Sandlapper
The Magazine of South Carolina

Place Names in South Carolina

In & Around Charleston

 

by Irene LaBorde Neuffer

"The island," to a Charlestonian, means only one. And did you know Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper never slept here? Oh, by the way, our Indians walked paths, not trails.

 

Now that we have tempted you with samplings of place names from Dark Corner across the top of the state and down the Savannah River to Lady's Island, we head north along the coast, and around Charleston, to the rich array of names and stories pertaining thereto. Admittedly, the chiefest regret I have for my forebears is that they early left Charleston, whose natives modestly state, "The Ashley and Cooper rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean." And they properly are devoted to this peninsula, our oldest settlement.

As DuBose Heyward aptly noted, "Charleston has heard the call of modernity and has refused to be stampeded into the procession." During the 30 years of publication of Names in South Carolina, we were especially fortunate to attract contributions of Low Country articles and notes from such able writer/researchers as Katherine Simons (novelest Drayton Mayrant), whose series on Charleston alleys won national acclaim; Caroline Aimar (writer of children's books), whose notes and article added to the origins of our Huguenot names; Elias Bull, archeologist, who received the first Onomastic Award for his series on Berkeley County names; as well as Archibald Rutledge Jr., Sedgwick L. Simons, Chalmers S. Murray, Mabel Trott Fitzsimons and Susan Lowndes Allston.

 

Paths & Highways

The earliest routes to the Up Country were the two Indian ones, the Cherokee Path and the Catawba Path (only elsewhere called "trails," renowned South Carolina historian A.S. Salley says). The pre-Revolutionary title "rebellion roads" referred, before adequate harbor defense, to the stretch between the cove and the true harbor, where ship captains could drop anchor in defiance of an edict forbidding them to remain longer than a certain time; hence, they were rebelling with impunity.

The King's Highway was never an official title, but rather the name of pre-Revolutionary routes; for example, the Charleston-to-Camden route, which was comparable to the old Catawba Path, and the Charleston-to-Georgetown Road. The Old State Road, from 1819 on, was the name of the road from Charleston to Columbia to Greenville, and on into North Carolina. The Charleston-to-Summerville route was called the Post Road or the Dorchester Road until 1901. The Old Wire Road in Dorchester County probably describes one bordered by telegraph lines.

 

Alleys

Many of the short, in-between-streets routes were called alleys, arches, lanes, courts, rows and ranges. St. Michael's Alley is fair evidence of the frequent observation that Charleston is the (possibly) one place in the Unites States where you can live on an alley and be respected.

The very narrow Squeeze Gut Alley, many-turned Zig Zag Alley, each-side-lined Bottle Alley and even Do-as-You-Choose Alley with its "casual occupants" were all appropriately named. Dutch Church Alley (now Clifford Street) was named for its leading to the city's first Lutheran church, St. John's, often called John Bachman's church, since he pastored there for more than 50 years.

Many of the original names have been changed to names of new property owners or even new occupations thereon. Catfish Row, Rainbow Row and Cabbage Row have been much written about, especially by DuBose Heyward, who relocated and renamed Cabbage as Catfish in Porgy. Amen Corner reputedly had to do with whipping punishment: 10 lashes at the courthouse, the second 10 at the market and the third 10 - minus one - at Amen Corner, like the London name.

My favorite is a more recent thoroughfare, Wasbee Range. In an effort to correct the too many duplications of street names, the city fathers changed a Lee to Notlee, Michel Lane to Shell Lane and Motte's Lane to Motley. One of the widest streets was named Bee, for Confederate Gen. Bernard Bee, who gave Stonewall Jackson his sobriquet at Bull Run. Since the much smaller range also was named for the general, it was changed from Bee to Wasbee.

I get a sort of sadistic pleasure to think how a hundred years from now some eager archeologist will get a Federal grant to look for the lost tribe of Wasbee Indians - unless the researcher's great-grandmother happened to save a copy of NSC or this issue of Sandlapper.

 

The "Queen" & Other Isles

The "queen of the islands" is Edisto, with its three ocean beaches as barriers: Edings, Botany Bay and Edisto.

Prounced ED-i-sto (in spite of the erudite young researcher who came into the South Caroliniana Library asking "for information regarding the eh-DIS-to Indians"), it was long our family's favorite vacation spot, until the children learned about the Grand Strand.

A host of other coastal islands around Charleston and their stories are recorded in NSC, especially in volumes X and XI. A hi-ho via Whooping Island might be appropriate.

Some have explained, ex post facto, that someone once sighted a whooping crane there. Actually, it was the home of the ferryman to whom folks visiting on the mainland "whooped" when they wanted the ferryman to come over to ferry them back to Edisto Island. That was, of course, in many years past, before the present roads and bridges.

