Just because it’s December doesn’t mean that we stop paddling. Heck, for this particular trip we even went swimming, but that’s getting ahead of things a bit. Fellow explorer, and now fellow paddler Mark Elbrecht proposed a trip out to Andersonville Island to see if we could spot the ruins that everyone says are there. Bennie Waddell had just gotten a new kayak, and I lacked only 6 miles to push me over the 200 mark for the year. Of course, agreed to come along. Turned out to be a great trip with unexpected finds and unexpected excitement. But, I guess the word “unexpected” is redundant. Regardless…
I had been trying to track down a place I’d seen on an old map. The Temple of Health was the name of a community and a post office, but it originally applied to an old inn on a stage coach route. The Stage Coach Inn was purchased and renamed for mineral springs on the property that supposedly had medicinal properties. After my initial research I had tried to visit the location of the Temple of Health near Antreville, but I hadn’t found anything. I had discovered that the original inn had been moved to a resort near Toccoa, Georgia. It was time to actually visit the Temple of Health.
So, I was intrigued by this random name on a map. I had to find out more about it, so I had done some initial research. Now it was time to see if there was anything left of the old Temple of Health.
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Antreville and the Temple of Health are small communities. I knew it wouldn’t take long to cover those areas, so I added a few more targets to my list to justify the trek down to Abbeville County. My plan was to head down to drive pretty much straight down to Antreville, check out a few sites I had tagged, then meander back through Anderson County by way of Lowndesville and a few other spots north of there. As usual, there would be discoveries along the way.
Sometimes it doesn’t take much to send me down a rabbit-hole of research. In this case it was a name on a map. I was looking at an 1839 atlas of the United States on the Library of Congress website when I spotted an unusual name in Abbeville – the Temple of Health. It was listed as a place name. When I checked the 1825 Robert Mills Atlas for Abbeville District, the name was there, too. I was intrigued. Why would this spot in the backwoods of South Carolina come to be known as the “Temple of Health?”
Several months ago I received and e-mail from Kes Crumpler. Kes is with the Lake Murray Power Squadron, and asked if I’d be willing to give a talk to their group about ghost towns under South Carolina’s lakes. Since I’m no stranger to public speaking, I said, “Sure!” Although I was completely unsure as to what a “power squadron” was.
I did it. I downloaded the Pokemon Go app and have been playing it off and on for the past week. My intent was to sit down and write up a blog post, but as soon as I got a few seconds to gather my thoughts, some other blog post or news article had come out covering, hyping, complaining about the very points I wanted to cover. It seemed that anything I wrote would just be additional noise. But, to heck with it…
I had been tracking down the Swamp Rabbit Railroad, the third to bear that name in South Carolina. This one ran from Blacksburg to Gaffney through Cherokee Falls. Now I was out trying to find physical evidence of the old railroad. I had explored from Blacksburg to Cherokee Falls along a route that briefly ran as a scenic railroad in the 1970s. Now it was time to cross the Broad River and see what I could find on the section from Coopersville to Gaffney.
I had been tracking down the history of the Swamp Rabbit Railroad that ran from Blacksburg to Gaffney by way of Cherokee Falls. So far I’d discovered the history of the railroad and its relatively short commercial life, and I had discovered how the railroad briefly found new life as a scenic railroad in the 1970s. It was time to get out into the field and do some ground-truthing. I wanted to see if there were any remnants of the old line.
As it turns out the Swamp Rabbit that ran on the Greenville and Northern track, and the Swamp Rabbit that ran through Cherokee County have histories that have become entwined. I actually found this link right under my own nose on this very website. William Cannon left a comment on my post about “What Happened to the Swamp Rabbit?” in which he mentioned his father, J. V. Cannon. Jean Vaughan Cannon turned out to be a fascinating individual with what can only be described as an obsession with trains. His obsession gave new life to both the Greenville Swamp Rabbit and the Cherokee Swamp Rabbit.
That’s right, there’s not one, not two, but three railroads in South Carolina that bore the name “The Swamp Rabbit.” There’s the one that follows former Greenville and Northern Railroad, now the very popular Swamp Rabbit Trail. There’s the one in the lower part of the state that crosses Barnwell, Aiken, and Lexington Counties. I explored and wrote about that one last week. Then, there is the Swamp Rabbit that crosses part of Cherokee County from Blacksburg through Cherokee Falls and then on to Gaffney. I explored this third Swamp Rabbit today, and discovered that it has some unexpected ties to our own Swamp Rabbit Railroad here in Greenville.