04 January 2010

Phosphate Industry in Beaufort County

Part-time Beaufort resident, Marty Davis, just published a very interesting article about a relatively unknown topic of great importance in the economic history of our area in the South Carolina Historical Magazine (SCHM). Here's a little snippet to whet your appetite to learn more about what Davis discovered in his research into the impact of the phosphate industry locally:

The South Carolina phosphate boom, which peaked in the last decade of the nineteenth century, is often described as a Charleston phenomenon.... While phosphates were found near South Carolina's major port, the bulk of the rock mined in the state and the profits generated by it came from Beaufort County. But few fortunes in Beaufort grew from that industry. The county was left with devastated lands ... and unemployed workers. [The story] is one of exploitation and abandonment.

Come to the BDC to read "Coosaw Rock Alchemy: A Short History of River-Phosphate Mining in Beaufort County," by John Martin Davis, Jr., SCHM, vol. 109, no. 4(October 2008), pp. 269-294. [The SCHM tends to run about 12 to 14 months behind schedule so the issue actually has a date of October 2008].

One of the local companies involved in phosphate mining was the Pacific Guano Company. We were very fortunate to receive a donation of photographs from the descendants of two mining engineers, Conrad Donner and Leonard Donner, who worked for Pacific Guano. Conrad Donner was an amateur photographer who left images of some of the phosphate mining operations on Chisolm Island for posterity.

We named the digital version of the contents of the donated albums "Phosphate, Farms, and Family: The Donner Collection." You can view the entire collection online. Select the "Browse by Subject" button and headings Pacific Guano Company; Chisolm Islands; Phosphate Industry; and Phosphate Mines for best results.

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