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.

03 December 2017

Sandlapper: the Magazine of South Carolina goes digital

Sandlapper: The Magazine of South Carolina was established in 1968 by the Lexington lawyer Robert P. Wilkins, Sr. and his wife Rose. Wilkins promoted the state’s beauty, citizens, and history through the magazine. The final issue of the magazine was Winter 2011/Spring 2012, and Robert P. Wilkins, Sr. passed away in 2013. Sandlapper used a variety of South Carolina photographers and writers to showcase the best of the state. Columns about restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts, and recipes are included with articles about towns, counties, history, and trends.

The Beaufort District Collection holds bound issues from 1968-1982; 1990 - 2005; and 2010 - 2011. We also have a copy of the Sandlapper Index, 1968-1972 by John Robert Young (Orangeburg County Library, 1997) that can help you locate specific articles seek. Visit us during our regular hours of operation to explore all that this magazine offers.  

You can view the first decade of Sandlapper here: http://scmemory.org/collection/sandlapper-the-magazine-of-south-carolina/

Just a heads up: As we are now in the midst of the holiday season, Beaufort Branch will have the Model Trains on display, December 12 - 16. Towards the end of the month, there will be closures to pencil into your calendar.

29 November 2017

Two Steps Every Researcher Should Take

Today, I am "borrowing" a post from the National Archives Catalog blog. In their article they advise researchers to search the National Archives catalog first and then call ahead. I reckon that you should search our catalog first

and then contact us for additional details: bdc@bcgov.net or call 843-255-6446. It's good advice for any family history or historical researcher. Do a little investigation in advance and contact staff before heading to the archives. It can prevent you from a wasted visit, considerable time and money - particularly with the holiday season drawing nigh.

Two Steps Every Researcher Should Take
You’ve determined your research topic and gathered information, but are you ready to visit a National Archives facility to conduct your research in person?

Before you arrive, be sure to follow these two steps to ensure success!
  1. Search the National Archives Catalog
  2. Contact National Archives staff before your visit
National Archives Identifier 35810628

Search the National Archives Catalog

Use the National Archives Catalog to search for your topic and related keywords. If you’re having trouble finding relevant results, try narrowing your search with the refine options on the left side of the screen or by conducting an advanced search. If you have any questions about how to use the Catalog, please contact us at catalog@nara.gov. We are here to help you navigate!

Once you find records that interest you and you decide to visit a National Archives facility to view them in person, first confirm their availability by checking their Access Restriction(s) in the “Details” section of the Catalog description.

If records are listed as “Unrestricted,” you should be able to view the records in person. If records are listed as “Restricted - Possibly,” “Restricted - Partly,” or “Restricted - Fully” then you may be unable to view them in person.
If you are interested in coming to a National Archives facility to view particular records, note the National Archives Identifier (NAID) of the records. This will come in handy in the next step when you contact us.
National Archives Identifier 35810078

Contact Us

Regardless of the Access Restriction(s), please contact the reference unit listed in the Catalog description under “Archived Copies.” It is very important that you contact us three or more weeks before any planned visit to give the reference staff enough time to do appropriate investigation and preparation.

Reference staff will be able to confirm the availability of records and possibly prepare them for your visit if available for research. Give them either the URL you bookmarked or the NAID you recorded. Please note, not all facilities will prepare records in advance of your visit.
Even if you don’t find anything of interest, still contact us! If you know which facility holds the records you would like to see, contact them directly (a list of locations with contact information can be found here). If you are unsure of which facility might hold records relevant to your interest, use the general contact us form. It’s possible the records you seek haven’t been described yet, or weren’t described in a way that corresponded to the keywords you entered in your search. A reference archivist will be able to help you further.

We know in person research visits often involve time and money, so we want to help ensure your visit is as successful and productive as possible.

Want more researcher pro tips? Check our Researchers Help group on History Hub!