This is part three of our day of adventure. It started in the wee morning hours on Bald Rock viewing the Geminid Meteor Shower, followed by the search for the ghost town Mayucha. Keith and I found some breakfast, and headed north on Highway 28 to find the ghost town of Tunnel Hill, located near the Stumphouse Tunnel.
I had been to Stumphouse Tunnel many times. However, Keith had not. My real goal was not the tunnel, but a spot on the mountain on top of the tunnel. One online source described a cemetery and several foundations – all that remains of the former town of Tunnel Hill. I was hoping to find those.
A Wee Bit of History…
The Blue Ridge Railroad Company was conceived in the mid-1800’s as a way to transfer goods from South Carolina to Knoxville, Tennessee. It was a grand plan, with multiple tunnels and impressive bridges across the Blue Ridge mountains. The “easy” part of the railroad was completed from Anderson to Pendleton, and in the 1850s construction was started on the three tunnels that would be on the South Carolina portion of the railroad.
Tunnel Hill sprang up at the top of the longest tunnel on Stumphouse Mountain. It largely housed the Irish immigrants working on the tunnels. By all accounts it was a violent place, with saloons outnumbering other businesses, and frequent clashes between the Irish workers and the locals who thought that jobs were being usurped by the newcomers. Historian Jim Haughy recounts a description of the town by Rev. J. J. O’Connell, who visited the town in 1854…
Practically all the dwellings were flimsy wooden frame structures that provided little shelter from the elements. While miners with families lived in primitive cabins, unmarried miners often lodged in boarding shanties provided by other railroad workers and their families.
– “Tunnel Hill: An Irish Mining Community in the Western Carolinas”, presented at The Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association 2004
O’Connell decried the free flowing alcohol, and in addition to establishing St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in the village, he was instrumental in forming the St. Patrick’s Temperance Society to get rid of the saloons and improve life in the town.