National Geographic : 1953 Mar
South Carolina Rediscovered and especially during Sumter's annual Iris Festival, 50,000 people visit this beauty spot. The first city in the United States to adopt the commission-city-manager form of govern ment (1912), Sumter has prospered from the rich farms and pastures surrounding it, and also from its position as the State's furniture and woodworking center. In the southernmost part of the State, where the hot wind of war passed in '65, I found no old dwellings or old churches; just here and there a remnant. Largest of these, and thought by many to be the most beautiful of its kind in the State, is the ruin of Prince William's Parish Church, generally called Sheldon Church. Burned first by the British, it was rebuilt by the parishioners, only to be burned again in the Confederate War. Among many settlements of the neighbor hood is Pocataligo. There, in the spring of 1715, the Yamasee Indians struck the first blow in an uprising of many Indian tribes planned by the great Creek, Emperor Brims. A red rebellion of the wilderness rolled almost to Charleston, nearly putting an end to South Carolina before she had got well started. Except for the Cherokees and the Chicka saws, all the tribes from Florida to the Cape Fear River were in arms. Four hundred South Carolinians were killed, the colony's whole inland commerce was destroyed, and most of its farms and plantations right up to Charleston's walls were burned before at last the white men won a hard-bought victory. Twenty miles south of the old Yamasee country lies Beaufort, next to Charleston the oldest town in the State. Founded in 1710, Beaufort was almost wiped out in the great Indian war five years later. A disheartening beginning, but Beaufort men rebuilt their town, and in time it became a small metropo lis for the indigo and sea-island cotton planta tions surrounding it. Beaufort's Mansions Spared By the 1850's Beaufort was one of the most fortunate and delightful communities of the State, the center of an affluent and culti vated society. In 1861 an irresistible Union fleet drove into Port Royal Sound, past two small Confederate forts. Instead of burning Beaufort, however, the Federals used it and Port Royal Sound as a base of operations against Charleston. Thus the town's many fine mansions escaped destruction. Winter residents are of primary importance here. Many of the ante bellum plantations near by are now winter homes and hunting preserves. A large acreage, however, is de voted to truck farming, and important fac tors in Beaufort's economy are the U. S. Marine Base on near-by Parris Island and the magnificent new U. S. Naval Hospital. For one delirious hour, tradition says. Beaufort believed itself the scene of a mighty scientific discovery. A planter who in his spare time had long experimented with per petual motion was seen seated in the stern of his skiff which, without oars, sail, or other visible means of propulsion, was dashing at terrifying speed up and down the river. From the crowd gathered on the shore the cry went up, "Jones has discovered perpetual motion at last!" Actually Jones had har pooned a huge devilfish, which finally towed him out to sea before he could cut the line. He didn't know it at the time, but he had started something which brought fame to Beaufort. Harpooning the devilfish, or manta ray, became a favorite diversion of the Beau fort planters, and a century ago a book, Carolina Sports by Land and Water, by William Elliott, told the world about it. Down to the Sea for Shrimp In Beaufort, as in all the State's coastal towns, shrimp is the basis of most of the wealth taken out of the sea. In South Caro lina waters, some 600 trawlers caught 7,746 000 pounds of shrimp valued at $2,169,000 in 1950, the last year for which complete figures are available. At the docks hundreds of gaily chattering Negro women and children behead the shrimp, then pack them in ice to be shipped by truck to the big city markets. At sea scores of sharks follow the trawlers to feast on the myriad small fish thrown overboard when the nets are hauled. Fish ing from a trawler's stern, rod-and-reel anglers have good sport with these sea prowlers. Capt. Thomas Backman, the Negro skipper of the Folly Queen, may be the only man in the world, however, who catches sharks the way a cowboy catches calves. "I lassoes 'em," he told me. "I jis' drop a shubbelful o' fish off de stern an' drop a noose rope in front o' de fish. De sha'ak dash in to git um an' I pull de noose. I ketch one nine-footer dat-a-way, an' anudder day I lasso t'ree sha'ak at de same time in one noose tergedder." Captain Backman spoke a language rela tively easy to understand. But in its pure form Gullah, the dialect of the Low Country Negroes, is incomprehensible to strangers. "Enty yuh shum, bubbuh?" I heard an Edisto Island Negro ask another as he pointed out a blue jay in a tree. "Uh sway Uh yeddy um duh cry out like he bex puntopuh dat simmon tree behine de shemuckle bush. Mek'ace, man, en' cum yuh en yuh binnuh sho for shum fuss ting." Translation: "Don't you see him, brother?