Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Where in SC? Johnston, That's Where!

My blog-buddy, Kyle, hosts a challenging littl game on his blog called “Where in SC?” In this game he posts a picture of a landmark somewhere in SC for the reader to guess where it is. In most cases it actually takes quite a bit of research to solve the riddle. Thus was the case with this one.

I Googled the heck out of this one. I tried every possible combination of “George”, "Washington”, “SC”, “Carolina”, “Southern Tour”, “Marker”, “DAR”, “Emily Geiger”, “Charter”, “Rested”, “rock”, “boulder”, etc. with absolutely no luck. I visited websites devoted to historical markers, various DAR websites, university and government websites, but to no avail. Meanwhile, I was able to quickly solve seemingly more obscure (and less significant) landmarks such as a graffiti tagged ruin on Folly Island (found by search peoples vacation photos on FLICKR), a bait shop in the town of Cold Point in Laurens county (found by Googling “SC”, “Crenshaws” and “Grocery” and finding it's address on a directory of convenience stores and then confirmed by one of my employees who knows the place), and The ruins of Sheldon Church located between the towns of Yemassee and Beaufort on the Old Sheldon Church Road. However, I couldn't find anything pertaining to this extremely historical marker.

I extensively researched Washington's Southern Tour (also known as the Goodwill Tour) which took place in 1791 (not 1785 as the marker incorrectly states). Since Kyle had been posting photos from around Folly I focused on the coast, which is the route our first President took heading South and which is also the most documented portion of the tour. I even found an erroneously located and dated DAR marker around Myrtle Beach, but that wasn't it. I found evidence of his resting at places further South, but still nothing.

I decided to expand my search. I printed the photo and hung it on the door of my office hoping for a random passer-by to provide a clue. Instead it just got others interested. One of my fellow Directors admitted that she went home one evening and stayed up way past midnight looking for it. One of my employees contacted the DAR National Headquarters for help, but they couldn't shed any light on it. Another one of my employee's daughter works at the SC State House and has been circulating the photo to congressmen asking if it's in their district. Still nothing!

Kyle eventually started giving clues (including some fake clues). First they were comments like “getting closer” or “less close”, but then he revealed that it was “on our side of I-95” (our side being the West side.) That eliminated must of Washington's route down the coast. So I guessed Camden. Kyle then narrowed the scope further by explaining that it was North of I-20 and not in Kershaw or Richland counties. That sped things along.

I went to the Library of Congress web site and found the actual scanned Diary of George Washington, but the manuscript was too hard to read, so I found a typed version of the same text. In it I discovered that after leaving SC for Savannah, he went to Augusta (through GA) and crossed back into SC from there. He continued on to Columbia, then to Camden, and up to Charlotte. Since Richland and Kershaw counties were out of the question, I could eliminate Columbia and Camden. Making it in the Aiken, Saluda, Edgefield, Lexington vicinity or possibly in Lancaster county. I started documenting my research and Googled the names of towns (including some that no longer exist) and families that may have been visited.

Now here's the ironic part:

Since my uncle, John Owen Clark, is a noted historian in Edgefield county, I decided to give him a call at his home in...Johnston. Johnston is the town where my mother's family is from. My parents still own prime land there that they rent to peach farmers. When I read the inscription to him, he immediately corrected me explaining that George Washington didn't come to SC in 1785 and that the Southern Tour was in 1791. I said “I know”. He then proceed to basically quote back, from memory, everything I'd just read in Washington's Diary. That he first went to Trenton and ate at the Piney Woods Tavern and then proceeded to the Odem House, between Ridge Spring and Monetta, blah, blah, blah. Then he idly mentioned “you know, there's actually an incorrectly located marker here in Johnston that was placed here by an overzealous chapter of the DAR back in the 1930's. He never actually came here. I don't recall what it says, but maybe since it's location is wrong the date may be wrong to.” I couldn't believe it, I've actually seen this rock, but never close enough to know (or care) what was on the plaque. He promised to check the inscription for me the next time he went by it, but I was pretty confident THAT was it.

After a breach of etiquette on my behalf, I correctly resubmitted my guess last night. And that, my friends, if the story of how, after two and a half weeks of exhaused research, I found a bogus historical marker in a town where I regularly visited as a child.

Now, go play "Where in SC?" on Kyle's Blog.


Kyle said...

I'm speechless.
...glad I didn't have to pay you for your research.

George said...

You do. And it will be the sweetest beer I've ever earned.

Ferdlings said...

You out did your own self with this post. If only half of it is true, it's fantastic. Oh, and I can't enlarge your office pic to see what I want to steal.

George said...

Ooh. I forgot this detail:

One of my employees (a programmer) opened Kyle's photo as a binary file and analyzed the image data looking for any artififacts from the original image to see what had been marked over. Obviously, it didn't work, but it shows how intently people around me were trying to solve this riddle.

James said...

what an odd tale...