Edgefield, South Carolina
|Edgefield, South Carolina|
|Motto: "Home of Ten Governors"|
Location of Edgefield, South Carolina
|• Total||4.1 sq mi (10.7 km2)|
|• Land||4.1 sq mi (10.5 km2)|
|• Water||0.1 sq mi (0.2 km2)|
|Elevation||531 ft (162 m)|
|• Density||1,094.3/sq mi (422.5/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|GNIS feature ID||1247634|
Edgefield is part of the Augusta, Georgia metropolitan area.
Edgefield is located at (33.7868, -81.9278).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 4.2 square miles (11 km2), of which 4.1 square miles (11 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (1.93%) is water.
The story of Edgefield is more than a quarter of a millennium long, reaching back to before the first European settlers arrived, when only Native Americans roamed the forests. At that time the area which later became Edgefield County was a vast wilderness of virgin forests, occasional prairies, great cane brakes and sparkling rivers and creeks. It was bisected by the fall line, with sandy soils on the southeast side of this line growing primarily pine trees, and rich clay soils on the northwest side growing primarily oak and hickory. Wildlife was abundant with deer and turkey, but also with elk, buffalo (bison), panther and bear.
The initial settlement of present-day Edgefield County occurred in the quarter century between 1750 and 1775. Some settlers came up from the South Carolina lowcountry but more poured down “the Great Wagon Road” from the colonies to the north. In this colonial period the economy was primarily a subsistence one in which the settlers consumed what they raised. Initially there were no courts or law enforcement here, but beginning in the mid-1760s, the law-abiding settlers began their struggle to bring law, order and government to the “backcountry” of South Carolina.
The colonial period was followed by the prolonged conflict with Great Britain which began in 1775. By this time there were many settlers living in present-day Edgefield County and almost all of them were involved, on one side or the other, in the Revolutionary War. Some Edgefieldians were die-hard patriots from the outset who believed that the American colonies should be free and independent. Others were loyal to the king who had granted them land and provided a home for them in the New World. Still others wanted no part of the conflict but were inevitably drawn into it by partisans on each side. Finally, others were strictly opportunists who switched sides back and forth as they perceived their best interest. The conflict was, in this area, a bitter civil war in which personal vendettas often superseded politics as the cause for fighting. Cousins fought against cousins and neighbors against neighbors. When General Lighthorse Harry Lee later wrote about the Revolution in this area, he stated that “in no part of the South was the war fought with such asperity as in this quarter. It often sank into barbarity.”
Following the Revolution, citizens turned their attention to establishing local government and to rebuilding the economy. In 1785 the Ninety Six District was divided into smaller counties. The boundaries of Edgefield County were established at that time and the Courthouse site was designated. Although a substantial but unsuccessful effort was made in the late 1780s to bring tobacco to Edgefield County as a money crop, short staple cotton began to assume that role in the late 1790s. For the next two decades the cultivation of cotton spread like wildfire across the county. The rich clay soils of the piedmont proved ideal for growing cotton. African slaves were brought in to provide the labor for cotton cultivation, resulting in a mushrooming of the slave population of Edgefield County. During the first two decades of the nineteenth century, Edgefield County, like most of piedmont South Carolina, began to experience unprecedented prosperity.
With the construction of the gaol (jail) and court house at the designated county seat beginning in 1785, a village began to grow up around the public buildings: first, houses for the public officials, then a tavern, then a store, gradually other houses and then other stores. By 1811 a school was established, then several churches and more houses. By 1826 South Carolina architect Robert Mills could describe Edgefield Courthouse Village as “a neat little village . . . [with] between forty and fifty [houses]. The buildings are neat, commodious, and generally painted . . . . The population is estimated at 300.”
In the antebellum era, Edgefield was not the market town of the District. In the Plantation economy, the plantation owners took their cotton to market in Augusta or Hamburg and bought the majority of their supplies from merchants in those market towns. The merchants of Edgefield Courthouse Village primarily filled in the needs of the planters between trips to the larger market towns.
During the first several decades of the nineteenth century, Edgefield, being the courthouse village of a large and prosperous District, began to develop its reputation as a center of law and politics. A number of the sons of the wealthy cotton planters and other ambitious young men, after attending elite schools and colleges across the nation, came to Edgefield to practice law and engage in politics. Many of these young lawyers and politicians also maintained large plantations out in the District. These budding leaders built substantial houses in town and created a social atmosphere which attracted more similarly-situated young men.
The social prestige of being a planter with broad acres and many slaves, and dabbling in law and politics, caused many ambitious young Edgefieldians in the antebellum period to develop a self-confidence, an over-developed sense of honor and an aristocratic world view which did not always serve them well. One result of this was a wide-spread devotion to the Code Duello which resulted in a number of Edgefield’s best and brightest becoming involved in tragic duels. Another result was a sense of invincibility which caused many to approach war with a cavalier attitude and to focus on the glories of victory rather than on the horrors of death and defeat. These young men also accepted violence, which had been a common occurrence in Edgefield from its earliest days, as an inevitable part of life, and in some cases even glorified it.
While planting, politics and violence captured the imagination of most white Edgefieldians, a number of other bright young men looked for opportunities in industry and commerce. Dr. Abner Landrum developed a pottery industry which was to have a major impact on Edgefield for more than half a century. Henry Schultz, a German immigrant, developed Hamburg, a new town on the Savannah River which became an important commercial center during the antebellum era. Another German immigrant, Christian Breithaupt, built the first textile mill in this part of the state at Vaucluse. A number of Edgefieldians participated in bringing the South Carolina Railroad to Hamburg. The Plank Road from Edgefield to Hamburg was built. William Gregg, a Charleston silversmith, came to run the Vaucluse factory and wound up developing the Graniteville factory, the most successful textile operation in the antebellum South. These industrial and commercial enterprises were a significant part of the fabric of antebellum Edgefield and a number of the Edgefield lawyers and planters were involved in these endeavors.
However, the most significant contribution of antebellum Edgefield to our nation’s history was the intense sectionalism which began in the mid-1820s and evolved to 1860. Edgefield Congressman George McDuffie initiated the fight against federal tariffs which were imposed on imported goods to protect New England manufacturers. He believed that the interests of this section of the country were being sacrificed for the good of New England.
McDuffie, together with South Carolina statesman John C. Calhoun, developed the doctrine of “nullification” which postulated that a state had the right to nullify a federal law with which it disagreed. This doctrine was put to a test in 1832. South Carolina passed the Ordinance of Nullification, and President Andrew Jackson threatened to send troops to the state to enforce the tariff. Edgefieldians, like most South Carolinians, reacted violently to the President’s threats. Militia units were called up and the state braced for war. A national crisis was averted only by a last minute compromise that gradually reduced the tariffs.
Later, as the anti-slavery movement gained momentum and began to threaten the economic basis of the South’s prosperity, most white Edgefieldians, like most white South Carolinians, embraced this sectionalism. National unity was again threatened in 1850 when many leaders throughout the South began to speak of Secession. The 1856 caning of Senator Charles Sumner by Edgefield Congressman Preston Brooks on the floor of the United States Senate galvanized the nation and set South Carolina on a course for secession and Civil War. By the fall of 1860 when Abraham Lincoln was elected President, all but a few Edgefield citizens were convinced that the time had come for the South to go its own way. A convention was called and Edgefield’s delegation joined in the unanimous declaration of secession.
At the outbreak of war in April of 1861, the vast majority of Edgefieldians welcomed the conflict, believing that they would defeat the North in short order and the risk of slavery being outlawed would be eliminated. Hundreds of Edgefieldians volunteered for service and were quickly sent to Virginia to take on the federal forces. Little did they realize the sacrifices which they would make during the ensuing four years. Before the war was over almost every Edgefield male between the ages of 15 and 60 had been involved in some way in the war effort. Although the war never got closer than Aiken (Edgefieldians have always claimed that Sherman was afraid to come to Edgefield!), the people of Edgefield endured four of the bloodiest years of war in human history in which nearly one-third of their fighting age white males became casualties. The incalculable devastation of the war is hard to comprehend. Almost all the liquid assets of the citizens had been invested in Confederate currency or bonds which were now worthless. The emancipation of the slaves wiped out a huge portion of the county’s wealth, thrust most people – black and white – into dire economic straits and necessitated an almost total reorganization of the political, economic and social systems.
During the eleven year period of Reconstruction, the newly freed slaves, called "freedmen", became sharecroppers, farming the land on shares with the landowners. They also acquired the right to vote and hold office. Together with "carpetbagger" (Northerners who had come South seeking opportunities) and "scalawag" (Southern whites who had joined the Republican Party), the freedmen began to exercise almost complete dominance of local and state government. At the same time the local white citizens, intimidated by the occupying federal troops, were militarily and politically dominated by what they perceived as corrupt Republican administrations imposed upon them by the bayonets of their former enemies.
The Red Shirt Campaign of 1876, largely orchestrated by Martin W. Gary and M. C. Butler of Edgefield, was a massive organized effort on the part of the native white population to re-secure its control of the political machinery of the state. Violence was a calculated part of the strategy to remove Republican dominance. The Freedmen and their Republican allies tried valiantly to maintain their political control in the face of the fierce campaign by the former Confederates. By the middle of 1877 the Red Shirt strategy, along with an increasing willingness on the part of the rest of the nation to allow the South to go forward on its own terms, proved successful in bringing the control of the state back into the hands of the native white population. In the ensuing decades the black population of Edgefield, like that of the entire South, was thrust back into second class citizenship by the persistent efforts of the native whites who were determined to see that the conditions of Reconstruction were never allowed to return.
One of the principal results of the breakdown of the antebellum plantation system was that goods were no longer purchased centrally by the planters and then parceled out during the year, but rather Freedmen and other small farmers purchasd their own goods as they saw fit. This, together with the proliferation of manufactured consumer goods in the late nineteenth century, led to the development of a vigorous commercial economy in which every town and every crossroads sprouted new merchants. These new merchants, who often used questionable practices to benefit themselves at the expense of their customers, enjoyed a long period of prosperity.
During this period the Village of Edgefield suffered a series of fires which destroyed practically all of the commercial area of the town except for the court house. In 1881 and 1884 the entire eastern and northern portions of the town were laid waste in devastating fires. In 1892 the southern and western sides of the Public Square were burned. A town ordinance was passed in 1884 requiring that all new buildings constructed within 500 feet of the town square be built of brick. It was from the ashes of these tragic fires that most of the current buildings of the town were raised. Prosperous merchants and other town leaders built new stores and, in many cases, they built grandly. The commercial district around the Public Square and down Main Street began to take shape.
The continuing development of railroads, such as the Charlotte, Columbia and Augusta Railroad built through the eastern part of the county in the late 1860s and the Augusta and Greenwood Railroad built through the western part of the county in the 1880s, resulted in the development of numerous railroad depot towns, including Ridge Spring, Ward, Johnston, Trenton, Clark’s Hill, Modoc, Parksville, Plum Branch and McCormick. These new towns took on a prosperity of their own and began to sap commercial activity which might otherwise have come to Edgefield.
During this same period, the movement to bring government closer to the people resulted in the creation of a number of new counties, four of which took substantial portions of Edgefield. Aiken County was created in 1871; Saluda in 1895; Greenwood in 1897; and McCormick in 1916. Edgefield County, the area serviced by the Courthouse Village, was reduced in size to just over a quarter of what it had been.
The county’s agricultural economy began to suffer in the 1880s. The combination of a dramatic increase in the production of cotton, the continued depletion of the rich soils of the piedmont regions of the county and other general economic ills which were also affecting farmers throughout the nation, made farming increasingly difficult. One Edgefield farmer decided to do something about these problems. Benjamin Ryan Tillman, believing that the state’s political leaders were not doing enough to help the farmers, instigated the farmers’ revolt, got himself elected Governor in 1890 and turned out of office the old Guard of the state, including the principal leaders of the 1876 Red Shirt Campaign.
