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Historical Society Makes Annual Report

Editor’s Note: As submitted by the ECHS.

Annual Report of the

Edgefield County Historical Society

January, 2012

The Edgefield County Historical Society is pleased to publish this Annual Report of its 2011 activities and its 2012 goals and objectives.  The Society is open to all who have an interest in Edgefield County’s past and/or future.  Annual membership dues are as follows:

 

Individual                        $ 35.00                  Corporate                             $ 100.00

Family                               50.00                     Life                                        500.00

Patron                              100.00                   Benefactor                            1,000.00

Those who would like to join may send your check payable to the Edgefield County Historical Society at P.O. Box 174, Edgefield, S.C. 29824.  You may choose to include a note about your special interest or family connections.  Also, please include your full address and your e-mail address if you have one.

2011 was a very productive year for the Society.  The following is an overview of our year’s activities:

Spring Meeting, March 26, 2011:  We began our year with the dedication of the William Miller Bouknight Theatre in the Discovery Center which had been completed in 2010.  Mrs. Harrison (Paynie Bouknight) Tyler had given the Society a substantial gift to assist with this project which has been named for her father, William Miller Bouknight (1896-1945).  Our Theatre has made a major contribution to the cultural life of the Edgefield County.  During the year six live productions were undertaken by the Edgefield County Theatre Company.  These productions were extremely successful, resulting in sell-outs for almost every performance!  The theatre has also been used for the showings of a number of historic films and for meetings of various groups.

The Dr. Arthur F. and Esther Goldberg Edgefield Pottery Groundhog Kiln Project:  The construction of this kiln was a major project for the Society during 2011.  With a generous leading gift from Dr. & Mrs. Goldberg, financial contributions from a number of other individuals and the volunteer assistance of many persons, we were able to proceed with this project which we had contemplated for nearly twenty years.  The project was constructed at the edge of Historic Pottersville on land owned by the Town of Edgefield where the Crest Manufacturing Plant had been located for many years. By the end of June, the kiln was completed and ready for firing.  The kiln is very functional and has proven so during the three firings which we had during 2011.  In the interior of the shed in front of the kiln are seven interpretive panels which tell the stories of Pottery Manufacturing and the Groundhog Kiln, Edgefield Pottery, Pottersville, Dr. Abner Landrum, Dave Drake, Dr. Goldberg and the Lifelong Interest of Dr. Goldberg in Ceramics.

The Pottersville Archaeological Dig:  During May and June, at the same time the Goldberg Kiln was being constructed, an archaeological team from the University of Illinois undertook to excavate the original Pottersville kiln which dated from about 1810.  This was an exciting project which involved several lead archaeologists, about fifteen archaeological students from across the nation and a number of local volunteers.  The result of the excavation was the discovery that this original kiln was 9.5 feet wide and 105 feet in length, making it one of the largest kilns of its kind in the nation.  It is anticipated that the University of Illinois team will be returning in the future to continue their explorations.  During the time the archaeological team was at work, the Society sponsored, with the assistance of a grant from the South Carolina Humanities Council, a series of lectures in the Bouknight Theatre.  Each lecture drew a good turnout of pottery enthusiasts from across the Southeast as well as a number of local persons.

Summer Meeting, July 2, 2011:  The Edgefield Pottery activities of 2011 provided an excellent subject for our 2001 Summer Meeting.  On Saturday, July 2nd the Society hosted “A Celebration of Edgefield Pottery, The Dedication of the Dr. Arthur F. and Esther Goldberg Edgefield Pottery Kiln Project and a Fourth of July Celebration” at the kiln site.  Several days before the event, on Tuesday, June 28th, the kiln was loaded and fired.  Dozens of potters and other interested parties were on hand to watch the exciting process in which wood was fed into the fire-box, building an enormous fire which gradually heated the kiln to temperatures which ultimately approached 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Early on the morning of the Gala, the kiln had cooled sufficiently to unload its contents.  Crowds had arrived early to view the event.   Feeling somewhat apprehensive, the dozen or so potters who had loaded their vessels into the kiln before the firing, stood around waiting to view their pieces as they were removed.   Nearly two hundred jugs, jars, plates and artifacts of all shapes and sizes were placed on display – many of them available for purchase.  Most of them had the date of this first firing of the new groundhog kiln incised on them.

