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Where has the Flat Rock Post Office gone?

Posted: January 2, 2018 10:37 a.m.
Updated: January 2, 2018 1:00 a.m.
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Your columnist had occasion to travel along the Flat Rock Road several times a year after his sister-in-law moved to Lancaster County in the late 1940s. In the 1960s, he visited certain sites on the Flat Rock Road, while producing a television series, and secured photographs of a few of them.

Increased work and activities with the Kershaw County Historical Society, as vice president, president, board member, and chairman of the society’s publication committee, caused me to take a few trips along the Flat Rock Road from time to time.

Very detailed and extensive travel along and study of the historic sites on this road occurred 1989-1992 when I served as chairman of a society committee that developed A Guide to Selected Historical Sites in Kershaw County/District, South Carolina, published in 1992. Some of these sites and others along the road included Hanging Rock, Miller House, Flat Rock Quarry, Jesse Truesdale House, Flat Rock Post Office, Rugeleys at Grannies Quarter Creek, old chain gang site near Shamokin Pond and the former American Legion building, later known as The Hut.

On a state-wide level, as president of The South Carolina Confederation of Local Historical Societies, member of the Tricentennial Commission and member of the State Archives and History Commission (2000-2008), I was led occasionally to travel the Flat Rock Road and to be involved with matters pertaining to it. 

As I have traveled this road in the last two decades, I always noted these sites and thought of the many men of history and others who had traveled this road from colonial times to the present. A few were John Lawson, who likely gave the road its name in colonial times; General Horatio Gates, General Nathaniel Greene and Lord Cornwallis during the Revolutionary War; President George Washington in 1791; and Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.

I also noted the creeks they crossed, such as Flat Rock, Grannies Quarter and Sanders. I remembered all of them flowed into the Wateree River. The Flat Rock Road does not cross Hanging Rock Creek in Kershaw County, but it does cross small tributaries of it. Hanging Rock Creek flows into the Little Lynches River and finally into the Pee Dee River.

Recently, I received a troubling call about one of the historic sites on the Flat Rock Road. Kershaw County Historical Society member Jimmy Catoe called and inquired, “Harvey, what’s happening to the Flat Rock Post Office building? I came by there last week and it was jacked up as if it were going to be moved.” I responded that this was news to me, but I would investigate.

For years, this landmark has been a little more special to me than some of the others on the road. In 1989, Bob Stets and I co-authored a history of the South Carolina postal system from 1760-1860. I also have some Civil War Flat Rock, S.C., postmarked envelopes from it. Illustrations of these envelopes and of the post office building accompany this column.

From 1826-1903 except for two years after the Civil War, a Flat Rock, S.C., post office has served that community. The building being discussed, although not the original P.O. building, has stood beside the Flat Rock Road for decades as a witness to its past service to its community and, in fact, a symbol of it.

After hearing about this matter, I quickly called county historian Joan Inabinet to see if she was aware of the Flat Rock Post Office building being moved. She was not.

In a day or so, she and husband Glen took a trip over the Flat Rock Road to Heath Springs. They reported to me the post office building was now missing from its long-time location on the road. They had no information about what had happened to it.

A few days before Christmas, I made a trip to the Flat Rock Community to talk with a couple of local citizens. I learned Mike Murphy, the owner of the Flat Rock Post Office building, had sold it to a Mr. Griffin who had a plantation in the Knights Hill Community near Camden. Further inquiries revealed Scot M. Griffin to be the owner of the Knights Hill Plantation.

I was able to contact the plantation manager, who related the building had been sold to them as a store without any mention that it was also a post office at one time. He stated the building was being refurbished and preserved for use by the plantation. 

When I mentioned to the manager that I had Civil War mail from the post office, he was quite intrigued and was certain the plantation owner would like to see this material and talk to me about it. I promised my assistance with historical information and copies of the mail related to his historically significant building.

This building’s construction likely occurred in the late 1890s. It certainly occurred before 1903, when the post office closed. Most small post offices of this period did not generate enough revenue to justify full time employment. Often someone who ran a store would also be the postmaster for that area.

A few of these 19th century post office buildings still exist in the county, but they are fast disappearing from the countryside. It is comforting to know the Flat Rock Post Office building will be preserved, although at a location outside of its original community.

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