Pocotaligo, Purrysburg, Robertville, Coosawatchie, Gillisonville, Grahamville, Arm Oak, Tillman, McPhersonville, Grays, Old House, Switzerland, Hardeeville, Ridgeland
(from the) MOVING FINGER OF JASPER
Copyright ©2001, GRACE Fox PERRY, her heirs and assigns, all rights reserved. Used with permission by SCGenWeb, Jasper County web site
PLACES AND PEOPLE
Jasper is one of South Carolina's youngest counties, having been formed in 1912. Using the latest census enumeration, its population figure is slightly larger than 12,300.
Bordered on the western side by Savannah River, the county embraces tracts of timberland estimated together as eighty-six per cent of its entire land area. Although not contiguous to the ocean, its eastern border is laced by many small coastal rivers, their waters flowing into Broad River and into the sea. Comprising the county's drainage systems are the Pocotaligo, Tullifinny, and Coosawhatchie Rivers; also Black Swamp creek, Great Swamp stream and New River.
Though young as a unit, this 660-square-mile area is ancient in time, and its terrain is dotted with sites of historic importance and religious significance. Two of the villages have Indian names and a history extending back into traders' days; these are Pocotaligo and Coosawhat.chie, the latter meaning "Refuge of the Coosaws."
Shortly after the English settled Carolina and during the regime of the Lords Proprietors, this section was designated for governmental purposes as "Granville County." Its boundaries included the "Indian Lands," stretching from the Combahee River to the Savannah. Tradition says that the first courthouse and jail in Granville County consisted of a crude log building near a causeway across Black Swamp. This creek is a tributary of the Savannah, and along its banks lived the Pallachuccola Indians. Vestiges of an old fort named for the Indian tribe can be seen in the swamp today. There are varied spellings of the name, found in old writings.
Over on the coast, the tribes of Muscogean stock were the Yamasees (Yemassees), Yoas (Euhaws), and the Coo-saws. The Yemassees, who had migrated from Florida, were more warlike than the other and smaller coastal tribes. Reportedly, the latter told the earliest white settlers that they had been "driven to the sea" by stronger tribes to the north and west.
In the late 1700's, this entire section was known as the "back country" of early-day Beaufort District, so organized under the Court Act of 1769. The Church of England parishes, St. Helena's, Prince William's, St. Luke's and St. Peter's, were being used as election districts for the Lowcountry. And the seat of government was placed at Beaufort, on the coast. However, tidal streams and marshes caused that town to be inaccessible most of the time except by water; so in 1788, Coosawhatchie, nine miles north of present Ridgeland, became the government seat. Then, because Coosawhatchie proved to be quite "sickly" in the summers, the court house was removed in 1840 to Gillisonville, a resort on higher ground among the pines five miles away. There it remained until General Sherman's army burned it in 1 86g. In 1868, Beaufort once more became the government seat.
In 1878, Hampton County came into being, the name honoring Wade Hampton, general and governor. The boundaries of it cut sections from the old Court Act districts of Barnwell and Beaufort, so that the area formerly comprising most of Granville County became the separate counties of Hampton and Beaufort.
At this point, it seems appropriate to interpolate histories of the "back country" settlements, which later were to be incorporated into the counties named above; then still later into present Jasper.
Pocotaligo today is a small settlement on Highway 17, consisting of filling stations, neat sales establishments and tourist courts. In 1700, it was the chief council town of the aboriginal occupants, the Yemassee Indians.
Trading agents from Charleston traveled regularly through the wilderness, to barter English wares for the animal hides and furs the red people furnished. William Gilmore Simms' famous novel sketches a vivid picture of the tribes as they were living along the rivers; and of the intrigues and injustices which led to the Indian uprising of 1715. The war began with a savage massacre of negotiating agents at Pocotaligo, and soon involved the whole lower state. Thomas Nairne, agent to the Indians, was tortured and killed, along with many other white men and women. At the first attack, two white men, although wounded, swam the river and warned the other white Beaufort settlers, enabling many to escape to a ship in Port Royal Sound. With militia from the adjoining county of Colleton, Governor Craven checked the redskins temporarily at the head of the Combahee River, but the upheaval of the Yemassee War lasted for nearly ten years. It also affected the relations with other tribes to the west.
Gradually, the red people were driven toward Florida, and conditions became more stable. By division from St. Helena's, Prince William's Parish was legally established in 1745. By then, white inhabitants had taken over the "Indian Lands." The poverty of these early settlers is shown by surveys which give the number of slaves in 1722 as 5!, for all of Granville County. By the time Beaufort District was organized, Pocotaligo was a village of several hundred persons, centered about the stagecoach stop. It became the commercial center for the rice-growing area along the Combahee and smaller adjacent rivers. Holders of large land grants were the families of Bellinger, Matthewes, Mazyck, Bryan, Bull, Fishburne, Williman, etc.
Fort Balfour, a British garrison established in the village, soon figured in the latter part of the American Revolution. The incident was as follows: with his Beau-fort Artillery company, Colonel William Harden surrounded the fort and called for British Colonel Kelsall's surrender. Numbering 91, the fort's personnel consisted of state militia, most of whom were relatives and friends of the besiegers. The militiamen simply walked out with their hands extended high in the air and surrendered, without firing a shot to defend the fort.
In the first census of 1790, the population of Pocotaligo was 300. Following a time of disorder and poverty, the products of rice and Sea Island cotton were bringing prosperity to the district. Large plantations extended up and down the rivers to a Point later called Mackey's.
A tavern known as Van Bibber's, built of logs and tapia (tabby), existed on the stagecoach road in the village and was famous for its entertainment. Apparently the inn was scarcely noted for sobriety, because the drinks customarily served were cognac, Jamaica rum and Madeira wine. In his diary, George Washington mentioned stopping overnight and being entertained at Van Bibber's, when he visited the state in the spring of 1791, during his presidential term. In Francis Hutson's volume, "Prince William's Parish and Plantations," an authentic account is given of local p1antation life and recreation of the times. McPhersonville was the summer village of the planters.
The coming of the War Between the States brought with it tragedy, and the termination of a certain way of life. Indeed, it wrote finis to an era.
In the late fall of 1862, Colonel Robert E. Lee came to this section, as part of his assignment to establish defenses along the Southern coast. He wrote of his sojourn at the home of Mrs. George C. Mackey, of Mackey's Point, some seven miles from Pocotaligo.
As fortification, the Coosawhatchie River was blocked with heavy timbers, and guns were mounted along Bees Creek and adjoining streams. Local action began in May, 1862. A Federal force came up Broad River from Port Royal Sound, and landed at Mackey's Point. Then they proceeded along the road to Pocotaligo, hoping to destroy the then-new Charleston and Savannah railway track. A small force of 110 Confederates managed to stop them by encirclement at the Tullifinny River bridge, which was no longer there; having been burned during the night. The Federals, demoralized, fled back to their transports. The U. S. Marine Corps' official history calls this the battle of Tullifinny; southern historians call it the first battle of Pocotaligo. The second battle took place in October of that year, near the same spot. This time, several thousand Union troops steamed up the rivers; their object was reaching the railroad between the villages of Pocotaligo and Coosawhatchie. One vessel grounded; which furnished needed time for the local commander, Walker, to wire for reinforcements. Again, knowing the terrain and by destroying a bridge, about 675 men succeeded in holding off the invaders until the Federals exhausted their ammunition. Other skirmishes took place with raiders from the sea islands.
The busy life of Pocotaligo village declined after Reconstruction. However, its commerce managed to continue into this century. A mercantile building erected by John Frampton, large planter and Senator before the war, remained to be utilized by C. E. Boineau for some 40 years. Railroad construction followed by highway building altered by some hundred yards the location of the original settlement. The post office went to Yemassee.
Pocotaligo has become quietly modern, assisted by the four-lane highway which traverses the area and aids its business. Very little is in existence to show the long and varied history of the village.
Upon a low bluff overlooking the Savannah River near Hardeeville, stands a marker of stone depicting the site of old Purrysburg. The cross-shaped monument was erected in the 1940's by the Huguenot Society of South Carolina. Not far away is the Purrysburg cemetery; quite expansive and still in use by the community. The Humbert, Ferebee, and Strobhar burial plots, which are Purrysburg-connected, lie a few miles north. In the latter-named, the oldest tomb is dated 1781. More concerning these markers will be told elsewhere.
In 1732, Colonel Jean Pierre Purry, of Neufchatel, Switzerland, persuaded the British government to subsidize a Swiss migration of 6oo colonists to Carolina. The migration was encouraged by the colony's Governor Johnson. These Protestants, having fled religious persecution, agreed to come and to settle on the Savannah River. They were to build up a commercial town; to make hemp, indigo, cotton, silk and wines for export, and to defend the frontier from possible attack by the Spaniards of St. Augustine. The experiment seemed ill-fated from the beginning. The first Alpine newcomers, arriving in 1733, found the Indians friendly. But they had reckoned without the sweltering climate, the low-lying terrain, and the disease-bearing insects whose menace to mankind was not yet known. Scores died in the first months, and "agues and violent fevers" sapped the strength of those who tried to stick it out. Many were forced to move to other locations, when their township lands were encroached upon in violation of the agreement with Purry. (A small post office four miles below Ridgeland bears the name "Switzerland" today, indicating a second community effort by these hardy folk to put down roots. By industry and thrift some of them managed to prosper, later becoming prominent landowners and rice planters.)
These original Swiss-French and German colonists had been people of some means and literacy in their homelands. However, their grim struggle to survive in the strange surroundings hindered the retention of much interest in culture. The later shiploads of Swiss fared little better. The tragic story of the earliest corners is best told in letters and diaries of pastors on the scene. Two German pastors of the Austrian Salzburgers, who settled across the river at Ebenezer in Georgia, mention "Purysburg" or "Purrisburg" frequently, and sometimes quite disparagingly. Pastor Johann Martin Boizius, of Ebenezer, writes in 1734:
"Pastor Gronau sent to Purrisburg and found three families belonging to the evangelic Lutheran church.
They think us fortunate to have our own pastors. Not so long ago they told of having had a French student as a pastor, but as he, they said, led a rather sinful life and got entangled in bad dealings, they discharged him and so were without a pastor . . . they have expressed again their desire that one of us would come to them and administer Holy Communion.
"Last night came three people of Purysburg after they had been lost for two days and had suffered a great deal with thirst. They knew not they were near us, fortunately the sound of our singing during evening prayer meeting reached them and they were guided by it. . .
Pastor Israel Christian Gronau noted the lack of education for the Purrysburg children, since many preachers and teachers had died. He recorded the efforts of "Mr. Pury" to supply a pastor, and the language difficulties when one was secured. Intermarriage was now occurring between the settlements divided by the river, to the deep concern of the rigid Salzburger divines. Pastor Boizius says, "Rauner came to me and confided that he would like to marry a widow from Purysburg and wanted my advice. I wrote to a good and pious man there and inquired of the character and past life of the woman. .
Schweiger's bride is the daughter of a school teacher who died soon after his arrival in Purysburg." Marital situations often became so involved as to defy solution by these pious, conscientious men. In 1736, Bolzius reported that it was difficult at times to decide whose wife a woman was.
"One of these women came to me and asked for advice should she return to her former husband, which she was very willing to do. I advised her against it-as it appeared that the man had willingly departed and she having married another. Should there be a prosecution she might stand the chance of punishment for bigamy."
Although considering the Purrysburgers somewhat wild and dissipated, the good Georgia pastors took in their orphan children, treated their illnesses, buried their dead, and chided them for rum-selling. As for members of their own flock, excommunication befell the Lutherans right and left for "being drunk in Purysburg." If a Swiss was accepted in the Georgia colony, he must "leave his old acquaintances and bad friends behind. . . and not to have them come over for rowdy visits to Ebenezer." Physical hardships in the Carolina colony are taken into consideration, however. "Kiefer. . . and his whole family are suffering from the fever. . . . Following a terrible cloudburst the land of Kiefer across from us is 'man high' inundated. . . he will send four of his girls to our school."
