Friday, June 6, 2008

Then and Now: Glimpses in the News

Gathered by Joan and Glen Inabinet
in the writing of the History of Kershaw County

Interest in the 2008 Pegasus Ball at historic Holly Hedge before the Carolina Cup in Camden suggests that readers will be intrigued by a sensational event that occurred at that same residence during the March 28, 1936, running of the popular steeplechase event.

May 1, 1936, The Camden Chronicle claimed an exclusive scoop on the following story, asserting the newspaper had been cooperating to keep the event quiet during police investigation:

“The largest jewelry theft ever to occur in North or South Carolina was perpetuated at Camden March 28 during steeplechase races, when clever crooks invaded Holly Hedge, the spacious winter estate of Mrs. Ernest L. Woodward, socialite and sportswoman, and escaped with valuables worth approximately a quarter of a million dollars…

“Working in absolute secrecy, crack detectives from New York, Miami, and elsewhere were enlisted…

“The burglary…occurred during the Carolina Cup races while Mr. and Mrs. Woodward were absent from their home. The crooks, believed to be nationally known jewel thieves, entered…while only one caretaker was on the premises, and removed the jewelry box from the dresser drawer in a room on the second floor…

“Residents at Camden… positively identified the pictures of several nationally known jewelry thieves…seen there March 28.”

Small references to the incident in later years indicate the theft went unsolved. The city, with press generally cooperating, tried to avoid negative publicity that would reflect unfavorably on the community and possibly turn away wealthy tourists.

The widely attended 2008 charrette to find a vision for the future of Camden suggests a look at efforts in other changing times. The interval between the end of World War II and the mid-century development of industrialization lasted several challenging years. Some of the ways the business district prepared for growth proved counter-productive; others, helpful.

Camden businesses at the time closed by custom each Wednesday afternoon, and by law all day on Sunday. In 1947 the Camden Merchants Association voted to observe Labor Day for the first time, and to do so by closing their businesses for the day. (Some citizens believed it “public spirited” for businesses to close when the town was involved in a community activity, and “money grubbing” to stay open at such times.)

Expecting a growing number of downtown customers, Camden City Council in 1946 tried to plan for parking needs by ordering 400 meters to be installed on Broad Street from Walnut south to York, on DeKalb Street from Lyttleton to Church, and on Rutledge Street from Lyttleton to Church. Enforcement began during the Christmas shopping season, and in the first few days over 50 vehicles were tagged and fined for overtime parking. The public was less than enthusiastic.

Before long Camden had to consider new meters because the current ones often malfunctioned and required “frequent servicing and replacements.” Police Chief Alva Rush sternly warned against stuffing meters with bubble gum or paper wads, but vandalism remained a problem. Within two years, more than 50 percent of the meters were defective. Their condition antagonized the public and made enforcement difficult.

In mid-1948 the city had to crack down on double-parking and parking in the center of the streets. Even delivery trucks were told to “angle park,” like it or not.

By fall citizens who owned vacant lots and space at the rear of buildings had been persuaded to come to the rescue of downtown frustration. In September city workmen prepared parking lots in Camden’s business section for owners who allowed their free use for off-street parking.

Weather extremes in 2008 recall several extremes six decades ago in 1948. In February downtown Camden was blanketed with two inches of snow. Rain, snow, sleet, and ice forced schools throughout the county to close early on a Monday and remain closed through Thursday.
Hailstorms ripped through several sections of the county in June. In Boykin, damages on the State Farm totaled $100,000, with 120 acres of cotton being stripped clean. In the Cassatt area, one farmer lost 100 acres of watermelons, while several suffered serious damage to cotton and tobacco. In Liberty Hill major damage was to cotton.

During summer, county residents suffered from “awful heat,” rising over 100 degrees in late August. Higher-than-normal temperatures continued through the winter. That season proved the warmest one since winter 1906, according to the local weather bureau.

Nearly 10 inches of rain fell during the month of November. One deluge that brought the Wateree River out of its banks caused the Seaboard to detour trains for two days when the steel trestle “was moved six and a half inches out of line downstream by raging flood waters.”

