THE SOUTH CAROLINA HISTORICAL MAGAZINE IS NOT ONLY A collection of essays, articles, and documents relating to South Carolina's history; it is also a reflection and integral part of that history. In May 1999, I began to browse through my set of nearly four hundred issues. As I read, I marked those articles that had influenced me as a historian or that I found particularly interesting. Then, I pulled each of those issues from the shelf and soon found myself facing a stack of some forty-two articles. They included Daniel W. Hollis, "`Cotton Ed' Smith-Showman or Statesman?" (1970); Richard S. Dunn, "The English Sugar Islands and the Founding of South Carolina" (1971); William J. Cooper, Jr., "Economics or Race: An Analysis of the Gubernatorial Election of 1890 in South Carolina" (1972); Arnold Shankman, "A Jury of Her Peers: The South Carolina Woman and Her Campaign for Jury Service" (1980); Pauline Maier, "The Road Not Taken: Nullification, John C. Calhoun and the Revolutionary Tradition in South Carolina" (1981); and Daniel Littlefield, "The Slave Trade to Colonial South Carolina" (1990).
I have read with interest the ten articles that my fellow historians have selected as those that they thought the most "significant" ones to appear in the South Carolina Historical Magazine. Malcolm Clark and Robert Weir both chose articles that dealt with the colonial and early national periods. That is understandable, given their research interests and, as Weir notes, "much of the writing in the Magazine" deals with the first 150 years of the state's history. Vernon Burton's choices, on the other hand, are more indicative of recent trends in the historical profession and his personal political bent. These ten articles demonstrate the richness and diversity of our century-old journal.
I know my fellow guest editors fairly well and understand their choices. Each makes a strong case for the "significance" of the articles that he selected. Significance, like beauty, however, is clearly in the eye of the beholder. Two of the articles I considered were among those that Weir selected. But, as much as I admire them, were they any more significant than the other forty I had sitting on my desk? A case could be made for any one of those articles. And, if any of the four of us were given a list of articles from the Magazine and asked to make a case for its significance, I do not doubt that we could do so.
Having the opportunity to choose any article from the several thousand to appear in print was like being the proverbial child in a candy store. What a tempting array. Making a selection-like choosing that candy more than a half-century ago in an old confectionary shop near the waterfront-was not easy. Should I go for the biggest or the most colorful or the most unusual? Should I just choose one kind, my favorite?
Clearly, there was no unifying theme in such a disparate group of writings, but there was a common thread: careful, painstaking scholarship. Evidence was important; it counted. Historical interpretations can and have changed as documents and sources are examined by different generations, but the basic materials remain unaltered. The one constant in each of the forty-two articles I had singled out as significant was the reliance on empirical evidence. Some of the articles were elegant; some were stodgy. All were solid; all were built upon the efforts of many members of this Society over the years who labored to preserve, protect, and publish aspects of South Carolina's rich history.
Recently, one modern historian remarked about the worldliness of local history "when that locality is South Carolina...." The volume of material published by locals and outsiders is, she continued, "a testament to how carefully South Carolina's citizens have conserved their past, and to the scholarly community's recognition of the significance of that past. Even Virginia is no equal in this respect; there the Revolution exhausts the interest of citizen and scholar alike." That was not true in South Carolina where "the public's interest in their own.. past is matched at every point by that of professional historians. "1
This Society is 145 years old-that's six generations of collecting and preserving historical materials. This Magazine is 100 years old-that's four generations of publishing articles based upon our collections and those of others. In terms of national politics and economics, South Carolina ranks in the third quintile of states, a modest location. However, when it comes to historical interest, there is little question but that the Palmetto State ranks in the first quintile-if not the top spot. For, as was noted earlier, not even Virginians themselves have much interest in their state's history after the Revolution. Nor, despite the assertions of James Michener, can that of Texans compare to that of South Carolinians.2
While I applaud the efforts of professional historians over the years, I think that they owe a tremendous debt to those who did not write theses and dissertations or take qualifying examinations. This state's first historians were simply dedicated to trying to understand and explain its past. And, in the best nineteenth-century tradition, they started with the land and the people. They dug into courthouse records and personal correspondence. They walked the abandoned rice plantations of the lowcountry that journalist Harry Ashmore described so eloquently in the 1930s: "Today, thousands of acres of the South Carolina low country... lie idle and forgotten save perhaps by a few sportsmen, by waterfowl and swamp game."3 But, the old places were not forgotten or ignored by dedicated local historians who laboriously assembled material that would make it much easier for those of us who followed in their footsteps.