No less a person than John Wesley deplored "the poor of Purrysburg. His journal recounts details of his trip from Savannah, and his overnight stop in "Purrisburg," on his laborious journey to Port Royal. ". . . 0 how hath God stretched over this place 'the lines of confusion, and the stones of emptiness!' Alas for those whose lives were here vilely cast away, through oppression, through diverse plagues and troubles! 0 earth! how long wilt thou hide their blood: How long wilt thou cover thy slain?"
Wesleys journal continues thus: (1737) We came to Purrisburg early in the morning. . . . After walking two or three hours, we met with an old man, who led us into a small patch, near which was a line of blazed trees, by following which he said we might easily come to Port Royal in five or six hours. Soon they were hopelessly lost in the trackless swamp, he says, and by nightfall the four of them were so racked with thirst they were forced to dig into the ground with their hands for water. Huddling close together for warmth, they slept until daylight. With difficulty, they found their way back to Purrysburg. This time, they spent a comfortable night, then found a guide who led them through the forests to Port Royal.
Ten years after Wesleys visit, St. Peters Parish was formed to include the township, and the settlers finally completed a church. Rev. Abraham Immer, who was Purrysburgs pastor in the 1760s, writes that nearly all the people were extremely poor.
The original settlers, he reports, "shine with a sufficiently ample knowledge. They excel in a deep and solid sort of piety; but the younger ones, in the deepest darkness of ignorance, rarely show forth works from which true and wholesome faith is apparent. Nor could this in any way be expected to be otherwise. He goes on to explain that the proper teachers had not been available. My ability to preach in both French and German is my welcome, especially to the Germans, who got nothing from my French predecessors. I teach the young three times a week, few of the French or English and none of the German youths being able to read. A wandering schoolmaster knowing only English taught here eight or nine months, charging twelve pounds currency for each little girl or boy; but many are so poor that they prefer to neglect their children rather than their property. Bibles are scarce. French or German ones would be preferred."
Rev. J. Adam de Martel gave no better account to the Bishop of London in 1769. "The heat here in Purrysburgh is terrible. The only food is as bad. The only liquor is rum, for drinking which in excess many die. My parish is about 200 miles in circuit, and houses ten miles apart. . . . Many of the inhabitants of this country seldom see anybody at their habitations: it is the cause they are almost savages. Some have but very little religion, some none at all, the most part are what is called Anabaptists. My time is entirely taken up. Sometimes I am fasting since the morning till the night."
Since climatic conditions proved adverse to the crops planned in the beginning, the colonists had taken to cattle-raising at which many did well. However, silk culture with the attendant mulberry tree-planting continued in the township until after the Revolution. In 1772, old manuscripts state that these industrious Swiss, despite depletion of their numbers by illness and hardships, exported through "Charles-town" 455 pounds of raw silk.
During the Revolution, Major-General Robert Howe fled with the remnant of his force from Savannah to Purrysburg, after Georgia was taken by the British. When Howe was replaced by General Benjamin Lincoln, there was a period of watchful waiting on the Carolina side, to see just where the British would strike. Later, Lincoln was replaced by Moultrie. Ramsey's "Revolution in S. C." gives this terse account of the militia's abandonment of the place, when Charles-town was threatened: "Having retreated from Black Swamp, and learning that the enemy had crossed at Two Sisters Ferry, Moultrie marched to Coosawhatchie. Col. McIntosh, posted at Purysburg, marched to join him that night. Both retreating and invading forces concentrated toward Charles-town."
President Washington, completing his trip through the state, mentioned crossing the Savannah River near Purrysburg. Possibly the actual site was Beck's Ferry. It is certain that he made a stop at the township settlement. The story goes that, despite hardships, depletion and reverses, these partisan Swiss presented him with a beautiful gold watch.
Purrysburg as a village disappeared in the 1830's, but the river landing was destined to remain in use throughout another war. Confederate regiments were established in training camps nearby, early in the War Between the States. Old letters are in existence today, written by a young officer, Oliver P. Bostick, to his relatives at Black Swamp, and headed, "Camp Lee No. 2 at Purysburg." Extracts from several of his missives during 1861 and 1862 describe the life in camp:
"We drill twice every day. Our morning drill comes on at 1 o o'clock and lasts till 12, evening from 3 1/2 o'clock to 4 1/2 . . . tell Cousin Harriet that Henry left Hardeeyule with a part of his company today for Port Royal Ferry, their destination will be Beaufort so I understand from two of the company. . . . [already, Hilton Head was in possession of Union forces] . . . We hear cannonading more or less every day . . . the Yankee fleet was off the bar; seeing the light supposed that our army was in possession of the island and that they would shell them out but they were mistaken as there was no person on the island, and all their firing was in vain. . the forces have had several engagements with the Yankees-the largest skirmish was at Port Royal; 2000 of our men whipt 3500 Yankees and ran them at the point of the bayonet back to their boats. Our loss was eight men killed and i wounded-I do not know what the Yankee loss was. I do not know when I will get home as our squads are broken up for the present."
Strife and violence were rampant throughout the section during Reconstruction days, but by then the town was only a memory. The late Pierre Robert of Robertville wrote for the Hampton Guardian in 1879 a series of articles on trips up and down the Savannah River. He called these features "Memorials."
"Another mile takes us to the site of old Purrysburg today scarcely ruins enough remain to show where it stood, tho quite a quantity of ranging timber, steamboat wood and turpentine is still shipped from its wharves. . .
Fifty or 60 years ago a large flat was converted into a steamboat by one of the enterprising citizens of Purrysburg. It was called the Cotton Plant, and ran regularly for a long time from Savannah to Purrysburg up one day and down the next. If all the vessels of every description, ever built, were moulded into one and came flying into Charleston today, it would not create more wonder and amazement than the Cotton Plant did to the good people of Purrysburg and the surrounding country. . . . Purrysburg has always been noted for the large number of sturgeon caught opposite the town.
Compared to other townships more fortunately situated, perhaps the Purrysburg experiment was a failure. But if it were so considered, how is one to explain the roster of distinguished names it furnished for the pages of history? Among these are Brabant, Henry, Bourquin, DeSaussure, DeTreville, Huguenin, Strobhar, Verdier, Humbert, Holtzendorff, Dominick, Mingledorif, LeBorde, Gourdin, and others. English settlers came later to the locality, and beside the Swiss names, Zant, Brebner, Buche, Kieffer and Keller in the old cemetery one finds Blake, Raymond, Jones and Cooper.
And some names of these Swiss, French and German silk-makers are still borne by numerous residents of Jasper County. They include: Maurer (modern spelling, Moorer), Kieffer, and Malphrus. An old tradition is that whenever a Malphrus moved, he made sure that his mulberry tree moved with him, as a memento of the ancestral occupation at Purrysburg. Perhaps it served as a reminder of perseverance through grim, colonizing experiences, even as it served a practical purpose; for children, as well as silkworms, have an affinity for the tree with the tart, sweet fruit.
Anyway, these are among the oldest names in the state.
A goodly heritage is represented in them and the descendants bear them with understandable pride.
Projecting into the western corner of Jasper County from Hampton County is part of a once-noted historic area. It embraced the Black Swamp section of old Granville County and Beaufort District.
The segment in this county contains the village of Robertville. A small country settlement now, the community at one time enjoyed state-wide importance, being renowned for the beauty of its churches. One writer has said: "No community flowered into a richer culture." It was the birthplace of General Henry Martyn Robert, author of Robert's Rules of Order, about whom more will be written in another section of this book.
Members of this family were descended from Pierre Robert, a Huguenot minister. Born near Basle, Switzerland, he came to the Carolina province about 1 690, settling on the Santee River. His descendants intermarried with the Jaudon family, pioneer settlers in this part of Beaufort District. Other names of the locality found on ancient titles to property and on indentures of sales are
Stafford, Kittles1, McKenzie, Hutchinson, Bostick and Lawton. The oldest of these legal papers viewed by the writer is a surveyors plat of more than 6oo acres of land on the Savannah River, a purchase of Richard Bostick, in 1790. The plat was certified in 1782 by John Fenwick. This paper is among documents owned by Mrs. H. H. Coleman, a descendant of the Bostick family.
A later Pierre Robert, writing in 1880 in his Memorials which he said were dictated by an aged friend, touched on the topography and history of his locality. Upon the outskirts of the village of Robertville, we come to Black Swamp, a stream about 150 yards wide and generally two feet deep. It is crossed by a causeway. Upon this edge of the swamp, for three miles up, there is a thick growth of ti-ti bushes, excellent for pipe stems. Singular to say, with the same kind of soil on both sides of the swamp, there is not a ti-ti on the other. On the right of the first bridge is the baptismal ground or font, which has been used for generations past as such. Within reach stands a magnificent magnolia, its evergreen branches always entwined with moss. . . - After leaving the swamp four hundred yards we arrive at a large cluster of evergreen trees. It was here that General Rutherford, with 300 troops, was stationed for a while during the Revolution, to be in supporting distance of General Lincoln with his main army of 1200 men at Purrysburg.
There is a recurring tradition that Sergeant Jasper was also stationed for a while near Robertville.
Perhaps the hub of the Black Swamp section was the gracious ante-bellum town of Brighton (now in Hampton County), which was named by early English settlers for their city in Sussex. Here originated the up the road and down the road expressions, clearly understood by everybody in the communities. These directions distinctly tagged the respective neighborhoods northward toward old Lawtonville, and southward toward Robertville and Tarboro. Savannah River boats, stopping at Pallachuccola landing a few miles away, kept the Black Swamp planters in touch with the outside world.
According to Pierre Robert, the planters about Robertyule were known, not only for their piety, but for their material wealth. Many owned plantations with some fifty to two hundred slaves, and several as many as five hundred. Some planters numbered as many as 20,000 acres of land in their domain. The site of the original Granville courthouse became the property of Captain Samuel Maner then of Captain William Maner. They were brothers who had served under General Francis Marion in the Revolution. Later, a palatial residence was erected . . which was destroyed by Sherman. A set of massive, crumbling granite steps upon the spot today attest to the truth of the statement.
Cotton Hill, originally owned by the Lawtons, was later sold to become Pineland Club, the oldest hunting club in the Lowcountry. Other plantations of the period included the Reuben Tison acreage; the Hoover place owned by a Robert; the Solomons, Carroll, Kirk, Saussy, Martin, and other holdings.
Mrs. Nannie Bostick DeSaussure, whose husband was a Confederate army surgeon, also drew a word-picture of plantation life near Robertville in the 1850's. In her memoirs, written in the early part of this century, she described a typical day. It began, she said, with family prayers: after breakfast, the head nurse reported to the mistress of the plantation any sickness among the slaves. The mistress then had the invalids brought to the "sick house," a large building containing a number of cots for them, and the younger children were pressed into service for carrying their food. Then, the lady distributed the slaves' provisions, a portion to each family, consisting of corn meal, salt pork, sweet potatoes, field peas, syrup, rice, fruit, and "garden sass." Next, the mistress visited the vegetable gardens, walking upon graveled paths bordered with bright flowers; and made a trip to the poultry yards where there were 500 chickens, 100 geese, 100 turkeys and 100 ducks. Sixty cows were milked on the plantations.
After the midday meal, the mistress supervised the spinning and weaving of cloth by the slaves, and oversaw the cutting of garments by nine seamstresses who made the clothing for Negroes. Small wonder that it has been said, "Emancipation of the slaves also brought freedom to the overburdened mistresses of large plantations!"