In the thirty-odd year period from the late 1880s through the early 1920s a number of positive developments took place in Edgefield. The railroad finally reached Edgefield, the first telephone was installed, the Edgefield Mill was constructed, the first automobile came to town, electrical power was installed, water and sewer systems were built, a new hotel was constructed and the streets around the town square were paved. As World War I proceeded, cotton prices shot up and a general prosperity prevailed. The town’s population had exploded, going from approximately 500 in 1880 to 2,500 by 1920. Edgefield, it seemed, was finally getting back on its economic feet.
Unfortunately, beginning in 1921 and 1922, the boll weevil, which had come from Central America and had been marching across the South since the turn of the century, finally arrived in Edgefield County, devastating the cotton crop on which the economy was almost entirely based. Farmers saw their production of cotton plummet by as much as 90 percent. Lands which had been devoted to cotton for more than a century were allowed to go idle. Sharecroppers, no longer able to make a living, left the farms and many left the state. Throughout the 1920s farm incomes sank; merchants, unable to collect accounts from destitute farmers, were squeezed; banks failed. Then, when it seemed as if economic conditions could not get worse, the 1929 market crash and the Great Depression further impoverished the county. The population of Edgefield County began to decline and continued to decline in every census from 1920 to 1970.
World War II brought changes of other kinds. Young men throughout the county entered the service. A number of Edgefield families contributed multiple sons to the war effort. Former State Senator and Circuit Judge Strom Thurmond, West Side native J. L. Doolittle, Trenton native Fritz Huiet and Johnston native Robert Herlong all participated in the Normandy invasion. Women back home took on jobs which had traditionally been held by men. Rationing significantly affected everyone who remained in town.
After the war, the soldiers returning brought back with them a new confidence and an ambition to improve the county. A well-organized effort to bring new industry to Edgefield enjoyed moderate success as the Crest Manufacturing Company was brought to town in the late 1940s. The neighboring town of Johnston was more successful as it secured both the Milliken and Riegel plants during the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1960s Edgefield added to its list of new industrial recruits the National Cabinet Company, Star Fibers, Federal Pacific Electric, and Tranter, each bringing a substantial number of new jobs. During this same period, farmers on the eastern side of the county began to expand their production of peaches which, by the 1960s, had become nationally significant.
African American soldiers had also fought valiantly in World War II, and when they returned, they came with a determination to improve their status in American society. A sustained campaign for Civil Rights developed at a national level in the late 1940s. The primary focus of this campaign was to overturn the institution of segregation which had been legitimized by the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision of the United States Supreme Court. In 1954 the court, in its unanimous Brown v. Board of Education decision, reversed the earlier decision and ruled that segregation was inherently unequal.
The white population of Edgefield, as throughout the South, reacted with outrage against the Civil Rights movement. The institution of segregation was deeply ingrained in society, and white Southerners were greatly offended by what they perceived as outside interference in their state and region. In 1948 in a campaign designed to send a message to the national Democratic Party, Governor Strom Thurmond became a candidate for President of the United States on the States' Rights Democratic Party ticket and won five states and thirty-nine electoral votes. In 1954 recognizing the need to do something to counter the legal assault on segregation, South Carolina Governor James F. Byrnes initiated an effort to build new school buildings for the African American students. The construction of what is now the W. E. Parker School was part of that effort. Despite all the resistance the white establishment could muster, school desegregation proceeded in 1965 under the “freedom of choice” system and full desegregation followed in the fall of 1970.
The late 1960s and the early 1970s brought other new developments to Edgefield: a new water line capable of supplying the county for decades to come, a new country club, a new private school, a new county hospital, the National Wild Turkey Federation headquarters and a new congressman, Butler C. Derrick, Jr.
Edgefield has rich clay deposits which provide the source for alkaline-glazed stoneware pottery which was developed by Dr. Abner Landrum in the early 19th century. The slave potter David Drake, who produced many large storage jars in the period between 1830 and 1870, was literate, signed his work, and became more widely known as popular artists a century after his death. Unsigned pottery from kilns in Pottersville and Edgefield today are known by the names of their owners; the artists were largely undocumented.
The upland area also was developed for cotton plantations, after invention of the cotton gin made growing short-staple cotton profitable. Several mansions and a plantation have been preserved from this era: Blocker House, Cedar Grove, Darby Plantation, and together with the Edgefield Historic District, Horn Creek Baptist Church, and Pottersville, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
On February 14, 2014, at 10:23pm, Edgefield had a 4.1 magnitude earthquake, followed by an aftershock of 3.2 on February 16, 2014, at 3:23pm.
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,449 people, 1,080 households, and 697 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,094.3 people per square mile (422.1/km2). There were 1,229 housing units at an average density of 302.3 per square mile (116.6/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 38.82% White, 59.92% African American, 0.49% Native American, 0.31% Asian, 0.18% from other races, and 0.27% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.47% of the population.
There were 1,080 households out of which 28.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.8% were married couples living together, 23.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.4% were non-families. 32.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.96.
In the town the population was spread out with 14.1% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 44.1% from 25 to 44, 20.0% from 45 to 64, and 12.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 195.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 221.4 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $24,977, and the median income for a family was $30,721. Males had a median income of $25,478 versus $23,462 for females. The per capita income for the town was $8,125. About 20.7% of families and 25.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 35.1% of those under age 18 and 23.2% of those age 65 or over.
Our Ten Governors
Ten of the Governors of South Carolina have a connection with Edgefield County and the District which preceded it. In many cases they were born here and lived here all of their lives. In other cases they lived and worked here at some point during their lives. What is most remarkable about our Governors is that most of them were not just placeholders. They played truly important roles in the history of our state. The best examples of this are George McDuffie who led the nullification movement of the 1830’s, James Henry Hammond who molded antebellum thought, Francis Pickens who led the state during the Civil War, Ben Tillman who led the farmers’ movement of the 1890’s and Strom Thurmond who played a major part in our state and nation over many decades. These Governors made a significant difference in how South Carolina and our nation evolved. In chronological order of their terms as Governor, they are:
Andrew Pickens (1779-1838). Son of Revolutionary General Andrew Pickens and father of Confederate War Governor Francis W. Pickens, Andrew Pickens served as governor of South Carolina from 1816 to 1818. Raised a strict Presbyterian, he was educated at the College of New Jersey (Princeton). During the War of 1812 he served as a lieutenant-colonel on the Canadian border. After being elected governor in 1816, Pickens oversaw the construction of many of the internal improvements, including roads and canals, which were then being made in the state. Following his term in office, he moved to Alabama where he helped negotiate a treaty with the Creek Indians. He also acquired a number of tracts of land in Alabama during this period. By the early 1830’s he was living at Halcyon Grove in Edgefield and also owned Oatlands Plantation some seven miles north of town. In 1837 he moved to Mississippi where he died the following year. He was buried beside his father at the Old Stone Church near Clemson.
George McDuffie (1790-1851). Perhaps one of the most influential leaders of nineteenth century America, George McDuffie was the author and principal promoter of the “Nullification Theory,” which postulated that a state had the right to nullify a Federal law with which it disagreed. This theory set the South on a course which ultimately led to Secession. Born and reared in Georgia, McDuffie came to South Carolina as a youth and was quickly recognized as one of the brightest young men of his time. He studied law and became a partner of Eldred Simkins in Edgefield. In 1820 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives where he served for six terms. It was during his tenure in Congress that he gained national fame as an orator and as a vigorous supporter of State’s Rights. He served as Governor from 1834 to 1836 and as United States Senator from 1843 to 1846. Having been wounded in a duel in 1822, McDuffie suffered throughout his life from the wound and ultimately died of it in 1851. He was buried at his wife’s family graveyard in Wedgefield in the High Hills of the Santee.
Pierce Mason Butler (1798-1847). Scion of the famous Butler Family of the Edgefield District, Pierce M. Butler initially pursued a military career, which took him in the 1820’s to Arkansas and Oklahoma as an Indian agent. In 1829 he resigned his commission and returned to South Carolina where he became the President of the Bank of South Carolina. When war broke out with the Seminoles in Florida, Butler volunteered and served as a lieutenant colonel. In 1836 he was elected Governor of the State. In his role as Governor, he advocated universal public education. Following his term as Governor, Butler became U.S. Agent to the Cherokee and Comanche Indians in the Southwest. In 1846 when war broke out with Mexico, Butler was again called on and became Colonel of the Palmetto Regiment. He was mortally wounded on the battlefield at Churubusco in Mexico. He was buried at the Butler family burying ground at Butler Church in what is now Saluda County.
James Henry Hammond (1807-1864): Born in Newberry District to a schoolmaster from New Hampshire, Hammond grew up in relative poverty in South Carolina. He developed an overpowering ambition to succeed financially and politically. Graduating from the South Carolina College in 1825, Hammond went into the practice of law. In 1831 he married Catherine FitzSimmons, daughter of the wealthy Christopher FitzSimmons, thus securing his financial future. In 1835 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives and became Governor of the State in 1842. Following his retirement from public life in 1844, Hammond devoted himself to his planting interests which he constantly expanded. In 1855 he built his mansion, Redcliffe, at his Beech Island plantation in the Edgefield District. In 1857 Hammond returned to public life when he was elected to the United States Senate. While in the Senate he coined the phrase, “Cotton is King.” Hammond resigned from the Senate when South Carolina seceded from the Union. He died at Redcliffe in 1864 and was buried at the Hammond Cemetery in Beech Island.
Francis W. Pickens (1805-1869). Son of Governor Andrew Pickens, grandson of General Andrew Pickens of Revolutionary fame, Francis Pickens came to Edgefield in 1828 to practice law with his father-in-law, Col. Eldred Simkins (1779-`1831). Pickens served in the United States House of Representatives from 1834 to 1843 and in the South Carolina Senate from 1844 to 1845. Active in national Democratic circles, Pickens was offered ambassadorships to England and France, but chose not to accept them. After marrying the beautiful Lucy Petway Holcombe of Texas in 1858, he accepted President Buchanan’s offer to become Ambassador to Russia. In 1860 he resigned his post, returned to South Carolina, and was elected Governor where he faced the daunting challenges of managing the state during the Civil War. Pickens was a wealthy planter who dispensed broad hospitality at Edgewood Plantation, the best known of the antebellum plantations of the Edgefield District. He died at Edgewood in 1869 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Milledge Luke Bonham (1813-1890). Born in the Edgefield District, Milledge Bonham attended the South Carolina College and began the practice of law in Edgefield. He volunteered and served in both the Seminole Campaign in Florida and the Mexican War. Elected to Congress in 1857 following the death of Preston Brooks, Bonham resigned upon the secession of South Carolina in 1860. He was given a commission as Brigadier General in the Confederate army in 1861. Later he served in the Confederate Congress until January, 1863 when he was elected Governor. During his term, Bonham struggled to meet the demands of the Confederate government while providing security for the State against the Union troops who had occupied parts of the low country. During Reconstruction Bonham was actively involved in political affairs and in 1878 was elected Railroad Commissioner, a post which he held until his death in 1890. He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Columbia.
