte was from a Somerset, England family that had recently risen to a baronetcy. Surviving English documents refer to him variously as major or colonel. In a Latin poem expressing high hopes for Tynte’s administration, a Tory writer implied that Tynte was also a man of culture. Frustrated by nearly a decade of factionalism in Carolina, the proprietors decided to institute a wholesale change of government and began by commissioning Tynte as the new governor in December 1708.

“S” is for Secessionville, Battle of [June 16, 1862). Union general Henry Benham launched an assault on Tower Battery near the planter village of Secessionville. The Confederate defenders, supported by the timely arrival of reinforcements, threw back the Union troops in fierce hand-to-hand fighting. A second Northern wave crashed against the battery’s left flank, but again was repulsed. Unbeknownst to the Northerners, the battery stood at the choke point of a telescoping peninsula. The marshy ground forces the Federal attackers into the mouths of Confederate guns.

“R” is for Rivers

Feb 9, 2015

“R” is for Rivers. South Carolina has an abundance of rivers that originate within the state or that enters from Georgia and North Carolina and drain land as far away as Virginia. These rivers flow generally from the northwest to the southeast. The Santee River system is the largest on the east coast. The Savannah River forms the western boundary of South Carolina. The third river system is the Pee Dee, which is the only river system in the state left undammed. Some of the most beautiful rivers in the state are those that begin in the coastal plain.

“L” is for Lowndes, Rawlins [1721-1800]. Jurist. Governor. Lowndes was born on St. Kitts in the West Indies and migrated with his family to South Carolina in 1730. He became the ward of the colony’s Provost Marshal and learned the law from him. From 1745 to 1754, Lowndes was Provost Marshal, the chief law enforcement officer in the colony. He also represented St. Bartholomew’s Parish in the Commons House off and on for twenty-five years. In 1763 he was elected Speaker. In 1766, he was appointed a judge.

“H” is for Hockey

Feb 5, 2015

“H” is for Hockey. The traditional Canadian sport of hokey had a minimal impact in South Carolina until the 1990s. Requiring cold weather for ice or expensive indoor rinks, the sport attracted little interest. That changed when the migration of many northerners to the state and the development of roller hockey. In 1993, the state’s first professional team, the South Carolina Stingrays who play in North Charleston, joined the East Coast Hockey League [ECHL] in 1993. Other ECHL teams soon followed: the Pee Dee Pride, the Greenville Grrrowl, and the Columbia Inferno.

"G" is for Greenville County [790 square miles; population 379,616]. Greenville County was created in 1786 out of former Cherokee lands. In 1788 the county, unlike most of the backcountry, supported ratification of the federal constitution. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, dozens of textile factories sprang up in Greenville County.  By the early 1900s the Southern Railway and the Atlantic Coast Line linked the area's economy with the nation. World War II brought boom times to textiles and a number of new industries. In the 1960s, led by construction magnate Charles E.

"C" is for Charleston Tea Plantation. The Charleston Tea Plantation produces the only tea grown in the United States on Wadmelaw Island, thirty miles south of Charleston. It is planted with more than 125 acres of tea, Camellia sinensis. Tea and camellias have celebrated histories in South Carolina. Ornamental camellias first arrived in America at Middleton Plantation in 1799 with French botanist Andre Michaux. Their popularity spread throughout the country, but South Carolina is the only state to have produced tea commercially.

"B" is for Blease, Coleman Livingston [1868-1942]. Governor. US Senator. After graduating from Georgetown University, Blease was admitted to the bar in 1889. The following year he was elected to represent Newberry County in the South Carolina House and in 1905 he was elected to the South Carolina Senate. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1906 and 1908, but won in 1910 and was re-elected in 1912. The core of his support came from white mill workers. As governor he emphasized individual freedom and racism.

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