History of the Enoree and Long Cane Ranger Districts

giant gullies due to soil erosion

 

The piedmont portion of the Sumter National Forest on the Enoree and Long Cane Ranger Districts is located in rolling hills in the central and western portions of South Carolina. When the Forest was established in 1936, it was made up primarily of sub-marginal or abandoned farm land that had been taken out of production in the 1920s and 1930s or of tax delinquent forest lands. The lands were acquired for the primary purpose of retiring sub-marginal farmland, controlling soil erosion, regulating stream flow, and for timber growing. The land had been occupied and used for hundreds and even thousands of years prior to the creation of the National Forest. Patterns of land use and impacts which people have had on the environment have varied over time.

Indians were on the Sumter National Forest at least 12,000 years ago and perhaps earlier. The first inhabitants made very little impact on the land. They lived in small groups which were usually on the move hunting and gathering wild plant and animal foods. They did not establish permanent villages or clear land and have left only a few scattered stone tools to indicate that they were here. This hunting way of life continued for thousands of years.

By around 4000 B.C. there were some changes which affected the environment in the piedmont. The Indians at this time period made some clearings with stone axes in the forest to encourage wild plant foods like berries, plums, and weed plants. Some of these they ate. Another advantage was that these clearings probably attracted game that could be more easily hunted.

Around 1000 B.C., Indians were cultivating plants, rather than relying completely on hunting and collecting wild foods. They cleared areas for gardens along floodplains on large creeks and rivers. The earliest plants grown were squash, gourd, and sunflower. The Indians also established more permanent settlements and lived in larger groups. They altered the landscape more than their predecessors through clearing small patches of ground for gardens and firewood.

Large pile of harvested pine logs in South Carolina

 

The most intensive use of the land by the Indians was during the period from about 800 A. D. to the historic times (1600s-1700s). Indians by this time had developed large permanent villages and cultivated large fields of corn, beans, squash and pumpkins in the stream and river bottoms. Populations were larger and impacts on the land were greater. In addition to agriculture, Indians intentionally burned portions of the woods in winter to keep the forest open for easier hunting and stimulate open meadows and plant growth for deer. Burning also exposed mast for easier access to turkeys and deer. Indians made very little impact on the land compared to the intensive agriculture introduced by Whites. Their disturbances reverted to forest within a few years after abandonment.

Early European explorers to the area described mature stands of hardwoods and shortleaf pines. The forest was described as generally open and park-like with widely spaced over-mature slow growing trees. Replacement of mature trees in this climax forest was largely limited to places where trees died of lightning strikes, disease, insect infestation, wind storm, or fire. The forest was however diverse and variable in species, rate of growth, age, and size. Loblolly pine was not extensive in the Piedmont, but was introduced from the Coastal Plain in the nineteenth century.

Clear streams were also described in the Piedmont in the eighteenth century. The aboriginal landscape contributed very little to soil erosion. Limited erosion was caused by occasional land slides, stream erosion, Indian horticulture, fires, and animal trails.

The first White and African-American settlers came to the piedmont in the 1740's. A settlement was established in 1751 at Ninety Six near the Long Cane Ranger District on the site of an existing Indian trading post. Several small forts or settlements were established along the Broad, Enoree, and Tyger rivers on the Enoree Ranger District in the early 1750's. The Calhoun settlement on Long Cane Creek in 1756 was the earliest settlement on the Long Cane Ranger District. Cherokee Indians began raiding these settlements in 1759. Many settlers were killed and others fled south to more populated areas and safety. The British army retaliated and attacked Cherokee settlements in the northern part of the state in 1760 and 1761. The settlers continued to increase in the piedmont in the 1760s and 1770s. Additional conflict with the Cherokee Indians led to and expedition of the Ninety Six militia which burned many of their towns in northern South Carolina in 1776. A treaty was signed at DeWitts Corner in 1777 which ceded the remaining Cherokee lands on the piedmont in what is now the Sumter National Forest.,

There was scattered fighting in this area between loyalist and patriot forces during the American Revolution. Much of the fighting centered around the British held fort at Ninety Six at the northeastern edge of the Long Cane District. The British were driven from the state in 1782.

The early colonists settled primarily along streams, moving to upland areas only after bottoms were occupied. Land clearance and intensive cultivation led to severe soil erosion and land degradation in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Early farming practices were extremely destructive. Fields were plowed down slope which made the work easier, but also increased the loss of soil. Plowing with the contour was hard work for both the animal and farmer. The usual depth of tillage was four inches with the use of a single horse. Subsoiling was only very rarely practiced even in the late nineteenth century.

The invention of the cotton gin in 1796 stimulated large scale cotton production in the piedmont. Successful farmers acquired large land holdings and brought African-American slaves to the piedmont to work them. By the 1850s cotton cultivation had left a large amount of the land in the area worn out and gullied. Population declined from 1850 to 1860 through out migration to cotton lands further west in other southern states.

The period of greatest erosive land use in the South Carolina piedmont was from 1860 to 1920. By this time much of the land in the area was too eroded and depleted to sustain continued cotton production even with the use of fertilizer. Many cultivated fields were abandoned, often because of gullies. Soil stripped from the uplands filled streams with sediment, raised water tables, and turned once fertile bottom lands into swamps. Other cultivable bottoms were covered with less fertile clay and silt and made less productive.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the Forest Service, standing talking to eachother.

 

By 1920 cotton was still the predominant crop raised with the use of fertilizer on less eroded land. Production was declining as eroded lands were taken out of production. The boll weevil accelerated this trend in the early 1920s. Abandoned fields were not stabilized and often continued to erode for years. From the time of the earliest settlements the forest has changed from hardwood to pine and the land has been subjected to three or four cycles of clearing, cultivation, and regrowth. Cultivated acreage has continued to diminish in the area to the present with most former fields being converted to forest or pasture lands.

Purchase of lands for the Enoree and Long Cane Purchase Units of the Sumter National Forest began in 1933. These units were established as the Sumter National Forest in 1936 by presidential proclamation. The Civilian Conservation Corps established several camps on the Forest and built firetowers, roads, recreation areas, a tree nursery, a fish hatchery, and trails. Many of these improvements are still in use. The CCC also fought wildfires, worked on soil stabilization projects, and made the first pine plantings in old fields on the Enoree Division in 1936 and the Long Cane Division in 1937-1938.

A Prisoner of War Camp for interred German soldiers was established at the former Indian Creek CCC Camp in 1944. Turkey restocking of the piedmont districts was initiated in 1947 using birds trapped on the Francis Marion National Forest. Deer were also trapped on the Francis Marion and released on the piedmont beginning in 1954. In 1960 The U. S. Congress passed the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act which directs the Forest Service to manage for recreation, timber, wildlife, water resources, and forage.