By Thomas Lanford, Jr.
There is a long-time saying in Charleston: “I would rather be poor in Charleston than rich in Columbia….and dead in Charleston than alive in the ‘up-country’”. Therefore it is surprising that much of the “up-country” was settled by Charlestonians looking to escape the summer heat of the coastal city and many stayed because of the beauty of the mountains. And the mountains are a definite draw and part of the charm and appeal of the area.
Start with those mountains–the very Southern tail of the Appalachians graces the up-state and they offer absolutely gorgeous scenery. Drive along the Cherokee Foothills Scenic By-way (http://www.scenic11.com/) and meander through the region enjoying the mountains, the streams, the lakes, the general scenery, and the waterfalls. If you enjoy visiting waterfalls then it is hard to do better than the “up-country” for not only the number but the access. (http://www.pendletondistrict.org/naturalbeauty/waterfalls.php)
Take some time to visit or even stay at the state parks of the area: Oconee, Devil’s Fork, Keowee-Toxaway, or Table Rock not only for lodging (all have cabins &/or lodges) but for the views and scenery including mountains, lakes for fishing or swimming, still more waterfalls, hiking trails, wild life, and the cabins–which are great for families or couples traveling together (http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/). Caesar’s Head State Park is also a beautiful visit but does not have lodging. All the parks are located with-in an hour’s drive of Clemson. (If you prefer to stay on the Georgia side of the line consider Tugaloo State Park on Lake Hartwell [http://gastateparks.org/Tugaloo/]).
Pendleton, just South of Clemson, is one of the oldest settlements in the “up-country”. Founded in 1790 (http://pendletondistrict.org/index.php) it is a quaint little town whose main feature is the Farmers’ Society Hall. This Greek Revival building, built in 1826 on the village green, has served the region in many capacities. The first floor has been reserved as a commercial outlet since its beginning but the second floor is the meeting area and is the birth-place of Clemson as that is where Thomas Clemson proposed the idea for a school in the area to teach “farming”. It is also the oldest Farmers’ Hall that has been continuously in operation in the country.
While in Pendleton pick up a brochure for the walking tour and visit the historic area and its many shops, churches, houses, and cemeteries–including the cemetery where the man who named “Stonewall” Jackson is buried. Barnard Bee was mortally wounded at the first major battle of the War Between the States, Manassas (aka Bull Run for you yankees), but not before he said–whether in disgust or admiration we shall never know–”there stands Jackson like a stone wall…..rally ’round the Virginians”. The name stuck and to this day Thomas Jonathon Jackson is known as “Stonewall” Jackson thanks to a comment by a man who would not live to see the name become history. Amongst others buried at the St. Paul Episcopal Church Cemetery are Bee’s brother-in-law, Clement H. Evans, also a CSA general; Thomas Clemson, after whom Clemson University is named; and his wife, Anna Calhoun Clemson, daughter of John Calhoun.
On the out-skirts of Pendleton is the “Old Stone Church”. Building of the Presbyterian Meeting House began in 1789 by Revolutionary War hero Andrew Pickens (amongst others) . The church is no longer active but is definitely worth a visit just for the historic value. The adjacent cemetery contains the graves of not only Andrew Pickens and his family but also several other Revolutionary War soldiers and many of the settlers of the area. Other nearby historical sites are some of the homes of those Charlestonians mentioned above including Ashtabula and Woodburn Plantations (http://pendletondistrict.org/index.php) as well as the Hagood Mauldin House (http://pickenscountyhistoricalsociety.com/hagood_mauldin_house.php).
As for the city of Clemson proper — unless you want to drink beer and eat standard bar food at the Esso Club (http://www.theessoclub.com/)–there is not a lot to do. The original town–named Calhoun after the famous statesman who had lived near-by–was actually a mile from where the current city now stands because that is where the railroad tracks are located. After years of confusion with Calhoun, GA and Calhoun Falls, SC a decision was made to change the name of the city to that of the school and in the mid-1940s the town became Clemson. When the necessity of rail service waned and the importance of the university was realized the town “drifted” closer to the university and farther from the rail line. The old town is still there with several buildings dating from the mid-1800s but the focus of the town is now completely entwined with the university.