Reported sightings of a Lizard Man in 2008 bring to mind other bizarre claims. January 1948 a local man reported he saw a flaming plane go down but no evidence was discovered. The absence of physical evidence led to speculation that the man saw a “flying saucer” since reports of such unidentified objects had been made in many areas of the country, including one in Charlotte. Citizens here saw another strange object in the sky in July. The object, also seen in a number of other places, “might have been a meteor.”

Elections always evoke political interests. In the post-World War II era, most of the sentiment found in the local press was supportive of states’ rights and segregation. Occasionally, a divergent opinion was voiced as evidenced by the following April 17, 1948, letter to the Camden Chronicle signed John Knox Tibbits:

“Your editorial of March 5, advocating a new political party ‘Dedicated to state’s rights, segregation of races, and the preservation of principles which have made this great country what it is today’ calls for comment both by Christians and by true Americans.

“The great story of America is that any man, of whatever race or color, has an opportunity here to make good and to enjoy the full rights of citizenship.

“The basic principles for community living are the Golden Rule and justice, or, in common parlance, kindliness and fair-play.

“We all believe in state’s rights, but we deny the right of any man, or community, to do wrong by interfering with the rights of others.

“It is plain to most of us that to condemn a race as a race to an inferior position involves great wrong to many individuals , and is as un-American as it is un-Christian.”

The writer was a retired Episcopal minister living in Camden.

February celebrations of African American history have a long tradition.

Browning Home/Mather Academy celebrated its 60th anniversary Feb. 16-23, 1947. Amelia Boykin, the first graduate of “the Model Home,” as it was then called, gave the main address to begin the week-long celebration. The festivities gave special honors to parents of the school’s early pupils and displayed memorabilia of its past.

That spring an Allen University choral group sang at a Mather fundraiser for Negro Boy Scouts in Camden and Kershaw County. They hoped to establish a camp in the Central South Carolina Council.

In February 1948, as a climax to their observance of National Negro History Week, Columbia attorney Harold R. Boulware spoke to Mather’s faculty and student body on the topic of civil rights. (Boulware and future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall were among the plaintiff’s attorneys in the Briggs v. Elliott case that was part of the landmark Brown case decided in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954.)

Mather’s commemoration of Negro History Week in February 1949 consisted of student participation in various contests and several programs at chapel hour. Johnson C. Smith University president H. Liston spoke on race relations.

That spring Mather student Roosevelt Jackson won first place in the Palmetto Scholastic Press Association for his article, “Larry Doby was a Matherite.”

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Bethune Observer

Early in the past century, Bethune, S.C., had its own newspaper, copies of which give glimpses of daily life in Kershaw County’s smallest town, located in the fork of the Lynches River.

The Bethune Observer, c.1913-1923, reported the local news longer than its predecessor, the town’s first newspaper, The Bethune Enterprise, c. 1900-1902.

Both were edited and printed by the wheelchair-bound J.E. Gardner, assisted by his wife, the former Margaret M. Barnes.

In the late 1990s, Carol McNaughton, then employed at the Camden Archives, collected and printed for private sale a publication Bits and Pieces from "The Bethune Observer."

McNaughton states: “The Bethune Observer shows the ordinary life and times of businesses, rural farm families and the early part of the century...[W]e see the lifestyle changes taking place within this time frame.

“You can vision the line up of stores on Main Street giving the community a variety of goods to enliven their everyday lives. The railroad plays a vital part of daily transportation bringing people from other parts of South Carolina and distances beyond, to vacation at the Big Springs Resort, visit family and friends and gives the local residents an opportunity to reach beyond their small town to link with the rest of the world.”

McNaughton’s work, along with newspaper samples given us by Harvey Teal, provide the following excerpts:

9 JULY 1914 Issue
Big Spring News
This promises to be one of, if not the best season in the history of Big Springs, so many are visiting here that never were here before.

Quite a number were registered at the hotel the past week, among whom were: Mr. and Mrs. M.L. Raley, Mt Croghan; Mr. and Mrs. L.E. Lee, Angelus, Mr. and Mrs. Naiford, Lydia; Mr. R.H. Burns, North Carolina; Misses Shaw and McLaurin, Hartsville; Misses Rabon, Camden; Messrs. Carter, Denham, McLeod and Byrd, Hartsville; Mr. and Mrs. W.M. Miller, Jefferson...

