The Last Lynching in South Carolina

The Lynching of Willie Earle

On February 15, 1947 a Greenville cab driver named Thomas Watson Brown and a disabled veteran was robbed and stabbed to death in Pickens County. Brown was last seen picking up a passenger described by witnesses as black male at about 9 p.m., told by various witnesses at about 9 p.m. on Markley Street in the Liberty area located in Pickens County. An hour later, Brown’s body was found near the old Liberty-Pickens road, he had been robbed and stabbed multiple times. During the immediate investigation Police found footprints leading from where Brown was found about a mile away at Willie Earle’s mother’s house, police also found some of the money taken from Brown and a bloodstained jacket and knife

Earle was arrested at his mother’s house and taken to the county jail. On the following evening of February 16, a group of taxi drivers gathered at the Saluda River Bridge on what is now State 124 and proceeded to drive to the jail where they forced the jailer on duty to release Earle. An hour later, a black funeral home in Greenville received a call informing them where a body could be found on Bramlett Road, an isolated unpaved road during this time. When police arrived they found the 24-year-old Earle, he had been beaten, stabbed, and shot in the head with a shotgun.

The newly elected governor of the state, Strom Thurmond condemned the murder of Willie Earle and Thurmond instructed the state police to work alongside the FBI, and appointed South Carolina’s Attorney General John M. Daniel to assign the prosecutor. Daniel decided on Sam Watt to prosecute the case, Watt, was from the neighboring town of Spartanburg. Watt had an extraordinary reputation throughout the South and was an energetic individual. More than 150 suspects were questioned in the days after Earle’s murder, and thirty-one (all but three) were taxi driver and they were charged with murdering Willie Earle. Several of the men signed confessions and a few of them accused Roosevelt Carlos Hurd as the gang’s leader, as well as the one who killed Earle with a shotgun.

The judge ruled that 26 of the confessions, each of them directing blame at one another, could not be introduced as evidence at the trial. The all-white jury deliberated about five hours before announcing a not-guilty verdict on all counts. As the news of the not guilty verdict spread it brought outrage throughout the country, this anger led to new federal civil rights policies.

The Lynching Of Willie Earle Marker


This marker was erected in 2010 by Willie Earle Commemorative Trail Committee, this marker was stolen sometime in April, 2012. The marker is still missing but a group from Wofford College is working to replace the marker in the near future.


South Carolina’s Edmund Mackey

Edmund William McGregor Mackey

William Edmund Mackey

March 8, 1846— January 27, 1884


Edmund Mackey was one of the state’s most controversial Republican politicians during Reconstruction era. Born on March 8, 1846, in Charleston, he received a traditional education, but the eruption of the Civil War kept him from entering college. He was permitted to the practice law in 1868. In 1874 Mackey married Vicky Sumter, who was part African American.

Mackey entered Republican politics with his election to the state constitutional convention of 1867. From 1868 to 1875 Mackey held elective offices including county sheriff and member of the state House of Representatives from Charleston County. He was also editor of the Charleston Republican, which permitted him to spread his influence in the Republican Party. In 1874 he was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the state’s Second District, and he served for sixteen months until the seat was declared vacant.

In October 1876 Mackey once again was elected to the General Assembly. However, election returns from several counties were in dispute, as both Republicans and Democrats were claiming victory in the gubernatorial and presidential contests along with selected state legislative races. Each side accused the other of fraud. Out of this complicated situation surfaced two separate State House organizations, one that elected Mackey as the Republican Speaker and one that elected William H. Wallace as the Democratic Speaker. The two contending bodies became known as the “Mackey House” and the “Wallace House.” For several days they occupied the same chamber, conducting business as they tried to ignore one another. Subsequently, the state supreme court declared that Wallace and not Mackey, was the “legal speaker of the House of Representatives.” In April 1877 the “Wallace House” effectively diminished the Republican delegation in the General Assembly through forced resignations, expulsions, and declared that the election of Republican members from Charleston County, including Mackey were null and void.

In 1878 Mackey ran again seeking to a seat to Congress from the Second District and again was unsuccessful. In 1880, he failed but after challenging the seating of the incumbent Democrat and while the challenge was awaiting a decision his opponent died and Mackey was awarded the office. Two years later in 1882, Mackey ran in the recently new drawn Seventh District that had a black majority and he was easily voted in again.


Nearly halfway through his second term in Congress, on January 27, 1884, Mackey died suddenly in Washington, D.C. He was buried in Glenwood Cemetery.





Golf In South Carolina

South Carolina’s First Golf Coiurse

It is believed that a Charleston merchant David Deas received a shipment of 432 golf balls and ninety-six clubs from Scotland in 1743.


This painting by Carrol Ezell gives us an historical view of what this shipment may have looked like.

On September 29, 1786, the South Carolina Golf Club was formed and America’s first golf course was established on Harleston Green. Harleston Green was an undeveloped pastureland near the corner of Pitt and Bull streets and it is thought that the first organized golf was played at Harleston Green.


Golf historians submit that the early game of golf was played without a set number of holes, no greens, and no defined areas for tee shots. Players used clubs to move a ball across the field and into a roughly dug hole in the ground. Because the holes were not clearly marked, the golfers would send what was called “finders,” what would be today’s caddies. The “finder” would stand by the hole and alert others of the approaching shot by yelling “fore.” After completion of a hole, the golfer would tee off for the next hole by positioning themselves two club-lengths away from the previous hole. The golfer’s equipment comprised of a ball, or “feathery,” made of leather and stuffed with feathers while each club was referred to as a “play club,” a series of “woods,” and a utility iron for snug spots. 