When the Northern fleet captured Hilton Head and established their Atlantic bases, Mrs. DeSaussure said the Beaufort people fled as refugees to Robertville. In addition, she told how 5000 Southern troops were quartered on her fathers plantation after the fall of Savannah; and said that whole beeves, hogs and sheep were required feed them.
Among the Bostick papers is an old receipt, as follows: received Dec. 17 1864 of Mrs. Eliza Bostick two hundred & eighty eight lbs of corn, Rations for twenty four orses one day and four hundred & fifty lbs of fodder, raons for twenty four horses two days. (Signed) H. A. Bane, Cap., Commanding Curryton S. Car. Ar,
The ruin and the aftermath are described in vivid detai1 by Mrs. DeSaussure. When we heard that Shermans army had crossed the Savannah River, family after family joined the long, tragic procession to Columbia and Darlington, where we stayed six months. Later, after ten days of traveling we arrived at home to find the house in ashes, the barns also, and the steam mill, the blacksmith shop and the carpenter room. Families were forced to move into storerooms and laundries and into shacks in the rest. The Negroes were all scattered. We were saved from starvation by the men who cut timbers to sell and by the women who baked pies for the colored troops. When our family was down to its last pint of corn meal, a steamboat arrived loaded with provisions sent by a Northern friend who had heard of our plight. Later, the government returned twenty-five horses and mules to this plantation, so that crops could be planted.
Shermans hordes destroyed everything in Robertville, including the noted churches. It is said that nothing was left standing in the village but a brick well curb. In the same manner, the surrounding plantation homes succumbed to the blast of a total war. The "palatial residence" where 25 house servants had been employed became a memory and a legend.
So ended the village's glory, but not its entire existence. In this modern day, Robertville's few white residents attend a reactivated church, the history of which is recorded elsewhere. Also situated in the village is an up-to-date consolidated Negro school. The old Pineland Hunting Club exists as such no longer; its buildings are owned by the Taylor-Colquitt company
1Stella Kittles Sikes states: I have Kittles ancestors who lived in the Robertville area. In the Robertville (Black Swamp) Baptist Church section, in the names of early families, I think Kitties should be Kittles. It is also listed that way in the Robertville town section. Kitties should be Kittles. (FOC: I am not sure if this was an OCR error or an error on the original)
In a village nine miles north of Ridgeland, tangible evidence can be found of colonization, wars, upheaval and recovery. Events of some 300 years are embodied in Coosawhatchie's existence. Exactly when this history merges into the lost entity of the red man is difficult to guess.
Here, an early trading post was established in the days of the Proprietors, to deal with the Yemassee, Euhaw and Coosaw Indians. This phase ended after the uprising of 1715 caused the expulsion of the red people to Florida.
Under the royal governors of the Carolina province, Coosawhatchie thrived as a commercial town; a stopping point on the stagecoach road between Charleston and Savannah. Its strategic location caused it to figure prominently in the American Revolution. Letters passing between General William Moultrie and Colonel Alexander McIntosh show their plans to join forces at Coosawhatchie, as an endeavor to block the British drive toward "Charlestown."
Black Swamp, Api. 29, 1779
You must endeavor to join us, if you can without any great risk. I wish you could have given me an account of the enemys number. I could better judge how to act; the light horseman informs me you imagine them upwards of three hundred men. I think you were right to retreat in time, as your force would not be equal to theirs by any means. I expect soon to have accounts from you and more particulars. .
I am, etc.,
McIntosh replied thus:
Coosawhatchie, Apr. 30th, 1779
Last night two deserters from the enemy came to Bees Creek; they were of the light infantry. They say Col. Maitland commanded yesterday, that he had the light infantry, and the 2nd battalion of the 71st regiment, amounting to eight or nine hundred men; that they were to send for three field-pieces and three six-pounders, with a reinforcement to make them up to 1500 men; that they did not know the Colonels plan, but that they heard it said that he intended to proceed to Charles-town, and that he had thirty or forty Indians with him. I have given Genl. Bull and Col. Skirving information of these particulars; the men are so lame that I cannot be up before tomorrow night. We are all safe.
I am, etc.,
Both the above letters are from Wallaces History of South Carolina also recounts the incident and the succeeding battle. The British general Preyost crossed the Savannah River at Two Sisters ferry (a short distance west of the present village of Tillman) and was hurrying his army to reach Coosawhatchie, in order to cut Moultries forces off from Charlestown. "Moultrie beat him to the village of Coosawhatchie and the river of that name, but was obliged to retreat before much superior forces."
Moultries young lieutenant - colonel, John Laurens, rashly attempted firing action in bringing off the rear guard. He lost a number of men to the better-sheltered enemy, and received a serious battle wound for himself. Not long afterward, "Charlestown" fell to the British.
After the Colonies gained independence, the prosperity of Coosawhatchie continued. A well-to-do Irishman, Derry Gillison, came from a New England state and established a tannery and shoe factory there, an innovation for the Lowcountry. Today, resting on a brick-enclosed mound near the railroad, is a large broken stone, inscribed to the early industrialist and members of his family. He was born in 1743, and died in 1816; his wife Rebecca was born in 1745, died in 1819. The children were David, Thomas and Charles. Their name survives in a nearby village.
As seat of government for Beaufort District after 1788, the town assumed a larger importance. It was known far and wide for the ability of its bar personnel, especially James L. Petigru, later a prominent Unionist; Robert Laurence Tillinghast, later a Senator; and Judge John A. Inglis, later a signer of the Secession Ordinance.
A wealthy planter of Coosawhatchies flourishing period was John Morgandollar, a Revolutionary soldier, and ancestor of the Rev. Richard Furman, well-known Baptist leader. A descendant in Mt. Pleasant, Mrs. W. W. Mclver, says: There are still traditions of his (Morgandollars) stately progress through the country often to Saratoga in his coach and four, with outriders. He established in Beaufort District what was known as The Dollar Fund, For the Education of Sons of Poor Gentlemen.
Another prominent figure of the town was Abraham Huguenin, who recouped the depleted family fortunes after the Revolution by learning to build rice mills. He married the daughter of Derry Gillison and amassed great wealth on his Roseland Plantation. He later served in the Legislature and as a member of the Nullification Convention of 1832. More of the Huguenin family history will be told elsewhere.
A Baptist church, constructed in the town in the 1750s, almost on the rivers bank, evolved into a more spacious structure in the early 1800s. This was termed "a blue cathedral" by a clever and observant young poet named Parker. His poem was titled "Picture of Coosawhatchie."
By 1840, Coosawhatchie was reputed far and wide as an unhealthy place. It was said that prisoners, if confined for any length of time in the jail, usually sickened and died; thus saving the state the expense of disposing their cases by trial. With no knowledge as yet that mosquitoes had anything to do with the "agues" and "summer fevers" which struck the village so disastrously, experience and common sense taught the inhabitants to spend the summer nights in Gillisonville, five miles away among the pines." The court house and jail were moved there in 1840, followed shortly afterward by a Baptist place of worship.
Completion of the Charleston and Savannah railroad in 1860 brought a renewal of activity to the former government seat. S. E. Burges, who was a traveler for the Charleston newspaper Mercury, wrote in his diary: "crossed Ashley River in the Steamer, found cars waiting, jumped aboard, 2 cars full which delayed our starting, from amount of baggage, until 8:15 A.M. Road in excellent order. Stopped at quite a number of stations, where crowds had assembled to see Steam Horses, or to meet, or part with friends. At Jacksonboro, took on Solicitor Perry, by which time we were pretty well thinned out. Reached Coosawhatchie about 12:20 P.M." When he had finished his rounds of the community, he wrote: "Rode in buggy with Mr. Sellers as far as Coosawhatchie, where I put up at Gunters." Apparently, this was a boarding-house for travelers.
Other names that appear in records of the town are Moore, Morrison, Ferguson, McPherson, Pope, Beck and Alston. In an old cemetery behind a present Negro church, some of these names can be found upon the stones. However, many of the colonial markers have disappeared into the encroaching marsh.
The blue cathedral was destroyed early in the War Between the States, to prevent its use by the Federals.
Coosawhatchies portion in the War has already been partly told. Protection of the railway was paramount. Foiled were at least three major attempts by Union forces to destroy the line. It was not until early in 1865, when the lower state was one wide swath of destruction, that the Federals ripped up the tracks. For months, the bent and twisted rails could be seen around the trunks of nearby trees, from Coosawhatchie to Hardeeville and beyond.
The hamlet lapsed into sleepy desuetude for many years after the war. This centurys scientific knowledge and the installation of wire screening brought changes. The white inhabitants stopped hurrying away at sunset to spend the night in Gillisonville. Lumber and turpentine interests were bringing lifts to the towns economy.
Today's highways, restaurants, motor courts and service stations represent adjustments to the change, as well as methods of keeping the modest settlement up-to-date.
Beside all, yet aloof from modernity, is the Coosawhatchie stream, its tidal regularity involved with Broad River and the sea. Its narrow, ridging banks have echoed to the footsteps of Indians, traders, colonists; Tories and Revolutionaries, legislative officials, lumbermen and railway employees, Confederates and Federals; impoverished planters, highway builders, gasoline station attendants and tourist court operators. To listeners in time, above the lapping of its tidal waters travel fleeting, processional sounds swift crack of guns, duet of saw and hammers, quick pat-pat of sawmills, slow chug of farm machinery, whistled blast of trains, insistent honk of autos; timbered beat of "piccolos," rumbling of convoys, shouts of peace celebration, and the far-away, pulsating melody of hymns in the night.
Perhaps Coosawhatchie is more than a moss-draped, Lowcountry village. It symbolizes a country.
Gillisonville can be called Jasper Countys "once-upona-time" village. Once it was a summer resort; once it was a bustling government seat; once it had thriving churches; once it was destroyed, almost utterly; once its sizable mound of ruins was softly shadowed by Spanish moss streaming from pines and liveoaks; once it seemed doomed to age, neglect and oblivion. But Gillisonville, against all odds, has simply refused to die, and today is a community very much alive.
Named for Derry Gillison, Coosawhatchie shoe manufacturer, the village enjoyed prominence as the government seat, from i 840 to i 868. Situated among pine groves, it was reputed to be as "healthy" as the former district seat was "sickly." In addition to the Gillison family, the Cheneys, Davants, Fergusons, Tillinghasts, Moores, Popes and Gunters, and other plantation owners chose the locality for summer residence.
An impressive square was laid out in the center of the village, and thereon were erected the court house, the jail, and the gallows. On the south and east were the principal business streets. A few hundred yards from their junction at the square, an imposing Baptist church, daughter of the Coosawhatchie church, was built. There was also an academy for boys, and a private school for girls; also a modest Episcopal chapel just south of the village, called the Church of the Ascension, established in 1852. American Lodge No. 98, A.F.M., was granted a charter at the village in 1860. Named as charter members of the Lodge were: T. G. Buckner, D. T. Williams, J. B. Porcher, John Ferebee, O. P. Law, T. E. Scriven, T. S. Bolan, William P. Zealy, A. M. Speights, D. Peterman, J. D. Bolte, Jacob Berg, A. C. Mew, T. W. Gillison, E. P. Ford, Wilson Smith, H. W. Blanding, M. D., and W. T. Speaks. (From Grand Lodge of South Carolina records).
East of the court house square was a large brick hotel, built and owned by Dedrich Peterman, named above, who had come from Germany to this country as a youth.
Burges, the traveler of 1860, has left us a picture of life in Gillisonville during "court week," including the routine mustering out and drilling of the local militia. Journeying to Coosawhatchie on the railroad, he mentions taking the stage to Gillisonville and "putting up at Petermans." He writes further: "I was just too late to see the muster which took place this morning, but enough (of them) were left drunk on the field.... Made fine collections, this being sales day and court. In the evening all the rowdies got tight, good deal of noise, a little fighting; one chap got his shirt torn off." The traveler writes of Sunday evening: "We visited some churches nearby, pulpits unoccupied." Perhaps court week might have been a little rugged for the preachers!"
