Hidden Secrets of Oconee


So two posts in one day!!!!  WOOO!  I bet you are excited to see what else awaits you in South Carolina!   This post does include ruins, but that’s a bit further down on the page if you want to skip ahead.  If you know anything about me, I’m an avid Gamecock Fan.   However, as much as I tout the superiority of the University of South Carolina to Clemson ;), I do respect Clemson greatly as a school and asset to our state.   I also recognize that it is located in one of the most GORGEOUS spots in South Carolina.  I have been dying to visit Oconee County for years, and the reason might be surprising to you.

Yep.

Some people may or may not be aware, but James Dickey used to be the head of USC’s Southern Studies Department.   As a former Southern Studies student, you can imagine that I read this book a lot.   A lot= 3 times in college.  Rumor has it that Dickey wrote this book while sitting at the edge of the Congaree in downtown Columbia.   So to defend all of my Georgia friends, his inspiration could arguably have been Columbia, SC.

However, don’t fret Gamecock friends.   The true setting of the novel is along the fictional river Cahulawassee.  However, the river was based on the true river, the Chattooga, which meanders from North Carolina, to the border of Georgia and South Carolina, eventually feeding into the Savannah River.   So all three states can take the blame of the most infamous male rape setting.

Complex.com

I’ve always been fascinated with this book, and believe it or not is one of the most well written stream of consciousness novels I’ve read.  But there is something about the way Dickey speaks about the river.

“’What a view’, I said again. The river was blank and mindless with beauty. It was the most glorious thing I have ever seen. But it was not seeing, really. For once it was not just seeing. It was beholding. I beheld the river in its icy pit of brightness, in its far-below sound and indifference, in its large coil and tiny points and flashes of the moon, in its long sinuous form, in its uncomprehending consequence.” -James Dickey, Deliverance

I’ve wanted to see the river that inspired this novel, and to visit the land around it.  I’ve seen the Congaree dozens of times, along with the Saluda and Broad, but I felt the Chattooga River would be more of a personal experience for me.   I’ve grown up in North Augusta most of my life, and lived along the Savannah River.  I’ve always been in awe of rivers, but the Savannah will of course be my first.   The Chattooga River eventually becomes the Savannah River.

I wanted to see the Chattooga of course, but I also wanted to see the history of the area.   When I arrived I was not disappointed.

First we visited Stumphouse Tunnel and Issaqueena Falls.  This link has more about this.

Evidently, you are discouraged from entering if you were wearing any clothing from going into other caves, to protect the bats....this did not make me want to enter.

Evidently, you are discouraged from entering if you were wearing any clothing from going into other caves, to protect the bats….this did not make me want to enter.

This was huge.  It was a tunnel that was never completed, intending to Charleston to Knoxville to Cincinnati.  It was abandoned in 1859 due to funds running out with only roughly 1/5th carved out.   The Civil War secured the fact that it would never be completed.  Clemson University used it in the 1950’s to make blue cheese.   Today it owned by the city of Walhalla.

Yes, the inside was very creepy.  This awaited you at the end.  This was where the Blue Cheese was stored.   It was very dark and damp inside.

Yes, the inside was very creepy. This awaited you at the end. This was where the Blue Cheese was stored. It was very dark and damp inside.  Those of you that know my fascination with Ghost stories know I immediately tried to find out if there were any, but I could not find any true accounts.

Next to the tunnel is Issaqueena Falls which was definitely beautiful, and very cool that it is literally right next to the tunnel.

Supposedly named after a n indian maiden whom after finding out her village was going to attack a white settlement, warned the settlers.  The village learning of her betrayal, chased her to this point, where she jumped apparently to her death.  The Indians moved on, but unbeknownst to them, she had hidden behind the waterfall, surviving.

Supposedly named after an Indian maiden, whom after finding out her village was going to attack a white settlement, warned the settlers. The village, learning of her betrayal, chased her to this point, where she jumped apparently to her death. The Indians moved on, but unbeknownst to them, she had hidden behind the waterfall, surviving.  Looking at this waterfall, its doubtful that she could have hidden behind it, but maybe it looked different then.

