Friday, June 12, 2015

Brief Historical Sketch of Summerton - Originally Published in June 1889

An Historical Sketch of Summerton During the Past Half Century

The little hamlet called Summerton is situated on the waters of the Santee, near the source of Taw-Caw creek, on a point of land formed by the junction of said creek with one of its tributaries, known as Scott's Branch; the latter flowing south-cast ward, and joining the former about one mile below what is considered the center of the village.

Due west from Summerton, the Santee begins to form a curve, which continues until past the southern point of the compass, and by this curve, Summerton is about equidistant, or say 10 miles from the swamp, for perhaps thirty miles in its course to the ocean.

The area embraced within this curve in the Santee is composed of some of the finest farming lands in the county, or even in the State, mostly rich red clay, with occasionally some sand. And within this section beginning with what is familiarly known as "Fulton," and extending down the river to the Williamsburg line, lived for many years the most intelligent and wealthy citizens of the county of Clarendon, many of them owning large areas of land, many slaves, large herds of cattle and sheep, and perhaps more swine than did many of the old time Gadarenes.

The broad Santee afforded the finest pastures, and ample hunting and fishing ground, with its ridges and islands, lakes and creeks; and game was abundant, from the ugly brown bear that worried through the cane brake, to the nimble cat squirrel on the limbs of the trees, with wild turkeys, ducks, and fish of the finest quality and in great abundance.

While the farmer was enjoying the romantic scenery of the swamp, and supplying his table with game, the faithful sons of Africa, were (under proper supervisor) cultivating the fertile fields on the hill, or upland, and almost, without exception, the yield at harvest resulted in super abundance for both master and slave.


Indeed, so well satisfied were the farmers of this section with the fertility of the soil that very few of them ever thought of emigrating to the West in search of richer land, but on the contrary many of them entailed their real estate on their heirs to the second and third generations, considering it the safest legacy they could bestow upon those who were to come after them.

Of course the results of the war wrought a very great change, and many fertile fields soon lapsed into their original or primitive state. The main difference in the forest now being a heavy growth of old field
pines, where once grew the long spruce or majestic yellow pine.


Many farms are now occupied almost exclusively by colored farmers, some of whom are gathering a little property around, them and show some signs of thrift, but the large majority barely make out to live through the aid of the lien supply law, which they consider a great boon, but which, in our judgement, is in reality against them in the end, for the prices they are forced to pay are really ruinous. While the lien supplies food for a few months, it is sure to give out before harvest time, and leaves the poor fellow discouraged, disheartened, and perfectly indifferent to energy, industry, or economy.


It was about the time from 1830 to 1840 that the point where Summerton. is now located seems first to have been thought of as a health resort. Mr. Charles Harvin, a farmer in easy circumstances, living near Wrights Bluff, was the first to move out to the long leaf pine region at this point, with a view to test its character as a safe retreat from the "malaria," or "chill poison," of the swamp, and so successful was the experiment that he was soon' followed by Dr. John L. Felder, a distinguished physician, and neighbor of Mr. Harvin, with many others from year to year, among whom was the Rev. Hartwell Spain, a superannuated minister of the Methodist church, who moved to this place with other members of his family; and one of his gifted daughters being at that time a newspaper correspondent, over the nom de plume of "Lizzie Clarendon," dating the correspondence from "Summerton," gave to the place a name which it has worn ever since.


Very soon the place became thickly settled and the site of a flourishing school under the principal care of the late R. K. Rutledge, who was succeeded by other teachers, until, under the management of the Rev. Thomas, a Methodist minister from Canada, it grew into an academy with three regular teachers and over one hundred students. Such was the sanitary condition of the location, together with the moral character of the community of Summerton proper, that parents, and guardians from the whole surrounding country were pleased to have their children under such favorable influence.

But the civil war with its terrible agencies and results gave to Summerton and surrounding country a shock, from the effects of which she has never but partially recovered. During the war, however, many of the best people from Charleston sought and found a quiet and peaceful refuge in Summerton, and remained there for some length of time.

Since the war, the school has never regained its former size or prosperity. During the past eight years we have had some very efficient teachers, but the financial condition of our patrons is so reduced that we find it impossible to employ a full corps of teachers, and consequently must yield to the stern necessity of stopping our children short of a regular literary or classical course.


But 0! Blessed Hope! Sweet Grace. May we not lift, up our depressed soul to some bright spot ahead shining through the dark mists of despondency. May we not lift up our heads, and gird up our loins for a fresh and vigorous struggle against poverty, when lo! two railroads are vying with each other, as to which shall plant the first depot at Summerton.

Yes, Wilson is already here, taking passengers from and bringing others to Summerton from his mill on the Central Railroad. And the Eutawville Road will soon be here. Once through with the trestle across the Santee, the road being already well graded, and cross ties put down to a point above Summerton, it will be but a few days' work to complete the road to its terminus at Sumter. Then being in close connection with the two great trunk lines passing through the State, we will be ready to open our arms wide to every good and true man, and say 'Welcome, Come in Brother.' But to the lawless, disobedient, and profane, we can only say, Friend, I am sorry, but the longer the distance between us, the better for both. 

* For more detail, visit the Historical Summerton S.C. web site.

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