The dance on last Wednesday evening was quite a success. Comstock’s orchestra furnished the music, and dancers and onlookers enjoyed to the fullest the dancing and music.

Sandy Grove Dots
There was a large crowd from this section at the Big Spring on the Fourth. We regret to say, however, there was considerable disorder and drinking there on that occasion. This should not be allowed, and we are glad to state this conduct will be cut out in the future, so the management says...

There will be a game of baseball next Saturday afternoon between Sandy Grove and Tiller’s Ferry on the latter’s grounds. The game promises to be interesting...

We were shown a jar of peaches Tuesday morning at the store of Mr. H.W. Northcutt that was put up in August, 1888, by his mother. The peaches are still in perfect state of preservation and can be seen at Mr. Northcutt’s store...

The Fourth was a very quiet day in Bethune. A large crowd went to Big Spring, and several attended the big celebration at Kershaw.

Town Officers
J.M.Clyburn Intendent
L.W. West Clerk
J.A. Shaw Chief of Police

6 AUGUST 1914 Issue
Local and Personal

A barbeque and four games of baseball will be pulled off at this place by the colored people on Saturday...

During the thunder shower on Monday afternoon three fine mules which belonged to Lee County chaingang were killed by lightning. The gang were working the public road near Kelly’s Bridge when the mules were killed.

Encampment Planned
Company G, Second Infantry, South Carolina National Guard, will encamp for two weeks at Big Springs, beginning August 25...the men will receive pay during the encampment.

Sunday School Convention
The 36th annual Sunday School convention for Kershaw County will be held at Sandy Grove church...Go to stay for every session, as the people of Sandy Grove will certainly take care of you. J.C. Humphries, President.

[On the two-day program: Rev. J.C. Davis, P.B. Fields, Prof. A.L. Humphries, F.F. Whilden, Alvo Humphries, W.L. McDowell, Rev. C.B. Smith, W.A. Harrelson, A.J. Beattie, Henry A. Wise, and T.B. Humphries.]

Hotel Advertisements
Big Springs Hotel, now open and the fare excellent. Large crowds suffering with rheumatism or stomach troubles are being benefited. Good bathing, boating, dancing and other amusements. Ask your [railroad] agent for cheap rate ticket.

King’s Hotel, Bethune--Rates $2.00 per day

More Local Ads, Features
Carter and Padgett Undertakers [colored and white]
H.W. Northcutt--New Home Sewing Machines
L.P. Carter--Colt’s Acetylene Generators
J.A. Stone--Insurance
McBee Auto Repair Shop (J.B.Bolin)--Practial Auto Mechanic
Bethune Drug Co.--Dodson’s Liver Tone for 50 cents
G.S. King--General Mechandise, Pumps and Fittings
The Peoples Grocery--Next to railroad track, Bethune
WANTED--To rent or buy a two-horse farm near Bethune

Seaboard Railroad Schedule
[Four separate Northbound trains arrived daily in Bethune--two in the morning at 7:22 and 9:35 a.m.; and two later ones at 5:43 and 8:25 p.m.

Also four separate Southbound trains arrived daily in Bethune--two in the morning at 9:35 and 10:05 a.m.; and two later ones at 6:08 and 10:43 p.m.]

24 AUGUST 1916 Issue
Local and Personal
The box party which was to have been held at the residence of Mr. D.W. Horton above town last night for the benefit ofthe Cedar Creek Sunday School, was postponed on account of threatening weather...

The Woodmen and Junior Orders at Timrod had a banquet at the Timrod school house Saturday night. Judge M.L. Smith and Mr. C.W. Birchmore, of Camden, came out and delivered addresses. Mess. S.T. Gardner and J.E. Copeland accompanied Judge Smith and Mr. Birchmore to Timrod.

Mr. and Mrs. M.M. Johnson spent Sunday night at the home of the former’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. H.T. Johmson, at Shamrock. Mr. Johnson was formerly a citizen of Jefferson, where he was prominently identified with municipal and civic affairs for several years. He has moved to Camden, where he expects to reside. Murdock Johnson is a young lawyer with bright prospects and we predict for him a splendid future.

