Sunday, July 4, 2010

Rare local history book resurfaces

Original article available here.
The Lancaster News by Jenny Arnold

The Lancaster County Historical Commission has rediscovered an out-of-print book about local history.
The Rev. J.B. Knight, who has written books about Lancaster’s mill hill community and has an extensive collection of local history books, found “Historical Notes from Lancaster County, S.C.” in his collection in March and thought the county Historical Commission would be interested.
The book was compiled Viola Caston Floyd, who wrote several books and pictorial histories of Lancaster County.
Knight is a member of the Historical Commission and brought the book to a meeting.
Since then, it’s been passed around to other commission members, who have worked to find other copies of the rare book. There are two copies at the Lancaster County Library, available for view in the Caroliniana Room but not for check out.
The 366-page book contains no pictures and was printed in 1977. It’s copyrighted by the Lancaster County Historical Commission. Knight bought it in 1978 at Lancaster Stationery Co. on Main Street.
“It’s not a pictorial history, but there’s certainly some interesting tidbits in there,” Knight said. “It was like she (Floyd) was writing her thoughts. It seemed like it was more personal.”
The book fascinated another Historical Commission member, Jo Williams.
“It has information in it that I had heard about all my life, but never seen documented before,” Williams said.
One article in the book details a newspaper article published in The Lancaster News on Dec. 16, 1906. The article talked about 18 Confederate soldiers being held at the local jail. They were to be executed, and made a plan to overpower the guard on their execution day and escape.
When the guard came to their cell, the soldiers’ leader stuck his foot in the door so the jailer couldn’t close it on them again.
According to the article, the jailer said, “There’s no use of that, boys. You are to be exchanged man for man.”
The soldiers had escaped death. One of the soldiers claimed that he never expected to hear sweeter words this side of heaven than “exchanged man for man.”
Williams is also curious about the mysterious story of a white suit that was once on display in the Caroliniana Room at the Lancaster County Library.
Floyd wrote about the homespun suit for The Lancaster News in 1977.
At that time, the suit, which belonged to Henry Rowell, was believed to be 127 years old. Rowell fought in the Civil War, serving with an artillery company near Charleston. He was remembered to have worn the suit for special occasions, such as holy communion services at Bethlehem Lutheran Church.
The article details the care with how the long-tailed suit was made. But where is this relic today?
“I don’t think anyone knows,” Williams said. “I don’t ever remember seeing it. It’s probably back in a drawer somewhere.”
Williams said she’s glad there is another book documenting Lancaster County’s history.
“Any time you find another source of history written by a reliable, thorough researcher, it’s invaluable,” she said.
Contact senior reporter Jenny Arnold at or at (803) 283-1151

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