10 January 2018

Martin Luther King, Jr. at Penn Center

Martin Luther King, Jr., 26 March 1964
Beaufort District is a uniquely historic place with a broad, multifaceted, story to tell and share. You may have noticed that the Reconstruction Era National Monument is about to celebrate its first anniversary on 12 January. Some call Reconstruction the "first Civil Rights Movement." The Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th century was founded upon Reconstruction ideals and constitutional amendments. And Beaufort played a role in both developments. 

For 13 years, one man had the most recognized face and most resounding voice advocating equal rights for all United States citizens. From the age of 26 until his untimely death by assassination at the hands of James Earl Ray, Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated for fair and equal application of all US laws and full benefits of citizenship for minorities.  


Sometimes we forget how national figures touch -- and are touched by -- places we drive by on a daily basis. In the vast universe of resources about the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968), there is a small gem of a booklet that every person visiting or living in Beaufort County should read. Penn Center, then known as Penn Community Services, was just such a place for Martin Luther King, Jr. and other members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "I Will Not Be Silent and I will be Heard:" Martin Luther King, Jr. by J. Tracy Power (Columbia, SC: South Carolina Dept. of Archives & History, Public Programs Division, c1993) is available in the BDC Research Room as well as from the Local History sections at your favorite Beaufort County Branch Library.

Chapter 4 of Penn Center: A History Preserved by Orville Vernon Burton is dedicated to the discussion of Penn Center's role in the Civil Rights Movement. This book is also available in the BDC Research Room as well as from the Local History sections at your favorite Beaufort County Branch Library.

The Library has a Martin Luther King, Jr. Pinterest style page of books and articles. 

Drop by our Research Room to see a small display of BDC materials relating to Dr. King's experience at Penn Center. Please note: The Library will be closed Mon., January 15th for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Regular hours resume on Tues., January 16th.


Image: Courtesy of the Library of Congress  http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003688129/ 

05 January 2018

Snowfalls in Beaufort District's Historical Record

Image by Stephanie French, 2018
Snowstorms do not happen very often in Beaufort County, SC. And on account of that fact, locals tend to take extra precautions when snow is predicted. This puts us in line for a lot of ribbing (some good-natured; some not-so-good natured) by the more-recently-relocated-from-more-Northern-climes area residents. This area has a lot of elevated causeways barely above the marshes, dirt roads, and bridges and few, if any, winter weather moving equipment. A dusting of snow, extremely low temperatures, and/or a bit of ice on the roads, and we natives tend to head home and hole up until it gets back to our usual balmy winter conditions in the 60s.
I was supposed to be representing the Beaufort County Library on a panel "Reconstructing Reconstruction: Interpreting the Epic Story of Reconstruction in Beaufort County, SC" at the American Historical Association Annual Meeting this week but Winter Storm Grayson threw a monkey-wrench into my plans. Icy road conditions between here and Washington, DC and flight cancellations prevented several panel members from being able to make the trip. 
January 2, 2018 was to kick off our new Research Room schedule of providing service Mondays through Fridays, 9 am to 5 pm. But that too was thrown a monkey-wrench. The Library was closed on Wednesday, January 3, Thursday, January 4 and we re-opened at Noon today with a skeleton crew. Many of our staff are still stuck at homes situated on icy secondary and dirt roads. Our trees are beautiful but they also prevent sunlight from melting the snow and ice in our roads and yards. With the low temperatures hovering in the 20s and 30s, it may be a few days more before all the snow and ice melts.   
On average, snow flurries occur along the South Carolina coastal plain about once every three years. (1)  There is approximately a 9% chance of snowfall in Beaufort County each year. (2) Before Winter Storm Grayson arrived on January 3, 2018, we had last seen minimal amounts of snowfall in 2010 and 2006. Because snowfall is a relatively rare event, local media tend to at least provide mentions of the frozen precipitation so a researcher can use our newspaper microfilm to look up specific past snows.