John C. Sheppard (1850-1931). Born in the Edgefield District near Sheppard’s Crossroads some 15 miles north of Edgefield, Sheppard was educated at Bethany Academy and Furman University. Admitted to the bar in 1871, he came to Edgefield to practice where he became active in Democratic politics. He was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1876 and became Speaker in 1877, being one of the youngest men to achieve this honor. He was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1882 and succeeded to the position of Governor in 1886 upon the resignation of Governor Hugh Thompson. A conservative Democrat, he opposed the candidacy of Ben Tillman in 1890 and, in the election of 1892, was Tillman’s opponent. A stalwart citizen, Sheppard actively involved in political, business and community affairs in Edgefield until his death in 1931. He was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Benjamin Ryan Tillman (1847-1918). Born at Chester Plantation some ten miles south of Edgefield, Ben Tillman was the youngest child of a remarkable family noted for violence, brilliance and strong wills. He was educated in the plantation schools and at Bethany Academy. Because he had lost an eye from infection at an early age, he was unable to serve in the War. After the War, he devoted himself to managing part of his mother’s plantation with apparently no thought to politics. However, as a result of the increasingly difficult problems facing farmers in the 1880’s, Tillman became keenly interested in agrarian reform and soon became the champion of South Carolina farmers. In 1890, never having been elected to public office, Tillman was overwhelmingly elected Governor of the state. He served four years as Governor and was then elected to the United States Senate where he served until his death in 1918. Among his principal achievements were the founding of Clemson and Winthrop Colleges and his long service as Chairman of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee. He was buried at Ebenezer Cemetery in Trenton.
John Gary Evans (1863-1942). Scion of the prominent Evans and Gary families of South Carolina, Evans was immersed in politics from an early age. The nephew and favorite of Edgefield General Martin Witherspoon Gary, one of the principal leaders of the 1876 Red Shirt movement, he became a member of the S.C. House of Representatives in 1888 and of the State Senate in 1892. In 1894 Evans was elected Governor where he served until 1897. He was Chairman of the 1895 Constitutional Convention. After the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, Evans was commissioned as a Major and Inspector General in the United States Army. Following the war, he was named Civil Administrator of the City of Havana. He was married to Emily Plume of Waterbury, Connecticut in 1897, and had one daughter, Victoria. Evans lived much of the latter part of his life in Spartanburg. Prior to his death in 1942, he gave his ancestral home, “Oakley Park,” to the Town of Edgefield. He and his wife were buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Strom Thurmond (1902-2003). Son of a prominent political leader of Edgefield, Thurmond developed an early interest in politics. Following his graduation from Clemson College, he taught school and coached athletics. In 1929 he was elected Superintendent of Education of Edgefield County. In that same year he read law in his father’s office and was admitted to the bar. In 1933 he was elected to the State Senate where he served until 1938 when he was elected Circuit Judge. In 1942 following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Thurmond volunteered for service in the Army and participated in the D-Day Invasion. He was one of South Carolina’s most decorated heroes of World War II. In 1946 he was elected Governor of South Carolina and two years later ran for President of the United States on the ticket of the States’ Rights Democratic Party, dubbed the “Dixiecrat Party” by the national media. In 1954, in an unprecedented election, he was elected to the United States Senate on a write-in vote. Thurmond served in the Senate for a total of forty-eight years, becoming the longest serving and oldest member of the Senate. Thurmond died in Edgefield in 2003 at the age of 100 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Other Famous Edgefieldians
When W.W. Ball said of Edgefield, “Edgefield has had more dashing, brilliant, romantic figures, statesmen, orators, soldiers, adventurers and daredevils than any other county of South Carolina, if not of any rural county of America”, he probably had in mind many of the following heroes and villains who colored the town’s vivid history and who made an impact on its political, spiritual and social makeup. Like our Governors, many of the following persons were not just placeholders. They made a significant difference in the way South Carolina and the nation developed. Our famous Edgefieldians follow in chronological order of their birth:
George Galphin (1709-1780). A native of Ireland, this prominent Indian trader came to South Carolina in 1737. In the early 1740’s he established his home at Silver Bluff on the Savannah River at what became the southernmost tip of the Old Edgefield District. He built a trading post there together with a substantial brick home where he dispensed hospitality to prominent visitors, including Henry Laurens and William Bartram. He actively traded with Indians from the Gulf Coast to the Mississippi River, maintaining good relations with both the Creek and Cherokee tribes. He left a wife in Ireland and had three common law wives here, including a White, an African and an Indian, with children by each of these. He remembered all of them in his will. During the Revolution, his sympathies were with the Patriot cause, and he was largely responsible for neutralizing the Creek Indians in the War. He died in December, 1780 leaving a very substantial estate with large landholdings in South Carolina and Georgia. He is believed to have been buried near his home at Silver Bluff.
Lawrence Rambo (1713-1782). One of the early settlers in Edgefield District, Lawrence Rambo played a significant role in the Regulator movement in this part of South Carolina. Of Swedish extraction, Rambo was born in Pennsylvania but migrated to South Carolina in 1765. He purchased land on Horn’s Creek (formerly Nobles Creek) and subsequently acquired several grants for adjacent properties. In 1768 he was one of the founders of Horn’s Creek Church. In the late 1760’s, he, like many law-abiding settlers, was outraged at the lawlessness which had developed in the backcountry and joined with neighbors to form a vigilante group known as “the Regulators,” considered the first vigilante group in American history. Since no law enforcement or courts existed, the Regulators were deemed to be the only way to bring law and order to the backcountry. During the Revolution, Rambo was a Tory, but later his sons joined the Whig (Patriot) militia. Rambo died in 1782 and was presumably buried on his plantation.
Leroy Hammond (1728-1790). Born in Richmond, Virginia, Leroy Hammond moved to Augusta about 1765. In 1771 he moved across the Savannah River and built a home called “New Richmond.” An ardent supporter of the movement for Independence, he served in the 1775 and 1776 Provincial Congresses and in the First General Assembly. Later he joined the Patriot militia, becoming a colonel and rendering heroic service in the Cherokee campaign of 1776 and other Revolutionary battles and skirmishes. After the war, he actively promoted the growing of tobacco, maintained a trading post at his new home on Martintown Road and served as a Judge for the new Edgefield District. In 1787 he was the contractor for Edgefield District’s first courthouse. He died in 1790 and was buried in a Hammond family cemetery on Martintown Road.
William Mylne (1734-1790). Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, to a long line of respected stone mason contractors, William Mylne studied architecture in France and Italy from 1754 to 1758. He returned to Britain in 1759 to begin his life’s work as a contractor. After a large bridge in Edinburgh built by him collapsed, Mylne, facing financial disaster, left for America in 1773. Landing in Charlestown in December of that year, he traveled to Augusta before settling in February, 1774, in a log cabin on Stephens Creek in present-day Edgefield County. Visits to Augusta and a trek up the Savannah to the frontier areas of the Broad River and Fort Charlotte provided Mylne with many interesting observations which he sent back to his family in Scotland in a series of letters, providing us a detailed account of life in colonial Edgefield County and surrounding areas. Mylne left this region at the end of 1774 traveling overland through the colonies to New York and then back to Britain where he landed in September of 1775. He then continued his career as a builder in Dublin, Ireland, where he died in 1790.
Arthur Simkins (1742-1826). A native of the eastern shore of Virginia, Arthur Simkins came to the old Ninety Six District just before the Revolution, settling on Log Creek, some three miles north of the present Town of Edgefield on a plantation which he called “Cedar Fields.” He, perhaps more than any other person from this region, helped form the new town, county, state and nation. A captain in the state militia during the Revolution, his home was burned in 1781 by the Tories. Among other roles, he was a Judge of the County Court, a State legislator, a State Senator, a delegate to the South Carolina Convention to consider the adoption of the Federal Constitution. He was one of the Presidential Electors who elected George Washington as our First President. Often known as the “Father of Edgefield,” he had the vision for developing the Village of Edgefield around the new County Courthouse and spent over four decades making that vision a reality. He also played a major role in founding three Baptist churches (Horn’s Creek, Little Stevens Creek and Edgefield Village). By the time of his death in 1826, he was one of the wealthiest planters in the region and was highly respected. He was buried at the Simkins family cemetery at Cedar Fields, his plantation.
Captain John Ryan (1742-1827). Born in Virginia, John Ryan migrated to the Edgefield District with his parents in 1757. The family settled on Horn’s Creek. When the Revolution broke out, Ryan fought consistently for the cause of American Independence. He was captured and imprisoned in Charleston in 1780 but escaped and came back to the Edgefield area where he resumed his role as a Captain in the militia. Following the Revolution he was a Commissioner for Public Buildings when the first Courthouse and Gaol (Jail) were built. During the decades following, he continuously expanded his planting interests and ultimately owned four large plantations. He and his wife Martha never had children, but it is believed that he fathered a son, Gilderoy, by his slave, Sophia. He freed Gilderoy, gave him 200 acres of land and left a substantial bequest to him in his will. John Ryan died in 1827 and was buried on his Home Place plantation.
John Purves (1746-1792). A native of Scotland, John Purves (sometimes spelled “Purvis”) emigrated to South Carolina by 1770. In that year he obtained a land grant on Turkey Creek in Granville County (now Edgefield County) about fifteen miles northwest of the Town of Edgefield. Apparently well-educated and with significant resources, Purves built a substantial house for the time and was made a Justice of the Peace for the Ninety Six District. In 1775 he, along with nine others from the Ninety Six District, became a member of the Provincial Congress of South Carolina which began the opposition to British rule in the state. He was also given a commission as a captain in the Third Regiment of the state militia. In that same year he married Eliza Ann Pritchard, daughter of James Pritchard, later sheriff of Orangeburg. Their portrait, painted by Henry Benbridge, a Philadelphia portraitist, now hanging in the Winterthur Museum near Wilmington, Delaware, attests to his wealth and sophistication. Later in the Revolutionary War, Purves received promotions to major and then to lieutenant colonel. He also served as adjutant general. He was active in the unsuccessful expedition to Florida, the Battle of Stono, and the siege of Augusta. After the war he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. He died in 1792 and was buried on his Edgefield plantation.
Peter Carnes (1749-1794). Born in New Jersey, Peter Carnes moved to Bladensburg, Maryland where he became an inn-keeper before attaining fame for launching the first manned balloon flight in America in 1784, only seven months after the first balloon flight in France. Afterwards Carnes moved to South Carolina where he was admitted to the bar in Charleston in 1785 and then settled in the newly-established Edgefield County. He practiced law throughout the upcountry as well as in Augusta. As a bold, energetic man with a great sense of humor and a likeable personality, Carnes quickly rose to fame and prosperity. He purchased a plantation in Edgefield which he named “Independent Hill.” This is now part of Mount Vintage Plantation. Carnes also owned a home in Summerville outside Augusta. In 1791 when George Washington visited Augusta, he was named as one of five persons to officially greet the President. In 1794 he died prematurely and is buried behind his home in Augusta.
Samuel Hammond (1757-1842). A nephew of Col. Leroy Hammond, Samuel Hammond was born in Virginia in 1757. Joining the Patriot cause in the American Revolution in 1775, he fought in battles in Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, before moving to South Carolina with family in 1779. He was at the siege of Charleston but refused the terms of parole and continued to fight. He participated in the battles of Blackstocks, Kings Mountain, Cowpens, Guilford Court House, the siege of Augusta and Eutaw Springs, obtaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. After the war he lived in Savannah, was elected to Congress, and was appointed by President Jefferson Governor of Upper Louisiana. In 1824 he returned to South Carolina where he became Surveyor General and then Secretary of State. In his last years he retired to his plantation in the Edgefield District near Hamburg. He died in 1842 and was buried at the family cemetery near the Savannah River. The grave has since been moved to another family cemetery on Martintown Road.
Parson Mason Locke Weems (1759-1825). Born in 1759 in Maryland, Mason Locke Weems studied medicine and theology in England but returned to America to become an Episcopal minister. After marriage, Weems took his ministry on the road, traveling up and down the states of the new nation, and spreading the gospel by means of selling Bibles and other books and giving sermons and playing the fiddle. He was also the author of the widely read Life of Washington and the Life of Francis Marion. Sometime in the first several decades of the nineteenth century he came to the Edgefield District where he befriended many of the leading citizens. While here he wrote several sermons which were later printed as pamphlets telling the stories of two of Edgefield’s most notorious people: Becky Cotton and Ned Findley. Weems died in Beaufort in 1825 and was buried there, but his remains were later removed to his home, “Belle Air,” just outside Dumfries, Virginia.