Gayety and amusement were the order of the day. The local troops came out regularly for drilling, which took the place of sports. Few of the easygoing p1anters really believed in the imminence of catastrophe.
But when it came, former things were laid aside. Many members of the local militia company joined the Beaufort District troop of cavalry, which fought throughout the war. At the end, the fires of Shermans army leveled the village square; the hotel, the Masonic lodge, and all surrounding buildings were destroyed. All residences went except one, the home of Lieutenant James W. Moore of Hamptons Legion. Thereby hangs a tale, of course, and it goes thus:
Two federal officers, while camped near the village, entered the home one night. The grandmother, haughtily ignoring the intruders conversation with other members of the family, continued her rocking and knitting. It was a bitterly cold night. One of the officers touched a finished sock by the grandmothers chair, remarking that it was beautiful, and must be warm indeed. "Would you like a pair?" the old lady asked, speaking for the first time. "Indeed I would," the man replied promptly. In a day or so a pair was ready for him. The home was not burned.
The beautiful Baptist church was spared, because it was used as officers quarters. (Its history will be given elsewhere). Near the village was the home of Richard James Davant, attorney and a member of the Secession Convention at Charleston, and whose signature was affixed to the Ordinance. Special care was taken to burn the Davant home to the ground, because of Davants "rebellion." Told by a descendant, the story goes that a slaughtered pig was thrown into the plantation well, to pollute the drinking water.
After the destruction of the court house, a few court sessions were held in the Baptist church. In 1869, the county seat was moved to Beaufort. Gillisonville later became a part of Hampton County, then of Jasper.
Many of the present residents remember General (this he later became) Moores law office and his old home, which finally succumbed to a woods fire that got out of control. Some also remember the Davant law office, and the post office nearby, which was kept by Captain John Moore. These buildings are there no longer. Some have described to the writer the drilling of the local company of state troops by Captain Moore, during the days after Reconstruction. Also remembered is Zach Morrison, local Negro boot-maker, who was a state senator during carpet-bagger days.
Many families left, and the Episcopal church building was dismantled and sold. A Methodist church, built in the 1880s, was closed in 1927, when its members united with St. Pauls Church in Ridgeland. The building was then torn down. Some forty years ago, a frame schoolhouse was built on the north side of the old square, but with school consolidation it fell into disuse. Now, it has been remodeled into a community house, with kitchen and dining facilities.
For many years, the ruins of Petermans hotel were visible. Many of the brick were sold or carried away, and the site was later cleared. Today, it is beautiful with plantings of azaleas, camellias, and other shrubs. A grandson of Dedrich Peterman owns the property and operates a place of business there. Many interesting relics of a bygone time have been excavated from the spot in recent years.
Cleared and leveled now, the ancient village square is covered by a pleasing carpet of grass, crisscrossed by walking paths. Surrounded by the neatly modern homes of residents, its tranquillity is broken only by the laughter of neighborhood children and the drone of passing cars.
Grahamville, less than a mile from present Ridgeland, had its beginning as a village sometime after the Revolution. That was the day of the large landowners, who were accustomed to seek a healthful location in which their families might pass the summers.
Captain John Graham and other settlers on the Euhaws, or "Indian Lands" of St. Lukes Parish, established summer homes in the village. The chosen spot was a few miles inland from their salt river plantations, at which the "miasma," it was commonly believed, caused illness. There is a tradition that President Washington stopped in Grahamville briefly, and spoke to the assembled crowd from the steps of one of the earliest homes.
Perhaps the actual history of the villages population extends even farther backward into time; no doubt it parallels the history of Euhaw Baptist Church. This churchs organization, "in the neighborhood of Euhaw Creek" in Granville County, antedates the separation of St. Lukes Parish from St. Helenas; the annals of it will be treated fully in a separate section. While the Baptists managed to be the first to establish a church organization, many devout Episcopalians were numbered among the planters along the Euhaw Road. This road extended from the Coosawhatchie River to Screvens ferry, on the Savannah.
As Grahamville became a prosperous resort village, these planters who had been communicants at St. Lukes Parish Church, near Pritchardville (or Bull Hill), transferred their worship to a chapel-of-ease in the village. This was a modest building of frame construction, and called "Chapel of the Holy Trinity." Its history, also, will be given elsewhere.
Names predominating in historical writings of this era are Pelot, Grimball, Sealy, Hart, Postell, Boyd, Bull, Screven, Heyward, Hazzard, Seabrook, Butler, Bolan, Beck, Howard, Huguenin, Strobhart, Eikerenkoetter, DuPont, Morrall, Morcock, Gadsden, Gillison, Lynah, Gregorie, Hasell, Fripp, Besselieu, Jenkins, Kirk, Dewees, Bell, Glover, and others.
The years between 1820 and 1850 were uneventful for these well-to-do landowners of the "Euhaws." The venerable Baptist church was transferred to the village and grew in membership. Mrs. E. R. Schoolcraft (who was a Howard), author of the quaint volume "The Black Gauntlet," a delightful potpourri of fact, fiction, and proslavery arguments, hints at rivalry and even proselytizing between the two churches. Her book is plainly a memoir. Steeped as the author had been in the rigid doctrine of Baptist Euhaw, she writes fictitiously of her younger self:
"When a learned clergyman took charge of the Episcopal church in the village, she would not listen to the prayers because they were read out of a book, instead of coming red hot from the heart."
She goes on to relate, though, that another clergyman, handsome and young, changed her convictions. With the formerly disparaged book in her hand, she took the vows of the Episcopal church.
Day-to-day living in the village then was relaxed; even luxurious. Writing many years later, another member of the Howard family described the Grahamville of her youth. The ladies, she said, were meticulous about dressing in the latest fashion. Dressmakers were very skillful, and there were always the figures in Godeys Ladys Book to emulate.
Hunting and riding were the usual recreations of the men; for the ladies, there was much traveling in carriages from place to place, as well as horseback riding. In front of nearly every home there was a mounting block; a lantern on a cypress post which was lighted at nightfall; and a handy bell or gong. The bell was rung to summon a servant, who opened wide the gate for the guests. All the yards were encircled with handsome fences, for most village families kept a number of hunting dogs.
As in most provincial places, the arrival of new persons furnished a fresh topic for conversation, and some interesting material for letter-writing. . . "two new teachers arrived, a Mr. Watson for boys and a Miss DuPont for the Girls Academy, the latter quite talented, having just graduated in Philadelphia the preceding spring .
Miss Annie Webb here on a visit, very fashionable looking, and making great progress in the study of expression in Charleston."
The coming of the Charleston and Savannah railroad in 1860 made little difference to Grahamvilles residents. They would have none of its train-smoke and noise, and insisted that the track be laid no nearer to the village than a good full mile. Accordingly, the railroads depot stop was also built as they desired--westward at a point where the track crossed the public road leading from the Euhaws to Sisters Ferry. (The crossing, later called "Smiths," is just beyond todays Farmers Market).
Burges, the traveler mentioned previously, wrote in his diary of a trip from Beaufort in 1860: "I got the stage to Pocotaligo, then by Charleston and Savannah Railroad to Grahamville depot; rode in an old wagon drawn by a very poor little horse to the village; put up at Lings." The favored villagers had their own horses and conveyances; doubtless strangers were expected to get there as best they could.
By the 1850s, the unlawful custom of dueling had been engaging public attention for some time. In 1856, the Grahamville Association for the Suppression of Dueling published an eloquent sermon of denunciation, preached by the Rev. Arthur Wigf all, rector of Holy Trinity. The sermon was read far and wide, the publics interest whetted by the knowledge that the Rev. Mr. Wigfall had lost a brother because of this nefarious practice, long winked at by the courts.
Before long, firing sounded in Charleston--the shots that were to blast in pieces this tenurial Southern existence. Grimmer and blacker for the South, the war years rolled slowly on. And on November 30, 1864, there occurred near Grahamville the battle of Honey Hill. For Beaufort District, it meant the beginning of the end.
Many stories of this battle have been told and written. An authentic and complete account was written in 1899 by Captain Ben Williams, of Brunson, who was a participant, was then adjutant of his regiment. His articles were published in the News and Courier and in the Hampton County Guardian.
Outnumbered five to one, a little band of South Carolina cavalry, infantry and Citadel cadets faced a Federal naval expedition which had advanced up Broad River and disembarked at Boyds landing (or Salvesberg, the local name). The enemys destination was Grahamville Depot; their real objective the destruction of the railway track according to Shermans orders.
With seven guns, a well-built breastwork, and the superb strategy of Colonel Charles Jones Colcock, who commanded the Third Military District of the state, the little Confederate band inflicted on the invaders losses amounting to nearly 8oo in a few action-packed hours. Colonel Colcock was everywhere, according to other officers. He even enlisted a strong, blowing wind on his side, having his men to fire a field of broomstraw, so that the flames were hurled into the faces of the enemy at a critical moment. Reinforcements of Georgia Reserves arrived from Savannah hours later, under General Gustavus W. Smith, but the general refused to take over the actual command from one whose ability and success had proved so outstanding. Tales have been told by many elderly local people of the surrounding roads literally running with Negro blood, because more than half the Federal force was made up of Negro regiments trained at Hilton Head. "You could walk on dead Negroes for miles," they declared. Old manuscripts tell further of bodies hastily buried in trenches; of later washing rains exposing a gruesome welter of arms and legs. These bodies later received decent burial in the Federal cemetery at Beaufort.
An interesting side light on this battle is the fact that a local Negro, Allen Orr, participated. (He was proud of his service on the Confederate side). As a teen-age boy he went into this battle in which so many of his race were slain, "Went with a white friend to take care of the horses." He lived until a few years ago. At the age of 100 years-plus, he enjoyed giving a pantomime of the manner in which he dodged behind the breastwork as the bullets were flying. The breastwork is evident for all to see. A number of cannon balls have been excavated at the site.
Of course the War, in late 1864, was already lost. Another writer records, in December: "Grahamville is burned to the ground." Forays from the coast continued, as Sherman neared Savannah. Soon, two wings of a pillaging army swept over the whole lower state. Plantation homes and churches, everything along the Euhaws road of any value disappeared in a holocaust of Northern vengeance. Grahamvilles splendid summer homes with their handsome fences had been leveled. Some writers say eight buildings escaped the torch, some say only four. The Episcopal rectory went up in smoke; also the post office nearby. Holy Trinity Church was spared because it was used as quarters by the Federal officers.
Following the War, desolation was complete. Grahamvilles residents, many of whom had refugeed upstate, came back and began the salvaging of what they could from the debris of their former world. With stubborn resilience, some followed the example of the Burnet family, and rolled together several small outbuildings, forming over their heads at least an adequate roof. These makeshifts were to be the only homes of many families, for years to come.
As for the rice and cotton planters, confiscation of their lands, resultant governmental red tape, and demoralized free blacks, were almost insurmountable difficulties. Some of the weaker souls gave up entirely during the conquerors "reconstruction," and many men minus an arm or a leg left for a new start in nearby cities. Some sought positions, any kind, in the hated North.
Not so Colonel Joseph Glover, of the village. As a planter he had lived before the War, and a planter he was determined to remain, somehow. In possession of his descendants are old legal papers and many personal letters pertaining to his determination not to be whipped by circumstances. One letter from a friend and business associate, T. Stoney, of Charleston, asks about Colonel Glovers chances to resume operations on his Euhaw lands. It ends with ironical semi-levity: "I may be able to get you a Yankee partner with funds."