1 FEBRUARY 1917 Issue
Bethea Lectures
Hon. Andrew J. Bethea, Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, will deliver a lecture in the Bethune high school auditorium tomorrow (Friday) night. Mr. Bethea’s subject will be an account of his peace trip to Europe. This lecture has been delivered in a number of towns in the State during the past year and has been favorably received wherever heard. Admission free

Mr. D.M. Kirkley, of Kershaw R.F.D., was in town Saturday afternoon with a petition praying the citizens of Buffalo township to protest against... a 3-mill tax to improve and maintain the public roads of this township. Quite a number of people...signed the petition.

The Observer, 50 cents, a year, in advance.

25 MAY 1922 Issue
Local and Personal
The new post office building will probably be completed by Saturday next and occupied early next week.

C.C. Horton, manager of the Bethune Hotel, is visiting relatives at Kershaw, Heath Springs and Lancaster...

A game of baseball was played at Heath Springs last Friday afternoon between Bethune and Heath Springs, high school teams...

The business houses are urged to close their places of business for one hour every day, from 11 to 12, and attend services at the Methodist Church...

Quite a crowd from this section attended the Confederate Reunion in Darlington last week.

New Jewelry Store
The Edgeworth Jewelry Co., Corbett Edgeworth, manager, opened a new jewelry store here on Tuesday.

Mr. Edgeworth is well known here, having resided in Bethune for a number of years, and is an expert jeweler...
10 AUGUST 1922 Issue
Local and Personal
Saturday last was a big day with the colored folks in this vicinty. There was a picnic and three baseball games at the Josey Spring, about 7 miles below here.

Big Day at Big Spring
Next Saturday, Aug. 12, will be a big day at Big Spring. A general basket picnic and barbeque will be held and a large crowd is expected to be present.

The candidates for state offices have accepted an invitation to be present and this will be an added attraction for the visitors. The speaking will begin at 10 o’clock, and last until about 5 o’clock, if necessary, giving the candidates ample time to present their claims...A big time promised to all.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Early Settlement in the Area Now Kershaw County

Sample article from the Society's January 2008 Update newsletter.
Excerpts from Area Research

In Winter 1969 and Winter 1970 Camdenite Hope Boykin was author of a two-part article in the distinguished scholarly periodical Names in South Carolina, edited by Dr. Claude Henry Neuffer, University of South Carolina. Readers may want to find the complete work online.

Part I by Boykin, describing early settlement in Lower Kershaw County, begins:

“The southern part of Kershaw County is steeped in history, having lands which were granted as early as 1733. For the most part this land below Camden and on both sides of the Wateree River, continues in the traditional use of the past, being primarily an agricultural area. Large farms and timbered swamps prevail, and in some cases one may still find the same property lines which appear on plats over 100 years old.

“The western side of the river has had perhaps undergone greater changes than the eastern side as the original families such as the Englishes, Brisbanes, Dobys, Spears, and Ogilvies has long since become extinct in the area. While there are still large tracts of land here, they are related only by mutual property lines and the pattern of living has greatly changed over the years.

“On the other hand, life on the eastern side of the river remains strongly linked with the past. Much of the land has passed from generation to generation. This area is divided into three communities.

“The first below Camden is Mulberry, named thus as it surrounds Mulberry Plantation. Charlotte Thompson, which is perhaps the fastest growing area, is named after an old school, which in turn was named for one of Camden’s most beloved citizens. Finally there is Boykin, named for the family which settled there and is still inhabited by many descendants of that clan….”

Part II by Boykin, discussing Upper Kershaw County, begins:

“Deep within the reaches of northwest Kershaw County lie the headwaters of ten creeks, along the banks of which are sites spanning nearly 250 years of history.

“This country, bemoaned by [Rev. Charles] Woodmason in 1768 as backwards, uncivilized and worse, was strongly patriotic during the Revolution and produced many fine leaders of Kershaw County. It remained mainly agricultural and timber producing and is laced by three roads, which generally follow their original lines.