Becky Cotton: “The Devil in Petticoats” (1765-1807). One of the most famous legends of Edgefield surrounds the life and death of Rebecca “Becky” Cotton (1765-1807), the beautiful seductress who murdered her husband in the late 18th century. She became memorialized as “the Devil in Petticoats” in a widely distributed sermon and pamphlet by the famous itinerate minister and author, Parson Mason Locke Weems. Having lived in Edgefield for a time in the early 19th century, Weems came to know the story of Becky Cotton and seized upon it to write a compelling sermon about the evils of “husband killing.” A native of Edgefield, Becky married John Cotton, a local farmer, about 1784. As a result of what she felt was his cowardice, she came to despise him to the point that, in 1797, she buried an ax in his head while he slept. Soon apprehended for her crime, she was tried by an Edgefield jury. This all-male panel was so overcome by her beauty that it acquitted her despite the certainty of her guilt. One of the jurors, Major Ellis, was so enthralled with her that he proposed to and married her. Some years later, on May 5, 1807, Becky’s brother, Stephen Kennedy, disgusted with his sister’s lack of remorse, and convinced that he would become her next victim, attacked her as she stood chatting on the steps of the Edgefield County Courthouse. At that time, before the present building was built, the Courthouse was in the middle of the Square. Stephen crushed Becky’s skull with a large rock, killing her instantly, then jumped on his horse and rode west. Thus ends the story of Becky Cotton, “the Devil In Petticoats.”
Dr. Moses Waddel (1770-1840). Although Dr. Moses Waddel was never a resident of Edgefield, our book would not be complete without mention of him, for he educated many of those young men who were to lead Edgefield and South Carolina during the nineteenth century. Born in North Carolina to Scotch-Irish immigrants, Waddel was a child prodigy who began teaching at the astounding young age of fourteen. After coming to Georgia and studying for the ministry, he began preaching in Columbia County, Georgia, in 1794 and opened a school, Carmel Academy. Later he moved the school to Vienna on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River and then in 1804 to Willington in the Abbeville District. In 1819 he left to become president of the University of Georgia. He returned to Willington in 1830 where he suffered a stroke in 1836. He died in 1840 in Athens, Georgia and was buried in Willington. Dr. Waddel was universally recognized as one of the most remarkable educators of his time. He inspired many of his students to become highly successful in a broad range of careers. Edgefieldians who studied under Waddel included Eldred Simkins, John Speed Jeter, Abner Landrum, Augustus Baldwin Longstreet, George McDuffie, W. D. Martin, Andrew Pickens Butler, Francis Hugh Wardlaw, Pierce Mason Butler, Francis W. Pickens, Preston S. Brooks and Milledge Luke Bonham.
Billy Porter (aka “Billy the Fiddler”) (1771-1821). Born a slave in Maryland, Billy became a popular entertainer for the antebellum elite in South Carolina and Georgia. He was granted his freedom by his master, Benjamin Porter of Wilkes County, Georgia, in a deed of “manumission” in 1814, with Eldred Simkins and John Jeter of Edgefield acting as the “friends, curators or trustees” to insure that he remained free. Later, in 1819, Eldred Simkins, Edmund Bacon, John Glascock and John Jeter joined together in another deed of manumission to give freedom to Billy’s wife, Fanny. Billy’s widespread reputation as a musician and entertainer of wit and humorous eccentricities was documented in A. B. Longstreet’s short story, “The Dance,” in Georgia Scenes, originally published in 1833. Billy lived in a house on the west side of Buncombe Street, in Edgefield, just across the branch below the Court House.
Edmund Bacon (1776-1826). Erudite and eloquent lawyer, literary enthusiast and charming host, Edmund Bacon was born in Augusta, Georgia, in 1776. Orphaned at an early age, Bacon attended Richmond Academy where he exhibited enormous talent. When George Washington visited Augusta in 1791, Bacon, at the age of fifteen, was selected to deliver the welcoming address. His address was so well-crafted and delivered that Washington was overcome and gave the young man a set of law books which inspired Bacon to pursue a career in law. After practicing in Savannah for some years, Bacon moved to Edgefield in 1807 and remained here for the rest of his life. He was remarkable in his ability to move a jury and to entertain his host of friends. One of his friends, Judge A.B. Longstreet, memorialized Bacon in his collection of short stories, Georgia Scenes, in the character of Ned Brace. Bacon died prematurely in 1826 at the age of fifty and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Henry Shultz (1776-1851). A native of Hamburg, Germany, Henry Shultz arrived in Augusta around 1806 where he was a crew man on a river barge which plied the river from Savannah. In 1813 Shultz embarked on a project to erect a bridge across the Savannah River. The bridge was an immediate success and within a few years made Shultz a wealthy man. Shultz decided to sell his bridge and return to Germany. Unfortunately, when he sold the bridge, he took back a second mortgage for most of his money. The Panic of 1819 occasioned a major economic disruption which resulted in the City of Augusta, which then owned the first mortgage, foreclosing on the bridge, wiping out Shultz’s interest. Shultz was outraged with the City of Augusta over this issue and vowed to get even. In 1822 he established the City of Hamburg on the South Carolina side of the river across from Augusta. Like his bridge, Hamburg was an instant success, taking much of the valuable cotton trade from Augusta. Shultz was unfortunate, however, in some of his other activities. In 1822 he attempted suicide which left him badly disfigured. Several years later, in 1827, he killed a man in a rage of anger and was convicted of murder. He later married a black woman and had a number of children. Shultz died in 1851, a broken man, and was buried, so the legend goes, in his gardens on a bluff overlooking Augusta “standing up with his back to Augusta.”
Eldred Simkins (1779-1831). The youngest son of Edgefield founder Arthur Simkins, Eldred Simkins was educated under Dr. Moses Waddel (1770-1840) and attended Litchfield Law School in Connecticut. After being admitted to the bar in 1805, he opened a law practice in Edgefield which he continued until his death. Simkins served as Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina from 1812 to 1814, as a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1817 to 1821, as a member of the State Senate from 1821 to 1826, and as a member of the State House of Representatives from 1828 to 1829. Simkins was an early classmate of John C. Calhoun who called him “my earliest & best friend.” Perhaps more meaningful in the sweep of history than his public service was Simkins’ constant support of able young men like George McDuffie and Francis Pickens and his role in developing Edgefield Courthouse Village. Drawing upon the vast resources accumulated by his father, he was generous and kind in his support of all public causes. In 1807 he was married to Eliza Hannah Smith, the granddaughter of the Revolutionary hero of Georgia, Elijah Clark. Simkins built his home and law office on Simkins Street immediately north of the Court House Square. Suffering from poor health for a number of years, Simkins died in 1831 and was buried at the family graveyard at Cedar Fields some three miles north of Edgefield.
John Speed Jeter (1779-1847). Born seven miles south of Edgefield in the vicinity of Jeter Baptist Church, John Speed Jeter was educated at Willington under Dr. Moses Waddel (1770-1840) and then read law at Cambridge under Abraham G. Dozier, Esq. Coming to Edgefield in 1811, he commenced the practice of law, was married to Sabra Simkins, the daughter of John Simkins, Esq., and was commissioned a major in the militia. He served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1816 to 1820. In 1820 he was elected solicitor of the southern circuit and served in that role until 1828. He was a delegate to the Nullification Convention in 1832-1833 and voted in favor of the Ordinance of Nullification. He was reelected to the House of Representatives and served from 1834 to 1838. In 1838 he was elected to the State Senate where he served until 1843. He died in 1847 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Christian Breithaupt (1781-1835). Born to a prominent family in Saxony, Germany, Christian Breithaupt came to Edgefield in 1802. He became an American citizen in 1807 and in 1810 moved to Mount Vintage Plantation, about ten miles south of the Town of Edgefield. At this time, a federal Post Office was established at Mount Vintage, and he became the postmaster. In 1817 he bought Mount Vintage from Judge Richard Gantt and developed it into one of the grandest plantations of the Old Edgefield District, having considerable cotton production as well as vineyards and orchards. Breithaupt dispensed broad hospitality at Mount Vintage and cultivated many prominent friends, including Governor George McDuffie and Joel R. Poinsett, the one time Ambassador to Mexico. Perhaps his most enduring legacy was his founding of the first textile mill in this region at Vaucluse on Horse Creek in 1828. Breithaupt died very unexpectedly in 1835 and was buried at Mount Vintage.
Rev. William Bullein Johnson (1782-1862). Born on John’s Island and reared in Georgetown, William Bullein Johnson was perhaps the most significant leader of the Baptist denomination in South Carolina in the 19th century. After graduating from Brown University in 1814, Johnson came to Columbia where he served as chaplain of the University of South Carolina and then founded the First Baptist Church of Columbia. He later went to Greenville for a time and then, in 1830 came to Edgefield where he assumed the positions of pastor of the Village Baptist Church and headmaster of the Edgefield Female Academy. While in Edgefield, he played a major role in the formation of both the U.S. Baptist Missionary (Triennial) Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention. He is the only man to serve as the president of both organizations. He is remembered best for being the Founder and First President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Because of his daughter’s failing health, Johnson left Edgefield in 1853 for Anderson where he served as chancellor of the Johnson Female Academy. He died in 1862 and was buried in Anderson.
Dr. Abner Landrum (1785-1859). Medical doctor, planter, inventor, publisher and founder of the Edgefield pottery tradition, Abner Landrum was the son of the Reverend Samuel Landrum, a Baptist minister and missionary who came down from North Carolina in the 1770’s to the Ninety Six District. Educated by Dr. Moses Waddel, Landrum developed an early interest in science and pottery. Beginning in 1809 he founded the village of Pottersville where he developed a large pottery industry. Some years later, in the 1820’s when the tariff issue was becoming a major national issue, Landrum began to publish the Edgefield Hive, a pro-Unionist newspaper, which put him at odds with most of the Edgefield establishment. When the nullification issue became so acute in 1831, Landrum accepted the invitation to move to Columbia and edit the Unionist newspaper there, The Carolinian. He lived in that city until his death in 1859 and was buried there.
Whitfield Brooks (1790-1851). A prominent lawyer and Commissioner of Equity for the Edgefield District, Whitfield Brooks played an important role in the development of the District and its Courthouse Village during the formative years of the antebellum period. The son of Col. Zachariah Smith Brooks of Big Creek and Elizabeth Butler, the daughter of Captain James Butler who was killed in the Cloud’s Creek Massacre, Whitfield was graduated from the South Carolina College in 1812. He studied law in Edgefield with Col. Eldred Simkins and was admitted to the bar in 1815. He was appointed Commissioner of Equity in 1814 and served in that capacity until 1832, when he resigned due to ill health caused by migraine headaches. In 1818 he married Miss Mary Parsons Carroll of Charleston and built a house on the Cambridge Road (now Buncombe Street) in Edgefield Village. The Brookses were the parents of five children (Preston Smith, Whitfield Butler, James Carroll, John Hampden and Ellen who married General R.G.M. Dunovant) and played a major role in the development of local institutions, especially Trinity Episcopal Church and the Edgefield Village Academy. For many years he kept a diary which provides historians with a rich glimpse into life in antebellum Edgefield. In 1849 Col. and Mrs. Brooks retired to their plantation, Roselands, near Ninety Six, leaving their eldest son, Preston in possession of the Village residence. Whitfield died in 1851, a respected and much-beloved man, and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Augustus Baldwin Longstreet (1790-1870). One of the most influential intellectuals of the antebellum South, Augustus Baldwin Longstreet spent several very formative years in the Edgefield District before going on to a career as a lawyer, judge, author, Methodist minister, and president of Emory University, Centenary College in Louisiana, the University of Mississippi, and the South Carolina College. Born in Augusta, he lived on a farm in Edgefield District from 1800 to 1805 where he enjoyed “the happiest days of my life.” After the family moved back to Augusta, he attended Richmond Academy where his roommate was George McDuffie. Later, he studied at Willington Academy, Yale University and the Litchfield Law School. Longstreet returned to Augusta in 1815 and began the practice of law before entering the ministry and becoming president of the educational institutions mentioned above. He was the author of Georgia Scenes, a collection of short stories which recounts the humorous antics of Edgefield lawyer, Edmund Bacon. He died in 1870 in Oxford, Mississippi.
