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Lancaster County SC Genealogy


by Louise Pettus

On January 15, 1849, Benson J. Lossing traveled from Fishing Creek in upper Chester District several miles to Rocky Mount at the Great Falls of the Catawba. He was visiting Revolutionary War sites in this area with plans to write an illustrated history of the battles of that war.

He turned to the left at Beckhamville and "traversed a rough and sinuous road down to the banks of the Catawba, just below the Great Falls." There he found the site where a United States military academy was projected (it was built at West Point, N.Y. instead). There he found a cotton yard mill using water power operated by Daniel McCulloch.

The scene was "wild and romantic...There are no perpendicular falls; but down a rocky bed the river tumbles in mingled rapids and cascades, roaring and foaming, and then subsides into comparative calmness...."

After Lossing completed his sketch of the falls he went to the home of Mrs. James Barkley at Rocky Mount (the house was to later serve as General Sherman's headquarters). At the fine home with its commanding view of the Catawba, Lossing found hospitality but also found the family wearing mourning clothes. James Barkley, a member of the S.C. legislature, had been thrown from his carriage and killed.

Three of Mrs. Barkley's daughters and a young planter friend took Lossing to see the sites of old Revolutionary skirmishes. Lossing left the scene with some regret.

Lossing, after traveling over "a crooked, steep, and rough road down to the brink of the river," crossed the Catawba on a bateau at Rocky Mount Ferry which plied its trade just south of the mouth of Rocky Mount Creek.

He was in Lancaster District headed for Hanging Rock which is south of present-day Heath Springs. Huge scattered conglomerate boulders fascinated Lossing. When he was within about 3 miles of Hanging Rock he passed Anvil Rock, " of the remarkable curiosities of the South." The 12-foot tall boulder is shaped like an anvil and still attracts sightseers.

Lossing was directed to the Lancaster to Camden road and noted that the road turned to sand, certainly different form the "adhesive" red clay of York District, but "in many places soft and difficult to travel, making progress slow."

He crossed the high rolling plain called Cole's Old Field and rode to Hanging Rock Creek which flowed through a steep, narrow valley. On the banks of the creek Lossing found a miller, a black man, at work in his grist mill. He was over 80 years of age and had witnessed "de red coats scamper when Massa Sumter and Jacky McClure pitched into 'em."

The old slave pointed Lossing in the direction of the famous Hanging Rock some 25 feet in diameter and hanging so far over a cliff that Lossing estimated 50 men could stand under its shelter.

Lossing described the Buford Massacre and how the wounded were taken to Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church north of Lancaster but he did not visit either the Buford community or the Waxhaws. Instead he turned southward toward Camden.

Still in Lancaster District, Lossing saw the famed Flat Rock, "a mass of concrete, like that of Anvil Rock, five hundred yards across." Flat Rock was pockmarked with numerous cavities. Lossing was told that Indians had hollowed out cisterns for the purpose of holding water.

The following day, after "heavy traveling," Lossing was in Camden.