In the Glover collection are business letters from manufacturers of plows and agricultural machinery; contracts with the "freedmen," and receipts for shipments of cotton and rice, all testimonials to Colonel Glovers refusal to be downed. Success rewarded his efforts, and even in his old age the villagers regarded him as their adviser in enterprises and their unofficial legal counsel. A son of his, Joseph Glover, Jr., with his family, resided in Grahamyule until the 1 9 zos, and died later in Savannah.
In 1875, two brothers who were to become famous throughout the state held down the positions of railway agent and telegrapher for a while at the Grahamville depot. They were Ambrose and N. G. Gonzales. In an anteroom of the depot, these sons of an exiled Cuban general "batched it," somewhat roughly. Besides serving as correspondent for the News and Courier, the younger brother, N. G., singlehandedly put out a local weekly journal "The Palmetto." It consisted of lengthy sheets of foolscap divided into columns, and written with pen and ink. This hand-written newspaper contained editorials, local news, and information concerning the markets for cotton, rice, and naval stores. No doubt this laborious editing and publishing served as good experience for the Gonzales brothers, who were destined later to establish "The State," newspaper of Columbia.
No story of Grahamville would be complete without the naming of Julius G. Sipple. A former officer in the Federal army, he married a Grahamville girl and came, with an appointment as postmaster, to make his home in the village. Without doubt, it must have taken courage of a high order to face the hostility and open resentment of neighbors who were his former enemies, and whose sufferings had been so great. But through the years as this kindly man, unassuming and deeply religious, lived among them, their bitterness and their contumelious attitude toward him changed to genuine esteem and affection. He reared a large family and, assisted by his eldest daughters, was the guiding hand in establishing St. Pauls Methodist Church at the infant settlement of Ridgeland, in 1890.
Changes came slowly to Grahamville. In 1895, the following news was published in the "Palmetto Post," a newspaper of Port Royal, "Tuesday morning at Grahamville, Mr. C. L. Foye stood on his doorstep and shot a two-year-old wild turkey. Surely this is mans country."
One era had passed away and at last the village residents could see the dawning of a day of hopefulness. There was gratitude for natural blessings, and perhaps a closer association with newer, neighboring settlements. However, it is said that many of these old time residents continued to call the present town of Ridgeland "the station" as long as they lived. Refusing to have the railway come through Grahamville, their forefathers could not have be1ieved it possible that a young upstart of a town would surround the railroad station and would one day claim their aristocratic old village as its suburb!
For many persons of an older generation, memories of Grahamville include: tennis racquets flashing on side lawns; glimpses of the three elderly Misses Lynah, clinging to established customs and out with their horse and buggy for a drive of an afternoon; lines of many farmwagons parked before the general store of D. H. Wall, long a village landmark; and the sight of increasing numbers of courting couples in "Model T" automobiles, 1920 vintage, chugging happily along the three country lanes between the village and Ridgeland.
As with the poets evil, one might say it happened with older settlement and newer town. One "first endured, then pitied, then embraced the other." Today, for all practical purposes, one might say that the county seat has merged with Grahamville. The population of the one is constantly spilling over into environs of the other. The rolls of Grahamvilles churches have enlarged to include many Ridgeland members, and vice versa.
Since the end of World War II, the appearance of new and handsome ranch-type homes among the older buildings testify that more and more families are showing fondness for the quiet of suburbs. And so, along with its historic past and its neat serenity, Grahamville also enjoys a bright, new look.
In the western part of the county is a community known as "Arm Oak." Obviously, there was a landmark --a centuries-old tree having a gnarled, enormous limb extending widely across the road. Tradition has it that a British spy once was hanged from the limb.
The venerable oak finally succumbed to lightning strokes and age, and by the 1940s had dwindled to a decaying stump. Now, that too is gone. A well-kept Negro church has occupied a spot across from the site for a number of years.
Families who had emigrated originally from Switzerland with Count Purry later established rice plantations here, in St. Peters Parish, bordering the Savannah River swamp. Prominent among these settlers were the Strobhars (also spelled Strobharts), and the Humberts.
William Humbert, of this family, became a large landowner and amassed great wealth. In pre-War times he numbered 42,000 acres of land as his, and more than 200 slaves. He built a summer home for his family several miles eastward; it stood on the present site of Okeetee Club. This surname now lives on only in a tract of land on the Purrysburg road, known as "Embar," this name being a corruption of the French pronunciation of "Humbert."
Arm Oak neighborhood was mentioned by two writers as being the center of an abortive slave insurrection in the early 1800s. The conspiracy involved blacks northward to the Euhaw plantations and southward to a distance below Purrysburg. The plot was believed to have been incited by secret, incendiary messages from Santo Domingo, where such an uprising had succeeded. Also, the serious unrest of free Negroes in Charleston during this period no doubt had its effect on plantation slaves in the back country.
The two accounts, written at different periods, are remarkably similar. Pierre Robert, writing in 1879, says: "about 70 years ago, a few white men fired upon and dispersed a large body of Negroes, then in a state of insurrection. A number were tried, condemned and executed. It seems that the insurrection was intended to cover a large part of the low country. Their plan was to set the outbuildings of every white man on fire at a fixed hour upon a certain night. The owner, rushing out unarmed would be slain by a concealed party, and his firearms and horses procured for their own use. Fortunately for the unsuspecting whites, the effort made above Purrysburg was premature--one night ahead of the program. A Negro, the property of a planter near by, upon the very night of the intended attack informed the owner of their intended plans, and by his timely caution prevented a fulfillment of them. The faithful fellow was bought by the state and by a special act freed."
William John Grayson, in his autobiography written in the early 1860s, says: "In the early part of the century I happened to be near the scene of a Negro conspiracy. It was not far from the plantation of Major Hazzard on the Euhaw. Major Hazzard was the first cousin of my father, their mothers being sisters, and he had taken me, a boy of sixteen, on a visit to Hazzard Hall. While there, I saw a neighbor of the Majors ride up to the house late in the day, and hold a whispered conference with my host. The visitor went away in a few minutes and that night the guns were taken at bed time from the parlour to the chambers. It was not a common proceeding. I heard the reason for it the next day. There was rumor afloat of a threatened insurrection among the slaves. But like almost every other plot of the kind, the scheme failed. Information was given by one of the Negroes, wiser, or more timid than the rest. The ringleaders were seized a few hours before the time appointed for the outbreak. They were tried without delay and ten, or a dozen, condemned to be hanged. Their heads were cut off, stuck on poles and set up along the highway leading from Purrysburg, the place of trial, to Coosawhatchie, the judicial capital of the District. The sight was so disgusting that some of the younger people refused to bear it. They so far disregarded the majesty of the law as to take down the hideous butchers work and bury it where it stood. This mutilation of the dead was a barbarous practice borrowed from our English forefathers among whom it flourished near the close especially of the Stuart dynasty."
During the Reconstruction era, tales of violence around Arm Oak were told continuously, as bands of white "Scouts" secretly endeavored to wrest some sort of order from the chaos of military occupation and carpetbag Negro government. Large plantations were broken up and families moved away.
Almost unknown to the present generation, the oldest family cemetery in Jasper County existed at Arm Oak, hidden for many years by forest growth. The Strobhar burial ground was at last reclaimed from the obliterating grasp of trees and underbrush, in the early 1950s. A. Douglass Strobhar, of Savannah, a descendant, secured the cooperation of Okeetee Club, the property owners, in felling the trees. Removal of the stumps followed; then Mr. Strobhar had workmen construct a neat concrete enclosure for the tombs. An additional granite monument then was placed.
Clearing the spot revealed that the ancient stones and vaults were in good condition; however, slight repairs to the brickwork parts were needed here and there. The carved inscriptions are perfectly legible; the date on the oldest stone being 1781. Most of the tombs bear the mark of E. & A. Price, Danbury, Connecticut. Doubtless they were brought by sailing vessel to Savannah, then by flat-boat up the Savannah River to Purrysburg Landing.
The monument placed by Mr. Strobhar stands as a marker for several family graves, whose wooden crosses were placed during the impoverished Reconstruction era and just afterward. These had long since crumbled to dust. The names inscribed on the recent monument are Strobhar and Morcock.
In the Savannah River swamp not far away is a small island known as Strobhar Island. It contains some 30 acres of land high enough to produce crops. More will be told in another section about outstanding members of this family; also about the quaint tombstone inscriptions.
The village of Tillman, on a branch line of the Southern Railway system, was once known as Hennies Cross Roads. The colonial road to "Two Sisters" ferry crossed the road leading to Augusta, Georgia, at that point. Then, Hennies was the center of a community made up for the most part of small farmers, in the back country of old Beaufort District. It became an important voting precinct, first in Beaufort County, then as division came, in Hampton.
A writer of the time said: "About the centre of the hamlet, one of our most intelligent and worthy citizens has recently erected a beautiful residence and store. Zealous in his countrys cause he converted his whole fortune into Confederate bonds and lost. . . ."
In 1879, Congressman George D. Tillman, an older brother of the later governor, B. R. Tillman, visited the community on a political tour. He assured the citizens that they would soon have a post office, with a semiweekly mail. At the time, several volunteers were taking turns bringing the mail once a month from Ferebeeville, situated on the Charleston and Savannah railroad. (Okeetee Club and the "Switzerland" post office exist now where Ferebeeville used to be).
The Congressman, who had been a denouncer of the parish system of representation, and who was also a prominent "Red Shirt" leader during Reconstruction, was as good as his word. In his honor, the name of Hennies was changed to "Tillman." The first postmaster, John Hodges, distributed the mail from a room of his home.
Facts jotted down in an old notebook by a Tillman citizen ought to be kept in mind by every person in the South. There is a proven heritage of solvency attained by bootstrap methods, in the simple words penned by Mrs. Mary Harriet McKenzie Ellis. At her death, the memoirs contained in the notebook passed down to her daughter, Mrs.
C. H. Fleming. Mrs. Ellis was a small child during Reconstruction days, and there was no government aid for a war-depleted country. Although the Freedmens Bureau did extend sometimes a bit of assistance to needy white persons, such aid was negligible outside the larger towns.
It was a "hard time," Mrs. Ellis recalled, and mentioned "Negro officers" in the community. (Negro troops were included purposely in the Federal occupation forces). Obtaining the simplest homespun clothing was a problem, for "the Yankees had burned all the spinning wheels" they could find. Stockings and socks had to be knitted, sheep must be sheared, the wool spun, and even mens suits had to be made by hand. There were no sewing machines in the country, nor any stores, she related.
People grew their own rice, corn and potatoes; made their own syrup, raised and cured their own meat, she said. Since flour was $20 a barrel, only a farmer who was "well off" could afford to buy it. Since coffee cost $1 a pound, coffee substitutes were devised, of such materials as parched "grits, rice, pinders and okra." Other post-war inflated prices were enumerated as "ladies capes, $50 and up; wool shawls, $15 and $20."
Practically everything was done at home. Harness leather was tanned, as was leather for shoes; tools, buckets, and even door hinges were fashioned laboriously by hand. Troughs hewn out of wood were used for washtubs. Lead was melted and poured into molds for shot. There were "water mills" for sawing logs and grinding corn, and "horse gins" for ginning the cotton.
"We did not have cooking stoves," she wrote, explaining that the hearth was elevated some two feet in height, and racks for hanging pots were placed above the flames. Not many persons were extravagant enough to buy matches--they used flint and steel with a piece of scorched cotton to strike a blaze. Live coals were banked with ashes, and fires burned for weeks at a time.
Children attended school for three months of the year. "Our desk was a long plank, the seat a hewed-out bench with peg legs stuck through auger holes."
As long as she lived, Mrs. Ellis never became accustomed to seeing local fruit or vegetables handled commercially. Quaintly, the writer inscribed in her notebook:
"We never thought of charging our neighbors for vegetables out of the garden, nor for fruit." In a not-so-complicated time, you simply shared with the less fortunate, as a matter of course.
