Thursday, May 15, 2014

Courthouse Square, Edgefield SC

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Here are some old photos from the Courthouse Square in Edgefield, South Carolina. These photos are from the late 90s and show the town as a sleepy little rural county seat. It was a short day trip from Augusta, and the town was undeniably cute, but there just wasn't a lot to do once you were there. Google Street View indicates it's become a lot more twee since then. When your town square looks like a movie set, this sort of thing is bound to happen sooner or later, especially when you're a reasonable day trip distance from Atlanta. Moreover, given the rate of urban growth in Atlanta, Edgefield will probably be absorbed as a distant eastern suburb within a decade or so. I'm only half joking when I say that.

Anyway, yes, that obelisk in the center of the square is a Confederate war memorial. And yes, that's a statue of local son Senator J. Strom Thurmond next to it. Apparently -- and I was unaware of this until now -- there's a tiny etching of a cockroach, er, "Palmetto bug" hidden under Thurmond's right coattail. There is probably no polite way of looking for it, however.

Thurmond and his staff excelled at bringing home the pork to South Carolina, and Edgefield County in particular. The locals showed their gratitude by naming things after him, and since he was in office an uncommonly long time, they started to pile up after a while: Parks, roads, dams, schools, everything. You can't throw a rock without hitting something named for him, but then an outraged local will shoot you, so doing this is not advised. Thurmond even has half a lake named after him. There's a large reservoir on the Savannah upriver of Augusta that Georgia knows as Clarks Hill Lake. That's the name it was built under, but South Carolina later renamed their portion of it to be Lake Thurmond, and the dam as J. Strom Thurmond Dam. Georgia, not sharing South Carolina's enthusiasm for the man, declined to follow suit. You can always tell which side of the river someone's from by what name they call the lake.

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