The Battle of Oconee "The Fight for Toxaway Valley"
On a weekend in March, on a grassy plain by the creek, it is as if time has rolled back and history is happening before your very eyes.
It’s the re-enactment of a Civil War battle. It’s theatre in the great outdoors and living history all in one.
Hosted by Oconee’s 2nd SC
Rifles under the leadership of Colonel Gerald Rackley, the
re-enactment stages a battle between Northern and Confederate troops.
Col. Gearald Rackley
To be fair—and to encourage northern re-enactors to participate, usually one side wins one day and the other side wins the next.
Troops pitch their tents, build their fires and live as the soldiers in the 1860’s would have lived. “It’s a way to honor our ancestors and experience a little of what life was like during the war.” Gerald explains. “And it’s a way to show people today what went on in the camps and battles of that era.” The re-enactors make the event a family affair with wives and children participating and enjoying the experience together.
A band from NC, “Katie and the Leftovers” joined the Battle of Oconee and provided lively music for re-enactors and spectators to enjoy.
There are numerous re-enactment events across the south and east throughout the year but Oconee County had not hosted one for several years. Gerald and his adjutant, Shawn Mullinax, and members of the unit started organizing this event in 2007 and were helped along by a grant from the state.Their goal is to hold at least one March re-enactment each year and they are considering adding a fall event.
Lt. Jack Dorfner (left)
The 2nd SC Rifles were formed in 2001 and take their name from an actual
Confederate Regiment. The current 2nd SC Rifles are composed of 3 companies with around 75 members: Company A lead by Capt. Perry Southerland, Company B (artillery) led by Copt. Jim Bay, Company C lead by Lt. Jabe Hancox, and Company K lead by by Capt. Ron Owen. Members come from Oconee, Pickens Anderson, Greenville and Spartenburg.
Gerald explains, “It’s a friendly unit and we get together for fun. We are not a military organization in the strict sense, but it's important that we honor the men and women of the Civil War by demonstrating the battles and living conditions as accurately as possible.
This means our officers must give the correct orders on the field and our men must follow those orders, just as they did during the War. The army commands today are very different from that time period and we make every effort to do it properly."
Gerald went on to say, "After the battle, we are one big family. We sit around the campfire, laugh, play music, sing songs and enjoy the moment. We want to be laid back and participate with our families – it’s a hobby, not the army!"
How does one describe Warren Carpenter? An artist? Yes, but more. A home builder? That too, but still more. A community volunteer who gets things done? Art store owner? Supporter of the Arts? Promoter of historic Seneca? All of these are accurate, but singly or together, they don’t say enough about this man of vision, talent and vitality.
Warren first came to this area when his parents brought him down to attend Clemson University’s College of Architecture. Graduating in 1975, Warren began building homes with a local contractor and in 1985 he started Carpenter Built, Inc. Over the years, he has built more than 125 homes. Today he builds two or three a year so there is time for all his other interests.
Like the Arts Company, a store selling art—pottery, blown glass, jewelry, wood pieces—all hand crafted. Warren and his wife, Adelaide, purchased the store in 2003 because they love galleries, art of all kinds and because Warren believes strongly in downtown Seneca.
The Arts Company is located on the corner of N Townville Street and North First Street in an old livery building. There’s a beautiful brick firewall, great heart pine floors, and gallery space where they use to display buggies. Warren says, “I always liked galleries and this one had so much character and for a small town, it’s just amazing. You’d be hard pressed to find something this nice in a large city.”
The Arts Company, managed by Annette Lowman, (right, standing by the store maniquin,) carries the work of over 150 different artists from across the nation. In addition, the gallery space displays new shows every other month, featuring artists from th area. New shows open the 3rd Friday of every odd month - same schedule as the Downtown Go Round!
Annette says Warren is as perfect a boss as one can have. "He's a great man to work for. If I have a problem, I call him. Otherwise, I leave him alone. He's a smart man; he has women working for him!"