John Bauskett (1794-1867). Originally from Newberry District, Bauskett studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1817. After practicing briefly in Newberry, he came to the Edgefield District in the mid 1820’s and lived here until 1853 when he moved to Columbia. He was active in the practice of law but was also involved in a range of business and political activities. He was an original investor in the textile mill at Vaucluse with Christian Breithaupt and George McDuffie. Later he played a major role in the development of Hamburg. Bauskett had considerable land holdings in Edgefield County, including a 3,400 acre plantation on the Savannah River and Stevens Creek. He served in the South Carolina House of Representatives and the South Carolina Senate from Edgefield. He was also a delegate to the Nullification Convention in 1832-1833 and voted in favor of the Nullification Ordinance. He was married to Sophia Creyon, a devout Roman Catholic, and became a member of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Columbia. He died in Columbia in 1867 and was buried in the cemetery at St. Peter’s.
Andrew Pickens Butler (1796-1857). Son of General William Butler of Revolutionary fame, “Pickens” Butler, as he was known, was a lawyer, a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, a Circuit Judge and a United States Senator. He was educated by Dr. Moses Waddel at Willington Academy and at the South Carolina College from which he was graduated in 1817. He read law and was admitted to practice in Columbia. Following the death of his brother, Major George Butler, he removed to Edgefield where he practiced with his brother-in-law, Waddy Thompson, and Nathan L. Griffin. He was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1824 and served there until 1833 when the legislature elected him a Circuit Judge. In 1846 he was elected to the United States Senate where he served until his death in 1857. In 1856, he came to national attention when Senator Sumner of Massachusetts insulted him personally in a speech, an act for which Butler’s cousin, Congressman Preston Brooks of Edgefield, chastised Sumner with a severe caning. Judge Butler lived at “Stonelands” approximately three miles north of Edgefield near Center Springs and was buried at the Butler family burying ground at Butler Church in what is now Saluda County.
William Francis Durisoe (1798-1874). Born in New Orleans of French parents who had escaped from the slave revolt in San Domingo, Durisoe came to Savannah as a child where he was apprenticed to a printer. After running away from his master, he came to Edgefield and became a typesetter on the Hive, a newspaper owned by Dr. Abner Landrum. In 1839 he and Pierre LaBorde purchased the Edgefield Advertiser where he continued to work for twenty years. As an editor, he expressed his opinions forcefully and promoted his candidates for political office vigorously. He brought into the newspaper a number of associates, including W. C. Moragne, Arthur Simkins and John Edmund Bacon. In 1856 he installed power presses in the newspaper office. Later that year he sold the newspaper to his son and Elijah Keese. He served as Ordinary (Probate Judge) from 1859 until 1868. He died in 1874 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Dave Drake (1800-1879?). Born a slave around 1800, Dave was associated at an early age with Dr. Abner Landrum. He worked in Dr. Landrum’s pottery and also assisted Dr. Landrum with his newspaper, The Hive. It was at this time that he learned to read and write. He was later owned by another potter, Reuben Drake, whose name he adopted. He became well known for producing large pieces of pottery, up to forty gallons in size, and often inscribed his pottery with his name, date and sometimes poems. Dave produced prolifically in the 1850’s and 1860’s, operating at that time at the pottery of Lewis Miles and his father-in-law, the Reverend John Landrum, who was Dr. Abner Landrum’s older brother. Dave was still producing pottery in 1870 and died sometime after that date. It is not known where he was buried.
William Gregg (1800-1867). Born in Delaware, Gregg was apprenticed in the watchmaking, jewelry and silversmithing businesses. In 1824 Gregg came to Columbia and opened up what became a very successful jewelry business. Five years later, he married Marina Jones of the Ridge in the Edgefield District. In 1837 he invested in the Vaucluse Manufacturing Company, a textile mill on Horse Creek, becoming the manager of that operation. The next year he moved to Charleston and once again entered the silversmithing business, a career for which he is widely remembered. In 1845 Gregg established the Graniteville Company and built the granite mill several miles downstream from Vaucluse. By the time of the War Between the States this mill was the largest textile manufacturing operation in the South. Gregg was also quite interested in agriculture, becoming the first person in this area to grow peaches commercially for the northern markets. Gregg died in 1867 and was buried in Graniteville. His remains were later moved to Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston.
Francis Hugh Wardlaw (1800-1861). A native of Abbeville District, Francis Hugh Wardlaw was educated at the local academy and afterwards at the famous Willington Academy of Dr. Moses Waddel. Graduating from Willington in 1816, he entered the South Carolina College from which he was graduated in 1818 with the first honor. He began to study law in Abbeville with Mr. A. Bowie and then opened a law office in Edgefield and practiced at different times in partnership with Whitfield Brooks, William Garrett, D. L. Wardlaw and W. C. Moragne. From 1820 to 1836 he also edited The Carolinian, a weekly newspaper in Edgefield. He served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1828 to 1834. In 1850 he was elected Chancellor of the Court of Equity and in 1859 was elevated to the Court of Appeals. In 1860, as a member of the South Carolina Secession Convention, he authored the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession. His home in Edgefield was Holmewood where he lived from 1846 until his death. Wardlaw died in Columbia in 1861 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Dr. Maximilian LaBorde (1804-1873). Born in Edgefield in 1804, Maximilian LaBorde was the son of Pierre LaBorde, an immigrant from Bordeaux, France, by way of the French colony of Santo Domingo (now Haiti), who had become Edgefield’s first merchant when he came to Edgefield in 1791. LaBorde attended the Edgefield Village Academy and then entered the South Carolina College from which he was graduated in 1821. He studied law in Edgefield but then studied medicine at the medical college in Charleston, graduating with its first class in 1826. He practiced medicine in Edgefield for several years but then turned to public affairs. He was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1836. In that same year he co-founded the Edgefield Advertiser with General James Jones. In 1839 he was elected Secretary of State of South Carolina. In 1840 he moved to Columbia where in 1842 he commenced his long career as a professor at the South Carolina College. He wrote the History of the South Carolina College (1859). He died in 1873 and was buried in the Churchyard of Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbia.
James Jones (1805-1865). The son of pioneer settlers of Ridge Spring, Jones was educated at the Edgefield Village Academy and the South Carolina College from which he was graduated in 1824. After coming to Edgefield, he read law and practiced for a number of years. In 1836 he co-founded the Edgefield Advertiser with Maximilian LaBorde. Later that year he volunteered for the Seminole War in Florida. Upon his return he accepted the position of manager of the Vaucluse Textile Mill which he later purchased. In 1842 the legislature elected him commissioner for the erection of the new State House. He was also named the first Chairman of the Board of the Citadel, a position which he held for twenty-two years. He served as a Colonel and later Quartermaster General of South Carolina during the Civil War. He died unexpectedly in 1865 and was buried in the Jones family cemetery in Ridge Spring.
James Butler Bonham (1807-1836). Like William Barrett Travis who had moved from South Carolina to Alabama and became a lawyer, Bonham also went to Alabama and practiced law. When Texas began its struggle for independence, he joined many other Southerners in going to take part in that heroic battle. Bonham joined forces with his childhood neighbor, Travis, at the Alamo, having been given the rank of lieutenant. When Santa Anna besieged the Alamo, Bonham was sent out to secure reinforcements. After traveling all over Texas for some days without finding any who could come to the aid of the besieged Texans, Bonham returned, rushing through the Mexican troops who were surrounding the old mission to what was his certain death. When the final assault came, Bonham was killed along with all of the other defenders of the Alamo. The bodies of all of these men were burned by the Mexicans.
William Barrett Travis (1809-1836). Born in the Edgefield District, William Barrett Travis moved with his family in 1818 to Conecuh County, Alabama. Acquiring a good education, he became a lawyer and political leader. In 1835 he removed to Texas, settling in the small community of San Antonio. When President Santa Anna invaded Texas to subdue the mostly American immigrants who were resisting Mexican authority, he headed first to San Antonio where Travis, with the rank of Colonel, was in command of the Texan militia. Travis retreated to the Alamo, a former mission, where he refused to surrender. After some days, the Mexicans stormed the Alamo, ultimately killing all the defenders, including Colonel Travis. The bodies of the defenders of the Alamo were burned by the Mexicans. The Alamo became a symbol of the Texans’ defiance of Mexican authority and played a major role in the securing of Texas independence.
James Parsons Carroll (1809-1883). Born in Charleston in 1809 of Irish immigrants, Carroll came to Edgefield in 1818 to live with his older sister, Mary Parsons Carroll Brooks, the wife of Col. Whitfield Brooks. After being educated at the Edgefield Academy and the South Carolina College, he read law in the office of his brother-in-law, Mr. Brooks, and was admitted to the bar in 1830. He served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1832-1833 and in the State Senate from 1853-1854 and from 1858-1859. He was elected Chancellor of the Court of Equity in 1859 and served in that capacity until 1868. In 1860 he was a signer of the Ordinance of Secession. He married Eliza Anciaux Berrien, daughter of James Macpherson Berrien of Savannah, former U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Senator, in 1841 and built “Carroll Hill” on Buncombe Street in Edgefield the following year. An able lawyer and jurist, Carroll moved to Columbia in 1860 to assume his position as Chancellor. In 1883, at the age of seventy-two, while vacationing at Caesar’s Head, he was bitten by a spider and died. He was buried in Trinity Churchyard in Columbia. Louis T. Wigfall (1816-1874). Born in the southern part of the Edgefield District, Wigfall studied at the Universities of Virginia and South Carolina. He served in the Seminole War in Florida and then returned to Edgefield in 1839 to practice law. More interested in politics than law, and very contentious in personality, Wigfall began a vendetta against Edgefield’s Brooks family which ultimately resulted in two duels and one killing. In 1846, after this encounter and some resulting financial problems, Wigfall left Edgefield for Texas where he renewed his interest in politics, becoming a State Representative, a State Senator, a United States Senator, a Confederate General and a Confederate Senator. In April, 1861, impulsively and without authorization, he obtained the surrender of Major Anderson at the Battle of Fort Sumter. Also, during the latter years of the War, he vigorously opposed President Davis. In commenting on Wigfall, the South Carolina diarist, Mary Boykin Chesnut stated, “It seems incredible, but Edgefield and Texas makes one stouthearted enough for anything!” After the War, Wigfall lived for a time in England and then moved to Baltimore before returning to Texas where he died in 1874. He was buried in Galveston.
Arthur Simkins (1819-1863). Son of Colonel Eldred Simkins (1779-1831) and grandson of Edgefield founder Arthur Simkins (1742-1826), Arthur Simkins is best remembered for being the Editor of The Edgefield Advertiser during the turbulent years leading up to the War Between the States. He attended the South Carolina College from which he was graduated in 1836. He studied law and practiced briefly but spent more of his time as a planter. In 1846 he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives where he served for two years. In 1851 he began editing The Edgefield Advertiser where, for twelve years, he advocated community improvements and brought statewide recognition to the newspaper. He was elected to the State Senate in 1862 but died of apoplexy in 1863 at the age of forty-four. Simkins was a very social character, a lover of music and the classics, and the life of every party. Family lore says that he died with his mouth under the faucet of a keg of brandy. He was buried at Willowbrook Cemetery.