“The Beaver Creek Road, running from Camden through Liberty Hill and into Lancaster County, was one of the earliest routes in the county. It gains its name from the creek over which it passes. The road now known as the Flat Rock Road was earlier known as the Waxhaw Road or the Great Road to Lancaster. This was the first northern route from Camden, used first by Indians, they a stage road until the late nineteenth century. Between these roads lies the Graham Road, doubtlessly named for an early settler….”

The author, now Hope Cooper, is widely known today as the director of the National Steeplechase Museum in Camden. Earlier in her career, she worked with the Camden District Heritage Foundation, which surveyed the county area to document its early settlement.

Hunting Arrowheads

Sample article from the Society's January 2007 Update newsletter.
Traces of Kershaw County’s Native American past lie in its soil. Want to try hunting? Here are tips and rules to go by.

By Denver Hunter, with Randy Jackson

Arrowhead hunting is addicting— that’s what anybody who has ever found an arrowhead will tell you. It’s a sport, a game to be played for that matter, but it is also so much more.

These stone relics are the tools of survival of a race of people that literally founded America. They put these items to good use to survive the cold winters, as well as the stifling Carolina summers.

When you find an arrowhead, you find a legacy. A Native American once used this tool to make dinner or protect himself. Some of the arrowheads were even used to hunt the mastodon in what would much later become the state of South Carolina.

The craftsmanship of these tools are beyond anything we’re familiar with. I was once told that a sharpened arrowhead is sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel. While not exactly sure of the validity of the statement, I have found some arrowheads that would seem to prove this statement true.

For anyone interested in the hunt, it is well worth the time and effort. There are a few key details that are worth knowing when you start out. Some of us have to learn them the hard way, and frustrations can certainly mount, but the key is to concentrate and be smart about what you do.

One of the very first things to note is that the term arrowhead is a misnomer. An arrowhead is a relatively recent invention that came into being with the bow about 1,400 to 1,500 years before the present. Older artifacts called arrowheads oftentime are actually points in reality.

These would have been fitted on an atlatl, which is a type of spear-launching device. This contraption allowed for spear points to be thrown much harder than they would have been otherwise with the human arm.

This is why some of the giant points seem impossible to fit on an arrow shaft. However, I would not discourage the use of arrowheads as a term, because the idea behind the name is pure.

Now that you have entered into the hunt a little wiser, we have a couple of tips that will save you time, encourage success, and heighten the enjoyment of the experience:


The first tip is to have good shoes. Arrowhead hunting involves a lot of walking. It’s absolutely great exercise, so consider that an added caveat. It’s not a miracle diet, but you’ll feel better in more ways than one. We recommend wearing boots or a good solid tennis shoe, depending upon what kind of territory you are covering.


Make sure to bring plenty of water for long outings. Staying hydrated is crucial. It’s easy to get lost in the hunt and forget that the last drink of water was taken hours ago. We would also suggest bringing along some food if you are going to search for an extended period.


One of the most useful implements you can have is a good sharp stick or rod. If push comes to shove, you can always find a solid, fallen limb that will do the trick. An insider secret is to take an old golf club and cut the head off of it. Either way, a good stick will save your back and legs.


Scout areas ahead of time. One of the major issues that frustrate many artifact seekers is looking in the wrong area. Pay attention to place names, talk to locals, find out as much information as you can about the area you plan to search.

There are certain characteristics to where the camps will be found. A source of water is vital to finding the right spot. Sometimes this source may have long since dried up.

The point is to know the terrain. We won’t share too many more secrets, but water is the first big step. Arrowheads are fairly numerous, so it’s not too difficult to find locations.

It’s always a good idea to go hunting after a good hard rain, as well. This will often uncover arrowheads in the same area.


When you search, focus on the ground. It wouldn’t hurt to become familiar with some of the basic rock types such as quartz and chert. A degree in geology is not required by any stretch of the imagination, but being familiar with rock types is a positive.

Try to concentrate and get into "the zone." Spend a few moments admiring the beautiful countryside or thinking about something you find calming.

Also keep track of where you have been to the best of your ability, as looking over the same ground in the same outing is not advised. Do not be afraid to return to a site in the future, though.


