Wednesday, January 07, 2015

No railroad to Laurensville

Laurens Railroad station in later years
Part of a series on Reconstruction-era Laurens County, SC
At the end of the War Between the States, Laurens County’s link with the outside world, the Laurens Railroad, was no longer in business.  The Laurens County boys had ridden this very track off to fight the Yankees in '61.  Many would never return from the battlefields.[1] The railroad had reached Five Points (later called Clinton)[2] in 1850, and passengers used gangplanks to board because of the flat, marshy ground.[3]  The first train whistle was heard in Laurens in 1854, and by December 1863, there was a
"tri‑weekly hack line Laurens to Newberry to transport mail, [war news], and passengers."  Cash money could be sent by the engineer, according to Dr. William P. Jacobs of Clinton.  One was "given a receipt by the driver, who was not under bond; but a man's word was his bond." Still, by the end of the war in 1865, the railroad had closed.  Many of the thirty‑two miles of iron rails from Laurens to Newberry had been carried off during the war.[4]  The railroad's extinction itself was feared to be the county’s death blow.

LAURENSVILLE -- Laurensville was the county seat and the largest town.  A man named Frank Carpenter of Richmond, Virginia, while rebuilding the Laurens Rail Road, gave the area on East Main on the east side of the Little River the name “Brooklyn,”  a reference to the borough east of the Hudson in New York City. The idea must have caught on. To the south and west was “Jersey City” from the branch at Hudgens Spring to the end of the incorporation.  “Rich Hill” was in the vicinity of Silver Street which had been named by slaves for the neighborhood where antebellum free blacks lived. Everybody else lived in “Laurens Proper.”  The town extended in a one-mile circle around the court house.  She was declared in 1888 to be the "livliest [sic] and progresive [sic] town in upper South Carolina."[5]

[1]One of them died before they reached Columbia.
[2] Jacobs, Literary, p. 12‑13.
[3]Edna Riddle Foy, "A Brief Sketch of the Development of Laurens County," in Julian Stevenson Bolick, A Laurens County  Sketchbook, (Clinton:  Jacobs Press, 1973), p. 23.
[4]Francis Butler Simkins, and Robert Hilliard Woody, South Carolina During Reconstruction, (Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 1932), p. 190.
[5]S.F. Garlington, comp.  Business Directory of  the Town of Laurens, Together with Historical Sketch, (Laurens:  Advertiser Office?, 1888), pp. 29‑31.  Spelling is his own.