The number of things to do at the university is another matter. On campus and open for tours are several historic homes. Fort Hill, the home of John Calhoun, sits on its original site in the midst of the campus. Calhoun willed the home to his daughter, Anna, who along with her husband, Thomas Clemson, were instrumental in the founding of the university that bears his name. (In an interesting twist both Calhoun and his son-in-law, Clemson, had ties to Georgia as they were early investors in gold mines near Dahlonega.) Clemson and his wife willed the house and surrounding property to the state to start the university and the home still stands and is preserved as a monument to both Calhoun and Clemson for their work in the start of the university. Also on campus are the Hanover House–a preserved home from the early 18th century moved to campus to preserve it when Lake Moultrie was built. Hopewell Plantation, the home of Revolutionary War hero Andrew Pickens (see “Old Stone Church”) has also been moved to campus. Those houses over-look the South Carolina Botanical Gardens. This almost 300 acres of gardens feature plants native to the state and is open from dawn to dusk seven days a week. Part of the gardens is the Bob Campbell Geology Museum and Discovery Center (there is a fee) which “focus on explaining people and their relationship to the environment”. If you have any interest at all in plants, plant life, or geology and the environment then you can spend a full day exploring the gardens and the museum.
After visiting all of the historic, natural, and aesthetic sites in/around the “up-country” you might be hungry. One of your options is to fry up some “Clemson Spineless”. That is not a reference to the athletic teams but to a type of okra developed by the Clemson Agricultural Department in 1939. Unfortunately you cannot buy it on campus unless you join the CSA (and it is sold out for 2013) but seeds of the 1939 variety or the 1980 variety are available from most seed stores. You can, however, take advantage of the many dairy farms that Clemson sponsors and purchase an item for which the school is very well known and that is Clemson Blue Cheese. Prior to the War Between the States the idea of a railroad tunnel from Charleston to points in the expanding mid-western portion of the country was considered. The major problem with completing the task was that a tunnel would have to be constructed in order to get through those mountains mentioned in the first part of this article. A tunnel was begun but due to the war and then lack of funds and various other reasons it was started but never finished. After a while it became a popular spot for locals to meet and picnic or explore and the tunnel became known for its unusual wind flow and moisture content. A professor in the agriculture department thought it would be ideal for growing the blue mold used in blue cheese and one thing led to another and Clemson got in to the manufacture of blue cheese. Originally aged and ripened in the old Stumphouse Tunnel–still a popular tourist destination (http://www.oconeecountry.com/stumphouse.html)–eventually the manufacture and aging was moved to the university’s food partner, Aramark. The popular cheese–it was voted a top blue cheese in the country but most will say it is good but not in line w/ those such as Maytag or similar–is available on campus at the Hendrix Center or at several retail spots or on-line (http://www.clemsonbluecheese.com/). A blue cheese dressing is also available if you prefer to go that direction.
If you want something a bit sweeter than blue cheese while near campus then try the other dairy product for which Clemson is well-known and grab an ice cream or milk shake at the Hendrix Center ( http://www.clemson.edu/campus-life/campus-services/icecream.html). The flavors change seasonally and, well…..how can anyone not like ice cream?
Get your blue cheese and your ice cream and explore and enjoy the area. If all that is listed above is not enough for you then you still have the near-by cities of Greenville, Anderson, and Honea Path to explore or venture a bit farther and visit the National Parks/Historic Sites/Battlefields at Ninety-Six, Cowpens, or King’s Mountain. In any case if you really want to find something to do in the Clemson area there is plenty available. It is simply a matter of how interested you are and how much you want to do.
Kickoff is at 8 pm, you have all day!