The Yorkville Enquirer reported on Oct. 4, 1893, “the loss of the ferry boat at Howell’s Ferry has created great inconvenience. The Thomsons who chartered the ferry, several years ago, have no interest.”
City Directories and History: During January 1923, Vines and Robert Howell of the Howell’s Ferry neighborhood were in York visiting with a cousin, W. B. Keller. They got to talking and as is often the case in Western York County (then and now), discussion turned to the condition of roads. “We are away out of the world so far as having communication with anybody is concerned,” said Vines. “Why our roads are so bad that when it was necessary to have a doctor during the recent wet weather, we would have to phone to Hickory Grove for him, and then go and meet him in a buggy at the point where he got stuck in the mud. It looks like we cannot get any help on our roads.”
1. —– B. Keller took his cousins by the Yorkville Enquirer office where he worked and all three sat down with editor who wanted to know of any remnants remaining of the old Howell’s Ferry. Vines told Mr. Grist that there were no signs of the old ferry landings which was the major crossing point from York into Union (now Cherokee) County. By this time traffic from York County was flowing across the Irene Bridge that had been built north of the old ferry, and the Lockhart Bridge located several miles south.
Their conversation turned to places around Howell’s Ferry and someone mentioned an old cemetery Grist said he had never knew existed. Though they did not mention its name, we know it today as the Darwin Cemetery. “Well, there is an old cemetery there,” said Keller, “and I guess that altogether there are a hundred tombstones in it, to say nothing of the unmarked graves, and trees have grown up in the place . . . I am told that the history of that cemetery is this: Old Salem, on the other side of the river, was the regular burying place of the people on this side. But on occasions away back yonder, the river was up when a burying party came along and remained up for several days. There was nothing to do but bury on this side of the river, and later other relatives were buried in the same place. But as I understand, the cemetery is not being used any more. The people can now go around by the bridge.” “You people have not got much roads in this country,” said W. J. Whitener of Florida. “You are far behind our part of Florida on the road question. But I will say this for you: There has been wonderful improvement in the York County roads since I can first remember, and there has been a lot of improvement since I left here to go to Florida,” (Some years before moving to Florida, Whitener had been an overseer of the York County Chain Gang when it was first used for road maintenance.) Whitener recalled, “I remember once as a little boy I was sent with a team to bring in some fertilizer. I had a pretty good pair of mules and a good wagon, but with only four sacks to my load, I got stuck in the mud on the hill at what is now known as Gold Hill schoolhouse, on the Charlotte Road [now Highway 49 north of York], just north of Fishing Creek. No sir, I just could not move a peg no matter how much I whipped and begged those mules. But I know it is not that bad now. I am satisfied I could take a pair of mules like that and go up that hill with eight sacks of fertilizer.
“But we are building sure enough roads down in Florida. We started with sand and clay like you people up here, but we have about quit that now. We are building them of concrete and of brick mostly. Brick is the best thing, the most satisfactory and the most durable, but I don’t believe you people could use brick successfully unless you would put them on a foundation of an inch or two of concrete. This would be to keep the bricks from spewing up in case of a freeze.
For a long time we had a little trouble with heavy trucks that tore up our roads, but this was corrected with an act of the legislature prohibiting the hauling of loads in excess of two tons. Now the trucks use trailers and put two tons on each of them, but that does not do so much damage. You people ought to limit your truck loads to two tons; but I don’t believe you could use trailers successfully because on a soft surface pulling trucks would do almost as much damage as if it were carrying the whole load.”
Later, in February, as the “West Road” was under construction from York to the Cherokee County line, John K. Allison of Hickory Grove commented on a new bridge on the old route from Hickory Grove and York which had been recently completed. “The bridge approaches are in fairly good shape and the bridge itself is in good shape. I feel more comfortable about going back. The crossing of that creek has always been a great concern to us Hickory Grove people. I have had trouble there more than once. On one occasion, I remember I had been down here to court and because of a heavy rain, Tom McGill and myself went around by Bethany to be sure of getting home. It looks now, however, that we are going to have no more trouble. I have not been there but I understand that they are getting the abutments well under way on the West Road Bridge.”