Preston S. Brooks (1819-1857). Born in Edgefield Village, the son of Whitfield and Mary Parsons Carroll Brooks, Preston Brooks was educated at Mount Enon, Willington and the South Carolina College. Although he became a lawyer, he practiced only briefly, preferring instead the life of a planter. When the war with Mexico broke out, Brooks volunteered, becoming Captain of Company D of the Palmetto Regiment. After the war he became a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and then was elected to the United States Congress. In 1856 Brooks became nationally known when he caned United States Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts on the floor of the Senate as a result of Sumner’s vitriolic abolitionist speech against South Carolina and Edgefield’s Senator A. P. Butler. This was perhaps the most galvanizing event that led to the Civil War. Brooks died the following year (1857) in Washington and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
General Robert G. M. Dunovant (1821-1898). Born in Chester, South Carolina, Robert Gill Mills Dunovant was educated at the South Carolina College and the Medical College of South Carolina. At the outset of the War with Mexico in 1846, he raised a Company from Chester and eventually assumed command of the Palmetto Regiment. After the War he returned to South Carolina where he married Sophia Ellen Brooks of Edgefield, sister of Preston S. Brooks. He returned to military life in 1855 when he was appointed Adjutant and Inspector General of the South Carolina Militia. In 1860 he and his family moved to Carroll Hill in Edgefield where the Dunovant family remained for more than 130 years. Dunovant served as a member of the Secession Convention and was in command of the South Carolina troops at Fort Moultrie during the Battle of Fort Sumter. After being passed over, Dunovant resigned from the Army and returned to Edgefield. He lived in retirement for the rest of his life where he was regarded with respect in spite of his eccentric and irascible nature. He died in 1898 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
General James A. Longstreet (1821-1904). Born in the Edgefield District, James A. Longstreet attended West Point where he was graduated in 1842. Participating in both Indian Wars and the Mexican War, he gained the respect of his colleagues. At the outset of the War Between the States, Longstreet was named Lieutenant General. He served in many of the important battles and, along with Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, was considered the most important of the Confederate Generals. Although they differed somewhat on military strategy, he was very close to Lee who called him “my old War Horse.” At the battle of Gettysburg, Longstreet argued that Lee should not attack, but when Lee decided to go forward, he gave his full support. During Reconstruction when he became a Republican and was given an important Federal post by his old friend, President Grant, he was roundly condemned as a traitor. By the time of his death, however, he had regained much of the respect of the South. He died in 1904 and was buried in Gainesville, Georgia.
Prince Rivers (1823-1887). Born in the Beaufort District, the slave of Henry Middleton Stuart, Rivers was literate and an expert coachman. When the Sea Islands were occupied by federal troops, the Stuart family refugeed to the Edgefield District, bringing Rivers with them. Rivers “borrowed” his master’s horse, returned to Beaufort and joined the Union army. In 1864 he was one of four black delegates from South Carolina to the Republican National Convention in Baltimore. After the War he returned to Edgefield County where he became the Chairman of the Republican Party, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Rivers played a major role in the establishment of Aiken County. He was also named Mayor of Hamburg, second in command of the State Militia with the rank of major general and Trial Justice. In 1876 he was involved in the legal maneuverings preceding the Hamburg Riot but left before the fighting began. Throughout his life he was known for his erect bearing and polished demeanor. He died in Aiken in 1887 and was buried in Columbia.
George D. Tillman (1826-1901). The second son of Edgefield’s famous Tillman family and the older brother of Pitchfork Ben Tillman, George Tillman was brilliant, but erratic, boisterous and colorful. After beginning the practice of law in Edgefield in 1848, he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1854 where he served until 1856 when he shot and killed a young mechanic over a card game. He fled the District, going to California and then joined William Walker’s unsuccessful effort to conquer Nicaragua. Returning to Edgefield in 1858, he surrendered to the authorities and was sentenced to two years for manslaughter. He served as a private in the Confederate Army during the War, thus earning a pardon. He was elected to the State House of Representatives in 1864 and to the State Senate in 1865. In 1879 he was elected to Congress where he served for twelve years. He died in 1901 and was buried at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Clark’s Hill, South Carolina.
John Edmund Bacon (1827-1897). Born in Edgefield, John Edmund Bacon was the grandson of Edmund Bacon (1776-1826), the celebrated lawyer. He was educated at the South Carolina College from which he was graduated in 1852. He married the daughter of Governor Pierce Mason Butler, who tragically died the following year. Initially Bacon became an editor of The Edgefield Advertiser but soon gave up this career to study law and was admitted to the bar in 1854. When Francis Pickens became Minister to Russia in 1858, Bacon was named his Secretary of Legation. While in Russia he married Pickens’ daughter Rebecca. In 1861 he volunteered for service in the Confederate Army attaining the rank of Major. After the war he returned to Edgefield to practice law and was soon named Judge. In 1885 President Grover Cleveland appointed Bacon Ambassador to Paraguay and Uruguay. He returned to Columbia where he lived until his death in 1897. He was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
James T. Bacon (1830-1909). For generations of Edgefieldians, James T. Bacon was the “heartbeat of Edgefield,” having served as editor of The Edgefield Advertiser and then the Edgefield Chronicle for more than half a century. Born in 1830, Bacon was the grandson of the famous Edgefield lawyer, Edmund Bacon (1776-1826). He began writing for The Edgefield Advertiser in the 1850’s and continued until 1885. During the Reconstruction Period, he wrote fearlessly and was imprisoned for his editorial stance. In 1885 he became editor of the new Edgefield Chronicle where he worked until his death in 1909. Bacon’s love of Edgefield was evident in almost every page he wrote. A gentleman born, he was a finely molded figure who walked around the village clad in a flowing cape and a shabby black silk top-hat. Never married, Bacon lived in the old Bacon home at the corner of Simkins and Wigfall Streets with his mother and later with his sister and nephew. He was the organist at Trinity Episcopal Church for more than half a century. He died in 1909 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Martin Witherspoon Gary (1831-1881). A genuine Confederate hero, leading many forces in many battles, rising in rank from Captain to Major General, Martin W. Gary was born in Cokesbury, South Carolina, and educated at the South Carolina College and Harvard College. In 1854 he came to Edgefield where he read law. He was much beloved by his men and greatly respected by his fellow officers for his leadership skills and personal courage. At the end of the War, Gary was with Lee at Appomattox but refused to surrender, escaping through the ranks of the Federal Army. On his way south he met President Davis and the Confederate Cabinet who had evacuated the Capital. Gary escorted them as far as Cokesbury where the party stayed overnight at Gary’s mother’s home. Afterwards Gary returned to Edgefield where he resumed his practice of law. He continued to fight the Reconstruction government and in 1876 was instrumental in winning the election for the Democratic Party. Gary was elected to the State Senate but was denied a seat in the U.S. Senate which many of his supporters thought he deserved. He died unexpectedly in 1881 at the age of 50. He was known as “the Bald Eagle of the Confederacy.” He lived during his last years at Oakley Park and was buried at Tabernacle Cemetery in Cokesbury.
W. H. Timmerman (1832-1908). Born in the northern part of Edgefield County, Washington Hodges Timmerman was educated at the South Carolina Medical College. In 1854 he began the practice of medicine near the present community of Eureka. He enlisted in the Confederate Army and fought throughout the War. Following the War, he returned to his home and practiced medicine for many years. He was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives (1882-1883 and 1890-1891) and to the State Senate (1891-1894). During this period he was also active in the Edgefield Farmers Association. In 1893 he succeeded to the Lieutenant Governor’s office where he served until 1896. He was elected Treasurer of South Carolina in 1897 and served until 1901. Following an unsuccessful bid for Governor in 1902, he retired from public life. He died in 1908 and is buried in the family cemetery near Eureka. He is the grandfather of South Carolina Governor George Bell Timmerman (1912-1994).
Lucy Holcombe Pickens (1832-1899). Sometimes known as “the Queen of the Confederacy,” Lucy Petway Holcombe was born to a wealthy and aristocratic family and grew up near Marshall, Texas. Having received a good education, Lucy developed a keen intellect which she employed at the age of only twenty-two to write a novel. In 1858, the beautiful and vivacious Lucy met Francis W. Pickens, a wealthy planter and politician from Edgefield. The fifty-three year old Pickens pursued and married the twenty-six year old Lucy that same year. Shortly afterwards the couple left for Russia where Pickens had been appointed U.S. Ambassador. After Lucy became pregnant, Czar Alexander II invited her to live in the Winter Palace for the birth of the child. The Czarina named the daughter “Douschka,” which means “my darling” in Russian. In 1860 the Pickenses returned to South Carolina where Lucy’s popularity was of considerable help after Pickens was elected governor. This was demonstrated by Lucy’s picture being put on the Confederate $100 bill. The couple returned to their Edgefield plantation, “Edgewood” once Pickens’ term as governor was completed. After Pickens’ death in 1869, Lucy remained at Edgewood where she was widely known for her hospitality and charm. She died in 1899 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Phillip A. Eichelberger (1833-1873). Born in the Lexington District in 1833, Phillip Eichelberger moved to the Edgefield District and married Margaret Hobbs in 1860. His home on the west side of Town at the corporate limits is still standing. He owned considerable property by 1860, including several plantations and eighty slaves in both Lexington and Edgefield Districts. He served in the Confederate Army but resigned in August of 1862 because of a “debilitating disease” known as Erysipelas. After the war Eichelberger became a Republican. He was embraced by the Republican leaders and appointed to the positions of census taker and trial justice. However, as a “scalawag”, Eichelberger became bitterly hated by the native white population and was even burned in effigy on the Town Square in a mock ceremony in 1869. Although documentary evidence is scarce, it is believed that Eichelberger played a part in promoting the idea of a “Promised Land” in Edgefield County in which freedmen were to be given forty acres and a mule. This land was to be near his home, an area which is still known locally as “Promised Land.” During the years of Reconstruction he was suspected of corruption and became a bitter enemy of the Freedman leader, Lawrence Cain. In April of 1873 he was arrested in Columbia for “defalcation” (misappropriation of funds) but died the next month before he could be tried.
Matthew Calbraith Butler (1836-1909). The scion of the distinguished Butler family of the Old Edgefield District, Matthew Calbraith Butler provided remarkable leadership for nearly half a century. After being educated at the South Carolina College, M. C. Butler came to Edgefield to practice law. In 1858 he married Maria Pickens, the daughter of Francis W. Pickens. When the War broke out, Butler joined the Confederate Army where he rose from regimental captain to major general in command of a division. He participated in most of the major campaigns and battles in Virginia, serving with distinction and repeatedly demonstrating his courage and leadership on the battlefield. In 1876, at the end of the difficult period of Reconstruction, Butler joined with Edgefield’s Martin Witherspoon Gary and Columbia’s Wade Hampton to restore the Democratic Party to power in South Carolina. The following year, in 1877, Butler was elected to the United States Senate where he served until 1895. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, President McKinley commissioned Butler as a Major General in the United States Army. Butler died in 1909 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Alexander Bettis (1836-1895). Born a slave on the Widow Jones’ plantation near Horn’s Creek Church, Alexander Bettis was taught to read by his owner and used this knowledge to become a leader of his race in the period following the War Between the States. During the War, he had been licensed to preach to the slaves by the First Baptist Church at Edgefield. Following the War when the newly-emancipated freedmen were eager to have their own churches, Bettis founded more than forty Baptist Churches throughout the Edgefield District. He organized these churches into the Mt. Canaan Association which enabled him to better manage them. In 1881 he used this organization to create a school for Negroes which became known as Bettis Academy. This institution had a major impact over many generations in Edgefield County. In a time of considerable racial friction, Bettis used his influence with his race to urge cooperation and accommodation with the white race. He died in 1895 and is buried at Mt. Canaan Church.