When the farmers had "hogs, calves, or chickens" to take to market in Savannah, they went "down river in a row boat." As return passengers, they usually rode a Savannah river steamboat which apparently was owned by a company of local stockholders. Mrs. Ellis stated briefly:
"If you. . . wanted to sell your share to someone else and it was an agreeable party, you sold a share for 25 dollars." One could surmise that disagreeable persons were not even considered as purchasers into the steamboat corporation.
Of necessity, people took care of what they had. "Brogan shoes were worn by those who were able to get them." The ones "who had no way to ride to church walked and wore their old shoes until they got near, then they would stop and change shoes." She observed that ". . . preachers wore fine boots for dress (which) cost a great deal."
With their slim salaries, perhaps the pastoral exhorters may too have worn patched footgear until in sight of their churches. There still must have been time and opportunity for such frugal ones to match the appearance of the Sunday-shod congregations with a quickly-attained, lustrous dignity!
With the advent of the Southern Railway, contact with the outside world increased, and prosperity returned gradually. Over the past 30 years, farming, lumbering, turpentine and pulpwood interests have been the economic mainstays of Tillman, as they have been of Tarboro and Pineland, a few miles beyond. Many of Tillmans present residents are employed in Savannah industries.
The Tillman Elementary School, housed in a modern brick building, serves a wide area. Principal of the school is Mrs. Norma Melton; president of the P.T.A. is Mrs. H. O. Morris. There are three churches at Tillman: Methodist, Baptist, and Independent Gospel. Names prominent in these religious histories will be given later.
For many years, the largest general store in the village was owned by the Jaudon brothers; now it is under the ownership and management of the Floyd brothers.
While this village, once a center of culture in Prince Williams Parish, does not lie within the confines of present Jasper County, a brief story of it must be included. Its history is closely entwined with that of Grays and other neighboring localities across the river in the parish, St. Lukes: now included in Jasper County.
Traveling the quiet country road through McPhersonyule is a bit like seeing pictures unwind in a scroll of yesteryear. The old-fashioned frame dwellings upon highpillared foundations seem aloof from modern times; and resistant to change. A nearly-forgotten past becomes sharply real, there among the pines.
The summer village was established by rice planters on the Combahee and nearby rivers. General James McPherson and his family were among the earliest residents; they were followed by the Drayton, McLeod, Pope, Mackey, Verdier, Brailsford, Martin, Palmer, McDougal, DeSaussure, Screven, Colcock, Hutson and Gregorie families. The hamlet is unique in that the village homes and properties are still owned largely by descendants who bear the surnames of original settlers. Two pre-war homes and one church escaped the fires of Sherman.
This 130-year-old Presbyterian church in the village attracts many visitors. It is the daughter chapel of old Stony Creek Presbyterian Church, built in 1743 on the other side of the Pocotaligo River, and destroyed in x86~. Famous names can be found in the chapels history. The Rev. James B. Dunwoody, as pastor of the chapel, performed the marriage ceremony for the parents of Theodore Roosevelt. Martha Bulloch, the bride, was the ministers cousin. Another pastor was the Rev. S. Edward Axson, of Savannah, whose daughter Ellen became the first wife of Woodrow Wilson.
The chapel was used as a hospital during the War Between the States. Proof of this was evident a few years ago, during extensive repair and renovation of the building. When some of the floor boards were removed by workmen, old bloodstains were plainly visible. Now, four quaint hanging lamps, refurbished and wired for electricity, are more pleasant reminders of olden times. The ante-bellum Communion cups of the chapel were gifts of Evan Palmer to Stony Creek in the 1700's
Another historic church that nestles beside the arcing highway through the village is Prince Williams. This chapel is Episcopal. It was first built in 1832, as a summer place of worship by the congregation of Sheldon Church of Prince Williams Parish (now famous as "Old Sheldon" ruins). Shermans army also destroyed the McPhersonville chapel in 1865 following its use by the Confederates as a smallpox clinic. The strongest timbers of the chapel were used to build bridges across the Combahee, and the Federals set fire to the rest. The chapel was rebuilt in its present modest form in i 898, through efforts of the Screvens and the Colcocks. The old Communion silver, given by Lieutenant Governor William Bull originally to the Sheldon mother church, is still in use by worshipers.
McPhersonville is a lovely place, and Jasper County residents are proud to honor its history.
St. Lukes Parish, Beaufort District, Hampton County and Jasper--the community of Grays has been related to, and still belongs, to all.
Along the upper reaches of the Coosawhatchie River, the eastern side, Prince Williams Parish, was colonized first. The oldest privately-owned legal paper, seen by the writer, relating to this section is a Kings Grant of 200 acres of land to one Frederick Aubrey. The time-yellowed grant is owned by Mrs. Walker Smith, of Grays, who is a descendant of the Peeples family.
Among these old papers that refer to the early days of the District is a document showing sale of land from James E. McPherson of Combahee to Eliza A. Love. The paper is dated 1819. Another is a land grant to Richard Horn "according to an act passed the 19th of February, 1791, one thousand acres in Beaufort District, Prince Williams Parish, on Little Branch and Great Saltcatcher Swamp, surveyed the 2nd day of March 1815."
These names of Beaufort District sheriffs of the time are mentioned: Barkley Ferguson, in 1814; John Cheney, in 1825. Mrs. Smiths papers show that Isham Peeples purchased lands adjoining that of John Ferguson, Doctor Daniel DOyley, and Charles Love. Other pioneer families named are Mulligan, Yeomans, Cordray, and Zahler.
On the western side of the Coosawhatchie River, near Cypress Creek in St. Lukes Parish, was a settlement known as Tutens Cross Roads. As in many like cases, the name belonged to a local family who distributed mail for the area. A number of Smith families, some originally from the old town of Dorchester, S. C., also were early settlers. Many ties existed by family and customs with residents in the upper reaches of Beaufort District, late to become Hampton County.
For church and family histories in this northwestern part of the old parishes, a monumental debt is owed to the late Rev. W. H. Dowling, who died in the 1920s. Some of his memoirs were written in 1909 and published in the Hampton County Guardian. This is quoted from his reminiscences of the Old Whippy Swamp Guards.
"Halos of childhood memory still linger around the muster days at Whippy Swamp Cross Roads, now known as Crocketville, when the fife and drum, tingling our nerves with national airs, rang through the large, surging crowd of our noble fathers, and the clarion voices of the orderly sergeants formed into line the Old Whippy Swamp Company that afterwards helped to make Confederate history lustrous, and the hours of which are bright stars in the horizon of its sacred pages. .
"This company of the Old Whippy Swamp Militia were represented by the best old landmark citizenship, descendants of Revolutionary ancestry, without a drop of Tory blood in any of the consanguinity. Among the honored names on the old muster roll, we remember Gooding, Terry, Lightsey, Wyman, Frampton, Davis, Ellis, Bowers, Rivers, Dowling, Mole, Freeman, Harrison, Miley, Simmons, Barnes, Cleland, Sullivan, Harvey, Roberts, Langford, Clifton, Tuten, Priester, Stanley, Altman, Thomas, Manker, Joyner, Cook, Owens, Snider, Mathers, Moore, Kearse, Belger, Sauls, etc. . .
"Of the captains of this proud relict of ante-helium days, my first remembrance is of Capt. Billy Williams, afterwards senator of the Parish (Prince Williams) whose home was at Broxtons Bridge, where some venerable trees, beautiful as the cedars of Lebanon, still keep sentry oer the hallowed memories of three score years ago. . . ."
The Rev. Mr. Dowling had been chaplain of Co. B, Fifth S. C. Cavalry, Butlers Brigade of Hamptons Legion. Descendants bearing the above names are numerous, not only in Jasper and Hampton, but in other Lowcountry counties.
In the early 1870s, a young man came southward from a locality near Varnville, and settled at Tutens Cross Roads. Here, W. F. Gray began operating a small country store, assisted by his brother, Willie Gray, and the two handled mail for the little settlement. Soon, it was called "Grays" in their honor. Willie later died in Savannah.
W. F. Gray became the largest planter in the Grays section, ran a mercantile business, and operated a cotton gin, saw mill, and naval stores plant. Cousins of his, with the same surname, also were early settlers of the region. This business pioneer of Grays was married first to Miss Robinson, then to Miss Spilliards, both young ladies from local families. He died in Varnville, in 1907.
Grays is now a ship-shape little village in the center of a farming section. Many of the present residents also find employment in Hampton, Beaufort, and Ridgeland industries. Grays has a very fine consolidated school. Its superintendent, who has held the position for a number of years, is C. Boyd Polk. President of the P.-T.A. is Garrett Smith.
In the eastern part of the county, on a one-time colonial thoroughfare, the "Kings Highway" from Charleston to Savannah, is a community at a road intersection known since provincial years as "Old House." There, in the family burial ground on what was once his fathers plantation acreage can be seen the tomb of Judge Thomas Heyward, Jr., signer of the Declaration of Independence. The Signers adult home was at White Hall Plantation, which adjoined the original lands of his father.
Thomas Heyward, Jr., born at "Old House," in 1746, was the eldest of three sons of Colonel Daniel Heyward and Mrs. Maria Miles Heyward. The others were Daniel and William. These brothers had several half-brothers and sisters by two later marriages of their father. Since an uncle named Thomas was living, the younger Thomas Heyward added "Jr." to his name, in the custom of the times.
The young man studied law in London; was admitted to the bar in that city in 1770, and to the bar of South Carolina, in 1771. He served first in the Commons House of Assembly; then in a provincial Congress in Charles Town, and as a member of the states revolutionary Council of Safety. Named in 1776 as a delegate to the Continental Congress, he and three others from his state, Edward Rutledge, Thomas Lynch, and Arthur Middleton, affixed their signatures to the Declaration of Independence.
As captain of the Charles Town Battalion of Artillery, he participated in a battle on Port Royal Island, where he was wounded. He also was among the defenders in the siege and fall of Charles Town in 1780. He and other officers were paroled; then had their paroles recalled by the British general, and were sent to prison in St. Augustine, Florida.
At the end of the Revolution, Heyward returned and resumed his duties as lawyer and judge. He was soon serving his state again in legislative and other public life. He was the founder of the Agricultural Society of South Carolina, becoming its first president.
Judge Heywards beautiful country mansion, White Hall, which was famous for its hospitality, disappeared in the fires of a later War. Now, only masonry ruins are left, overlooking the marsh and the steady lapping of tidal waters from Euhaw Creek. Unusual for his time, Heyward built substantial two-story quarters for his slaves, of tapia or "tabby." The chief component of this strong material was a crushed sea-shell mixture. The old walls of these quarters, defying the passage of time with their hollowed, separate grayness, are mute reminders of the holocaust of total war. The ruins are found after entering portals which, once ajar, re-create the past with a wide vista through double avenues of time-gnarled oaks dripping with Spanish moss. The property has been owned for many years by the Pratts of Good Hope Plantation.
For a number of years, a reunion of the Heyward family took place at this country site. The town house of Judge Heyward, situated on Church Street in Charleston, is known as the Heyward-Washington house, since the President stayed there on his visit to the state in 1791.
The Signer was married twice: first to Elizabeth Matthewes, and then to Elizabeth Savage. There are many descendants, as issue of both marriages.
At "Old House," the key for the gateway leading to the Signers burial place can be obtained from Coolers Grocery. Mr. Cooler is owner of the surrounding property. Entering the gate, one drives along a curving lane beneath ancient trees and finally sees a mound of almost buried rubble, once the "old house" of the Signers father which overlooked the creek. This little tidal stream has been called at various times Euhaw Creek, Hazzard Back Creek, and Old House Creek. Euhaw was the original name, borrowed from the Indian tribe.
