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Thursday, June 25, 2009


I’ve been lurking in the 975.729 region of the Dewey Decimals lately. The 975 means
Southeastern US, the .7 means South Carolina, and the 29 means Spartanburg County. I like to see what the historians say about my antecedents. One of the most concentrated of the Spartan District tomes I’ve run across is a little self-published jewel called Indians, Bloodshed, Tears, Churches, and Schools – It All Started at Fort Gowen by James V. Gregory and James Walton Lawrence, Sr. 2003.
The idea for this book began with the authors’ and the National Park Service’s search for the original site of Fort Gowan, one in a string of several forts, all within a one-day’s walk (or run) of each other, built during the times of Tory, Indian, and outlaw gang attacks on the settlers in the South Carolina backcountry. Often mentioned are the dastardly deeds of the outlaw William “Bloody Bill” Bates along the Indian Line (Spartanburg Co. and Greenville Co. boundary). We also had another Bloody Bill in the region, William Cunningham, most noted for his attack at Walnut Grove Plantation near Roebuck. Bates reminds me of the pirate character, Stephen Bonnet, in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series. I imagine his maraudering band to be a lot like the gang of bandits who kidnapped Claire in A Breath of Snow and Ashes. Very nasty fellow.
Much of the information for Fort Gowen was gathered from aerial maps, the SC Archives, Greenville and Spartanburg County records, old newspaper articles, and the writings of local historians Dr. Lyman Draper, Dr J.B.O. Landrum, and Mann Batson. This little book reminded me that some of the greatest suffering and bloodshed before and during the American Revolution was borne by the original settlers of the backwoods Spartan District of South Carolina.

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