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Home: Regional: U.S. States: South Carolina: Pickens County

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Pickens Plantation Slave Cemetery - Clemson SC
Posted by: Paul M Kankula (ID *****3110) Date: May 05, 2003 at 14:38:41
  of 1161

Scouts clear years away from slave cemetery
Posted Wednesday, April 30, 2003 - 8:13 pm

By Anna Simon

CLEMSON: Armed with yard tools, Brandon Blake and about 15 other members of Clemson Boy Scout Troop 235 attacked a 100-foot by 100-foot tangle of fallen leaves and downed trees inside two strands of sagging barbed wire.

Their mission on that overcast February day was to begin to uncover and restore what is believed to be a slave cemetery owned by Gen. Andrew Pickens, an American Revolutionary era leader who Pickens County is named for.

Pickens, who is buried at Old Stone Church in Clemson, lived near the high knoll that today is in woods behind chicken houses at Clemson University's poultry farm on Cherry Road.

Two months later, the site looks like a park. New fencing and a gate surround a stand of tall blackgum, sourwood, dogwood and oak trees that rise above the graves.

Scouts uncovered row after row of fieldstones that mark about 150 unmarked graves.

There are only three headstones. Two bear names: Hannah, the wife of James Reese, who died in 1807 at the age of 49, and Loutilda Thompson who was born June 10, 1916, and died Dec. 20, 1918. The third stone bears only the
initials T.E.M.

"You couldn't see much at the beginning," said Blake, 17, who organized the effort as his Eagle Scout service project.

As they removed the rotting leaves and forest debris, the Scouts uncovered stone after stone and worked carefully to avoid moving any rocks.

"You'd just trip over them," Blake said. "You're digging away and there's another rock. There's a lot more here than I thought there would be."

Scouts have marked all the graves with short sections of white PVC pipe hammered into the ground. They will add permanent markers later. The next step will be to try to piece together the history of the cemetery and map out the graves, Blake said.

The most interesting part of the project has been connecting with local history, said Blake, a junior at D.W. Daniel High, who is considering majoring in history in college.

There's not much information to go on as Blake tries to put a history together, said Paul Kankula, a genealogist, who is working with the scouts to determine if the cemetery was the slave cemetery of Pickens, whose homestead was only one-quarter mile away.

Kankula believes the cemetery was a slave cemetery because so many graves were unmarked, because they are shallow and because of the proximity to where slave quarters were in relation to Pickens' home.

He also believes the cemetery was multi-generational because of the number if graves and the centuries spanned by the two marked headstones.

Kankula hopes that a sibling or niece or nephew of two-year-old Loutilda Thompson, buried there in 1918, might be in the area today and know some of the history.

Anyone with information about the cemetery can contact Kankula at (864) 886-9666 or

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