Lawrence Cain (1845-1884). Born a slave in the Edgefield District, Lawrence Cain, a mulatto, became a farmer, teacher and political leader of Edgefield during Reconstruction, providing balanced and impartial leadership. One of the founders of Macedonia Church in 1868, he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in that year and again in 1870. In 1872 he was elected to the State Senate where he served until 1876. He voted twice for the impeachment of the Republican Governor Scott, earning the praise of the white Democratic leadership of the County. During his service in the General Assembly, Cain demonstrated remarkable ability in his speeches and his legislative proposals. In 1873 he served in the State Militia and also began the study of law at the University of South Carolina where he received his degree in 1876. He was defeated in his reelection campaign for Senate in 1876 by Martin W. Gary. Following the ascendancy of the state Democratic leadership, he served as Collector of the Internal Revenue Service. He contracted tuberculosis and died in Columbia in 1884. He was buried at Macedonia Church in Edgefield.
Thomas John Adams (1846-1902). Born in the Limestone Community of Edgefield County, Thomas Adams was educated in the neighborhood schools. In 1871 at the age of fifteen, he ran away from home and joined the Confederate Light Guards, fighting throughout the War. In 1865 he resumed his education at Union College in Schnectady, New York. Two years later he went with a delegation from Edgefield to Brazil to explore the possibility of emigrating there, but returned after six months. He then entered Erskine College and later the University of Virginia. In 1871 he was admitted to the bar and in 1874 he became the law partner of John Edmund Bacon. After the two law partners purchased The Edgefield Advertiser in 1874, Adams gave up the law practice and devoted himself to The Advertiser. In 1879 he purchased Bacon’s interest, becoming the sole owner of that newspaper. As a journalist, Adams supported the Red Shirt movement and Ben Tillman, but sought to bring about peace and compromise between the state’s political factions in the 1890’s. In his personal life he was somewhat shy and aloof in manner and did not mix well with the community. In 1902 he suffered a stroke and died. He was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Paris Simkins (1849-1930). Born a slave, Paris Simkins became an important leader of the Republican Party during Reconstruction. He was the son of Arthur Simkins, editor of The Edgefield Advertiser, and Charlotte, Simkins’ slave. During the Civil War, Simkins served as a barber for the soldiers. He was present at a number of battles, including Gettysburg, and ministered to wounded soldiers. Following the War he returned to Edgefield where he continued as a barber, participated in the founding of Macedonia Church, and became involved in Republican politics. In 1872 he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives and served until 1876. While there he was made Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. He entered the South Carolina School of Law from which he was graduated in 1876. In the election of 1876, after being intimidated and kept from voting, Simkins lost to John C. Sheppard. He returned to Edgefield where he resumed his business as barber and store owner. He never actively practiced law. He lived until 1930 and was buried at Macedonia Church.
William Arthur Reynolds (1850-1938): A farmer from the Liberty Hill section of the county, William Arthur Reynolds made one of the largest charitable gifts in the history of Edgefield by donating $27,000 in 1930 for the erection of a new home for the poor citizens of the county. Edgefield County had a long history of caring for the poor dating back to the early 1800’s, but by 1930 the County’s “Poor House” was very deteriorated. The new home constructed with Reynolds’ money and subsequently known as Reynolds Memorial Home, was located four miles north of Edgefield. It provided a safe and stable environment for needy people for nearly a half-century. Reynolds was born to an old family of the county and devoted his entire life to farming and business interests in Edgefield and Greenwood Counties. He was a bachelor with many nieces and nephews who survived him. He is buried at Gilgal Baptist Church.
John Rutledge Abney (1850-1927). Born in the part of Edgefield District that later became Saluda County, John R. Abney was educated in the local academies and at Wofford College where he excelled. Upon graduation in 1870 he came to Edgefield and studied law with LeRoy F. Youmans. He was admitted to the bar in 1871 and practiced with Thomas P. Magrath. In 1876 he took part in the Red Shirt campaign and was elected solicitor, a position which he held for three years. He resigned in 1880 and went to Germany where he studied at Bonn University. In 1881 he came back to New York where he embarked on the practice of law, ultimately gaining a lucrative practice, specializing in the cotton industry. He was married to Miss Mary Pendleton, daughter of a prominent Senator from Ohio and granddaughter of Francis Scott Key, author of the Star Spangled Banner. Upon his death in 1827, Abney left his valuable personal library to Edgefield and was buried here in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Daniel Augustus Tompkins (1851-1914). Engineer, industrialist and vocal leader of the New South, D. A. Tompkins was born nine miles north of the Town of Edgefield. He was the son of Dr. DeWitt Clinton Tompkins, a wealthy planter and physician. Educated at the South Carolina College and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, Tompkins focused his career on the development of industrial activities in the South. In 1882 Tompkins moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he spent the remainder of his life. He was the father of the cotton seed oil industry, developing the technology to utilize this previously unused by-product of cotton planting. He also designed and built over 200 textile mills across the South. Tompkins was passionate about his belief that the South needed to industrialize. He founded the Charlotte Observer newspaper and used this organ to proclaim his industrial mission. In spite of his far-flung industrial activities, Tompkins remained devoted to Edgefield and invested heavily in the town over many decades. After a distinguished career, Tompkins died in 1914 at the age of 63 and was buried in Charlotte.
Milledge Lipscomb Bonham (1854-1943). Born in the Wigfall-Bonham house on Main Street, Milledge Lipscomb Bonham was the son of Governor Milledge Luke Bonham (1813-1890) and Ann Patience Griffin Bonham. As a child he lived at Darby and also at Holmewood before his family moved to Columbia. He was educated in the schools of Edgefield and Columbia and was a student at the Carolina Military Institute. He studied law with Colonel Robert Aldrich at Barnwell and was admitted to the bar in 1877. He lived and practiced law in Ninety Six, Newberry and Abbeville before permanently locating to Anderson. He was elected Circuit Judge in 1924, elevated to the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1931 and named Chief Justice in 1940. Throughout his life, he was always fond of Edgefield and wrote several articles and speeches about his early life here. He died in 1943 and was buried in Anderson.
Agatha Abney Woodson (1859-1952). Born in 1859, Agatha Abney Woodson, the daughter of Colonel Joseph Abney (1824-1870) and his wife Susan Miller Abney, grew up in Edgefield. In 1879 she was married to Rev. Tucker Everett Woodson, a Virginian some years her elder. They had eight children. After her husband became incapacitated and moved to a veterans home in Virginia, Mrs. Woodson supported her family by taking in sewing and assisting others with genealogical research. She was an active member of the Edgefield First Baptist Church, the Old 96 Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Women’s Missionary Union. In 1939 she became the founder of the Edgefield County Historical Society. She died in 1952 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Alfred W. Nicholson (1861-1945). Born a slave in the neighborhood of Pleasant Grove Church north of Edgefield, Alfred Nicholson is thought to be the son of Albert Rhett Nicholson (1843-1916), scion of a prominent family of the county who went on to become the long-time superintendent of education for Edgefield County. Alfred Nicholson was chosen by Pleasant Grove to be groomed as a leader for the new school organized by the Reverend Alexander Bettis. He was sent to the Schofield Normal School in Aiken and then to Atlanta University where he excelled. He returned to teach at Bettis Academy and later became principal. After the death of Alexander Bettis he was made president in 1900 and served in that position until 1945. He was very successful in managing the school and particularly in raising funds for operations. Like Bettis, he was an “accommodationist” in race relations and was extremely successful in gaining support for his school and his people. In 1913 Nicholson authored a book, The Life and Labors of Rev. Alexander Bettis. Nicholson’s wife, Edna Cohen, was his lifelong helper and supporter. He died in 1945 and was buried on the campus of Bettis Academy.
Thomas Hobbs Rainsford (1861-1932). Descended from a family of planters in the Horn’s Creek section of the County, Thomas Hobbs Rainsford received his education at Richmond Academy in Augusta, Washington and Lee University in Virginia, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Although educated as an engineer, Rainsford returned to Edgefield where he devoted his life to farming, politics and banking. He was married in 1889 to Martha Juliette “Mattie” Nicholson, daughter of General Benjamin Edwin Nicholson and Elizabeth Hughes Nicholson of Cedar Grove. In recognition of his leadership of the farmers’ movement in the 1880’s, he was invited to give the opening address to the Interstate Farmers Association Convention in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1889. He served in the South Carolina House of Representatives for four terms (1894-1898 and 1900-1904) and for one term in the South Carolina Senate (1908-1912). He was a Vice President and member of the Board of Directors of the Bank of Edgefield, Vice President of the Farmers Bank and Chairman of the Board of Managers of the Edgefield Branch of the Peoples Bank of South Carolina. He died in 1932 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
John William Thurmond (1862-1934). Born in the Meriwether section of Edgefield County, Will Thurmond was educated at Curryton Academy and the University of South Carolina before reading law with the Sheppard Brothers. Admitted to the bar in 1888, he served successively as County Attorney, State Representative and Solicitor. In 1897 while serving as Solicitor, Thurmond shot and killed a Columbia drummer during a political argument. He claimed self-defense and was acquitted. In 1906 he was elected Chairman of the State Democratic Convention. In 1915 he was appointed United States Attorney for the Western District of South Carolina. Will Thurmond was remembered by Southern historian Francis Butler Simkins as “the most popular man in [Edgefield] for forty years,” and as one who exercised enormous power behind the scenes in all facets of life in Edgefield. He was the father of six children, including Governor and United States Senator Strom Thurmond. He died in 1934 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
William A. Strom (1865-1942). A successful farmer in the northern part of the county and an able businessman, William A. Strom was the son of Dr. James Harrison Strom of Edgefield. His farming interests covered thousands of acres and produced more cotton than almost any other cotton planter in the county. He is remembered as bringing all of his cotton to town each year during the county fair in a wagon train a quarter of a mile in length with a rag-time band on the first wagon. Around the turn of the twentieth century he served in the South Carolina House of Representatives. He built a large home on top of “Boles Mountain,” subsequently known as “Strom’s Mountain,” in what is now the northeast quadrant of U.S. Highways 25 and 378. He also built a large brick home on Penn Street in Edgefield on the site where the Calliham TV and Furniture store now stands. Mr. Strom was instrumental in securing the financing for the Dixie Highway Hotel in 1919. His interests were badly affected by the boll weevil in the early 1920’s. He lived on Penn Street until his death in 1942. He was buried in Eastview Cemetery in Edgefield. He was the uncle of Strom Thurmond.
Emma Anderson Dunovant (1866-1956). Born in Spartanburg County, Emma Anderson came to Edgefield in 1888 as the wife of William Lowndes Dunovant, Sr. (1860-1932) and lived for the balance of her life at the Dunovant family home, Carroll Hill. Deeply interested in bettering the world around her, she devoted much of her life to various causes, including women’s suffrage, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Presbyterian Church. She was also deeply committed to her family. Over a period of nearly seven decades in Edgefield, Mrs. Dunovant constantly promoted her causes, becoming involved, not only in local, but also in state organizations. She served as a State officer for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Presbyterian Church and the League of Women Voters. She was a contributing columnist for twenty-six daily and weekly newspapers of South Carolina, including The State (Columbia), the Charleston News and Courier, and the Greenville Piedmont. “Miss Pet,” as she was fondly known in Edgefield, died at the age of 89 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
James Hammond Tillman (1868-1911). Jim Tillman was the son of Congressman George D. Tillman (1821-1901) and the nephew of Governor and U. S. Senator Benjamin Ryan Tillman (1847-1918). After being educated at Georgetown University, he read law and was admitted to the bar in 1891. Initially he chose to pursue a career in journalism before beginning the practice of law in Edgefield. He served in the Spanish American War as a colonel. He was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1900 and ran for Governor in 1902. After a long campaign in which he was repeatedly attacked editorially by the editor of The State newspaper, N. G. Gonzales, he was defeated. On his last day as Lieutenant Governor, Tillman, in an act of vengeance, fatally shot Editor Gonzales on the street in Columbia. He was arrested and charged with murder but was acquitted by a pro-Tillman jury in a sensational trial which attracted national attention. For the balance of his life he lived quietly and out of the public eye. A brilliant man who had a promising future before him, Jim Tillman unfortunately allowed his addiction to alcohol to wreck his life. After contracting tuberculosis, he traveled to the arid climates of Arizona and Southern California in hopes of recovery but returned to Edgefield where he died in 1911. He was buried at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Clark’s Hill next to his father.