Warren enjoys the Arts Company, especially the gallery part, but his real passion is turning wood. Creating. He says, “When I pick up a piece of wood, I want that piece of wood to
become the best piece that it can, no preconceived ideas, I don’t walk into the shop and pick up a piece of wood and make it be something, I look at the wood, handle it and see what it wants to be. I’d have a difficult time being an artist if I didn’t have a partner, and that partner is wood and we work together to create something unique.”
Warren started out doing wood sculpting when he couldn’t fit pottery classes into his schedule while at Clemson. He took classes from John Acorn, a well-known sculpture that Warren considers his mentor. “Even though I turned from clay to wood, the basics are still there.” One lesson John Acorn taught Warren was how to look at things. He explains, “When I was sculpting a piece and thought it was looking pretty good, John came over, looked at and turned it 90 degrees. We both studied it and said, Yep, that’s the way it should be. Now I always looks at things from every direction – a bowl doesn’t always have to be a bowl.”
As much as Warren enjoyed wood sculpting, the time required to complete a sculpture was extreme – up to 400 hours per piece. Raising a family and running a business left little time to pursue his hobby. About 10 years ago, he saw a wood turning demonstration that gave him direction for creating art that fit his schedule. “Now, in an hour’s time, I can create something meaningful, something beautiful that has value.” Warren explains.
While he loves anything he can do with wood and creates many utilitarian objects for his home and family, he limits production work for sale to woodturning. “Very seldom do I do wood sculpting but it’s high on my agenda to get back into sculpting but in a way that combines the turning with sculpting,” Warren says.
Warren’s involvement in community organizations spans his entire career. He started working with the Home Builders Association, first locally, then regional and then at the state level where he was awarded the Order of the Palmetto, highest award given by South Carolina.
Today, he is involved in the Blue Ridge Arts Council, Carolina Mountain WoodTurners, the Southern Highland Craft Guild (second oldest guild in the nation), the Downtown Seneca Merchant Association and the Oconee Memorial Hospital Foundation, to name a few.
He recently created and donated a wood piece that combined turning with sculpting to the new Hospice Facility opened by OMH (Oconee Memorial Hospital). Titled “Tree of Life” the piece encompasses a mom, dad and two children sheltered in a Tree with an umbrella of Oak leaves floating above. It’s a stunning piece and the first thing to catch a visitor’s eye as they walk into the Hospice House.
Warren and his wife, Adelaide, have two daughters, Hayley, 25, in Wash. DC and works for the Parkinson’s Action Network. Warren’s father has Parkinson’s, and she enjoys her work and the big city. Their youngest daughter, Aubrey, 23, a registered nurse, works in Charleston at the Medical University of SC, on the digestive disease floor.
As Warren looks to the future, he expects his art will continue to evolve. “I look back and see the progression over the last five years and I see the change, so I assume it will keep moving! I don’t enjoy turning the same piece twice. I do repeat sometimes – like wine stoppers--just to meet customer demands – the sale of my turnings allow me to support my addiction!”
Warren already exhibits his work in a number of galleries in the region and plans to expand his entry into arts and crafts shows around the nation and thereby into more galleries. He also teaches occasional workshops in the area, and at the Arrowmont School of Crafts in Gatlinburg.
It doesn’t sound like retirement is part of Warren’s future any time soon. And to all those who appreciate his art and his involvement in our community, that is good news.
Warrens signature, a sliced walnut shell, is found on all
of his special pieces.
Luther Lyle, A Man Fascinated with History
Meet Luther Lyle, a man fascinated with history. Fortunately for us, it is Oconee County history that really stirs his interest. Born in Charleston but raised in Walhalla, Luther is a member of the Oconee Heritage Center Board of Directors and chairs the Oconee County Arts and Historical Commission. He was instrumental in creating the Oconee County seal and flag.
The process started with a simple question: What does Oconee mean? There were stories and interpretations but no one had a definitive answer. Luther, being someone who loves research, set out to find the origin of the word “Oconee.”
He knew it was a Native American word so he figured the best way to get a definition was to go to the source. Luther contacted Jerry Wolfe, a Cherokee Elder who works at the Museum of the Cherokee in Cherokee, NC.
