Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Reconstruction-era Laurens County, SC

A new series on Sunday in the South . . .
Old Laurens County, SC, Courthouse
Of the most fascinating and colorful periods of the history of Laurens County, SC, the Reconstruction years after the War Between the States were brilliantly radiant, desperately dark, and foundationally formative.  By the end of the Late Unpleasantness of the War, Laurens County had lost or seen crippled one half of her white male population from battle or disease. Several million dollars in capital evaporated with the end of the “peculiar institution of slavery.”  What she gained were
many new, free black individuals and a brave new world of railroads, Republicans, and race riots.  In the next several installments, we will look at Laurens County during the time of Reconstruction.

            Laurens County really had had it pretty easy during the War.  No major battles or Union armies had swept through like a cloud of locusts consuming everything at hand like other parts of the state had experienced.  Laurens County folks had to feed some Union deserters and rogue soldier bands, both Yankee and Confederate, but thankfully there were no blackened chimneys to mark Sherman's signature on the land.  Treacherous, evil race‑hate was about to rear its head in a new way, but violent acts usually did not occur in similar proportion to surrounding counties. 

The hard working farmers of Laurens County, both black and white, had their minds on getting the crops in, the school built, the church started, and the railroad rebuilt. These two cultures lived more closely and mutually dependent than they wished to admit -- the white more than the black.  Ironically, nearly every attitude and event at that time was motivated by fear.  Fear virtually ruled Laurens County during Reconstruction and produced  the brand of racism that Blacks and Hispanics regrettably still encounter today here in some places. The events and life of those years were formative and transitional for Laurens County. They still affect us nearly a century and a half later.

I hope you will enjoy reading about Laurens County during the Reconstruction era.