Given its geographic location along the East Coast, it's hard to imagine South Carolina was once part of America's Wild West. But in the late 18th century, European settlements were just beginning to expand across the state, making areas like Oconee County the wild frontier.
To protect white settlers from Indian attack, a half dozen military outposts were built in the Upstate as the westernmost defensive points. South Carolina State Militia scouts based in these stations served as an early warning network, alarming settlers of imminent raids by the Cherokee and Creek Indians.
One of the garrisoned forts was located in Walhalla. Known as Oconee Station, it included a stone blockhouse built circa 1792. Some 20 to 30 troops were stationed here through 1799.
From 1795 to 1809, the site served as an Indian trading post manned by Irish immigrant William Richards. In 1805, the merchant built a two-story brick house just steps from the stone structure and used the blockhouse as his kitchen.
Both buildings are now part of the 210-acre Oconee Station State Historic Site. You can take a free guided tour of the structures - the only remaining historic buildings on the property - from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
When I visited the site during our girls' weekend, Park Interpreter Scott Alexander took us into the blockhouse first, showing us the stark living conditions of those frontier days. There was no indoor plumbing, let alone central air conditioning or heat.
The brick house was only slightly cozier. Sure, it has beautiful beamed ceilings, wooden floors and a fireplace, but no electricity. Where is a girl supposed to plug in her blow dryer?
In addition to the historic buildings, the park features a fishing pond stocked with bluegill and largemouth bass and a 1.5-mile nature trail that takes you into Sumter National Forest and Station Cove Falls. In my next blog post, I'll tell you about this awesome waterfall.
This time of year, the park is a postcard picture of spring. Large colonies of wildflowers can be found throughout the property, including may apples, dwarf Iris and wild geraniums.
On March 31 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the park will host its annual Native American Day, featuring demonstrations of traditional American Indian skills, such as pottery, bow making and flint knapping.
For more information on the park or Native American Day, click here or call (864) 638-0079.