Do not hesitate to bring back a pocket full of rocks. You might get an occasional laugh by more experienced seekers, but you will find that this is a good way to learn. Sometimes, even with experience, those pieces that might be overlooked turn out to be worked.

This is a great way to train yourself to look for the edges and shapes, and not the rock material. You want to find other instruments besides the flint and other quartz rock type located in our area.

You can always return the rocks to their natural habitats in your back yard once you’re done. These discards are often referred to jokingly as wishing rocks/stones or love rocks. Looks can be deceiving.


Most of the arrowheads you find will be damaged. A perfect (or near perfect) arrowhead is a find indeed.

Do not discard the broken ones. A broken arrowhead can be a heartbreak, but do not get frustrated.


Internet research or book research is a good thing. You can learn about arrowheads by looking at examples or reading up on them. We recommend The Official Overstreet Indian Arrowheads Identification and Price Guide as well as pointing your web browser to a good search engine.

It’s not the monetary value that counts; these resources will help you date the arrowheads. You’ll find that they range from 10,000 years old to a couple hundred years old.


Our most important recommendation comes in the form of respect. There are important sites located all around our area. Some of them are widely known, others are not.

If you ever come across a site that you suspect to be a burial ground or anything of the sort, do not pick up anything. Please remember that these were people too, and in this knowledge, all burial sites should be respected. They are protected by state and federal laws as well.

Also respect the current owners of the land as well. Don’t hunt on property that would be in violation of the law. Violations of these simple guidelines are frowned upon for good reasons.

The authors may be contacted at
Photo: Arrowhead Display by Liberty Hill postmaster C.D. Cunningham, early 1900s.

The Home Front

Sample article from the Society's February 2001 Update newsletter.
A Lynches Creek Civil War Letter

By Harvey S. Teal

When recording the history of wars, it is the details about battles, strategy, troop movements, exploits of particular individuals, casualty counts, and other military matters that receive the giant share of interest and treatment by historians and others. Often left undiscussed or inadequately treated are matters pertaining to the home front. This approach and attitude is often also reflected by what collectors value and collect from these wars.

The War Between the States is a good example. Letters and other items from that war that have to do with fighting or battles command prices many times higher than similar letters describing matters back home.

Fortunately many historians and others have begun to realize this deficiency. Due to a heightened appreciation of the historical value and worth of these items, many are now collecting civilian letters that illuminate conditions on the home front and the emotions and feelings of those back home.

A “home front” letter from my collection datelined Lynches Creek, July1, 1862, from J. M. Kirkley and his mother to their brother and son, Dan Kirkley, illustrates how these letters contribute to a fuller understanding of the war. Dan was in Richmond, Virginia, at the time and was recuperating from a wound. Historic Camden, Nineteenth Century lists a Daniel M. Kirkley as a private in the Flat Rock Guards, Company G, 2nd South Carolina Volunteers and describes him as having been wounded. It is assumed this Dan is the subject of this letter.

A transcription of the letter follows. Misspelled words have been corrected and some punctuation marks added. Otherwise the letter appears as written.

Dear Brother—I received a letter from you June 30th dated June 22 [1862]. I was happy to hear from you that you were able to be up and about one time more. Dan, these few lines leave father and mother well at present. My family are well, except myself, hoping they may find you enjoying the same blessing. Dan I have not been, to say, well, since I left Richmond. I have been up and about until ten days ago when I was confined to my bed. I am better now, able to be up and about the house. We have been very uneasy about you since I left you at Richmond. You say we must excuse you for not writing to us. If I had hold of you I would excuse you the right way.

The conscript [draft notice] are ordered to me at Camden today. I was not able to go. I don’t know what they will do with me. I intend to get off if I can.

Dan, crops are very sorry, generally speaking. I got behind [with] mine when I was in Richmond and stayed two weeks with you. Left there Monday and never got home until Saturday evening. We are suffering much for rain. At present, it has been three weeks since we have had any rain. Dan, If you can’t get a furlough to come home you must stay where you are until you get perfectly well before you go to camp. If you want a Negro to cook for you, pa says you shall have one.

You must write to some of us every week as I am not able to write much. I must close, asking you to excuse me for not writing no more, but still remain your affectionate brother until death.