On June 28, 1776, the British launched an attack on Sullivan’s Island which consisted of 2,900 British regulars and marines. Today the area is known as the Isle of Palms.


The Patriots led by Colonel William Moultrie’s made it impossible for the British to have a successful amphibious landing as he had sharp-shooters positioned in areas that would make any landing by the British troops a failure. At the same time cannon balls from the British fleet missed their targets and found them being embedded into the sand. At some point in the fighting a shot detached the flagpole flying the South Carolina militia flag, This flag bore a white crescent moon in the upper left-hand corner on an indigo blue background (Indigo was a major crop in S.C.). Sgt. William Jasper attached the fallen flag to a gun sponger and remounted the flag. When the fighting ended the British were unable to overtake the fort and South Carolinians celebrated a magnificent victory over the superior British force. Shortly after the Battle of Sullivan’s Island, the white palmetto tree was added to the flag. Thereafter June 28th was celebrated as Palmetto Day with the same enthusiasm as the 4th of July.

Town of Abbeville

SquareAbbeville Town Square

The early site of Abbeville was a spring used to supply the secured post, built by Andrew Pickens in the late 1760s and the town was incorporated in 1832. The most prominent early residents were lawyers, merchants, and planters, many of whom built elegant town houses in addition to their plantation homes. One of the most prominent citizens included John C. Calhoun, who began his law practice in Abbeville and made his first political speech there in 1807. In 1861 the Bank of the State of South Carolina opened a branch in Abbeville, its first in the upcountry.

Although isolated from the fighting during the Civil War, Abbeville still played a role in the conflict. On November 22, 1860, Abbeville hosted one of the first secession meetings in the state at a site later known as Secession Hill. An Abbeville native, J. Clark Allen, was killed accidentally on Sullivan’s Island on February 13, 1861, possibly the first casualty of the war. In addition, five men who had resided on the town’s North Main Street were killed by the summer of 1863; they were referred to as “The Five Lost Colonels.” One of thehe most celebrated events to take place in Abbeville history occurred when Varina Davis, wife of the Confederate president, arrived on April 18, 1865, followed shortly by a wagon train carrying the remainder of the Confederate treasury. For twelve days she was a guest of former congressman Armistead Burt, a family friend. On May 2, two days after she left Abbeville, her husband arrived with his remaining cabinet members and portions of five brigades of cavalry. Davis held the last “war cabinet” meeting in Abbeville, where the decision was made to abandon armed resistance to Union forces. Thus, as host to the “Secession Hill” gathering and the final meeting of the Confederate cabinet, Abbeville claims to be “the cradle and grave of the Confederacy.”

Most of the antebellum wealth of Abbeville evaporated with the emancipation of its slaves. Fires in the 1870s destroyed many antebellum houses and did irreparable damage to public buildings and public records. In the 1890s, however, the town experienced an economic revival and in 1892 Abbeville welcomed the arrival of the Georgia, Carolina and Northern Railroad (which later became the Seaboard Air Line). The Abbeville Cotton Mill Company was organized three years later and commenced operations in 1897.

Battle of Musgrove’s Mill

Musgrove Hill

The battle of Musgrove’s Mill was a brilliant victory for the Americans, as it came just two days after the awful Patriot’s loss at Camden and on the same day the Patriots dealt with a loss at Fishing Creek. Nevertheless, those who fought at Musgrove’s Mill were not discouraged by the losses because, communications being what they were in those days, the participants at Musgrove’s Mill probably didn’t even know about Major General Horatio Gates’s defeat at Camden or Col. Thomas Sumter’s defeat at Fishing Creek.

The battle of Musgrove Mills took place in what is now Spartanburg County and Laurens County on August 19, 1780. The Patriot forces were directed by Col. Isaac Shelby, Shelby’s forces were made up of several smaller units with individual commanders. They probably totaled no more than 250, the Patriots intended to attack and scatter a band of Loyalists at Musgrove’s Mill, on the Enoree River, but when they arrived, the Loyalists had been reinforced with about 100 extra men who were better trained and equipped than the 200 plus men already entrenched at Musgrove Mill.

Col. Isaac Shelby chose to attempt to lure the Loyalists into attacking him at a planned defensive position. Regrettably, Col. Shelby lost the element of surprise and was discovered which led to a brief skirmish. At that point, Col. Shelby and his main force fell back a short distance and formed a defensive line within sight of the Loyalist force. Other Patriot units were led by Col. Elijah Clarke of Georgia and Col. James Williams of South Carolina. These Patriots were successful in spurring the Loyalists into an attack.

After an intense back and forth exchange, Lt. Col. Alexander Innis was shot from his horse and the redcoated provincial troops began to fall back. This triggered the less experienced Loyalists to hesitate and allowed the Patriots to retake the upper hand. It became a thrashing and only ended when the fleeing Loyalists moved toward the Enoree River and crossed it moving into what is now Spartanburg County.

At that point, the news of Major General Horatio Gates’s defeat at Camden reached them and also the fact that British Major Patrick Furguson was close by. The Patriots made the decision to retreat with their prisoners and apparently missed being trapped by Major Furguson by less than thirty minutes.

The Patriots suffered four killed and nine wounded, while the enemy had 63 killed, 90 wounded and 76 captured. It was a vital win for the Patriots and one of the rare times Patriot militia defeated British-trained soldiers.