Lake Hartwell, SC

Now we head almost five hours across the state to the southwest corner of South Carolina. We’ll be staying at Coneross Campground on Lake Hartwell. This is a Corps of Engineers campground with about 100 sites most of which have RV hookups. The lake spans across the SC/GA line. There are several other campgrounds around the lake. Lake Hartwell is primarily for water supply to the Atlanta area but is also used for recreation. If you lived in the south during the severe drought in 2007-2008 you might remember that this lake dwindled to only a 30 day supply. It still is down 15-20 feet from full level.We arrived to find our site was a lovely, wooded drive-thru spot. The sitting and eating area was a large terrace  adjacent to the driveway.

We spent our first day kayaking and swimming on Lake Hartwell. Although we left the boats at the water’s there was so much to do in the area that we didn’t get back again. The park was also good for a four mile bike ride.

camping, South Carolina

Camping at Coneross

Lake Hartwell
View of Lake Hartwell from our site

The nearest large town is Clemson, home of Clemson University. If you don’t like orange and purple or the Clemson Tigers beware! They are crazy for their teams, especially football.  You don’t want to come here on a home football weekend when 80,000 fans descend on Death Valley as the football stadium is known. Other towns in the area are Spencer, Pendleton and Walahalla. There is another barn quilt trail here with 100 locations. We didn’t have time to visit this trail but did see some of the quilts displayed on homes and businesses as well as barns.

One of the attractions in this area was visiting historically significant homes, a church and a graveyard. Known as the Old Stone Church it was built by Scot-Irish settlers in 1797 and used until the mid 1820s. The adjacent graveyard is still used today. There are several interesting grave sites. One was a man killed in a duel in the early 1800s. He was allowed burial there only outside the boundaries of the graveyard. However the boundaries continued to expand and his grave is now almost in the center. Another famous person buried there is Andrew Pickens, the general famous for winning the Battle of Cowpens (see our Spartanburg Area post). A monument to the builder of the Old Stone Church and parents of Thomas Jefferson Rusk was erected by the state of Texas in 1936. We’d never heard of him but figured if another state would erect a tombstone to his parents, we’d better find out. Thank Goodness for Google and Wikipedia! He was one of the principal generals at the Battle of San Jacinto where Texans defeated Santa Anna. He also served as the first Secretary of state for the Texas Republic. By far the story that intrigued me the most was about a lady from Charleston who was one of New Orleans most infamous woman of ill repute (or as the sign said even in a city known for bad behavior her deeds stood out.) Her brother went to New Orleans and shot both his sister and her lover. Apparently suffering from remorse he brought her body back to the Old Stone Church for burial. The congregation would allow burial only if her grave was surrounded by a brick wall. So in death as in life she was ostracized. The grave is rather overgrown now but a part of the inscription begins with “A Brother’s Sorrow….”.

history, travel

Old Stone Church in Clemson, SC


Woodburn Plantation

Revolutionary War

General Andrew Pickens

Clemson University owns several historic properties on or near campus. We tried to visit Woodburn Plantation but it was closed. Later we learned it was open Wednesday-Friday. We took pictures through the fence. One place for “when we come back…” Fort Hill is the home of Thomas Clemson who donated the land to start Clemson University. He was the son-in-law of John C. Calhoun who built the home in the 1820s. When the home was willed to the university Thomas Clemson stipulated that it should always be open to the people. Therefore, Clemson University has volunteers trained to give tours in all of its historical properties. The two tours we took were excellent and we’d highly recommend them to anyone visiting the area. Since the Calhoun home is in the middle of the university it will be much easier to park if you go on a weekend. We went on a Sunday and parked right in front of the house. One of John C. Calhoun’s sisters married into the Custis family as in Martha Custis Washington. When furniture from Mount Vernon was being dispersed his sister asked if he’d like George Washington’s campaign chair. The chair is a fragile looking Windsor style. You have to wonder how it survived being toted about in such rough conditions. We were the only people in the home at the time. So when Steve expressed interest in the chair, the guide dropped the velvet rope and let us go inside the room for a closer look. What a thrill!

history, cemetery

Rusk Family Memorial

cemetery, travel

A Brother’s Sorrow ….                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Another property open for tour is Hanover House which is located on the grounds of the SC Botanical Garden.  This is a rare example of a French Hugenot home. It was originally built in the low country between 1714-1718. Although it had been allowed to run to ruin a state senator felt it was worth saving from impending flood control projects and contacted Clemson to see if they would like to have the property for their Architecture school. It has now been beautifully restored and period furniture shows it off well. The original owner was a French artist whose works were of similar style but pre-dated those of Audubon. Also on the Botanical Garden grounds is a Geology Museum worth seeing.