In the field alongside the kiln, patriotic red, white and blue flags and banners adorned a massive tent under which people dined on barbecue and listened to the cheerful strains of  the well-known Channelheimers Oompah  band.  Everyone came to their feet for the singing of the National Anthem, then sang along with the band leading the way, “America the Beautiful,” “God Bless America” and, of course, “Dixie”!   It was hot, as it should be in early July, but plenty of watermelon, lemonade and cold beer were on hand to quench the thirst.  The program, which included speeches from Dr. Goldberg and various other individuals who had participated in the pottery projects, concluded with a pottery auction, with some of the pots by Master Potter Ferrell going as high as $1,500 apiece.  The Summer Meeting, despite the July heat, was enjoyed by all who attended.

Fall Meeting, October 16, 2011:  Our Fall Meeting was a celebration of one of our most historic homes, Halcyon Grove.  Halcyon Grove had been purchased in 2008 by Tim and Beth Worth who did a wonderful job not only in restoring the house, but also in preserving its wonderful history.  For the event, the Society sponsored the erection of a South Carolina Historical Marker in the front of the house.  The meeting featured a detailed history of the house and its neighborhood by Society Historian, Bettis C. Rainsford, a special presentation on the Lipscomb family by Lipscomb family historian Charles Andrews, and reflections on growing up at Halcyon Grove by Frank Feltham.  Following the meeting, Tim and Beth Worth provided a lovely reception and tours of the house.  We are very grateful to Tim & Beth for all that they did to return Halcyon Grove to its glory and for their generosity in sponsoring this meeting.  All who attended agreed that this was one of the best meetings in the history of the Society.

Christmas Events at Magnolia Dale:  The Society’s traditional Christmas events at Magnolia Dale were very successful.  With the leadership of Carrie Monday and the talents of James “Main” Gilchrist, the decorations of Magnolia Dale were incredibly beautiful.  Using traditional smilax, holly and boxwood, the entire house was transformed into a Christmas wonderland which impressed everyone who went there.  On Saturday, December 3rd, our Christmas Gala was a beautiful affair which was enjoyed by all who attended.  The next day, Sunday, December 4th, we sponsored the Christmas Tour of Churches.  Tricia Glenn organized this and the Rev. David Bauknight of the Edgefield United Methodist Church choreographed the program for all of the Churches.  We had the largest crowd for this affair that anyone can remember.  The next week, Magnolia Dale was the site of a beautiful reception following the Ordination Ceremony for the Rev. Tom Dimarco, the new priest at the Episcopal Church of the Ridge.  The Edgefield Camellia Club also took advantage of the Christmas decorations and held its December meeting at Magnolia Dale.

The Joanne T. Rainsford Discovery Center:  Operations at the Discovery Center have gone well this year.  The most significant additions to the Discovery Center this year include (1) the erection of copies of the interpretive panels from the Goldberg kiln around the Pottery Collection of Mrs. Henrietta “Rietta” M. Boatwrigh and (2) a model of Carnoosie, the Sheppard mansion, done by the late Arthur S. Tompkins, III, a gift of Dr. Betty Jean Wood. With strong support from many volunteers, and with the leadership of John Gerrard, Discovery Center Manager, we have been able to keep the Center open and vibrant.  We still need additional volunteers, so if you would like to help, please give John a call at 803-637-3833 or 803-624-0057.

Magnolia Dale:  We made several important improvements at Magnolia Dale late last year, including the installation of a water heater and some wiring improvements in the kitchen.  The ladies of the Episcopal Church of the Ridge presented us with a beautiful table cloth for our dining room table in appreciation for our having allowed them to use Magnolia Dale for their reception.

Living History Projects:  Stephen Ferrell and Ed Redman have continued to do a wonderful job at the Old Edgefield Pottery, demonstrating their pottery-making techniques for visitors, as well as continuing their research into pottery and related subjects.  We are excited about the possibility of getting the Village Blacksmith open once again.  Standby for news on this development.  Ike Carpenter continues to add a wonderful dimension to our historic attractions.

