I was talking with my brother Houston sometime back about my Ghost Towns project, and he suggested that in addition to using the GNIS historical data, we should look at old maps of the state to see what towns might have been listed. I agreed that it was an excellent idea, so I set off in search of the one resource I knew would have everything we wanted – Robert Mills‘ 1825 Atlas of South Carolina.
A native of Charleston, Robert Mills was the quintessential Renaissance Man, along the same lines Thomas Jefferson. Mills studied architecture first in Charleston, then later in Philadelphia. Anyone familiar with South Carolina history is aware of Mill’s contributions to South Carolina – the many court houses and civic buildings designed by him. Perhaps, though, he is most famous for his designs for buildings in Washington, D. C., including the Washington Monument.
“…the General Assembly adopted resolutions looking to the preparation of a map of the state, showing a separate map of each district thereof. In 1818 an appropriation of $9,000.00 was made toward procuring such a map, and in 1819 a like amount was appropriated for the same cause.”
-from the Introduction to the 1839 reprint of the Mills Atlas.
In 1820 Mills was appointed commissioner for the Board of Public Works for South Carolina, and was tasked with creating the atlas. He commissioned surveyors to create the separate maps for the then 27 districts in the state. He then personally rescaled the surveyors’ work for inclusion in the atlas, and added a legend reflecting the new scale. He also edited place names, adding or omitting as needed. The legend of each map bears the original surveyor’s name and notes the map was “improved for Mills’ Atlas, 1825.”