Jerry Wolfe speaks fluent Cherokee and is a Cherokee Nation consultant with the Smithsonian on matters of Cherokee culture. Wolfe told him Oconee means: “Land Beside the Water,” and indicated Luther should follow protocol and get a letter confirming the translation from the Cherokee Tribal Resources Office, which Luther did. Wolfe also worked with Luther to create a design based on Native American symbols to represent “Land Beside the Water”. The Tribal Council then approved the design.
Luther with Jerry Wolfe
Because of the research Luther had done on the name, members of the County Council asked him to be part of a committee to design a county seal and flag. Luther used the design, which had the green symbol to represent “Oconee Mountain” (the county was named after the mountain in 1868). The 5 blue vertical lines represent water and the 5 major rivers in the county. The red “Circle of Life” surrounds the seal. The outline of the county and the words “Land beside the Water” are also part of the seal.
Luther explains, “The seal was the first step to help people recognize what kind of heritage we have here – the history of our county.”
When the committee accepted the design for the seal in 2003, Luther took the design back to the Cherokee Annual Tribal Council where it was also approved. The County Council then officially adopted the seal.
Luther sewed the first county flag himself and when he showed it to Jerry Wolfe, he told him that sewing the red circle was the most difficult part and it wasn’t perfectly round, Wolfe replied, “Luther, the circle of life is not an easy path!”
The Historical Marker program is part of a state program authorized in 1905, with more than 1,000 markers currently placed in South Carolina. The Historical Marker program is not funded by the state but depends on citizens, organizations or local governments to fund the markers.
The 16 Historical Markers in Oconee County are:
Cherokee Boundary of 1777
The English School
St John’s Lutheran Church
William Bartram Trail
The Cherokee Path
First Soil Conservation District
Capt. Samuel Earle
Oconee Training School
Seneca Institute/Seneca Junior College
Another of Luther’s pet projects is the Historical Marker program that erects a marker at historical locations describing the significance of the site. To date, there are 16 markers in Oconee County.
The newest marker, dedicated summer, 2007, commemorates the Cherokee Boundary of 1777 which crossed the top of Oconee Mountain in what is now Oconee State Park, and also to mark the official change of Station Mountain back to its original, historic name, Oconee Mountain.
Dedication ceremony of the historical marker of the Cherokee Boundary of 1777.
In 1959 the Federal Government mistakenly changed the name of Oconee Mountain to Station Mountain on a US Geological Survey map. It’s unclear why the surveyor changed the name, but of course once it was officially recorded, it was a done deal.
Jeannie Barnwell, center in white, and friends
from the Walhalla Garden Club attended the ceremony.
When the Wizard of Tamassee Chapter of the DAR – lead by Jeannie Barnwell, also a member of the Oconee Arts and Historical Commission - started the work to rename the Mountain, Luther and the Arts and Historical Commission helped by soliciting support from state, county and local groups. The petition sent to the US Board on Geographic Names was unanimously approved with the only comments being about the amazing amount of evidence submitted by Luther’s committee and the DAR.
Oconee Mountain is labeled on British and French maps going back to the 1730’s as it was a the first mountain one encountered coming from the east and was on the well traveled trading path used by Native Americans and later, European Settlers that ran between Charleston and the Mississippi River.
Group gathered on top of Oconee Mountain for
the renaming ceremony.
“It’s good to have the rightful name back for Oconee Mountain,” commented Luther.
Marcia, daughter Meredith and Luther Lyle.
Luther and his wife, Marcia, live in Walhalla and Luther teaches pre-engineering at Riverside Middle School in Pendleton. With three adult children—the youngest just graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in history—Luther enjoys woodworking as a hobby and used to participate in Civil War reenactments but says he is now “past the age of enlistment!”
Oconee Heritage Center
Nick Gambrell: The Perfect Man for the Job
Director/Curator, Oconee Heritage Center
standing behind the counter from the
Newry Mill Store
Nick Gambrell is from Oakway, in Oconee County. While at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, Nick changed his major from music to history and started on a course that eventually landed him in the prime position of curator and director for artifacts and information about Oconee’s heritage. And there couldn’t be anyone more suited for the job.
In between his first and second year at college, Nick built himself a two-room cabin on land next to his family’s home. The process of tearing down old homes and reusing the materials in his cabin spurred an interest in preserving our heritage.