It appears that the record snowfall in Beaufort County remains the blizzard of February 10-11, 1973. Local photographer Lucille Hasell Culp captured images of that event. Six inches of snow were on the ground. However the most snowfall in a 24-hour period was 5 inches on December 23, 1989. This snow stuck around in spots to give Beaufort County a White Christmas. You can see photographs that she took of the 1973 and the 1943 snowfall in our Lucille Hasell Culp Collection hosted online by the Lowcountry Digital Library. (Please note: the images in the Lucille Hasell Culp Collection are copyrighted by the Beaufort County Library).
Image copyrighted by Beaufort County Library
But Beaufort County has seen other significant amounts that are documented in our vertical files and image collections, e.g.: There was the "heaviest fall of snow in a half century" in mid-February 1899. According to Susan Hazel Rice's diary it began as a sleet storm on February 12 and the cold stuck around to freeze the water in the vases she had inside her home on Valentine's Day. The snow did not begin to melt until the temperatures warmed a bit after lunchtime on February 15th. (3) This same storm resulted in the death of Squirrel Heyward who froze to death out on Broad River while his boat companion Abram Scott suffered from frost bite but appears to have survived. (4)  
We know about a snowfall in late February 1914 on account of a memorial written by "A Friend" for Wyman Johnson: "His white spirit going out while the ground was covered with snow, was only a fitting end to his early career and symbolic of the life that he will live now beyond the vale." (5)
Clippings in our "Weather and Climate" vertical file indicate a Beaufort Blizzard of late February 1958 during which a Royal Esso Station attendant called snow "White Rain" and Eddie Boyer quipped at the post office "People are moving to Beaufort from Florida because there is less snow here." (6)   
We'd like to document your experience with Winter Storm Grayson for future researchers. Please share your images and reflections with us about Winter Storm Grayson by sending same to bdc@bcgov.net. We will select images and items for a new permanent BDC vertical file "Snowstorm (3 January 2018)." In 50 years time they too will scoff at how a few inches of snowfall can stymie governmental operations in a coastal South Carolina community.

Sources: 
(1) "General Description of South Carolina's Climate" by the South Carolina State Climatology Office, http://www.dnr.sc.gov/climate/sco/sc_climate.html Accessed 5 January 2018
(2) "South Carolina Snowfall Climatology" by the South Carolina State Climatology Office, http://dnr.sc.gov/climate/sco/ClimateData/cli_table_snowfall_climatology.php Accessed 5 January 2018

(3) February 12 - 15, 1899 diary entries by Susan Hasell Rice. BDC Archives.

(4) Palmetto Post (Port Royal, SC), 16 February 1899, p. 3. 
(5) "Death of Wyman Johnson," Beaufort Gazette (Beaufort, SC), March 5, 1914, p. 1.
(6) "Weather-Wise", Beaufort Gazette, 20 February 1958, Section B, p. 5.

02 January 2018

Winter Weather Causes Shutdown Jan. 3 for sure



All updates regarding the County’s operating schedule will be posted to the County website (www.bcgov.net) under News and Announcements.



To sign up for news alerts from County Administration, click here.

To sign up for news alerts from the Sheriff’s Office, click here or text your zip code to 888777.

27 December 2017

Emancipation Watch Night and the Day of Jubilee

The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Foundation sent an email blast sent on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 5:09PM encouraging awareness of an important Gullah New Year's Eve and Day tradition:

Not too long ago our elderly cultural bearers would speak of January 1 as 'Mancipation Day, the day the community would gather in the homes, praise houses and churches to listen to their elders describe their trials during slavery, and celebrate their joy that 'Mancipation Day had arrived. 'Mancipation Day always followed the sacred rituals of "Watch Night": an evening of prayer, waiting and watching that ended at midnight as the "Watchmen" called out the passing moments to freedom.

The Gullah Geechee celebration of Emancipation each January 1 has dimmed over time, yet some sea island communities held on to this extraordinary memory. In 2018 the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor is supporting the on-going celebrations of Emancipation Day and inspiring other communities to renew the celebration of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.