A few hundred yards from the dwelling site is the family burial plot. A smaller cemetery within a larger, the brick-and-concrete walls have been kept in good repair. The modest tombstone erected by the family above the resting-place of its distinguished member received damage, with the passing years, from fallen trees. In 1920, through the efforts of Dr. W. A. Preacher, representative from the county, and Mr. H. Klugh Purdy, senator, the general assembly of South Carolina provided funds to erect a handsome monument to this renowned son of the state.
The inscription on the imposing marble states that he was "Patriot, Statesman, Soldier, Jurist; Member of the Continental Congress, 1775; Signer of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776; Signer of the Articles of Confederation in behalf of South Carolina, July 9, 1778; Commanded the Charleston Battalion of Volunteers, 1780, was captured and imprisoned; Member of the Constitutional Convention of South Carolina, 1790." His was no meager bid for fame, throughout a life that ended in 1809.
A half-brother of his, Nathaniel Heyward, became one of the wealthiest men in the ante-bellum South, according to historians. At his death, in 1851, he was owner of sixteen plantations and more than i 8oo slaves.
Besides Heyward, other family names in the old cemetery are Parker and Howard. There are several graves of children who died in the 1850s, evidence which still exists in all old cemeteries of the high mortality among youth, in those eras of wealth and privilege, but of woefully inadequate medical knowledge. They are recorded as "children of John Webb and Elizabeth Heyward Webb; and "children of George and Elizabeth M. Heyward."
In the latter part of the eighteenth century, some descendants of the Swiss who emigrated to Purrysburg moved northeastward, as one of several efforts to put down roots in more healthful locations. Ironically enough, this flat locality where tall pines grew soon bore the name of "Switzerland." The Humbert family, Swiss descendants who became large landowners in St. Peters Parish, established a summer residence there among the pines.
Intermarriage of the Humbert and Ferebee families caused the community also to be called "Ferebeeville." In the early years of the railroad line, Ferebeeville was a maihdistributing center for several back-country communities. Late in the last century, Okeetee Club was established on these lands, four miles south of present Ridge-. land.
Since 1904, the settlement of "Switzerland" has had a post office, near the Okeetee clubhouse. For many years, Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Shoemaker have handled the mail in the little office. Mrs. Shoemaker is a descendant of the Huguenin family, colonists of Purrysburg.
At "Tomb Hill," about a mile to the west of the post office, is a forest-hidden cemetery, marking the site of this second settlement by these determined, frontier people, in St. Lukes Parish. Here is buried one Edward Longworth, whose New Jersey family had come south because of intermarriage and cast in their lot with the Swiss. Joseph Longworth lost his life on the steamer which sank because of an explosion off the Carolina coast. Nicholas later went to Cincinnati and founded the family fortune, which passed down to his great-grandson, Nicholas Longworth, husband of Alice Roosevelt. Archibald and his son Edward remained in the parish and cultivated large rice plantations. The cemetery was possibly on their lands. The writer was told many years ago that several members of the Dupont family were also buried there, but some of the markers have long since disappeared.
As the colonial town of Purrysburg disappeared, the hamlet of Hardeeville became established, being a more central community in St. Peters Parish. Here, summer residences for rice planters between the New River and the Savannah were built. Revolutionary names connected with the parishs early history were Cheves, Screven, Barnwell, Izard, Rutledge, Blake, Lynah, and Huger. (The Cheves name will be mentioned further.)
Thomas and Pearson Hardee, for whom the town was named, came to St. Peters Parish from North Carolina with their father Isaac about 1800; Isaac Hardee is listed in the Census of 1820 as a resident of the parish. There were many Hardee descendants, who were long prominent in the history of town and community. William White Hardee, who died in 1854, became a large landowner and was a benefactor of the town. Pearson and Franklin P. Hardee left behind them several old mercantile ledgers recording details of business transactions. These record books are owned now by a family descendant, Miss Ann Adele Clark, of Swainsboro, Georgia. Among other items, the ledgers show that one Miss Henrietta Hardee was a frequent puchaser of hats!
In such pre-war records, and in religious writings, the following names of other families of Hardeevilles early days are mentioned: Allen, Pope, Verdier, Pritchard, Stoney, Williams, Seabrook, Heyward, Kirk, Pelot, Saussy, Raymond, Porcher, Boyd, Leigh, Fickling, Martin, Shadd, and others.
The advent of the railroad added greatly to the towns commerce. Burgess, the i 86o traveler for newspapers, wrote in his diary: "Took Chas. & Say. Rail Road to Hardeeville; failing to get a conveyance to Bluffton, I put up at Strobharts, he promising to send me early in the morning."
It has not been widely known that Henry Timrod, renowned South Carolina poet, was once engaged as a tutor in Hardeeville. In 1861, he spent several months as a teacher for the children of Dr. Joe Hazel. Modern biographers are searching diligently for scraps of information about his sojourn in the town, but with little success.
A story is told that the last boat load of slaves ever to disembark in the Lowcountry was landed near Hardeeville. The boat was piloted up the Savannah River by a Captain Montmullen. The vessel then was grounded on Sand Island, below the Purrysburg wharves. Some years later, when the boat was dismantled, the bell was installed in the tower of the Hardeeville Methodist Church.
When the War came, Colonel Robert E. Lee directed that New River be blocked with heavy timbers, as a part of his coastal defenses. A Confederate training camp, Camp Allen, was established near Hardeeville, and Camp Lee No. 2 was situated between the town and Purrysburg. During his service at the latter camp, Lieutenant Oliver P. Bostick wrote home: "The well at this place is dry; we will dig it out today." The surface wells dug for a water supply at the long-ago camp exist today--unfilled pits in a field nearby.
In January, 1865, the fires of Shermans army practically wiped out the town. The only buildings to escape the flames were the Williams home, the Pelot and Raymond homes; the Methodist parsonage which later became the Martin home; and the Methodist Church. The latter had been pressed into use by the Camp Allen authorities as a hospital. Thus, the fates decreed that tones of the slave-boat bell should continue to resound through the years, above floors and pews which had cradled the forms of suffering humanity caught in the violent dissolution of slavery as an established system.
The white population returned, and rebuilding began. The families whose dwellings were standing offered temporary shelter to the ones whose abodes were in ashes. The Baptist Church had gone up in smoke, leaving only the Methodist structure to meet religious needs of the community. St. Peters Church at Purrysburg had long since passed out of existence; so in 1871 a second St. Peters Episcopal Church was organized, by the Rev. E. E. Bellinger, missionary of the "Advancement Society." In the eastern end of town, a lot for a church structure was given by William Heyward; a bell by O. M. Blake; and furnishings by James B. Heyward. The building was not completed until 1894, when it was consecrated with a changed name: "St. Edmunds," in honor of Mr. Bellingers Christian name, Edward Edmund. An elderly Hardeeville resident recalls the fresh, beautiful appearance of the little new structure, then.
Unfortunately, the church became inactive, with the passing years. Finally, the building, somewhat damaged by storms, was dismantled. A small burial ground marks the site upon which it stood.
Hardeevilles white population had lessened, in the initial decade of this century. But the coming of Argent Lumber Companys sawmill plant added to the number of residents, as well as to the towns economy. The large plant employed scores of workers, before closing out its operations some ten years ago. One of the companys oldtime steam engines has been presented to the town, where it has been set up as a curio and tourist attraction.
Until 1927, there was no local Masonic Lodge in the town. In that year, a petition for a dispensation to form one was granted. The petitioners names were Dr. Edgar C. B. Mole, Albert H. Coney, A. Nelson Davis, Leland A. Grayson, M. B. Welch, Raymond E. Reynolds, Sam Uliman, Wm. H. Pritchard, Aquilla M. Hand, Jesse C. Jennings, Uhlrich J. Beckham and Clint May McTeer. On March 3 the lodge was dedicated, and the charter was presented to Hardeeville Lodge No. 348, A. F. M. Dr. Mole, Mr. Coney and Mr. Grayson were appointed as Worshipful Master, Senior Warden and Junior Warden. Eight of the charter members are still living. The lodge has failed only once to hold a regular communication--this was during the flood of 1929. The present Worshipful Master is W. D. Broome.
A local Eastern Star chapter also is active. Its Worthy Matron is Mrs. Judy Baughman.
Two-thirds of Hardeeville remained for many years in Yemassee township of Beaufort County. The other one third went to Hampton County in 1878. When parts of Hampton and Beaufort counties were incorporated in the new county of Jasper, in 1912, the majority of residents in the Hardeeville environs were not desirous of transferring. At the time, it was the opinion of some that the long-established settlement would have made an ideal county seat of a more sizable county, to include also the village of Bluifton.
The resultant controversy did nothing to remedy an existing awkward division of the town; the Atlantic Coast Line tracks continued to bisect the town, the rails literally halving it between the two counties of Jasper and Beaufort. The problems created by this situation were many and difficult to solve, pertaining as they did to schools, taxation, law enforcement, and various other matters. The geographic location, so much nearer to Jaspers county seat than to Beauforts, continued to point to union with Jasper as a logical outcome.
In 1950, determined Hardeeville petitioners for transfer conducted a land survey to prove that the move would be constitutional. Following the survey, ballots were cast; and this time the count was favorable. After several months of litigation, the 92 square miles of Yemassee township at last became a part of Jasper County. The ancient name of "Yemassee" as applied to the township had been the cause of confusion with the town of that same name in Hampton County; therefore it was decided that henceforth the township would be simply "Hardeeyule."
These men have served as mayors of the town since its incorporation in 1911: C. B. Boyd, Frank Hardee, Frank McTeer, R. A. Coburn, Fred Schlegelmilch, George W. Clary, Dr. E. C. B. Mole, D. H. McRoy, L. A. Grayson, L. C. Darnell, "Slim" Parish, Roy R. Smith, Lawrence Dean, R. E. Reynolds, W. F. Williamson, B. K. Mills, Andy Anderson, E. I. Moorer, Dr. T. B. Carroll, and G. 0. Rentz, who served six terms in office; and Herbert W. Cooler, the incumbent.
Four years ago, a group of business men formed the Hardeeville Chamber of Commerce. Chosen as first president was M. A. Garr, who was followed by Joe E. Oliver. The present head of the organization is H. D. Smith.
The remarkable growth of the town is evident in the many beautiful ranch-type homes which have gone up in the past few years. Truly, Hardeeville is a town which combines the charm of a bygone, leisurely era with a modern progressiveness. Its up-to-date motels and restaurants give evidence of this.
By 1885 the sandy ridge that was later to become the county seat of Jasper County was seeking another name. The few residents of the locality felt that it was high time to live down the former embarrassing appellation of "Gopher Hill." Land upon the "hill," the highest in elevation of any spot between Charleston and Savannah, with the surrounding properties, had been owned for many years by the Colcock, Mew, Fairis, Floyd, Wilson, Hutson and Wall families.
The writer has seen an invitation, written by hand in beautiful script, to the wedding of a young lady of the time and place. The missive bears the heading "Hutsonyule," but it must have represented merely an effort at change. The earthy, earlier title continued to stick: at least in part, being sometimes "The Hill."
The first industries at Gopher Hill were a cotton gin and a corn-grinding mill owned by Edward Perry, a young Englishman who came south in the 1840s. A machinist by trade, he was employed by railroads, including the Mohawk and Hudson, prior to leaving the North. In possession of his descendants is an old New York letter dated 1839, the text of which is as follows:
"We hope your employment with the Auburn and Syracuse Railroad Company may be pleasant, and that the engines we have put there under your supervision and management will realize all expectations in regard to them. (Signed) Rogers, Mitchum and Grosvenor."
The old mill office owned by him remained standing in its original location for a century. When it was torn down, workmen discovered that the framework had been put together with hand-made wooden pegs.
