If anyone out there thinks that South Carolina history began with the Civil War, Leo Redman is here to tell you, “Think again.”
We visited the Cayce Historical Museum on a chilly, winter afternoon and found the museum director and guide alone in the museum. You see, we were a little late – the big Christmas in Cayce Open House had past, so we were the only ones visiting that day. Luckily, the beautiful decorations were still up. Each room was lovingly decorated around a different theme: Victorian Christmas, nature, Native American, Mardi Gras, and even a Gone With the Wind room where the tree was decorated with giant magnolia blossoms and tiny Scarlett O’Haras.
Redman began showing us around the museum, which chronicles the settlement of Granby, the first European settlement in the Midlands, on the site where the museum sits today. Granby’s site on the Congaree River made it an important trading post in the 1700s and later an important fortification in the Revolutionary War, when the trading post was transformed into Fort Granby.
Upstairs, our guide tells us the story of Emily Geiger, a little known Patriot heroine who was taken to this spot at Fort Granby to be questioned by British troops, who found an 18-year-old girl traveling alone to be suspicious. They were right to be suspicious, as it turns out. Emily had volunteered to carry a message to Gen. Thomas Sumter from Gen. Nathanael Greene about coordinating their attacks on the British. The young woman escaped with her life (and delivered her message) by memorizing the note and then eating the paper scrap by scrap.
But it is in the next room that Redman really lights up – and where any idea that S.C. history really begins in the 19th century is put to rest. The area that is today known as Cayce has, in fact, been continuously inhabited for 18,000 years. On display are artifacts – some of them several thousand years old – from the Native American people who once populated the area, the Congaree Indians. There are mortars and pestles, axes, hoes and literally hundreds of arrowheads. Redman’s enthusiasm about the collection is evident and infectious. He is able to provide context for the items on display and point out what is unique or special in the exhibit.
The Cayce Historical Museum is located in the City of Cayce Municipal Complex at 1800 12th Street. It’s open Tuesday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for seniors and students 13 and older and, 50 cents for kids 12 and younger. Admission is always free on Sunday.