The idea for the Heritage Center started in 1999 when a group of teachers took a number of students on a field trip to Atlanta and wondered why they had to go all the way to Atlanta to look at the area’s Heritage. That idea evolved into a non-profit organization that eventually leased the current building from the county and opened its doors in October 2004.
32-Foot Dug Out Canoe on Display
Of special interest is an 18th-century 32-foot dugout canoe, currently being preserved.
An auto mechanic from Atlanta who was kayaking down the Chattooga River with friends found the canoe in 2002. The river was very low that year and they saw about 2 feet of the canoe sticking out and dug it up. Then, fortunately, they buried it again preserving it in the mud and water. When they reported the find to authorities, things really got interesting. A historic canoe—probably the only one of its kind to be found in the upstate area—was located in a river, between two states, next to a National Forest. Whose was it?
After it was determined the canoe belonged to SC—it was on the SC side of the river—the state officials decided it could be preserved and displayed at the Oconee Heritage Center in perpetuity. Officials from the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina oversee the preservation and restoration.
The canoe dates to 1760, plus or minus 40 years. It is still unclear if it is a Cherokee Indian canoe or one carved by early European settlers. The canoe has been soaking in a special bath for 3 years to preserve it and is now ready for the final stage of preservation that involves a slow “drying-out” process. The water in the solution will evaporate which will be followed by wrapping the canoe in plastic to further slow the “drying out.” This process could take up to another two years.
The good news is that the canoe is on display throughout this process and available for visitors to see.
It's quite a site and well worth the trip!
Nick started volunteering in 2001 and when the time came to hire a director, it was clear he was the natural choice. After finishing his BA degree, he went on to get his masters at Clemson University, specializing in Southern Appalachian History.
Nick says the process of putting together exhibits, curating materials and building exhibits is perhaps his favorite part of the job. The recently opened Stumphouse Tunnel exhibit draws the earnest attention of school children, and of course everyone wants to see the canoe.
Another exhibit, yet to be displayed, is the wealth of material donated from England’s General Merchandise Store. A general store that graced Westminster for several generations, Mr. England couldn’t bear to sell the last of anything, so it inadvertently became a museum with an amazing collection of 19 th and 20 th century everyday goods. The entire content of the store was donated by The Westminster Area Historic Preservation Society to the Oconee Heritage Center last winter and is awaiting space for display.
Nick explains that the Heritage Center is organized by time periods because when the Center opened, they weren’t sure what was out there. “You’re never sure what is going to walk through the door.” Nick said. “It has to have some kind of relationship to Oconee County, either come from the county or be something that realistically could have been used in the County.”
“The response from the community has been wonderful. It’s been overwhelming. After they visit the center, they come back with something they think we might need or we could use. Our volunteers have done most of the restoration of the building and we couldn’t have done it with out them.” Nick explained.
And Nick says there are plans for more exhibits in the future. One idea currently in the planning stage is to establish a living history Farmstead Project populated with authentic buildings from the 1800’s where volunteers in period dress would portray life as it was in that day.
The Oconee Heritage Center is open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday from noon to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and by special appointment. For more information, click to visit the Heritage Center website. or call 864 638-2224
Making a Difference for Others
Dr. Blake Poleynard
Blake Poleynard and John Udall, doctors with Keowee Radiology at Oconee Memorial Hospital are men who are passionate about what they do and what they believe. As strong Christians, they wanted a way to participate in mission outreach around the world to bring medical help and the gospel of Jesus Christ to those in need.
Dr. John Udall
When John went on a mission trip to Belize, he saw first hand what portable ultrasound—and a trained radiologist could contribute: “In March 2004, I spent a week at Presbyterian Medical Clinic in Patchakan, Belize. As a radiologist, I looked forward to doing some primary care, but also wanted to utilize an ultrasound machine that had recently been donated to that clinic. Over the week, the use of the machine increased as word got out that someone was available who could do and interpret ultrasound. We diagnosed acute cholecystitis in a man with acute abdominal pain and pictures of his sick gallbladder were transported over 50 miles to a hospital where the next day he had surgery!”