A number of lowcountry churches are participating 'Mancipation Day Watch Services this year. The list is on the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission website.

“Emancipation Day in South Carolina” – the Color-Sergeant of the 1st South Carolina (Colored) addressing the regiment, after having been presented with the Stars and Stripes, at Smith’s plantation, Port Royal, January 1, 1863. (Frank Leslie’s illustrated newspaper, January 24, 1863)

Are you curious to know about what happened on that fateful first 'Mancipation Day here in Beaufort District?  Read this Connections post from 2012 to find out!

To learn more about the celebrations of Emancipation Day throughout the nation, Dickinson College has a  Emancipation Digital Classroom website.

Please note: The Library will be closed Sat., Dec. 30, 2017 and Mon., Jan. 1, 2018 for the New Year's holiday.

20 December 2017

Season's Greetings from the Library


Please note: The Beaufort County Library will be closed Sat., Dec. 23, Mon., Dec. 25 and Tues., Dec. 26 for Christmas. The Library will be closed Sat., Dec. 30 and Mon., Jan. 1, 2018 for New Year's related holidays. 

May you and yours have a blessed holiday season. - Grace, Amanda and Melissa

17 December 2017

William Channing Gannett and the Port Royal Experiment: A Profile

Today's post was written by a great-grandson of William Channing Gannett, Michael Ross Gannett, Jr. who has graciously shared his research with us. 

Andover-Harvard Divinity School
When William Channing Gannett (1840-1923) debarked on March 9, 1862 from Steamer Atlantic in Beaufort’s harbor he was in the company of 52 other volunteering teachers and missionaries who had been invited by Freedmen’s Societies in Boston, New York and Philadelphia to teach and supervise “contrabands of war”, as newly freed slaves were first called, on nearby Sea Island plantations. Cotton plantation aristocracy had fled their Beaufort town homes immediately after Confederate forts on Hilton Head and St Helena islands were easily defeated by Commodore Dupont’s Union cannons on November 7, 1861. Those stately town homes were then occupied by the officers of thousands of occupying Union troops. Beaufort had became a bustling military Civil War cantonment. 

Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase had been requested by Military Governor Gen Rufus Saxton to devise plans for managing more than 10,000 former cotton plantation slaves, whose numbers grew as they fled toward the coast, out of reach from Confederate entanglements.  Chase had emerged as the mainspring of anti-slavery influence under the councils of President Lincoln. He instructed Pierce that in his work he would prepare the Negroes “for self-support by their own industry”. This was called the Port Royal Experiment.

Chase chose Boston attorney Edward Pierce to head up the Port Royal Experiment. On arrival Gannett allied himself with fellow Bostonian Edward Philbrick; they were assigned to John Fripp’s plantations on the east end of St Helena Island, Philbrick as a plantation superintendent. Gannett, and Harriet Ware, also from a prominent Boston family and eight years his senior, made quick work at Coffin Point and Pine Grove to start up schools. By mid-May Gannett was asked by Pierce to write the first Report Card for their students, detailing names of scholars and their levels of aptitude and learning, and which was filed as part of Pierce’s progress report sent to Chase just six months after the Port Royal Experiment was conceived.
Letters to Port Royal, ed. by Ware, pp. [xi -xiii]
Placing Gannett “in context” will help to appreciate the role he had volunteered for. He was not yet 22 years of age on arrival in Beaufort. He graduated Harvard College at 20 and had been elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year. He started and soon abandoned studies at Harvard Divinity School, undecided on his career. His father Ezra Stiles Gannett (ESG) was a Unitarian minister since 1820, when he joined William Ellery Channing, the most prominent Unitarian of his day, as his assistant. By 1860 ESG was planning the relocation of Channing’s old Federal Street congregation to Arlington Street opposite Boston Common, and was its minister. Gannett, whose mother died when he was six, grew up under his father’s household, which was more than a clergyman’s private domain. Boston’s “Brahmins” were ESG’s friends and associates. Young Gannett became an avowed abolitionist, having been inculcated with emancipationist theories from early exposure to speeches of William Lloyd Garrison and others.

