preserving our rural churches
If you travel the backroads of our state you are bound to see the most comforting of landmarks, a church. All have stories, many of which may date to the time when the mills were humming and hope was abundant. The mills are gone and in many cases in the rural parts of our state, hope is gone too. And so I stand in the crossroads and wonder, what should be done? It is easy enough to answer that question when I see a small group of people who do not wish to see their church and heritage die.
In late 2017, I was invited to join the Friends of Trinity-Abbeville (FOTA), a non-profit with a mission to help preserve one of my favorite churches in the state, Trinity Episcopal. It took me seconds to say, "Yes, I am in."
Along those same lines, I am volunteering more of my times to work with the team of Preservation, South Carolina, a nonprofit with a mission to help preserve the past as well, not just of churches, but of those mills, plantations and small town structures that might otherwise be lost.
And yes, I will still find time for my photography!
Those of you who committed to memory my past purpose, "I make South Carolina history easier to enjoy," thank you, but that part of my journey ended a few months ago. A splendid five year journey it was, but now is the time to press ahead.
Tens of thousand of miles have now passed since the Original Purpose, but the memories of time spent with folks from Georgetown to Pickens, well, no, they have not passed. Sure, I heard the anger of the 2016 presidential election, but in truth my heart and mind were elsewhere, such as the Catholic Hill Church in late 2016. It was there, in the small, rural and historic red-clapboard church where I heard the daughters of long dead slaves sang the spirituals, no organ required. An Indian-American present led Mass that day, to a congregation of mostly black, some Hispanic, some whites, one of whom, why, that would be me, promised to share their story.
Much of the history of South Carolina could be told through the collective histories of our churches, that is what I think. So we should figure a way to save the precious resources, and collect them in such a way as to make a coherent whole out of the separate parts. Maybe a better way to put is that in addition to a South Carolina BBQ Trail, we should have a South Carolina Church Trail. Why, heck, grab your BBQ and rings and set out to the next historic church! Why not?
Thank you for being part of my South Carolina journey.
Several years ago, my interest in travel, writing and photography led me to search out a few of the National Historic Landmarks in Upstate South Carolina. Sounds simple enough, but when I had problems finding the places and then, once there, determining the site's history, I thought, "there has to be a better way."
In the last five years, I have photographed over 2000 of our state's historic landmarks. In the series of eBooks I have produced, I have not only include those photographs, but also the site's summary history (courtesy of South Carolina Archives and History), a few pertinent comments, as well as all street addresses and GPS coordinates. I have "hyperlinked" all coordinates in the eBook, meaning that a simple "touch" will take you to the landmark. No more paper maps, no more worrying about "where I am," or "how do I get there," or "what am I looking at."
I make South Carolina history easier to enjoy. That is what I do.
Beginning in 2017, I will be a contributing columnist for Shrimp, Collards & Greens, a magazine that specializes in coastal life in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The Editor in Chief is Patricia Branning, the Editor is Tom Poland. We call that high cotton, even in upstate South Carolina.
In late 2015 and into 2016, I contributed digital content to National Trust for Historic Preservation.
I currently write a monthly "Americana" column for Khabar, an Atlanta based print magazine that caters to the needs and interests of first-generation Indian-Americans (2012-).
In 2014, I wrote "The Top 12 Forgotten Landmarks" column for the South Carolina Heritage Corridor.
On the business side of the ledger, I was a recurring columnist for Hospitality Upgrade Magazine (2003-2006)
My books include Bottoms Up, America! (1996), Destination India, Destiny Unknown, (2010), and eBooks "South Carolina's Magnificent National Historic Landmarks., and South Carolina's Sacred Spaces."
The mural-sized "Octagonal Church" is part of the Upcountry's History Museum 2016-2017 exhibit, "Back Where I Come From: The Upcountry’s Piedmont Blues." Also featured as part of the exhibit is "Beaufort County's Mary Jenkins Praise House."
"Durbrovnik from the Rooftops" (right) is on permanent display at Furman Univserity.
speaking and publicity
National Trust for Historic Preservation (2016-)
Greenville County Historical Society (2014)
South Carolina Landmark Conference (2013)
Appearances on talk radio (WBT-Charlotte), television (Greenville, Charleston) during promotional tour of Bottoms Up, America!
Numeorus book events throughout the Carolinas and Georgia
I grew up in the beautiful Hudson River Valley in Poughkeepsie, New York. Since Dad worked for IBM, we moved, and often. Spent much of my later childhood years in in Raleigh, North Carolina, then Huntsville, Alabama. When it came time to attend college, I selected the University of South Carolina. Been living in our state since 1972.
Many of my college friends were from small nameless towns in our state, places like McCormick, Pickens, Ware Shoals, Inman and Lake City. In the last few years as I have traveled the back roads of our state, I have visited most of these places, and the journey has been very rich. It has been my privelege to have traveled in the land of plantations and mills, cotton and tobacco, meeting people along the way who would share the stuff that is rarely written in college textbooks.
We live in such an interesting and intimate place! From my Greenville home, I can make it to downtown Charleston for a nice lunch, an afternoon of photography, and then travel back home for a late dinner. In any direction, the history and stories are near, and rich.
Safe travels, Bill