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Sixty years of history

Posted: October 31, 2014 9:46 a.m.
Updated: November 3, 2014 1:00 a.m.
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Historical Society columnist Harvey S. Teal (far right) joined others at the installation of the Peay’s Ferry marker at Liberty Hill.

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For the past 60 years, the Kershaw County Historical Society has been collecting, conserving and sharing the history of the county.

The idea for the society began in early 1954 when a group of history-minded citizens gathered in the Camden home of Allison and Belle DuBose to explore the idea of reviving a county historical society. In 1901, while Kirkland and Kennedy were still writing their Historic Camden, Colonial and Revolutionary, such a county society was formed, but it had lasted only a few years.

In February 1954, at the Episcopal Parish House, an enlarged group of history-minded citizens organized the present Kershaw County Historical Society. Harold Funderburk was elected first president with Allison DuBose, Mrs. George Stuart, Mrs. Sumner Waite, and C.T. Baldwin as the other officers. Your columnist became a charter member of the society at that time.

Collecting & conserving history

We have been sponsors of or major participants in surveys for locating, recording and marking sites, cemeteries and structures, including homes throughout the county. From time to time, we may contact municipal, county, state and national officeholders concerning matters that impact the history of the county.

As a rule, the Society does not collect and serve as a museum for old books, pamphlets, newspapers, photographs, letters, documents and artifacts. We do cooperate with the Camden Archives and Museum and other libraries and museums who do so. Instead, we collect information from these sources and share it through our publications, programs, meetings, tours, website, historical markers and newspaper articles.

One major exception is our preservation of the 1812 home built by Bonds Conway, a skilled carpenter who purchased his freedom from slavery. The home is our headquarters and its image is our logo.

Our most recent activity is to accept responsibility for certain historic conservation easements owners may choose us to monitor for preservation and tax purposes.

Programs and meetings

During the past 60 years, the Society has presented or hosted some 240 programs and meetings. These have been on a variety of topics and at a variety of locations across the county -- from Liberty Hill to Boykin, from Bethune to Elgin. A few varied types of programs follow.

The Society once presented a part of a program from the middle of Broad Street opposite the Mills Court House. During the Revolutionary War Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill, Andrew Jackson was a prisoner in the second story of the jail across the street and reported he watched the battle. A Camden fire truck raised society members in the air to see what Jackson could have seen. We concluded he saw very little of the actual battle, but likely saw troops and others going to or coming from the battle.

Another program involved a tour of a Carolina bay in the Shepard Community. The Savage Bay Heritage Preserve there is named in honor of naturalist Henry Savage, Camden mayor and author of Mysterious Carolina Bays.

A program with more than 200 in attendance was held at West Crossroads in the Cassatt community where a Civil War skirmish occurred. A historical marker was unveiled and a tour of the skirmish site and the Confederate and Yankee camp sites was conducted.

Once, we reenacted the many toasts presented in the Camden home where President George Washington had dined and spent the night on his Southern tour in 1791. On another occasion we climbed the stairs and a ladder to the top of the building at the corner of Rutledge and Broad streets where King Haiglar (Hagler) keeps watch over Camden.

Publications

To announce a program we typically mail an Update newsletter of background information and topics of historical interest. We have reprinted for sale rare and unavailable pamphlets and books, and also have published many new titles on topics of local historical interest.

Some examples are Camden Homes and Heritage, The Decorative Arts of Kershaw County, Kershaw County Pottery, Historic Sites of Kershaw County, federal censuses of the county and a three volume survey of county cemeteries.

The most comprehensive of our publications is A History of Kershaw County by Joan A. and L. Glen Inabinet and published by the University of South Carolina Press in 2011. The detailed, readable, scholarly work covers all areas and periods of county history and has been widely acclaimed.

A research and publications goal for decades, A History of Kershaw County may be purchased locally at the Bonds Conway House, Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site, Camden Archives and Museum, and the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce, as well as Books on Broad and from other merchants or online. The book is also in school and local libraries and others elsewhere.

Since the 1990s, the Camden Chronicle-Independent has invited the Society to provide a monthly column on historical topics. Columnist Harvey S. Teal has produced about 200 columns during more than two decades on a variety of topics covering most areas of the county and periods of its history.

We have distributed many of our publications to the schools of the county free of charge. On occasion, Society members have made presentations in the schools and provided other student support.

Others who help Collect, Conserve and Share our History

The Society recognizes that other local organizations have made and continue to make significant contributions in collecting, conserving and sharing local history -- the Camden Archives and Museum and their friends organization, Historic Camden, National Steeplechase Museum, Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County, the chamber of commerce, Chronicle-Independent, Blaney-Elgin Museum and Historical Society, Lynches River Historical Society, Hobkirk Hill Society, Price House, genealogical and veterans historical groups, plus others.

Most of the above organizations are dedicated to one area, one aspect or one period of the county’s history The Kershaw County Historical Society cooperates with all these groups and supports them when possible. We encourage our members also to be members of any of these organizations whose work especially “strikes a spark” with them. Many of our members are members of one or more of these organizations.

Likewise, we wish to encourage all members of the above organizations to join our Society since we have county-wide responsibility for all of our history, regardless of the period, topic or geographical location in the county. Our county has such a rich and varied history that all of our minds, hands and feet are needed as we collect, conserve and share our rich historical legacy. Let us never neglect the whole of our legacy as we share a part of it.

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