By June 1862 at Coffin Point Gannett concluded his time and talents were better placed in assisting field-hands to do their work in growing cotton and becoming self-sufficient than in teaching their children their letters. On July 1st1862 he took up Superintendency of 11 small plantations at the west end of St Helena. Philbrick’s Unitarian contingent held that large scale Federal assistance such as the outright granting of lands the negroes had long occupied should be abandoned. Gannett wrote “Let the laws of labor, wages, competition etc. come into play- and the sooner will habits of responsibility, industry, self-dependence and manliness be developed.” This was a complicated period when Gideonite volunteers were actually government employees under military authority, when negroes were conscripted into the army depriving plantations of farmhands, when non-payment or slow payment of negro wages was a thorny issue, when controversy arose over methods of disposal of seized plantations lands was ever shifting, and during which time the negroes’ best interests were hotly debated in a Congress largely focused on war.

By early 1863 Gannett joined in Philbrick’s scheme to advance free-versus-slave labor theories on 7000 Coffin Point plantation acres; Philbrick purchased those lands at auction with a Boston investor group. Gannett was honorably discharged from army service so he could undertake this course for negro free-enterprise. After two one-year contract periods Gannett, however, decided Philbrick and he were no better than former plantation masters where profit from cotton was the motive. He did not renew his expired contract after December 31, 1864 and moved to Savannah where he lived out his last six months in the South as Agent for New England Freedmen’sSociety and a coordinator for finding local teachers and homes for emancipated slaves fleeing the devastation of Sherman’s March to the Sea in one of the final tumultuous stages of the Civil War. 

Gannett returned North and published an article entitled “The Freedmen at Port Royal”*, traveled a year in Europe with his father and pursued a degree at Harvard Divinity School. His letters written to his father and aunt Kate and sister Kate from St Helena Island remain untranscribed and unpublished today, yet two PhD theses were written on his life and he figures prominently in many accounts of the Port Royal Experiment. His distinguished career in the ministry and public service spanned 40+ years in the mid-west and Rochester, N.Y.

Sources:


Burton, Orville Vernon. Penn Center: A History Preserved, University of Georgia Press, [2014].
Dabbs, Edith M. Sea Island Diary: A History of St. Helena Island, Reprint Co., 1983.
Dougherty, Kevin, The Port Royal Experiment: A Case Study in Development, University Press of Mississippi, 2014.
Gannett, Michael Ross, Sr. Gannett Descendants of Matthew and Hannah Gannett of Scituate, Massachusetts. Privately printed, 1976.
*Gannett, William Channing, "The Freedmen at Port Royal," North American Review, No. CVIII, pp.1-28, July, 1865, Boston.
Letters from Port Royal written at the time of the Civil War, edited by Elizabeth Ware Pearson, W.B. Clarke Co., 1906.
Ochiai, Akiko. "The Port Royal Experiment Revisited: Northern Visions of Reconstruction and the Land Question," New England Quarterly 74.1 (2001): 94-117
"The Original Gideonites: List of the First Teachers who Traveled to Port Royal South Carolina from New York, March 2, 1862" http://www.drbronsontours.com/bronsonoriginalgideoniteslistoffirstteacherswhotraveledtoportroyalmar21862.html Accessed 14 December 2017 
Pease, William H. "Three years among the freedmen: William C. Gannett and the Port Royal Experiment," Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, 1957. 
Rose,Willie Lee. Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment, Bobbs-Merrill, 1964.
Towne, Laura M. Letters and Diary of Laura M. Towne written from the Sea Islands of South Carolina 1862-1884 edited by Rupert Sargent Holland, Riverside Press, [1912]. 
Vigilante, David. The Port Royal experiment: forty acres and a mule: a unit of study for grades 8-12, National Center for History in the Schools, University of California, Los Angeles, c1991.

