The story of Andersonville, South Carolina helps paint a beautiful picture of this terrible problem. The town was founded in 1801 by an act of the South Carolina legislature. The area was owned by an officer in the American Revolution and later United States Congressman named Colonel Elias Earle. Located where the Tugaloo and Seneca Rivers meet to form the Savannah, the town now sits at the bottom of Lake Hartwell. More on that later. Shortly after its charter, the town became an economic success. It was a major distribution center for cotton, wool, and animal hides. Among the many businesses were a grist mill, tailor shop, cotton gin, sawmill, wagon shop, gun factory, and the Southern Clock Company of which some rare antiques still exist. The town even had a flourishing academy for young women. People from all over came to visit and sightsee rare plants and flowers. The Venus Fly Trap stands out as one of these marvels, as it only grows wild in two states. The town had a complex barge system that transported commodities downstream into the national economy. But in 1840, heavy rainfall caused the Savannah River to flood and many towns along its banks were destroyed, including Andersonville. In true American fashion, the townspeople rebuilt. But 12 years later, the American spirit proved to be no match for mother nature. Floods caused complete destruction of the town and the people could see the end in sight. By then, plans were already underway for the construction of the Greenville and Columbia Railroad, rendering river transportation obsolete.[i] The official town would slowly fade into history, but farmers continued to raise their cotton on the banks of the river and old-timers still refer to the area in present-day Townville, South Carolina as ‘Old Andersonville’.
[i] Vandiver, Louise Ayer. Traditions and History of Anderson County. Anderson, SC: South Carolina Genealogical Society (Anderson Chapter), 2002. Pages 161-169.