J. M. Kirkley

Dear Son—Was glad to hear from you [and ]that you are getting well. I have been uneasy about you. We have been looking for a letter from you ever since James came home. I thought you would of wrote us as soon as you was able to write to let us know how you was. We have been looking for you to come home, but I suppose you can’t get a furlough. My son, if you can’t come home, I want you to stay there until you get well before you are to come. [You] wrote that you [would] be glad of some mens clothing. I have clothes [I] would send to you if I had any way to send them to you. I want you to write as soon as you can. I want you to write if you are getting off your cot. You must take care of yourself as well as you can. So nothing more at present, but remain your affectionate Mother until death.

Nancy Kirkley

Research Help for Non-Native Residents

Sample article from the Society's February 2001 Update newsletter.
Think you can’t find genealogical info here in Camden if you are from somewhere else? “Boy was I wrong!”

By Billie Jones

In 1997, while my mother and I were visiting my sister in Texas, my niece asked my mother, her grandmother, questions about her ancestors – who they were and where they came from. Realizing we had names of several generations but very little other information, my mother and I decided to take on a project of searching for some answers.

The timing was perfect. I had just "retired" and needed something to do so I would have an excuse not to do housework. After discussing the several known lines, we decided to begin on my maternal grandfather’s line. Surely they were not as many Courseys to research as Rabun, Hughes and Smith. [An error in judgment we have since learned]

We began with a piece of paper found in my grandmother’s Bible I received upon her death. She had listed her parents and grandparents and those of my grandfather, Odell Coursey b. April 24, 1892, Johnston, Edgefield Co., SC. His parents and grandparents were listed with a notation that his grandfather, John Franklin Coursey was a Civil War soldier.

Knowing that my grandfather was born in Edgefield County, we traveled to Edgefield to the Thompkins Library. As novices, we began to get our feet wet in the sea of information, finding few facts but learning a little about the how-to’s.

After our trip, which provided us with some other surnames and family lines connected to the Courseys, I decided to visit the State Archives to see what they had. Wanting to find out more, I began looking up census records.

One day, after several trips to Columbia, I decided to visit our local Camden Archives and Museum. I had visited it before with my children to view the exhibits in the Museum, but really had no confidence that I would find any information to help me with my Edgefield County families. After all, this is Kershaw County, and we only arrived here in 1969. BOY WAS I WRONG!

Since that first visit, I have spent hours in the Camden Archives researching. I found that their collections contain much info, not just on Kershaw County, but on other areas of South Carolina, as well as other states that I am researching. And by far, the staff and volunteers are the most helpful of any of the libraries that I have visited.

The first thing my Mother and I did was to read the back issue of every Quill from the Old Edgefield Genealogical Society. The Archives has them on file, as well as issues of other genealogy society newletters.

Not long after I started researching seriously and had visited the State Archives for census records, the Camden Archives received copies of the microfilm of all of the SC counties 1790-1920. They also have index books for 1790-1870. And as a result of a recent contribution by Dallas Phelps, the Camden Archives now has all of the Edgefield Co. Cemetery books.

I found that the State DAR Library is housed in the Camden Archives, and found information from SCDAR Traveling Library proving relationship in an Edgefield County and Virginia line. Instead of traveling to Columbia or Edgefield, I can review abstracts of deeds in the DAR Collection. A book Edgefield Death Notices and Cemetery Records by Carlee McClendon is also a part of the DAR collection that I have used extensively.

As I was entering data into a computer file at the Archives to share my findings with other researchers, I also made a list of books at the Archives that I want to look into, filling four legal pages front and back. I don’t think I will live so long as to research all of the information found in this library that might lead to information on my many SC families.

So, I have found that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Although I still love to take trips to visit cemeteries, and get full copies of wills, I have found a real treasure right here at home – The Camden Archives and Museum, Camden, SC.

The Camden Archives and Museum, 1314 Broad Street, is open M-F from 8-5 and on the first and third Sundays monthly, 1-5.

Where Is the 1925 Movie?

Sample article from the Society's February 2001 Update newsletter.
A Pageant of Local Area History, was filmed in Camden, South Carolina, in 1925 and shown in movie theaters here and elsewhere.