Please note: The Sea Islands of South Carolina map above is from Letters from Port Royal (1906), pp. [xii-xiii]. The key is here:
 

10 December 2017

All Aboard!


Gerhard Spieler, Columnist
It's been a few years since I've written about the railroad related materials we have here in the Beaufort District Collection. Today I am going to use "Railroads Once Were Vital to Beaufort's Economy" by Gerhard Spieler from the Beaufort Gazette, August 12, 1997, p. 11A as the base for a brief exploration of railroad history in Beaufort District. I will indicate my editorial remarks and/or supplemental information with green lettering within parentheses to include updates and sources.

Railroads once were vital to Beaufort's economy 

   Studies are under way on the feasibility of running a tourist train on 25 miles of track between the [sic] Port Royal and Yemassee. The train would be in addition to the limited cargo service on that line now.  
(The tourist train idea did not get sufficient traction to become a reality and limited cargo service ceased on November 26, 2003. In 2008 Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority acquired the right-of-way to use as a utility corridor. After years of discussion, efforts to set up a walking/biking "Beaufort Rail Trail" began to flower once the BJW&SA granted a surface easement to Beaufort County to develop 14 miles of the corridor as a recreational trail in January 2011. The tracks were ripped up in stages between 2011 and 2015. The Spanish Moss Trail opened in 2013 and now occupies 10 miles of the former line. The trail is included in the TrailLink system of the Rails to Trails Conservancy. BTW: We helped with the historic markers near the Old Depot trailhead. There are  iPhone and iPad apps available. Newspaper and magazine clippings about the history of the Port Royal Railroad Company and various ideas about what to do with the rail bed are in a permanent vertical file in our Research Room.) 
Donner Collection, BDC, LCDL
   There was a period when railroads were the chief link between Beaufort and the outside world; they provided both passenger and freight service. Freight trains brought commercial cargoes to Beaufort and carried farm produce to Northern markets. Many small Lowcountry towns shuch as Denmark, Norway, Port Royal, Yemassee and Sweden owe their origin and existence to railroads. 

   Lowcountry historian William Whitten has one of the "few remaining passenger coaches" at his home in Port Royal. Whitten wrote in the Hilton Head Report that the 66-foot-long car was"on the round-trip run from Port Royal to Augusta from about the turn of the century to World War II."   

  Beaufort's only freight warehouse, located on Depot Road, was retired and later demolished in 1974. 
Beaufort Gazette, June 18, 1974, p. 1

Built in 1908, it was owned and used last by the Seaboard Coast Line. At one time, according to town historian John F. Morrall, the warehouse was the center of Beaufort's economic life, a place where town merchants met to talk as well as send and receive merchandise. 
Arnsberger Collection, BDC, LCDL