Mail carrier D. C. Clark was not as harsh in his criticism of the roads in Western York County as Vines and his brother, Robert, and believed roads in general had improved over the years. He said, “when it comes to this claim in spite of all the money we have been spending, the roads are no better than they were before, that makes me tired.” “Take this Number 1 route of mine,” Clark continued, “I remember the time that from about December to April or May it was cruelty to a horse to make him pull an empty buggy over it. It was that way over the whole route and at some places like the McAfee Hill, and along by John Smith’s, nobody would go over it except a mail carrier and he went because he had to. Both of these places have been improved wonderfully, and at their worst we never have it as bad as we used to have it all the time. “Now from New Zion up by Moffatt McGill’s to Bethany it is bad; but that road has never been worked and couldn’t be any other way. Down the King’s Mountain Road from Bethany to York I can come in a trot if I want to, when you would never think of such a thing back in the days before the roads were worked by the King’s Mountain Township commission. “Goodness knows I am the last man to be expected to be bragging on a bad road; but I would not stand for the claim that the roads over my route have not been tremendously improved.” In closing Clark agreed with W. J. Whitener of Florida that some kind of hard surfacing was the answer. “Sure,” he said, “we have some bad roads, and we will always have bad roads until we get at them the right way and build them with a hard surface as they should be; but the roads are much better than they were once.”
J.L. West – Author
This article and many others found on the pages of Roots and Recall, were written by author J.L. West, for the YC Magazine and have been reprinted on R&R, with full permission – not for distribution or reprint!
About eight miles north of the Pinckneyville Ferry, and between Smiths Creek and Howards Branch, John Bankhead established a ferry in 1792. In 1806 Joseph Howell bought this ferry. In 1813 William Howell became the owner and, in applying to the general assembly for a new charter, gave several insights into the importance of the ferry. Howell stated that “the ferry is the nearest route from the South eastern part of this state to Tennessee by way of Mills Gap. Also to the backparts of Georgia. It is also the route by which the mail passes on its return from Spartanburg to Columbia by way of Yorkville Courthouse.” In addition to periodically having to request new charters, ferry owners had to submit a copy of their rates of passage for various items that people sometimes wished to carry across a river.
Also: The Thicketty Community derives its name from a creek that has its origin a few miles further north near a small mountain bearing the same name. This once thriving and prosperous little settlement was located about three miles south of Gaffney on Highway 29, and the main line of the Southern Railway. Thicketty once boasted a railway station, post office, an iron furnace and grist mills. The creek for a long span of its winding route to its junction with the Broad River is a veritable thicket. Thus, its name.
Information from: Names in South Carolina by C.H. Neuffer, Published by the S.C. Dept. of English, USC
A TRAVELER’S JOURNAL – 1858
by Louise Pettus – An unidentified traveler left the village of Pacolet near Spartanburg in 1858 on his way to Yorkville, the county seat of York District He kept a journal that is short but interesting. He crossed the Broad River at Howell’s Ferry and noted that “fingerboards” pointed the way. Fingerboards were required by state law at every crossroad so that travelers would not be inconvenienced. Some of the sign painters were quite artistic and constructed a pointer that looked like a hand with the finger pointing; others merely cut to the board to a point on one end or painted an arrow with the name of the next town and the number of miles. Because mischief makers were likely to turn the fingerboards around, many roads had permanent stone markers.
The traveler noted that there were many hills to Yorkville which he called one of the prettiest towns in the state. He stayed at an inn run by Colonel Stowe, “the jolliest of landlords.”
He was surprised at how narrow the main street of Yorkville was but thought there were many handsome buildings. He especially was impressed with the “elegant dwellings.” The Female Academy (on East Jefferson Street and now called the McCelvey Building) was a special object of local pride along with the new buildings of the Kings Mountain Military Academy under the direction of Micah Jenkins and Asbury Coward…… (Information courtesy of and from: YCGHS – The Quarterly Magazine)
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