If you want to see this site, click here for more directions.

Next we visited on accident to find the river the Fish Hatchery in order to see the Chattooga River.  It was pretty entertaining to see the fish jump around.

If you want more information about visiting, you can find it here.

While at the Fish Hatchery, I got to see a little of the Chattooga.

I don't know what the bridge support is for.

I don’t know what the bridge support is for.

There was a trail that led eventually to the spot where South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina meet, but to get there was pretty difficult.  Since we were not prepared, we decided to save that for another time.

I absolutely love this picture.  There are not many places left in the Appalachia Mountains that look as wild as this.  Plus it has some plants that give it a tropical look that I imagine is unique to this area.

I absolutely love this picture. There are not many places left in the Appalachia Mountains that look as wild as this. Plus it has some plants that give it a tropical look that I imagine is unique to this area.

We moved on and eventually found the Chattooga.  I pulled over and got these pictures.  Read the description for more.

Though I had seen a portion of it earlier near the Hatchery, I was very excited to see the river fully here.   It was so green and beautiful that it was stuck in my mind for days.  We did not get to see the rapids of the river, but this was worth it.  The river was also pretty deep at this point, but it was so clear, you could see straight down.

Though I had seen a portion of it earlier near the Hatchery, I was very excited to see the river fully here. It was so green and beautiful that it was stuck in my mind for days. We did not get to see the rapids of the river, but this was worth it. The river was also pretty deep at this point, but it was so clear, you could see straight down.

Another close up.

Another close up.

I can see now why Dickey was so enamored of it.

On our way back, we were not expecting to see anything else, and frankly wanted to get back to Columbia soon.  But then we saw this sign.

Chattooga Town

The sign is self explanatory, but there was another site here.  The Russell House ruins were in this location.   The settlement was started in 1867, and the other building were built afterwards.  Though isolated from civilization, it was easy to see why it would be a good spot.  The land was still rich, and on a good location near the river.

For more info, click here:

I was interested in seeing the ruins of the place.  The house burnt down in the 1980’s, but the other buildings were still around.  Read my descriptions for more.

This Brook was on the property and appeared out of the ground.  Very Cool!

This Brook was on the property and appeared out of the ground. Very Cool!

I think I read that this was a corn husk barn. It was still very well preserved. These buildings were very eerie going into. They look like they were part of a post apocalyptic world, had the Apocalypse happened in the 1890’s.

A building that was buried in the ground.

A building that was buried in the ground.

Spooky

Spooky

This was an old barn on the property.

This was an old barn on the property.

Decaying Shed

Decaying Shed

The longer I stayed, the more bothered I was.  The place looked like it had been kept up, but it had slipped into decay.   This was confirmed when I found out that this place had been used for weddings until the main house burnt down in the late 1980’s.

I then found this site.  PLEASE READ.

The area was maintained by the Forest Service until the House built down.  I imagine that now it is only minimally maintained.  I feel this is the saddest misfortune.  If I had all the money in the world, I would like to try to restore the place.  It’s history is very fascinating, and now it’s left in ruin.  Usually, I like the appeal of the ruins I visit, and want to keep them preserved as is, but with this place, I feel that the house should be rebuilt ( a replica like the Kershaw-Cornwallis House in Camden).

I want to look further into the Russell House and see if there are any efforts to try to save the site.   If you have any information for me, please let me know.  I’m dying of curiosity.

POST EDIT:  Evidently, there is an effort.  If you would like to know more please look here and here.

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About Elizabeth W.

I'm the writer of the hidden history of South Carolina blog. Unfortunately, I've moved to Virginia, and can no longer write for it, or just add Virginia spots...but if you would like to take on the Blog, let me know. my other blog, Thou Shalt Fly without Wings, is my personal blog about my journey through education, history, horses, and the paranormal.
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