    The Charleston and Savannah Railroad, completed shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War, (First passengers climbed aboard on April 21, 1860) was the first railroad to operate in county limits. (The trip between the two cities took approximately nine hours each way. The train leaving Charleston set off at 7:40 am while the train leaving Savannah left at 9:00 am.) Located on the mainland, it was an important link in Confederate military control and in providing quick service between Charleston and Savannah. (In 2008, H. David Stone, Jr. examined the operation of the C&S RR in his book Vital Rails: The Charleston and Savannah Railroad and the Civil War in Coastal South Carolina. His book is available for check-out through the Local History sections of the Beaufort County Library as well as in the BDC's Research Room. The supplemental information about the date and schedule are from pp. 32-33 of Vital Rails.) 
Gift of Nancy Guthridge, former docent, BDC
   In 1869, a memorial of the Port Royal Railroad Co. stated "that the Company is engaged in building a railroad from Port Royal Harbor, in the State of South Carolina, to Augusta in the State of Georgia ... Your petitioner aims not only to construct a railroad, but also build a city." (We have a copy of  Petition of members of the Constitutional Convention of South Carolina, praying aid to the Port Royal Railroad Company in completing its road from Port Royal to Augusta, Georgia [Pamphlet article], 1868. Call # is SC 975.799 PET)
    The railroad was completed by 1874, (though parts of it opened in 1871 as this advertisement from the Beaufort County Republican attests)
Beaufort County Republican, Dec. 21, 1871, p. 3
and in the same year the new town of Port Royal received its state charter.  Docks were constructed to serve ships from northern states as well as Europe. Ships even furnished passenger service to European ports. The railroad carried truck farm produce to inland markets. 
1899 Sanborn Insurance Map, Beaufort Sheet 8, BDC, USC
   Financing prospects for the Port Royal Railroad turned out to be less promising than expected. Directors of the Georgia Railroad agreed in 1872 "to endorse $1 million of the first-mortgage bonds...." 
   After protests and threats of legal action by stock-and bond- holders, the sum was lowered to $500,000 and the board of directors was "paid for its endorsement by the transfer of enough stock to allow it to control the Port Royal Railroad Company."
   The railroad had found itself in financial difficulties from the start. After staring service March 1, 1873, the company defaulted on interest payments on its bonds by November. The railroad was sold at a foreclosure sale on June 6, to be succeeded by the Port Royal & Augusta Co. (The best explanation of the financial problems involved with the PR & A RR is "'Black an' Dusty, Goin' to Augusty:' A History of the Port Royal Railroad" by John Martin Davis, Jr. in the South Carolina Historical Magazine, vol. 105, (2004), pp. 198-225. Read it in our Research Room where we have the complete run of the magazine.) 
Arnsberger Collection, BDC, LCDL

   By 1915, the Charleston-to-Savannah Railroad began laying a railroad spur to connect Jasper, Bluffton and lower Beaufort County to the main line.

    "Cotton, corn, beans and potatoes... would have been useless without a way to get them to market in the early parts of this century," according to Fran Smith in a 1982 article in The Island Packet.  (I wish that Spieler had said what issue this article was in because we do not have an index to our newspapers - but if you'd like to come into the BDC Research Room we'll be happy to set you up with the microfilm reader/printer and the reel of the 1982 Island Packet issues so you can locate the precise article.) 
   The line was operated later by the Seaboard Coastline Railroad, but by 1973 the company sought permission to abandon that stretch. Many of the cargoes once carried by the railroad now came and went by trucks, over new highways and bridges. 
   In 1978, the last freight shipments on the railroad spur were unloaded at Levy Station in Jasper County.  
Culp Collection, BDC, LCDL
   Capt. Charles N. Barnum, in a 1967 paper presented to the Beaufort County Historical Society, described passenger service from Beaufort in 1929: 
There were two trains a day both ways at the Beaufort station. Going to Charleston would take about three hours. Going to Savannah took about four. Going either way required a change of trains, and the time taken was only an hour shorter than the normal running time of the regular boat to Savannah (from Bay Street). The railroad accommodations were coaches. Fresh air came in the open windows during the summer only.  (Read Barnum's unpublished "History of Public Transportation in Beaufort County" in our Research Room.)

   Through the years, first the Palmetto Post and then The Beaufort Gazette, recorded railroad news in their pages. A 1911 story in The Gazette reported a new through train from Port Royal to Augusta, Ga. A November 1914 article headlined "Seaboard Railroad from Charleston to Savannah." An April 1918 story told of "Dale Station on Seaboard Air Line Doing Good Business."
   Earlier, in August 1896, the Palmetto Post reported the "Sale of the Port Royal and Augusta Railway." In 1915, The Gazette reported "Seaboard Air Line Puts Beaufort County on its Main Line" and in October 1917, "Service on the new Seaboard Air Line Begins." 

Look at the "All Aboard! Railroads in Beaufort District and beyond" post on Wordpress for additional links and materials.  

We are thankful for our decade long partnership with the Lowcountry Digital Library. They provide technical assistance, preservation, and hosting of the digital images to make some of our materials available over the internet. 

The eagerly anticipated model trains exhibit will be at Beaufort Branch from 12 December through 16 December this year. Contact: library@bcgov.net or call 843-255-6456 for details.



