While working with some colonial plats along Beaver Creek of the Congaree River, I became intrigued with a noticeable change in the road across the stream. Since roads and stream crossings played important roles in the lives of our ancestors, I decided to explore this particular change in more detail. It turns out that the older crossing on Beaver Creek was probably originally a part of the Cherokee Path.
The Cherokee Path, running from Charleston inland along the Santee and Saluda Rivers was well established by the time Amelia, Orangeburgh and Saxe Gotha Townships were settled in the 1730s. As settlers moved into these new townships, property was taken up along the path. As the maps in the drawing below show, several individuals claimed land (plats 1 through 4) in the 1730s where the trail crossed Beaver Creek of the Congaree River.
The first four plats, surveyed in the 1730s did not show the path. According to information at the South Carolina Genealogical Society’s website, by 1737 the trail had become a wagon road. By 1759 it was the road to Fort Prince George, the main staging area of the Cherokee Expedition of 1759. All of the traffic and supplies from the low country would have crossed at this point. A survey done in 1771 (plat 5) shows the road and, when placed on a topographic map, points to what was probably the original crossing at Beaver Creek.
Corbin’s Bridge is shown at this location on the 1825 Mill’s Atlas map. After becoming a public road in the mid-1700s, this route remained in use through at least 1922, according to the Lexington County soil survey map. (This area was made part of Calhoun County in 1908 but there does not seem to be an early soil survey map of Calhoun County available.) By 1944 the newer route had been established according to the topographic map of the area (Hopkins Quadrangle).
Notice the difference between where the original path crossed Beaver Creek and where today’s highway 176 crosses the stream. The newer route reflects choices made with twentieth century technology whereas the older route considered factors important to travel on foot or using old fashioned horse power. And just imagine what a parade of activity anyone living along this route during the colonial era must have been witness to.
Here is a link to a PDF file of this drawing: Beaver Creek Congaree Colonial Plats.
Getting Lost and Getting Wet
Since several of my last posts have touched on the topic of early roads in Orangeburgh District, I wanted to share a source that has given me some helpful insight into roads of the nineteenth century. Agriculture, Geology, and Society in Antebellum South Carolina, edited by William M. Mathew focuses on a diary kept by Edmund Ruffin in 1843 when he made an agricultural survey though the state. Anyone interested in a description of South Carolina, its people, agriculture and geology would probably find something of interest in this book.
Ruffin’s travels around the state took him through Orangeburgh District on two occasions. His descriptions of the roads, bridges and waterways of the area are quite interesting, at least to those of us who enjoy such mundane details! He describes both public and private roads. When traveling through Barnwell District towards Orangeburgh he followed private roads that were not much more than cart paths. These roads were apparently “altered continually by the extensions of clearings … and other causes which left the road scarcely distinguishable.” (page 146)
Ruffin’s experience crossing Cow Castle Swamp was anything but pleasant. He apparently did not realize how deep the water was when he started crossing it by the usual method of fording with his horse and wagon. He discovered that his wagon held water in better than it kept it out. Fortunately both he and his diary survived the wet experience to leave us with details of his travels.
So, What Roads Existed in the 1800s?
Since my last posting touched briefly on the issues of road changes over time, I thought I would give some additional examples in this entry. As we drive around today on hard surfaced, well-marked roads, it may be hard to remember that our ancestors did not always travel through an area using the same routes we do. Some roads came into existence in the earliest years of settlement and are still in use but others have come and gone or been altered significantly over time.
The earliest detailed map showing the roads of Orangeburg County that I am aware of is the 1913 US Department of Agriculture Soil Survey Map. This map predates the creation of the South Carolina Highway Department in 1917 so it probably gives us the best idea of the possible routes through the county prior to the widespread use of automobiles. By 1938 the State Highway Department issued a series of maps for each county and another set was created in 1974. I have used each of these three maps to study the road changes in the area bounded by the North Fork of the Edisto River, Bull Swamp, US Highway 178 (also known as North Road) and Long Branch.
What is now US Highway 178 appears on some of the earliest plats in the area and does not appear to have changed significantly. The road roughly paralleling North Road is currently (per 2005 Orangeburg County Street Atlas) known as Long Branch Road and may have existed in the 1800s. Wolfton Road, which connects with Long Branch Road and North Road, probably predates the twentieth century. The remaining roads in the area have changed considerably over time, as the drawing below shows.