In the roughly 80 years from the Revolutionary War and the creation of the new nation to the US Civil War, South Carolina grew rapidly based largely on the key crops of rice in the Lowcountry and cotton in the Pee Dee and Midlands areas as well as the slave labor that worked in the fields.
In the backcountry, land incrementally taken from native Indian tribes through war and purchases was used for trading posts and slowly converted to farmland and even manufacturing. Several state parks in South Carolina tell the stories of this era’s life in the Upcountry.
The Oconee Station State Historic Site tells the story of a military outpost during the years between the Revolution and the Civil War. The location housed the State Militia beginning in 1792, protecting the region from clashes with the Cherokee and Creek Indians. It later became a trading post. Today visitors can see a stone blockhouse, which is the only remaining building from the fort called Oconee Station, and the William Richards House, which was built in 1805 by an Irish immigrant. The blockhouse was converted to a kitchen building for the Richards house, which was used as a home well into the 1960s.
Most often associated with its proximity to national parks that detail the area’s Revolutionary War history, Kings Mountain State Park holds living history demonstrations each fall at the park’s replica 1800s Piedmont farm. Volunteers depict life on a 19th century yeoman farm with buildings that include a barn and cotton gin and a blacksmith operation. Visitors will also see farm animals and a garden, which most farmers kept to feed their families and animals, as well as make their own herbal remedies. Some of their cotton crop would have gone to making their own clothes. Today’s garden includes heirloom crops as well as fruit trees and a vineyard. Hardy visitors can stay overnight in their own tents and learn how to cook in a Dutch-oven cooking class.
Landsford Canal State Park is tied to many moments in South Carolina history from its earliest days as a Catawba River crossing point for Native American tribes. The same ford was used by Revolutionary War soldiers on both sides and Civil War soldiers on both sides. But during the period between the wars, the area was the site of an extensive canal system that made the river a key transit route from 1820 to 1835. Visitors today can see the Lockkeepers House, relocated from Dearborne Island and restored as a museum.
Edisto Beach State Park is home to artifacts from the first survey of the US coastline from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico. The survey director, Alexander Bache was the great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin. The survey took place and was accomplished with the Bache-invented tool known as the "Bar of Invariable Length." The baseline at Edisto was the third of seven lines measured and two endpoint markers still exist, making Edisto the oldest intact baseline.
Givhans Ferry State Park was named after Phillip Givhan, the area ferry master on the Edisto River. He was the ferry master in the late 1700s and later became transportation commissioner. Today the park is known more for its location on a 21-mile stretch of the Edisto known as a paddlers’ paradise.
The Guillebeau House at Hickory Knob State Park is an 18th-century cabin that was home to French Huguenots and donated to the state in the 1980s by the family that had owned it for generations. The house, which is available to overnight guests, has the rustic feel of a 200-year-old cabin with some modern comforts.
Woods Bay State Park in Florence County includes two grist mills and a cotton gin from the 1800s. The brick foundation of the last mill structure can still be seen today. The cotton gin was next to the mill and both used the same waterwheel on the millpond.