We'll pause at The Last Tree Place on Wadmalaw Island in Charleston County. Some try to explain the name as the location of the last tree before getting to the water's edge. Actually, it was the DeLasteyrie place, home of Count Ferdinand DeLasteyrie (reputedly a nephew of LaFayette), married to Martha Washington Seabrook.

 

Daufuski Island

South of Hilton Head Island is Daufuski (or Daufuskie), formed by the fork of the New and Cooper rivers. It's therefore logical that some linguists suggest it may be an Indian word for "fork."

But remember that Indian, English and Gullah languages often are combined in these parts. Daufuski is the first inhabited island north of the Savannah River. Another word for island is "key." So it's "dau fus key."

 

The Linguistic Legacy of the Lords Proprietors

Many places along and near the coast are named for the eight lords proprietors (noblemen to whom King Charles II gave Carolina). Though none of them ever came to these shores, Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper was the most active. The Ashley and Cooper rivers were named for him, as were also Ashley and Cooper streets on Folly Beach.

The two Berkeleys, John and William, are remembered via Berkeley County. The other lords proprietors similarly remembered are Sir John Colleton, via Colleton County; the Duke of Albemarle, via the first settlement, Albemarle Point and Albemarle Road; and the Earl of Clarendon, via Clarendon County.

Lord George Carteret lost his namesake, Cape Carteret, which long ago returned to its earlier title Cape Romain (whether Spanish or French, no one seems to know for sure).

Of the original three counties, one was named for Lord Craven, but he lost out when they were divided up to make more (now 46). One of the original streets of Beaufort is named Craven.

John Locke, Lord Ashley's secretary, wrote much of South Carolina's first constitution but has no place name here. There was a John Locke Island on an early area map, so designated by Lord Ashley, but what the cartographer had named one big island proved to be three little ones, named for other than our revered philosopher.

 

Name Chasing up the Creek

Up the river, northwest of Charleston, Dorchester County early was settled by Puritans from Massachusetts. When they first came to the coastal city in 1695, they were appalled that "Charleston had more taverns than churches," and moved out to more virgin territory.

Old Fort Dorchester was built about a half century later to protect the settlers from raids by French and Indians.

Four-Hole Swamp covers the large upper half of the boundary of Dorchester County with Berkeley and Orangeburg counties. It's so named because the water in the swamp comes from four holes, or springs.

 

Devilish Origins: Hell Hole Swamp

Over in Berkeley County, beginning two miles due south of Jamestown, is the much more famous Hell Hole Swamp, covering 16-20 square miles. Some say the residents there made such white lightnin' (corn licker) that imbibers thought they were in hell - hence the name?

But others note that "The Opening" to the swamp will grow only stunted grass, no trees, so it's obviously The Devil's Work.

In lower Berkeley County is the more flowery-named Daisy Swamp, a phonetic spelling of the Deas family land on which the swamp is located.

For many years in the mid-20th Century, the most famous black chef of this Scottish name was William Deas, whose she-crab soup made Everett's Restaurant a must for visitors and homefolks alike.

 

The Glebe

The Puritans really weren't quite fair in deeming Charleston unreligious. All manner of place names evidence otherwise.

The Glebe Plantation on the Cooper River is related to the family of Sir John Colleton giving land for support of the church. All over the area were soon established chapels of ease to serve locales whose residents were too far away to travel regularly to the parish church.

Pompion Hill Chapel of Ease, 1703, served St. Thomas and St. Denis parishes as one of the first Anglican churches built outside the city of Charleston. It was possibly second to the church at Goose Creek.

 

Halleluiah Slue

Another religious place name is Halleluiah Slue. It's a little Berkeley County stream (deep enough for a baptizing?) near Shulerville Holiness Church.

The town is named for the Shuler family, who came down from Orangeburg at the turn of the present century.

Among the seven concluding good-storied names - We Creek, Round O, Secessionville, Hungry Neck, Horry House, Chanson and Awendaw - I had selected as evidence of Charleston's infinite variety, there's just room for telling two of these. Hopefully they will encourage your going libraryward to read of the others in NSC.

 

We Creek

When a visitor at Bear's Bluff Laboratories asked if rain and weather hadn't erased one of the "e"s in the "We Creek" sign, the director explained, "No, when we asked one of the old residents nearby whose creek this was, thinking perhaps it had the name of the upstream landowner, he gave an enthusiastic, Gullah-like response: 'Das we creek, suh!' And it's been properly We Creek ever since."

 

Awendaw

Eight miles west of McClellanville (called "The Village" by the Dupres, McIvers and other longtime settlers still there) is the little community of Awendaw, the corn capital of Christ Church Parish. Some even report their crops as so many "gallons per acre." We don't have that liquid recipe, but Petrona McIver's Awendaw Cornbread recipe is deliciously worth looking up in our Correct Mispronunciations book - although Miss Peetie warns, "None of the ingredients should be store-bought."

 

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