When you mention the study of this state's old towns and landholdings, one name springs immediately to mind: Henry Augustus Middleton Smith. Between 1905 and 1928, he published thirty-three articles describing the baronies, rivers, regions, cities and towns of early South Carolina.4 Part history, part title search, part genealogy, part surveyor's plat (for all were accompanied by maps) these carefully researched articles have enabled generations of historians to better understand the land and the people of the Carolina lowcountry. Today, those who pursue the new social history might find that what they are doing is not so new-at least in South Carolina where Henry A. M. Smith was recreating families and communities over a century ago. And, he did it without computers, indexes, or finding aids.
Those of us familiar with the organization and condition of many records and manuscript collections just thirty years ago can only marvel at Smith's accomplishments. His articles are key sources for the study of rice culture, the "vast cousinage" of family relationships, land holding patterns, proprietary politics, the impact of the American Revolution, and the development of trade and commerce in South Carolina. Quite simply, I do not know of any major historical study of the South Carolina lowcountry that has not relied on one or more of his articles.
All of Smith's articles are significant, but only one, "The Fairlawn Barony," could be reprinted here. In making my choice, I opted for one that would be representative of the many facets of Smith's research. The history of Fairlawn (or Fair Lawn as it is sometimes written) parallels more than 160 years of the history of the colony and state. From 1678 until 1839, the 12,000 acre barony-or portions thereof-remained in the possession of the descendants of Sir Peter Colleton. Smith not only tracked down the original proprietary grants, but he was able to trace the gradual break-up of the estate as nearby landowners expanded their holdings. And, for human interest, his chronicle of the later Colletons and their antics (all properly documented, of course) could provide the plot outline for a rollicking restoration-era comedy..or a never-ending twentieth-century soap opera.
Understanding family relationships is another key to understanding South Carolina history. While some historians turn up their noses at genealogists, I do not know many who have written about this state who have not either relied on the numerous family chronicles in the Magazine or done family reconstitutions on their own. The earlier issues are filled with them. In fact, until 1952, the original title of this journal was the South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine.
The 1940 index of the Magazine lists sixty-four individual family genealogies. Like the Smith articles, genealogies are a genre. But in this instance there were many authors, not one. This time the choice was more difficult. Among those I considered were A. S. Salley, Jr., "Hugh Hext and Some of His Descendants,"5 Joseph loor Waring, "Waring Family,"6 and Mabel L. Webber, "The First Governor James Moore and His Children."7 Any of these would have been a worthy representative sample. However, I chose a more recent genealogy, Mary Pringle Fenhagen's two-part article, "Descendants of Judge Robert Pringle."
Fenhagen modestly concluded the second installment with the sentence: "This article attempts only to list Judge Robert Pringle's descendants down to 1865...."8 I However, she did more than "list" the descendants of one of eighteenth-century Charleston's great success stories. In her article, Fenhagen combined a traditional genealogy with well-documented biographical sketches. This is more than just a family tree. The story of the descendants of Judge Robert Pringle is not just the chronicle of a South Carolina family; it is also very much an American story. They studied at the best colleges in American and abroad. They intermarried with the elite families of South Carolina and of other colonies (states); they were doctors, lawyers, and planters. Some were Unionists in 1832 and others Secessionists in 1860. Several moved to California before 1860 and others became expatriates in France after the Civil War. By its very nature, genealogy was one of the first sub-disciplines of history to take notice of women. Either through blood or marriage, women were an important part of the Pringle family saga: had it not been for pioneer historic preservationist Susan Pringle Frost, Charleston in 2000 might be just as ugly as downtown Charlotte; and Elizabeth Allston Pringle's A Woman Rice Planter is a riveting chronicle of the decline of Carolina's rice culture. Although "Descendants of Judge Robert Pringle" is arranged in a genealogical format, it is engagingly written and meticulously researched.
The third article, George C. Rogers, Jr.'s "Who Is a South Carolinian?," is actually a link between the past and the present. And, it could be argued, it is a harbinger of the future. For nearly a generation George Rogers was acknowledged as the dean of South Carolina historians. Although he made full use of computers and technology, he was an old-fashioned researcher in much the same way that Henry A. M. Smith was. His extensive bibliography includes a number of articles, but "Who Is a South Carolinian?" was one of his last-and, because of its message, one of his most significant.
