Those who want to find a window into the past will have no trouble finding what they are looking for in the ghost towns in South Carolina. There are a number of deserted communities, as well as some that have been completely wiped off the map.
What happened to these towns? Here are some examples of what can cause a town to vanish like a phantom in the night.
Pinckneyville, South Carolina (Union County)
Ghostly ruins mark the town of Pinckneyville, SC, which was formed in 1791 for the sole purpose of establishing a courthouse. Expectations were high that the city would be a commercial success in the state. Homes and stores were built to meet the expectation.
An interesting anecdote about this ghost town is the long feud between two families, the McMahans and the Taylors. Their dispute resulted in many lawsuits over property, especially after the court was moved to another city in 1800. The McMahans purchased the courthouse and converted it to a home. The Taylors operated a hotel across the street.
The bitter rivalry lasted beyond the grave. Taylor died in 1832 and arranged for his remains to be buried in front of McMahan’s house. McMahan died in 1848. For many years, he had to look the grave of his neighborly nemesis every day.
Dorchester, South Carolina (Dorchester County)
Dorchester was founded in 1696 by a group of settlers that came from Dorchester, Massachusetts. It had humble beginnings and equally humble lean-to homes. Its pride and joy was the church, named the Old White Meeting House. It was named after Rev. John White, an Englishman who supported the settlers’ migration.
In 1720, Rev. Lord moved back north to Massachusetts. Death from widespread disease and illness killed many residents. There were not enough resources nearby to support the number of citizens. In 1751, those that remained abandoned Dorchester and moved to nearby states. British troops destroyed what was left of the town in 1781.
The ghost town no longer exists, even the foundations have been excavated. The skeletal remains of the church and connecting cemetery are owned by a Presbyterian church.
Also Read: Gold Mining within the Carolina Slate Belt
Andersonville, South Carolina (Anderson County)
This dead town was settled about 1800. At one time, it flourished as a trading and textile community. But in 1940, it was struck by a flood that destroyed its textile mills. The mills were rebuilt, but Andersonville drowned due to a second flood in 1852. An additional cause of death was that the railroad bypassed the town. The industry of the community was lost; residents fled. The construction of Lake Hartwell eventually flooded the whole community.
Andersonville was known for its infamous Confederate prison camp. Built to hold 10,000 Union prisoners, it was packed with 45,000 men.
During one period, 100 men died every day from malnutrition and exposure. In total, 13,000 prisoners died. The blame for the atrocity was placed upon Major Henry Wirz, who was hanged in 1865.
Dunbarton, South Carolina (Barnwell County)
This ghost town was incorporated in the year 1910. About 300 people lived there and it was the home of several businesses and schools. In 1950, following the Nagasaki and Hiroshima nuclear bombings, the government was granted permission to build a huge nuclear plant in Dunbarton.
The Savannah River plant displaced around 6,000 people and over 150 graves from this condemned town, along with several other communities.
Manchester, South Carolina (Sumpter County)
This town was located in what is now the Manchester Forest. In the 1790’s it was a way station and stage stop that grew into a vital center for cotton shipping. Later, it became a bustling railroad center. Manchester was destroyed by Union troops during the Civil War. Although it was rebuilt, it met its demise in 1872, when a nearby town became the main shipping center for the railroad. Currently, all that is left of Manchester is its historical marker.
Ferguson, South Carolina (Lake Marion Basin)
During the Post-Civil War era, Ferguson was purchased by two businessmen who built a lumbermill and buildings for the workers to live. The fast-growing town was one of the first in the state with gas lighting in its streets and indoor plumbing.
The events leading to the death of this town include the government taking eminent domain over the area to construct the Santee Cooper Project to connect canals and provide hydroelectricity. Other lakes and dams were properly cleared to facilitate construction. The Lake Marion basin was not adequately cleared and was gulped up by Lake Marion.
The waters retreated in the 1930’s, and the remnants of this ghost town can be seen close up by anyone brave enough to walk out into the dry lake bed.
Purrysburg, South Carolina (Jasper County)
Purrysburg was established around early 1700’s. It grew to 600 residents at its peak. Unfortunately, the settlers succumbed to disease as well as an unhealthy environment. Most all of them moved when problems arose over overlapping land grants.
Purrysburg has recently garnered attention by explorers and archaeologists for its Revolutionary War relics.
Exploring South Carolina Ghost Towns
An important part of South Carolina’s history is that it was the first state that seceded from the United States due to disagreement with Federal government policies. It is among other states in which thriving towns and business were built in its forests and along its waterways that later experienced total desolation.
Today, exploring the backcountry for these ghost towns is a thrilling pastime for people from all over.