Hanover House

historical home

Inside Hanover House

John C. Calhoun, history

Fort Hill, Home of John C. Calhoun and Thomas Clemson


Fort Hill on Clemson University campus

Over Labor Day weekend we had a very heavy rain. On Monday when Opal had her morning walk we found that a large branch had come down in front of the truck (not on it, thankfully) and blocked the exit. We weren’t  planning on going out today so when I reported the problem to the gatehouse I told them not to bother anyone to come out on a holiday and that Tuesday would be fine. It hadn’t been more than a half hour when a maintenance truck arrived. They had the limb down and the driveway cleared in ten minutes. Now that’s service.) 

RV travel, camping

No Way Out

Over Labor Day weekend we had a very heavy rain. On Monday when Opal had her morning walk we found that a large branch had come down in front of the truck (not on it, thankfully) and blocked the exit. We weren’t  planning on going out today so when I reported the problem to the gatehouse I told them not to bother anyone to come out on a holiday and that Tuesday would be fine. It hadn’t been more than a half hour when a maintenance truck arrived. They had the limb down and the driveway cleared in ten minutes. Now that’s service.)

We went out to dinner once while in the area to a place that was listed in a brochure about a local music trail. We hoped to find something similar to the Crooked Road. Seems this information was a bit out of date as several of the places listed no longer had live music. The restaurant had changed names and owners from Just BBQ to Smoke and Blue but they were still using the site. It turned out to be a good local place using cafeteria trays and styrofoam plates serving from a steam table. There were people from a five year old celebrating her birthday to college lacrosse players to over four generations of  a family line dancing. The BBQ was very good and you could try any of the five sauces. The music was more country than bluegrass but we enjoyed it very much and even danced a bit.

Just northwest of this area is the start of waterfall country so we set out to find two of them. I thought Steve had put my hiking boots in the truck and he thought I was bringing them. So much for communication! I only had sandals on so had to forego getting down to some of the falls. Next time I’ll double check. The first waterfall is called Issaqueena Falls. Local legend says that Issaqueena was an Indian maiden who fell in love with an English settler around the 1760s. When she learned of her tribe’s plans to attack the settlement, she rode to warn them. She kept track of the distance by estimating miles to the settlement and that settlement became known as Ninety-six and is still known by that today. Fearing that her tribe would take revenge, the lovers went to Issaqueena Falls and pretended to leap off but landed on a ledge below. They escaped the area and lived together for many years. Near Issaqueena Falls is an old railroad tunnel called Stumphouse Tunnel. It was built in an attempt to connect Charleston to Knoxville but succumbed during the Civil War and never was finished. The tunnel is 17 feet wide and 25 feet high. You can walk in about 50 feet before  coming to a gate. It’s pitch black so bring a flashlight. The cool temperature and high moisture level in the tunnel made an ideal environment for the Clemson University dairy program to make the first bleu cheese in the area. The second falls was Brasstown Falls which has a larger Upper Falls and a multi-tiered Lower Falls. The upper Falls is accessed by crossing a knee deep stream and climbing a bank. It’s worth the effort. While visiting Lower Brasstown Falls we were taking pictures when Steve slipped and came down precariously close to the edge. That man will give me a heart attack someday!Steve here… she exaggerates a bit. I was more worried about the camera being damaged than myself. I was there so I’ll settle this. Dad takes too many risks and Mom is a worrier. – Opal

travel, South Carolina

Steve and Opal at Stumphouse Tunnel

Wildflowers Near Waterfalls

waterfall, South Carolina

Lower Brasstown Falls

waterfall, photography

Upper Brasstown Falls in HDR Software

As usual we hated to leave. Another place for “when we come back”.

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