Imagine spending a delightful afternoon talking with a quiet, gentile lady of the old South and, then, trying to keep the emotions on your face under control when she spits out something that takes you aback.
Yes, that happened to me several years ago when I was introduced to an elderly lady (ok, she was 92) who had known my kinfolk. Yes, she had known my great grandparents. Yes, she had known my great grandmother well.
After a cup of tea down in an area of historic Charleston, this sweet lady tells me how her family buried treasure so those "yanks" couldn't get it. She also told me stories of how her family dug some of it up after the War of Northern Aggression.
When I asked her about my great grandmother, she told me she had worked in the cigar factory in Charleston and had spent her later years in the home for the poor. It seems she was always fighting to survive.
This great grandmother, along with her mother and siblings, walked home to South Carolina from Palatka, FL, when she was just three or four years old. Her father had been wounded in the War of Northern Aggression while he was fighting in Tennessee around Lookout Mountain. He later died in a Confederate hospital in Savannah and is buried there. His family then had to go home to South Carolina with a couple of wagons. My great grandmother told later descendents she would be allowed to ride in the wagon when she was too tired to walk.
I was fascinated, and oddly, so proud they survived. Then, this sweet little old lady told me my great grandmother was from Hell Hole Swamp. My mouth almost dropped as I had not heard of this area before.
I asked what was Hell Hole Swamp. The reply, "A BAD place to be from." The best one could hope for was to find a way out of there.
Interesting. I asked where it was. She gave me instructions to go to Cordesville and take a right onto Alligator Road. The swamp would be there.
I went. It was exactly as she said. The only living human we saw was a man putting on hip boots, presumably to go hunting in the swamp. Of course, I was able to find a church cemetery out there complete with evidence of my family. Actually, not one, but two, cemeteries.
I have to agree. It had to be one hell of a place. Hell Hole Swamp is now part of the Francis Marion National Forest and has remained quite rural. There are rumors of how it got its name. All I know for sure is that it is listed in present day Berkeley County as Hell Hole Swamp on a 1773 map by Cook. How it got its reputation is a whole other story.
But for my great grandmother and her family right after the Civil War ended, I agree. It had to be a tough existence. She did leave the swamp. First, it was down the road to Cordesville where she and husband lived for the birth of their children. Then, it was to Mt Pleasant to farm. She ended in Charleston proper.
Ahhh, genealogy. There's a lot of history in that little area of Hell Hole Swamp. Murder. Prohibition. Yep, I know the stories of some of them.