In 1941, the South Carolina Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration published South Carolina: A Guide to the Palmetto State. It was a remarkable achievement and its lead essay was "Who Is the South Carolinian?" (emphasis supplied). The definition of who was a South Carolinian was unabashed: "South Carolinians are among the rare folk in the South who have no secret envy of Virginians. They have a love for their own State which is a phalanx against all attacks of whatever order."9 Later, "Washington" criticized the manuscript as having a flaw "common throughout Southern copy" and that was the "curious habit of speaking about the 'people of South Carolina' when only about five percent is meant."10 Until the 1960s, that view of the state and of its history remained fairly constant.
During Rogers' active scholarly career (1953-1997), that older view underwent considerable revisions and he was willing, sometimes eager, to explore the state's past through different lenses. Yet, he never lost sight of the South Carolina around him. That, too, was changing rapidly. He, perhaps better than a number of younger historians, understood the changes that were transforming the very nature of South Carolina society. He was not wedded to a particular school of historiography or an agenda. He was a historian, not a polemicist. And, he was a South Carolinian. That is why I consider "Who Is a South Carolinian?" such a significant essay.
The subtle change in the use of the indefinite instead of the definite article in the title from that of a half-century earlier lets the reader know that the South Carolina and South Carolinians of the late 1980s were different from those of the 1930s. After tracing the state's past from the 1670s to the 1960s, Rogers described the changes that were taking place almost daily. Individuals and groups who once were routinely left out of history books (they were not part of that five percent) were now part of the mainstream of South Carolina history. Not only that, but also they and their descendants such as I. DeQuincey Newman, Ernest A. Finney, Jr., Solomon Blatt, Jr., Elizabeth Patterson, Jean Galloway Bissell, and Terry Dozier were helping to make South Carolina history.
Rogers, like any older Southerner, was interested in people. Who were they? From whence did they come? Who were the South Carolinians of the 1980s? His answer probably startled the History Day audience when he talked about Russian and Greek immigrants, sizeable populations of AsianAmericans and Hispanic-Americans, and a steady decline in the percentage of native-born residents. No matter their origin, these newer Carolinians-- like those who had come before-had chosen to make South Carolina their home. He welcomed these newcomers, but strongly believed that they should learn about the state's past because they were now a part of the greater South Carolina community. He cautioned his audience that these newcomers were also a part of South Carolina's future, because, he declared: "They will alter the course of the history of this state, but common threads will be maintained."11
The articles that are now published in the South Carolina Historical Magazine are considerably different from those that first appeared a century ago. But, despite changing times, methodologies, and interpretations, common threads-the significance of South Carolina history and meticulous research and analysis-can be easily observed. Let us hope in 2100 that another generation of historians will review the articles of the twenty-first century and conclude that the traditions of empirical evidence and sound scholarship continued to be the hallmarks of the articles appearing in the pages of this Magazine.
1Stephanie McCurry, "One Perspective of Walter Edgar's South Carolina: A History," South Carolina Historical Magazine, 100 (July 1999), 96-97.
2James A. Michener, Texas (New York: Random House, 1985), 507. Walter B. Edgar, South Carolina in the Modern Age (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1992), 59-62.
3Harry Ashmore quoted in Walter B. Edgar, History of Santee Cooper, 1934-1984 (Columbia: R.L. Bryan Company, 1984), 5.
4The Society collected and reprinted these articles in a special three-volume limited edition, edited by Alexander Moore, as The Historical Writings of Henry A. M. Smith (Spartanburg: The Reprint Company, Publishers, 1988).
5A. S. Salley, Jr., "Hugh Hext and His Descendants," South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, 6 Jan. 1905), 29-40.
6Joseph oor Waring, "Waring Family," South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, 24 (July-Oct. 1923), 81-100.
7Mabel L. Webber, "The First Governor Moore and His Children," South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, 36 (Jan. 1937), 1-23.
8Mary Pringle Fenhagen, "Judge Robert Pringle's Descendants," South Carolina Historical Magazine, 62 (Oct., 1961), 236.
9Valter B. Edgar, ed., South Carolina: The WPA Guide to the Palmetto State (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988), 3.
10Preliminary Report on South Carolina, C-1-31, Federal Writers' Project Collection. South Carolinians Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.
11George C. Rogers, Jr., "who is a South Carolina Historical Magazine, 89 (January 1988), 11-12.
*Walter Edgar is Claude Henry Neuffer Professor of Southern Studies and George Washington Distinguished Professor of History, the University of South Carolina, and a member of the Board of Managers of the Society.
THE SOUTH CAROLINA HISTORICAL MAGAZINE VOLUME 101, No. 4 (OCTOBER 2000)…