Alan Russell and I usually do a photo trek on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As educators we usually had the day off and it made for a great mid-winter escape. Now that we’re both retired we can go pretty much any day we want, but we still try to stick to our annual tradition. This year weather had other ideas. With the recent snow we decided to delay until Wednesday. We also decided to head south, further from the snow. That meant that we could also swing by Columbia and pick up Dwight Moffitt for our trek down to Calhoun County. As usual, I had mapped out several targets before we left. There were a couple historic buildings I had spotted on social media and one ghost town that had completely slipped under my radar.
All three of us had visited several of the sites, and we were no strangers to Calhoun County. It has more dramatic ghost towns than any other county I’ve explored. We have kayaked from Low Falls Landing several times, and Lake Marion is one of our favorite paddling venues. There were some new spots that had our attention, though.
From Columbia we headed down Garner’s Ferry Road, then took state highway 764 through the town of Eastover. Alan had never seen the old Zion Episcopal Church ruins, so we stopped there for a few minutes to explore the ruins and old cemetery.
I spotted a couple of things I’d not noticed on previous visits. There were two metal chairs and a metal settee set up with a view of the Trumble family plot.
Before we crossed over from Richland County into Calhoun County I had an old school I wanted to find. St. Phillp School is a three-teacher Rosenwald school built in 1938. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places, and appeared to be in very good shape. The site was posted so we only took photos from the road. It almost looked like someone was living there, or might have lived there in the past.
I can understand how someone might mistake this for a house. If you’re not familiar with the architecture or the history of the school it would be easy to do.
The Congaree River separates Richland County from Calhoun County. Just before we crossed the river on US 601 I saw a sign for Bates Old River. In 1852 a flood cut off this part of the Congaree, leaving a long oxbow. I had seen photos from folks that had paddled the oxbow and wanted to see if I could find access. We found a couple of roads leading down from 601 and found a couple of trailheads, but no river access. We could probably reach the river from one of the trailheads, but it would be a bit of a haul. If I read my maps correctly, the actual access point is on the north side of the bridge. Even so, we all agreed that we need to come back with boats.
On the west side of the Congaree we turned south and headed toward Lone Star. This is one of the sites we had visited several times, since we were so close it was hard to resist. The weather was perfect, a blue sky speckled with scenic clouds. We spent some time walking around the site.
Around back of one of the buildings we found an open door. The interior was in terrible shape and it was filled with trash.
Across the railroad tracks are more modern convenience stores, but neither looked like they had been open in a long, long time, despite the signs.
To see the rest of the town we would have to drive 10 miles south to Lone Star BBQ on the north side of Santee in Orangeburg County. We headed down there, but when we arrived we found that it was only open on weekends. Oops. We didn’t even stick around to take photos of the buildings that had been moved from the original town.
We still needed lunch and decided to seek it in the nearby town of Elloree. That turned into another adventure on its own.
Continued on the next page.