06 December 2017

KIA: Pearl Harbor

(National Archives Image)

A few minutes before 8 o'clock on a quiet Sunday morning, [11:55 am in the Eastern Time Zone] the Japanese launched a surprise air attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

Fredrick Holmes Christensen, 1877-1944, was a Beaufort born businessman with lumber, hardware, petroleum, real estate, automobile and truck farming interests here. From 1893 to 1944 he kept an almost daily diary. On Sunday, December 7, 1941, he wrote:

We were electrified today when it was announced from Washington after 2 o'clock that Japanese aeroplanes had attacked the United States Naval base in Hawaian [sic] Islands and Honolulu. 
The assault  lasted less that two hours. On Monday, December 8, 1941, Christensen continued:
The reports from Hawaii are sketchy and incomplete. The Japanese claim they destroyed two battleships, an aeroplane carrier and hit numerous other warships. Washington says one of the older battleships was damaged so badly that she capsized. One destroyer blew up and several other vessels were damaged while 3000 casualties included 1500 killed. Many aeroplanes destroyed. 
As Christensen noted "After one week of war we are still without information on the extent of the damaged [sic] inflicted on our fleet in Hawaii by the Japs last Sunday."  (Diary entry on 14 December 1941). In the chaos and fog of war, sometimes mistakes about damages and casualties are made.


Some lowcountry men are known to have been on Oahu Hawaii the morning of the attack.  Gen. Jacob E. Smart (USAF) authored Lowcountry Families in World War II, A Memorial: We Mourn the Fallen and Honor All Who Served. He compiled biographies of servicemen from Hardeeville, Bluffton, southern Colleton County, Jasper and Hampton Counties. Smart mentioned the following  men from these areas as being present at Pearl Harbor that morning:
  • Oden Benton (Colleton County) was wounded by Japanese strafing runs at Bellows Field. He died of his wounds about two weeks later.
  • Roland M. Byrd
  • Richard A. (Ray) Malphrus
  • Joseph Clinton Nettles
  • Dr. Frank Ryan was the youngest captain in the United States Navy at the time. He was working at the Hospital. 

He also included Gerald H. Preacher who was a civilian engineer working for General Electric Company on the island and witnessed the attack.

Smart's book does not include service members who were from the population base of Beaufort County at the time, that is, the towns and rural communities of Northern Beaufort County: Beaufort, Port Royal, St. Helena Island, and Burton. However, we know that the effects of the attack impacted Beaufort County in a most significant way: The Beaufort Gazette issue on New Year's Day in 1942 proclaimed "Beaufort Lost Two Citizens at Pearl Harbor."

(BDC - Beaufort Gazette January 1, 1942)
It is significant that the Beaufort Gazette acknowledged the contributions and loss of these African-American brothers. It  went against commonly held views of the period to state "These two boys were citizens of Beaufort County ... and will prove to our state and national that all regardless of race, color or creed, we stand united in common purpose to destroy despotism and to free all peoples who now live under its barbarous masters."

After the very popular former SC Representative Stratton Christensen was killed, Fredrick Christensen, his kinsman, wrote this in his diary June 14, 1942:

This has been a pretty "Blue" week for us. Niels [Christensen] went to Boston to tell his Grand-mother of Stratton's loss. I tried to speak of it at the Rotary Club, but though I had thought out what I would say [I] could only give the first two or three opening sentences and had to quit. Everyone is very much interested and sympathetic -- it is the first ^ white^ casualty from Beaufort though two colored boys were killed at Pearl Harbor and two or three have died at camps.

I originally posted this Beaufort Gazette article in a blog post written for the Pearl Harbor anniversary in 2009.  Some years later a Bush family relative visiting our Research Room said that Leon had survived the war and had lived to a ripe old age up North. When volume 3 of The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina by Lawrence Rowland and Stephen Wise was published in 2015, the authors mention the brothers as among the first casualties from Beaufort County during World War II. The Bush brothers are listed on the Beaufort County's World War II roll of honor along with 36 other men who sacrificed their lives. (pp. 365-366, 375). Given that it was time to highlight the anniversary of Pearl Harbor again by researching some of the local men who were there, I decided to see what documentation I could find to back up the notices of death given in the Beaufort Gazette article. I used printed materials in the BDC and searched the Ancestry Library Edition database which we make available to our customers.

