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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Greenwood to North Augusta on US Hwy 25

My wife and I like to travel. We don't feel that we have to see something exciting, or something that attracts lots of other people. We do like to see things that interest us, but it doesn't necessarily take much--a hawk on a tree will do it.

On March 4th of this year, we spent the night in Augusta, GA. Part of our trip was on US 25, from Greenwood, SC, to North Augusta, SC. A few years ago, I taught some Saturday morning classes in North Augusta, and we had traveled this route several times before. There are no big tourist attractions. Our highway map using shows no cities, towns, or villages at all. Nonetheless, let me tell you some of what we saw.

Not too far out of Greenwood is a small farm. The house is brick veneer. That's not unusual. The outbuildings are also all brick veneer, too. That is unusual.

Upstate South Carolina, where we live, is a rapidly growing area. My wife grew up there, and traveling roads that she used to take, she often remarks that she remembers when there were no houses, or no shops, along this route. Now there are. Well, this area isn't growing visibly. There are still lots of pastures. There are still lots of wood lots, some being harvested. Fire ants infest most of the pastures, and their hills sprout up along the road like the waste earth from little strip mines. There are occasional ponds. Once in a while we have seen a great blue heron in one.

A few miles further on, there is a brick wall on either side of the road, perpendicular to the roadway, as if the road is entering an estate. Then, a mile or so further on, there is another pair. Apparently, someone started to develop this land, and wanted to advertise the development with these brick gates. For whatever reason, nothing seems to have come of this, as there are no buildings or driveways at all between the boundaries.

Our trip was made more interesting by "Walter Edgar's Journal," a weekly radio program from the State public radio network. This week, it was on growing rice like that grown in South Carolina many years ago.

Edgefield, SC, is about two-thirds of the way to Augusta. The town advertises itself as having been home to ten governors. Clearly, its sons have made their mark on the state, and even the nation. The last governor to come from Edgefield, we believe, was J. Strom Thurmond, who went on to become the Dixiecrat candidate for President, and was in the US Senate for longer than anyone else in the history of the country. He finally retired, to the Edgefield hospital, where they had a special room for him. He didn't live there long, dying a few months later. He wasn't the last politician from Edgefield to go to Washington. Butler Derrick, US Congressman for 10 years, during the last quarter of the previous century, was from Edgefield.

There is something called the National Wild Turkey Federation a little South of Edgefield. We do have wild turkeys in South Carolina, and there must be some near Edgefield.

Greer, South Carolina, and the surrounding area, near the Northern part of I-85, is known as the peach capital of the South. There is even a water tower with a giant peach, appropriately colored, and with a stem and one leaf, near Gaffney. However, there is also a peach industry between Edgefield and North Augusta.

The closer you get to Augusta, the more sand is found in the soil.

US 25 turns right at a little hamlet named Trenton. Right after the turn, there is a section of the road lined with pecan trees on both sides. Pecan trees are quite common in the South, but this is the only place I know of where they are planted along the road on both sides. (I was unable to find a good picture of leafless pecan trees. Like most trees, they have a characteristic shape. I should have taken one myself.)

After that, there is a large flower wholesaler on the right.

Just outside of North Augusta, perhaps two miles from the intersection with I-20, there is an amazing community. One travels along, seeing occasional small homes or businesses. Then, all at once, you are in a housing development. On each side of the road, there are nice brick houses (someone else was struck by these). Interspersed among them are roughly equal numbers of mobile homes, a strange juxtaposition. Once we drove among these homes, and asked a woman, who was out walking, about this practice. She told us that the people simply lived in mobile homes until they could afford to build. There's a Catholic church in the development. Although there are Catholics in South Carolina, they are a minority, but there are Catholic symbols in front of almost every house in this area. Another interesting thing about these houses is that the windows are darkened. You can't see anything but blinds, or sheets. All the windows seem to be covered from the inside. This area is known as Murphy Village.

The most interesting thing about these houses, however, is that most or all of the people living in this group of houses are Irish Travellers. (Word doesn't like the spelling with 2 l's, but that seems to be the way this particular term is spelled.) (See links in the previous paragraph for a little more information on these people. There are some of them still in Ireland, apparently, and they probably live in other places in North America.)

* * * *

On April 12th, 2005, an editorial in the Greenville News (SC) complained about wasteful government spending, listing nearly $500,000 spent on the National Wild Turkey Foundation as one such example.

Thanks for reading.


April said...

Just FYI, my friend Katie England from Walhalla married Strom Thrumond's son and they just had a son.

Bonnie said...

I really enjoyed reading this account, Martin. My husband and I like to do this type of travel too (though we don't travel much these days except to visit family, and our travel activities tend to be geared toward our children :-) ).

We lived in Charleston, SC for 4 years and travelled around the state a bit but I don't think we got to the western part.

Love that azalea pic, BTW...brings back memories!

blondegirl765 said...

i live in augusta about 5 min. from murphy village. the irish travlers culture is very fascinating me very much.i am dating one right now. people treat them and talk about them as if they were a different species and really they're just like us.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, blondegirl765. The links in my post also indicate that there is unwarranted prejudice against these people.

Duck Hunter said...

Martin, I came across this post looking for info on those brick "gates" on hwy 25. If you are headed out of Greenwood, about 1/2 way between the gates there is a dirt drive with another gate on the left. It has a name on it but I was going too fast to see it. I may return to get a photo.

Have you ever learned any information about this area?

Martin LaBar said...

No, Duck Hunter. I haven't. Sorry.

Seabass said...

I also came across this post while trying to find information on the "Greenwood Gates" on Highway 25. I traveled frequently between Clemson and Aiken several years ago, and those gates puzzled me. Halfway between the gates is what appeared to be a driveway with two more brick gates, so one time I turned into it (as it looked quite abandoned) and as I'd find out, it went a hundred feet into a loop around what appeared to be a crumbling fountain in front of an old cemetery!

I didn't take any pics, but the graves were a century old. Th one-lane loop around was also littered with downed tree limbs, which made driving out of t a bit of an off-road challenge. My theory is the whole area between the gates was part of an older estate, because the cemetery was most definitely a private family cemetery (the last names were all W-something, Williams or Weathers, I can't recall) long since abandoned, and things like that wouldn't be located on the side of a random highway.

Here's a link to the Google Streetview location of the cemetery entrance:

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, Seabass!

It's amazing that my post can still be found, after more than six years.

Thanks for the description of the area. I checked out the link you gave, and those are the gates, all right.

Seabass said...

Not sure if anyone is still around but I just drove by this area again and remembered this post from years ago. The forest has been clearcut around the cemetery and is now easily viewable from the highway:

Also came across another website that confirms it is the Matthews Estate and family cemetery: Hope this closes the mystery for anyone else that stumbles across this post.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks again, Seabass.

Interesting information.