“Charleston’s 19th century merchants wanted to capture the economic traffic from the upcountry.”
City Directories and History: “The name Land’s Ford, was derived from a grant in 1754 to Thomas Land of a tract containing an ancient ford. This rocky ford was an important crossing for Scotch-lrish settlers who traveled overland in wagons from Pennsylvania and settled in Chester County in the 1750’s and 1760’s. The site was also a campsite for forces under General Thomas Sumter and General William Richardson Davie. It was here where Cornwallis retreated across the ford from Charlotte to Winnsboro. In 1805, General Davie, Revolutionary Patriot, built his home overlooking Landsford, and also constructed a mill on the river. In 1822, he gave the land for the construction of the canal. His mill race was deepened and widened and was used as the upper end of the canal. Today, the walls of Davie’s mill and the rock dam over the river still remain.”(Information in part from: Chester County Heritage Book, Vol. I, Edt. by Collins – Knox, Published by the Chester Co Hist. Society – Jostens Printing, 1982)
The S.C. Dept. of Archives and History sites is a great place to start your tour of the Canal.
Historically, the Landsford Canal, completed about 1823, was an important transportation link for about fifteen years. The immediate area was involved in military movement from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War. The canal remains as the only canal existing in its entirety without encroachment in the state. The Canal parallels a two-mile section of the Catawba River. As part of the inland navigation system from the Up Country to Charleston, a series of Catawba canals were begun in 1819 and completed several years later. Landsford Canal, the highest in the system, was built by engineer Leckie. Within this section, the River falls thirty-four feet. The Canal consists of three sets of locks, a mill site, miller’s house, and a lockkeeper’s house—all in various forms of decay and ruins. The tract, including an aboriginal ford, was granted to Thomas Land in 1754, thus the derivation of its name. Listed in the National Register December 3, 1969. (SC Dept. of Archives and History)
Local farmers often refused the services of their slaves for employment in building the canals, often suggesting, “Hire the Irish.” They felt their investment in slaves were to valuable for them to be harmed in state construction projects.
The Herald reported on Sept. 9, 1896 – “Samuel Friedheim has returned from the North where he has been buying goods for his store at Landsford.”
The Herald reported on May 3, 1899 – “At a Clerk of Courts sale, 89 shares of stock of the Landsford Water Power Company were sold at auction to R.L. Kerr and the National Union Bank.”
The RH Herald reported on June 16, 1900 – “The Lancaster Cotton Mill will be increased in size from 12,000 spindles to 62,000 spindles and from 500 looms to 1,590 looms. The present mill building will be greatly enlarged. Colonel Springs is the chief promoter of this skeem and is said to have already purchased most of the machinery. This project will make Lancaster one of the leading manufacturing cities in the state. It is proposed to power the machinery by a new company at or near Landsford on the Catawba River.”
The Herald reported on June 27, 1900 – “Col. LeRoy Springs of Lancaster and a group of northern capitalist have almost completed arrangements to build a huge dam across the Catawba River at Landsford and build a large electric plant to be used in supplying power to the factories of Lancaster and other towns. By this means the excellent water power at Landsford, which has been running to waste for centuries, will be harnessed by American genius and used to propel the wheels of the machinery in great manufacturing establishments.”
On July 25, 1900 the Herald reported – “The work is about to commonsense on the enlargement of the cotton mill at Lancaster. A contract for 4 million brick has been awarded to Mr. Tanner of Charlotte. The mill will be run by electricity from a new dam at Landsford, which could also supply all of Lancaster, Rock Hill and Chester.”
The Herald reported on Nov. 28, 1900 – “Mr. George E. Ladshaw and his brother T.D. Ladshaw, civil and hydraulic engineers of Spartanburg, are surveying Col. Spring’s Landsford Power and Water site. They will prepare plans for the dam and electric plant.”
The Herald on April 27, 1901 – Reporting on a court case of John R. London verses the Landsford Power Company. “Major London sued for $2,000. as reimbursement for five years service as Pres. of the company. The company claimed that Major London was to have served without compensation. The jury awarded Major London, $1,054.57.”
The South Carolina Board of Public Works contracted with Robert Leckie, a native of Scotland, to build the Landsford Canal in 1820. Leckie, an engineer and master stonemason, supervised the building of the Landsford Canal, and after 153 years the stone and rock work is some of the best preserved in the United States. The Canal reflects the skills of the 19th century artisans who built it.
The keystone on the arched bridge over the locks gives the name “Robert Leckie, Contractor, 1823.” This was the date Leckie reported the canal completed. The Landsford arched bridge is an artistic combination of cut stone,and field rock. Leckie also constructed the Court House at York, South Carolina; the arsenal at Fayetteville, North Carolina; and the walls of the Botanical Gardens in Washington, D.C.
(Information in part from: Chester County Heritage Book, Vol. I, Edt. by Collins – Knox, Published by the Chester Co Hist. Society – Jostens Printing, 1982)
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