The Edgefield History Class:  The Edgefield History Class continues to meet every Sunday afternoon, working on its book, The American Revolution in Edgefield – from Ninety Six to Augusta.  We now anticipate that this will be completed in 2013.  All interested parties are invited to join the Class which meets at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoons in the Tompkins Library.

Edgefield Orientation Film:  During 2011 we began the process of making an introductory film for the Town of Edgefield.  This project was funded in part by a $5,000 grant from the Town of Edgefield and is being produced by Storyline Media of Aiken.  It will be used as an orientation film at the Discovery Center to introduce Edgefield and Edgefield history to visitors before they begin their tour of our museum.  More importantly, however, it will be available to all community organizations, including the Town, the County, the Historical Society, the Downtown Development Association and the Economic Development Partnership to put onto their websites so that visitors from afar will be able to learn about Edgefield with a click of their mouse.  We are confident that this film will be one of the most effective marketing tools that Edgefield and Edgefield County could possibly have.  We anticipate that this film will be completed in the next several months.

Edgefield Photographic Collection:  For some years now our Society Archivist, Tricia Glenn, has been assembling a wonderful collection of historic photos of Edgefield places and people.  She is anxious to find other photos that members and other Edgefieldians might have.  If you have such photos and are willing to let us make copies, please give Tricia a call (803-507-5093) and she will scan them.  It only takes a couple of minutes to get a good scan and this will preserve your photos in our collection for years to come.

Publications:  The Society has had an active year in publishing as indicated by the following:

William Miller Bouknight (1896-1945), a biographical sketch of that agricultural and community leader of the first half of the 20th century, was published as a part of our Spring Meeting program.

 The Program for the Summer Meeting, a colorful souvenir of July 2nd Gala Event included copies of the materials in the interpretive panels at the Goldberg kiln.

The Story of Halcyon Grove, by Bettis C. Rainsford, written for the Fall Meeting of the Society, is a 47 page booklet which contains a comprehensive history of the house and its neighborhood which was published in as a part of our Fall Meeting program.

2012 Objectives:  In conclusion, 2011 was one of the most productive years in our Society’s history.  We look forward to continued progress in 2012.  Projects on which we will be working include (1) completing the Edgefield Orientation Film, (2) developing a new website for our organization, (3) building an overseer’s house at Horn’s Creek Church, and (4) further development of our Pottery activities.  We also anticipate having very interesting meetings for our members in the Spring, Summer and Fall this year.  The 2012 Fall Meeting will be devoted to Darby, the wonderful plantation home of Miss Clarice Wise which was once the home of Governor Milledge Bonham.  The subject of our 2012 Summer Meeting has not yet been decided.  We are currently working on our 2012 Spring Meeting and will announce that within the next few weeks.

Board and Executive Additions:  We are also very pleased to announce that Beth Worth and Justin Guy have agreed to serve on our Board.  Beth, who is the South Carolina Marketing Director for Doncaster, will assume the position of Membership Chair, replacing Mickey Marshall who has become Third Vice President. We thank Mickey for his hard work with membership during the last several years.  Beth brings a lot of energy to the position and will help us expand our membership reach.  Justin, who is the instructor at the Piedmont Tech Pottery School in Edgefield, will take on the responsibility of coordinating our Pottery initiatives, working with Master Potter Steve Ferrell and Associate Potter Ed Redman.  Our Society has been very active in promoting Edgefield Pottery for nearly fifty years, beginning in the early 1960’s when Society Vice President Carlee McClendon “discovered” our pottery heritage. This year we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Old Edgefield Pottery and build on the exciting year we had for Edgefield Pottery in 2011. We believe that there is much potential to develop pottery-related projects in Edgefield and we are so pleased that Justin will be heading that effort.

Thank you!  Finally, we want to express our appreciation to each of our members for their loyal support.  Without your interest and your financial contributions we would not be able to accomplish what we have.  We hope that you are pleased with how we have handled our mission, and we are always delighted to receive any suggestions which you may have. Thank you!