Edward G. Walker was born near Edgefield at Chappel's Landing. He moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1870 and later became an attorney, among the first few black men to pass the bar in the state. He was elected to two terms as a state legislator, one of the first two black men to be elected to state office in Massachusetts.
John Lake (1870-1949). Baptist preacher and missionary, John Lake devoted many decades to ministering to the Chinese people and particularly to the lepers of that country. Born in the Pleasant Lane section of Edgefield County, he was baptized at age sixteen in Edgefield and joined the Village Baptist Church. Largely educated at home, he attended the Citadel in Charleston and then returned to Edgefield where he helped to organize the Edgefield Chapter of the YMCA. In 1890 he began his career as a preacher, serving several rural churches of the County. Inspired by the Rev. Dwight L. Moody, he committed his life to mission work and in 1904 entered the mission field in South China where he spent much of his career. Being particularly called to assist those who suffered from leprosy, he founded the Tai-Kam Leper Colony on an island in the South China Sea. This colony, for which he secured financial support from all over the world, became one of the principal colonies to serve lepers in Asia. He died in 1949 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery where his grave is marked by a large rock from Tai-Kam Island.
Florence Adams Mims (1873-1951). Florence Adams Mims was born in Edgefield, the daughter of Thomas John Adams and Elizabeth Eleanor Miller of Sumter. Graduating as salutatorian from the Charleston Female Seminary in 1891, she married Julian Landrum Mims in 1897. The Edgefield Advertiser was given to her by her father, editor of this, the state’s oldest newspaper, and she became a lifelong contributor during the tenure of three editors – her father, her husband, and her son. Florence Mims was proficient in several languages and a skilled musician. She organized and was superintendent of the Womens’ Missionary Union of the Edgefield Baptist Association for twenty-six years. She was vice-president of the South Carolina Woman’s Christian Temperance Union for twenty-three years and state president from 1928. The “Lace House,” the state WCTU headquarters in Columbia, was named for her. Mrs. Mims was appointed by Gov. McLeod to the State Board of Education in 1925 and served for fourteen years under four governors. She was active in the Daughters of the American Revolution, United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Edgefield County Historical Society. Florence Mims died in 1951 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Mamie Norris Tillman (1875-1962). The daughter of Alfred J. Norris (1839-1900) and Mary Fox Norris (1839-1935), Mamie Norris Tillman was born at her parents’ home, Magnolia Dale, in 1875. In 1896 she was married to James Hammond “Jim” Tillman, son of Congressman George Tillman and nephew of Governor and United States Senator Benjamin Ryan Tillman. Following her husband’s shooting of N.G. Gonzales, editor of The State newspaper, in 1903, Mrs. Tillman was estranged from her husband and lived at Magnolia Dale with her mother. Mrs. Tillman was actively involved with many organizations in Edgefield, including the Edgefield First Baptist Church, the Old Ninety Six District Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Edgefield County Historical Society. She became president of the Society in 1940 and continued in that role until her death in 1962. She was responsible for securing the gift of Magnolia Dale to the Society in 1960. She was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Benjamin Edwin Nicholson (1875-1919). Born at Cedar Grove, Benjamin Edwin “Ned” Nicholson was educated at the South Carolina College and read law with the Sheppard Brothers. Admitted to the bar in 1898, he established a successful law practice in Edgefield. He served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1905 through 1908 and in the State Senate from 1912 until his death in 1919. He was a Progressive and actively supported the 18th Amendment (Prohibition). According to some observers, he was destined to become Governor of the state. He was active in business in Edgefield, including farming and banking. He was married to Helen Wallace Sheppard, daughter of Governor John C. Sheppard. During the influenza epidemic following World War I, he contracted the dreaded disease which turned to pneumonia and brought about his untimely death. He was universally admired as one of the leading men of Edgefield. He was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
James Orlando Sheppard (1890-1973). The son of Governor John Calhoun Sheppard, Jim Sheppard was born in Edgefield and educated at the University of South Carolina from which he was graduated in 1911. After a brief career as a journalist, Sheppard read law in the offices of Sheppard Brothers and was admitted to the bar in 1915. During World War I he served in the United States Army in this country and in France. Returning to Edgefield in 1919 he practiced law and served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1921 until 1926. He was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1930 and served until 1934. He was a candidate for Governor in 1934 but was defeated. From 1937 until 1959 he served as state counsel for the United States Brewers’ Association. He was active in community, fraternal and veterans’ organizations, including service as National President of the Forty and Eight. He died in 1973 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Benjamin Mays (1894-1984). One of the most significant Civil Rights leaders of all time, Benjamin Elijah Mays was born in the upper part of the Old Edgefield District, now Greenwood County on August 1, 1894. He was educated at Bates College in Maine and then at the University of Chicago where he earned his MA and PhD. After stints teaching at Morehouse College and South Carolina State College, he became dean of religion at Howard University in 1934. Mays traveled extensively during the course of his life. On one trip to India in 1936 he spoke at length with Mahatma Gandhi who influenced his life and work in significant ways. In 1940 he became President of Morehouse College in Atlanta, a position he held until 1967. He provided extraordinary leadership for the College, significantly enhancing its academic reputation. He also served as President of the Atlanta Board of Education during the years of court-ordered desegregation. He authored a number of books and provided great leadership for a number of organizations. He was an inspiring mentor for several Civil Rights leaders, the most significant of whom was Martin Luther King, Jr., whose eulogy he delivered. Mays published his autobiography, Born to Rebel, in 1971. When he died in 1984, he was buried on the campus of Morehouse College.
Thomas Benjamin Greneker (1895-1977). Prominent lawyer, State Senator and Circuit Judge, Benjamin Greneker played a significant role in the life of Edgefield during much of the twentieth century. Born in 1895, he was the son of Hallie Nicholson of Edgefield and her husband, Thomas Bailey Greneker, a railroad conductor of Newberry. After the premature death of the elder Greneker in 1896, the widow and her infant son moved back to her family’s ancestral home, Cedar Grove, where the young man grew up. After graduating from Wofford College in 1914, Greneker went to Washington where he became the clerk to United States Senator Benjamin Ryan Tillman while attending Georgetown University Law School. When the United States entered World War I, he enlisted and fought in Europe with the American Expeditionary Forces. Returning to South Carolina, he was admitted to the bar in 1919 and began his practice in Edgefield. He served in the State Senate from 1925 to 1932. During World War II he served as a lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve in North Africa. Following the War he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1946 but in 1947 was elevated to the position of Circuit Judge for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit. He served in that capacity until 1966. He was married to Gladys Rives of Edgefield in 1922. While crossing the street n 1977, he was struck and killed by an automobile. He was buried in Eastview Cemetery in Edgefield.
June Rainsford Butler Henderson (1895-1993). Descended from several of the oldest families in Edgefield County, June Henderson had a distinguished and varied career as a librarian, a researcher, an author and a horticulturist, and had a major impact on both her native Edgefield and her adopted home in Aiken. Educated at the College for Women in Columbia, Columbia University in New York and the University of North Carolina, Mrs. Henderson served as librarian at Hollins College in Virginia and at Richmond Academy in Augusta. While in Augusta, she married Major George P. Butler, longtime educator in Augusta and founder and first President of Augusta College, now Augusta State University. After Major Butler’s death, while studying at the University of North Carolina, she authored the authoritative book on 18th century garden literature, Floralia, thus establishing herself as an authority in the field of horticulture. For many years thereafter she was a columnist for the garden page of the New York Times. In 1945 she married a second time to P. Finley Henderson, dean of the Aiken bar, and lived for twenty-five years in Aiken where she made numerous contributions to that city. Following Mr. Henderson’s death in 1968, she returned to Edgefield to live in her family home, Holmewood. In 1989 the June Rainsford Henderson Chair of Southern and Local History was established at the University of South Carolina in Aiken in her honor. She died in 1993 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Hortense Woodson (1896-1990). Known fondly by many admirers as “The Spirit of Edgefield,” Hortense Woodson spent a lifetime researching and writing the history of Edgefield. Born in 1896 to the Rev. Tucker Everett Woodson and his wife Agatha Abney Woodson, she was educated in the public schools of Edgefield, Tubman High School in Augusta and Winthrop College. During the course of her long life she worked for the Edgefield Advertiser, the Newberry Herald and News, and the Edgefield Chronicle. She was also employed for a number of years as secretary for United States Senator Strom Thurmond. She was the author of a number of books, including Peter Ouzts I and His Descendants (1949), Giant in the Land, the Biography of the Rev. William Bullein Johnson (1950), Charles May and his Descendants (1956), History of the Edgefield Baptist Association (1957), Inscriptions from the Edgefield Village Baptist Cemetery (1958), and Come Out, Brave Men of Edgefield (1960), as well as the anthem “The Spirit of Edgefield.” She was a member of the Edgefield First Baptist Church, the Old 96 Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Edgefield County Historical Society. She served as the President and President Emeritus of the Historical Society from 1962 until her death. She died in 1990 and was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery.
Francis Butler Simkins (1897-1966). A noted historian and author of many important books about the history of the South, Francis Butler Simkins was a native of Edgefield who was descended from Arthur Simkins, its founder. He was the son of McGowan Simkins, an Edgefield attorney, and Sally Lewis, a talented journalist. Simkins was graduated from the University of South Carolina and received his MA and PhD from Columbia University. He was a professor of history at Longwood College in Virginia, and a visiting professor at Princeton, LSU and N. C. State. He was the author of many books, including Pitchfork Ben Tillman, South Carolinian (1944), South Carolina During Reconstruction (1932, co-authored with Robert Woody), and A History of the South. Early in his career he was recognized as a somewhat liberal historian, but in his later years he became a defender of the traditions and distinctive characteristics of what he termed as “the everlasting South.” Throughout his life he was known as an eccentric and, later in life, many regarded him as something of a curmudgeon. He died in 1966 and is buried in Farmville, Virginia.
Nolan Herndon (1918-2007). A native of Texas but a long-time resident of Edgefield, Nolan Herndon volunteered in 1941 for a highly secret mission headed by Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle to launch a raid on Japan only four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Herndon and the seventy-nine other members of “Doolittle’s Raiders” steamed towards Japan on board an aircraft carrier from which they launched sixteen B-25 bombers. The planes bombed targets in the vicinity of Tokyo and other Japanese cities. Though not militarily significant, the raid’s effect on U.S. morale was very important in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and the Japanese were brought to the realization that the war would come to them. After returning to the United States, Herndon was introduced by one of his fellow Raiders to his cousin Julia Crouch who lived in Edgefield County. Nolan and Julia were married and moved to Edgefield where Nolan worked in the wholesale grocery business and lived a quiet life. This real hero of World War II died in 2007 at the age of 88. He is buried in the Crouch Cemetery in Saluda County.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- "Dave the Slave Potter". Our Infamous History. Edgefield, South Carolina. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- Associated Press. "Minor Earthquake Shakes Homes in Georgia & South Carolina". foxnews.com. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
- "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
- "FCI Edgefield Contact Information." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on July 27, 2010.
- "Edgefield town, South Carolina." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on July 27, 2010.
- Town of Edgefield
- Town of Johnston
- Guide to Edgefield SC: History, attractions, jobs, schools, churches, businesses, and government - SCIway.net, South Carolina Information Highway