The first place I looked was The Official Roster of South Carolina Servicemen and Servicewomen in World War II, 1941-1946, 5 vols. (South Carolina State Budget and Control Board, 1967), p. 617. There I discovered entries for both men:

"BUSH, LEON W   2626463.  B DALE SC 10 JAN 20. HA NEW YORK NY.    EAD USN 14 AUG 40. HON DISCH    MATT2C  28 JUL 42" which translates to Leon W. Bush's service number is 2626463. He was born in Dale, SC on January 10, 1920. His [current to 1967] home address is New York, New York. He entered active duty in the United States Navy on August 14, 1940. He received an honorable discharge at the rank of MATT2C on 28 July 1942. 
"BUSH, SAMUEL J SN UNKWN. HA BEAUFORT SC. USN    MAIC  KIA" which translates to Samuel J. Bush, whose service number is unknown to the compilers of the official roster, was from Beaufort, SC. He was a sailor in the United States Navy. MAIC isn't listed in the abbreviations list so I am not sure what that means. (Perhaps one of you old tars can enlighten me). Bush was killed in action.

There is plenty of documentation to confirm that Samuel Jackson Bush, son of Adam W. Bush, died on December 7, 1941:   
  • The National Parks Service's World War II Valor in the Pacific website lists Samuel Jackson Bush (USS California) as killed during the attack.
  • Official Roster of South Carolina Servicemen and Servicewomen in World War II, 1941 – 1946, p. 617
  • Honolulu, Hawaii, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl), 1941 – 2011 (ALE)
  • WWI, WWII, and Korean War Casualty Listings (ALE)
  • World War II and Korean Conflict Veterans Interred Overseas (ALE)
  • U.S., Navy Casualties Books, 1776-1941 (ALE)
  • U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949 (ALE)


Apparently the brothers were on the same ship, the USS California when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. 
U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949 (ALE)
On the Muster Roll written on December 31, 1941, Samuel is listed as “Killed in action in the line of duty” and Leon is listed as having been transferred to the USS Salt Lake City on 13 December 1941. He went on to serve on the Nitro and West Virginia.

I have not been able to ascertain when the error became known to his family. I read all 52 issues of Beaufort Gazette for 1942 but did not see a retraction or announcement that Leon was alive. The Christensen diary entry in June 1942 indicates he believed that the Bush brothers were both dead. Although Christensen makes reference to an event held by the Negroes in memory of those lost at sea on 28 May 1944, the Beaufort Gazette did not cover the event. I was hoping to see if either brothers was mentioned at the Memorial service. (In all fairness, the BG was covering very little local news and was close to shutting down before a new editor leased it in mid-July). However, in the "Honor List of Those Who Gave Lives in Service" Beaufort Gazette, 19 July 1946, p. 1 only Samuel is listed - which leads me to surmise that news of Leon's survival had reached the area at some point between mid-1942 and mid-1946.


Leon is listed as a survivor in his father’s obituary. 
 
As indicated above, Leon is listed – very much alive -- in the Official Roster of South Carolina Servicemen and Servicewomen in World War II, 1941 – 1946, State Budget and Control Board, 1967, p. 617. He was honorably discharged on July 28, 1942. In 1967 he gave his residence as New York City. Another clue: According to Social Security Death Index records -- if I have the right Leon W. Bush as there are more than a few Leon Bushes listed -- he lived to be 90 years old and died in Barnstable Massachusetts on November 3, 2010.

The moral of this post? Emulate President Ronald Reagan: "Trust but verify" using sources at hand in the Library. Identify the potential sources (which can change over time), check those sources, and corroborate what you think you know  - because sometimes what you think you know might be wrong.