The problem of a name was solved by officials of the Plant Railway System, which succeeded the Charleston and Savannah Railroad company. They removed the depot from the Sisters Ferry crossing, later known as Smiths Crossing, and rebuilt it upon the ridge. The dignified name of "Ridgeland" was chosen to grace the new station, as soon as it was re-located.
The settlement built up quickly, as professional persons were attracted to the site. The first attorneys to open offices were Cornelius J. Colcock and G. M. Buckner. Far from recognizing their rapidly-growing neighbor town, many residents of Grahamville went on calling it "the station," even after its population outstripped that of Grahamville. St. Pauls Methodist Church was established in 1890; followed by the Ridgeland Baptist Church. But as in Hardeeville, the railway track that was the boundary line between the counties of Hampton and Beaufort, bisected the town into two separate units. Small, one-room schoolhouses existed, one in each end of town!
The problem of schools was alleviated somewhat, in the early years of the century. By joint action of the counties, a more substantial frame building of several rooms was constructed for the combined schools, at the eastern end of Main Street. But this failed to eliminate entirely the feeling of dissatisfaction in a growing town that seemed to hold the anomalous position of belonging nowhere. And confusion over taxation and school administration continued.
In 1910, a young law student, Richard M. Jefferies, came to Ridgeland as principal of the school. From many conversations in which he participated around the dining table of C. E. Perry (son of Edward Perry), the idea of forming a separate county lodged securely in the minds of several. Consequently, a group of local men established a printing firm and began publishing a newspaper, "The Jasper Herald." The object was to publicize the plan in every way possible.
In "feeling out the sentiment" of the residents involved, Mr. Perry and Mr. Jefferies enlisted the help of three other community leaders, Dr. W. A. Preacher, J. H. Woods and Gaston L. Langford. Thus the nucleus of the movement was shaped. A completed survey added to the impetus.
R. E. Welch, a lawyer of Columbia and a boyhood friend of Cole L. Blease, the governor, handled the legal phases after the required number of voters had approved the issue. In 1912, the formation of the new county became official by legislative act. The name "Jasper" was chosen by the leaders, after Sergeant William Jasper of Revolutionary fame and traditional ties with this section. Ridgeland became the county seat, and the first court sessions were held in C. E. Perrys mercantile building.
The property upon which the courthouse now stands was donated to Jasper County for this purpose by Mr. Perry. In the special election of county officers held in March, 1912, young Jefferies was named the new countys first superintendent of education, for the short term. Defeated for the house of representatives in August of the same year, when the regular primary was held, he departed from the baby county seat to settle down over in Colleton County. No doubt, cutting his eye-teeth on Jasper County politics served later as valuable experience to Senator Jefferies, of Colleton, now an ex-governor of the state!
Electricity did not reach Ridgeland early. Many elderly citizens can recall Policeman Dunevant, who served also in the capacity of lamplighter. He could be seen making his rounds of the posts and replenishing the gasoline fuel as needed. And at dusk each evening, by rope and pulley the lamps were lowered for his lighting, to the keen interest of small boys who watched.
The printing equipment of The Jasper Herald was lost by fire and. its existence ended. For many years, the newspaper serving this county was The Jasper Record, printed in Allendale. An old copy of it published in the I 9 20s can furnish a present generation with amusement. At the same time, it succeeds in bringing to a member of the older generation a definite nostalgic feeling! One such copy that came into the hands of the writer listed this advertisement:
"Some Prices Talk, These Shout. First Big Noise: Shoes. Mens Work Shoes, $i.5o; Sailor hats at 98 cents; Childrens Hats, 48 cents. Some Real Noise: 24 lbs. Best Maid Flour, $ i .5o ; lard, per lb., I 5 cents . . . Bacon, per lb., I 5 1/2 cents . . . Early June peas, can, 5 cents . . . Washing Powder, 7 for 25 cents. 666 for Chills and Fevers, 20 The advertisement was inserted in 1925, by the general store of the late E. T. Muse on Main Street.
Another advertisement said that a movie theater with three shows a week would open immediately. L. S. McCormack and John McKenzie would operate it in the Garbade building. Anyone wishing hand-made hats or old hats made over was invited to call upon Mrs. M. J. Rivers.
In a news story, officers of the local Bank of Ridgeland are listed as: S. B. Owens, president; John Pat Wise, vice-president; W. C. Preacher, cashier; and the following directors, F. H. Ingram, R. T. W. Roberts, Jr.; George Garbade, C. E. Perry and C. M. Jaudon. (Henry B. Garbade, son of George Garbade, has been the banks president for many years.)
Another news story reported that "an earnest effort is being made to secure a home demonstration agent for Jasper County. A bill to that effect will be introduced during the week by Rep. H. Klugh Purdy."
Time marches on. The following men have served as mayor of the town of Ridgeland, from its incorporation in 1896 until the present date:
G. M. Buckner, J. Berg, R. 0. Dunning, H. H. Porter, W. H. Taylor, C. E. Perry, W. A. Gilmore, M. J. Rivers, S. B. Owens, J. R. McCrary, H. Klugh Purdy, Dr. Louis McCaw, J. J. Thompson, Dr. C. E. Smith, G. G. Dean, W. L. Coker, W. J. Ellis, B. J. Perry, R. E. Carter, George C. Getsinger, Wichman R. McCormack, Joseph W. Brown, Albert J. Uliman, and Dr. F. E. Ducey, the incumbent.
The legislative delegations of the county have been as follows: 1912-1916, senator, J. C. Richardson; house members, B. T. Tison (short term), L. A. Hutson and W. R. Hubbard; 1916-1920, senator, H. Kiugh Purdy; house members, J. W. Roberts and Dr. W. A. Preacher; 1920-1924, senator, W. R. Hubbard; house member two terms, S. S. Horton; 1924-1928, senator, R. R. Tison, who died and was replaced by W. H. Taylor; house member two terms, H. Kiugh Purdy; 1928-1932, senator, Mrs. Mary G. Ellis; house members, C. E. Perry, Jr. and W. E. Byrd; 1932-1936, senator, H. Kiugh Purdy; house members, S. S. Horton and Charles E. Perry, Jr.; 1936-1940, senator, W. J. Ellis; house member two terms, Homer Woods; 1940-1944, senator, Charles E. Perry, Jr.; house members, W. E. Byrd and W. J. Miller; 1944-1948, senator, W. J. Ellis; house member two terms, D. N. Rivers; 1948-1952, senator, Henry C. Walker, resigned, and Y. C. Weathersbee elected; house members, D. N. Rivers and Edward P. Huguenin, Jr.; 1952-1956, senator, Y. C. Weathersbee; house member, Edward P. Huguenin, Jr.; 1956-1960, senator, John Foster Smith; house member two terms, Frank E. Baldwin, Jr.; 1960, senator, Henry C. Walker; house member, Frank E. Baldwin, Jr.
Old-timers say that the early political campaigns were sometimes spectacular. There was the candidate who flashed currency amounting to $200 at all the hustings, begging the incumbent to return that amount to the county. The money represented pay received by the incumbent for his services, the complainer pointed out, and charged that no services had been rendered!
County officials who have died in office were: R. R. Tison, senator; W. A. Vaigneur, auditor; J. S. Berg and W. A. Berg, treasurers; W. A. Sauls, probate judge; Willie H. Woods and W. A. Munch, supervisors; F. H. Drew and Clarence W. Floyd, sheriffs. Six men have served as sheriff of the county since its formation: H. H. Porter, G. L. Langford, B. F. Spivey, F. H. Drew, Clarence W. Floyd and J. P. Raymond, Jr. Mr. Drew, Mr. Langford, and Mr. Floyd served long terms of some fourteen years each.
Since 1890, this section has never been without a physician. Dr. W. A. Preacher, who was a native of Lawtonville, near Estill, came to Ridgeland in that year. He practiced his profession in the present county for nearly thirty years. Dr. W. B. Ryan, a native of Charleston, came in 1893. All five of his sons have followed in his footsteps as practicing physicians. A sixth son died while a medical student.
Other physicians practicing here since the turn of the century were Dr. Ellis, Dr. Long, Dr. Walter Sanders, and Dr. I. H. Grimball, each of whom remained only a short time; Dr. C. E. Smith, who came to the county after his services in World War I and lived here nearly 20 years; Dr. Adoph Ritter, who established the hospital and who later practiced in Colleton County until his death; Dr. I. I. Kolman, an assistant to Dr. Ritter; Dr. J. A. Hayne, now of Hampton; Dr. T. B. Carroll, now of Hardeeville; and Dr. Harold B. Canning, now of Florida.
Dr. C. Pinckney Ryan, who began his practice here in 1926 as an associate of his father, is now chief surgeon of the Ridgeland Hospital. Dr. John 0. Ryan and Dr. C. P. Ryan, Jr., are the other physicians who complete the medical staff. The hospital is not large--3 6 beds and 12 cribs--but it has received prominent mention as a modern and well-equipped institution, which serves the county and parts of adjoining counties.
Public-Health Centers are maintained at Ridgeland, Hardeeville and Grays. Staffing the Centers are Mrs. Margaret R. Ellis and Mrs. Faye Cleland, with Mrs. Emma C. Woods as clerk.
Much credit for Ridgelands progress is due to the civic and patriotic organizations of the town and county. Raymond Day is president of the Lions Club, which gave initial impetus to a "Sergeant Jasper Country Club." Promoted by the recreation committee of the Chamber of Commerce, the club is now an established community project, with Dr. C. P. Ryan, Jr. as president. A club house, golf course and swimming pool will soon become a reality.
The Azalea Garden Club has carried out a number of beautification proj ects. The president is Mrs. Alberta Taylor. President of the Jessamine Club is Mrs. Frank Baldwin. The Ridgeland Business and Professional Womens Club, also engaged in much worth-while activity, is headed by Miss Frances Fleming.
A Jasper County Chamber of Commerce was organized a few years ago. Elected as first president was J. S. Newlin; as second, J. E. Smith. Recognizing womans ability and merit, members have elected Mrs. Margie W. Wise as president of this organization, customarily headed by a man. The Jasper County Farm Bureau has Walter Baxter as president. Leading the County Council of Farm Women is Mrs. E. U. Smith.
The local American Legion Post was chartered in February, 1942 with the late L. S. McCormack as Commander. The present Commander is Marvin Vaigneur and the adjutant is J. E. Horton, Jr. Each year, the Legion and the Legion Auxiliary sponsor attendance at Boys State and Girls State among outstanding high school students. President of the Auxiliary is Mrs. Walter E. Smith.
The Jasper County unit of the South Carolina National Guard was begun in 1947, with J. D. OQuinn as captain. A spacious, well-equipped Armory has been completed in recent years. The commanders post is held now by H. A. Wall, with Marvin C. Catterton as adjutant. The beginning of American Lodge No. 98, A.F.M. already has been told. After Gillisonvilles destruction, the Lodge was moved to Grahamville, where it remained until 1887. In that year it went to Ridgeland, and a building was erected on the Main Street by the order, in 1892. This frame structure served the Lodge until the 1930s, when the lot was sold. A building program resulted in the handsome edifice on Smart Boulevard, which is the Lodges home today. Worshipful Master is D. A. Raye.
Mary Heyward Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star, was chartered in the 1920s. Mrs. Hannah Lee Malphrus is Worthy Matron.
This narrative cannot end without further mention of the Bank of Ridgeland. Henry B. Garbade, its president since he started out with the institution in 1910, as a youthful teller. Later, he served as cashier for a number of years, before assuming the presidency.
The bank, a member of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, survived the financial crisis of the depression years, when other banks succumbed. At present, deposits total more than $2,ooo,ooo. Mrs. George F. White is vice-president, James Cope is cashier, and Clifford H. J audon is a director. Nine persons in all are employed in the institution.
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