John and Blake, along with Drs. Bonnie Anderson and Todd Rushe at Keowee Radiology, started UnitsUSA in 2004 as an organization to purchase additional portable ultra sound equipment and make it available to radiologists and sonographers across the country to take on a mission trips.
They created a web site www.UnitsUSA.org where interested participants check availability and then reserve a unit on line. Trips have to be through approved medical missions organizations such as Volunteers in Medical Missions (VIMM) www.vimm.org/ located right here in Oconee County or Global Health Outreach www.cmda.org .
John and Blake also endeavored to get the word out nationwide through Christian Medical organizations that these units were available to radiologists and sonographers and can be “checked out” free of charge.
“It’s been an amazingly successful program.” Blake said. Units USA currently have two machines and manages another that was donated to Global Health Outreach. They are also in the process of fundraising for another.
“The technology gets better and better and each new machine reflects it.” John explained. The battery powered machines are lightweight; weighing only 7 lbs. and travel in backpack-like cases.
The reception by doctors and patients on mission trips has been overwhelming. Ultrasound is often the only diagnostic equipment they have available in remote areas, and doctors get rather creative with its uses. For example, John recounts the time he used ultrasound to check a patient’s eye: “I closed the eye, spread the jelly and found a tumor behind the eyeball!”
After numerous mission trips, John and Blake believe even more strongly in the value of ultrasound to medical missions. Eventually they see a time when tele-radiology is available via satellite to help doctors on the mission field send data to network doctors here who can read the data and provide helpful information back to the field. And more and more primary care doctors are being trained to use ultrasound equipment themselves.
Doctors on mission trips have stated that ultrasound equipment has important medical utility and adds credibility to the diagnosis and therefore the treatment. This in turn, adds credibility to the gospel message they share with patients.
John said, “When a patient comes for an ultra sound, it’s a great time to pray for them. It’s a quiet time for the patient and it’s a place where one-on-one, you can talk to and pray for patients. In Muslim countries where we are prohibited from evangelizing, it’s the only place where really one-on-one conversation can take place.”
Blake shares an experience from a recent trip to Ecuador: “One of the first patients we saw was a young lady, Chaulisa Paccha. She came to clinic with a bad infection in the right side of her neck. She was in severe pain and was very frightened. We were able to drain some of the abscess that had formed in her neck using ultrasound guidance. She was sent home with antibiotics and asked to return 3 days later. It was great to see her return with a smile on her face, her pain and infection now under control. The team made a positive impact on her health, which added validity to the Gospel message she was embracing.”
The Keowee Radiologists will continue to support and promote UnitsUSA so that more and more people can participate in mission trips, helping the needy in other parts of the world.
If you would like to be part of this outreach, tax-deductible donations to go towards the purchase of more portable machines can be made through Global Health Outreach . Use the “other” designation and donate “for GHA ultrasound equipment” in the comment box.
Kayaking is a year ‘round sport in Oconee County, South Carolina and Ed Baade, 69, has been enjoying it for over 6 years. When his wife could no longer join him on his pontoon because of sun sensitivity, Ed decided to swap his pontoon for a kayak.
He started with a 9’, then moved to a 14’ and now paddles a comfortable 16’ touring kayak. Since he lives close to Lake Hartwell, Ed spends most of his time on the water there, but also ranges over the county to other great kayaking waters: Lake Keowee, Lake Jocassee, Tugaloo and Chattooga Rivers, and the Chauga River.
Ed says it’s a great way to see birds and wild life and the scenery is breathtaking. Each lake and river has it’s own charm and distinctive beauty. In the quiet of a kayak, Ed enjoys the serenity and beauty he experiences.
Ed usually kayaks with a friend, but when he goes out on his own, he observes all the safety precautions and wears a life vest stashed with those little necessities, in case of an emergency.
Ed and his wife, Mary, moved to Oconee County 13 years ago from Long Island, NY. Ed is a retired, from the electrical industry, and enjoyed sailing on Long Island Sound when he lived there.
Now, he is happy to enjoy the water and nature from his kayak and highly recommends the sport to those looking for something to keep them fit and enjoy the great outdoors, all at the same time.