- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP) - The old mill town of Ferguson is long gone now, with the land where it stood resting at the bottom of Lake Marion near Eutaw Springs.

Lumbermen Francis Beidler and Benjamin Franklin Ferguson, both of Chicago, Illinois, purchased a large tract of hardwood and cypress timber in the late 1800s near the banks of the Santee River.

According to the book “American Lumbermen” (1906), a “modern double-band sawmill with a capacity of 90,000 feet a day, a planing mill, a ten-block shingle mill and other appurtenances of a first-class manufacturing plant” were erected there.

Beidler named the town in memory of his late friend and business partner, B.F. Ferguson, who died in 1905 before the town was developed.

In 1910, Beidler formed the Santee River Cypress Lumber Co. and incorporated the 15,000 acres around what is known as Ferguson, increasing the mill’s operations and functions.

Workers’ cottages dotted the landscape, along with a hotel, a church and a school.

For the 1910s, the town was state-of-the-art, featuring indoor plumbing, electricity, railroad access and roads.

By 1915, logging operations had ceased at Ferguson.

According to oral history, Beidler began to lose his eyesight and was told he was losing money. As the story goes, he began to believe the managers at Ferguson were taking advantage of his malady. Beidler closed Santee River Cypress Lumber Co. soon after that.

Records show that at his death in 1924, the company owed Beidler about $621,000 he had loaned it from his personal accounts to keep the business afloat. The assets of the company were worth about $1,632,000 at the time, and the state of South Carolina immediately levied an estate tax on his heirs. The family sued, saying they lived in Illinois and this was double taxation; however, they were eventually forced to pay.

In 1939, the S.C. Public Service Authority began flooding areas along the Santee River to create Lake Marion. Land-only access soon became impossible to get to the former mill town. Now, the ruins of Ferguson are situated as an island and the outskirts of the town are buried under water.

Ruins of the old kiln and other brick structures remain, but they are only accessible by boat. In late 2007 and during much of 2008, Lake Marion’s water level plummeted, exposing the skeleton of the old mill town.

At that time, visitors could access the site of the old town by walking a few hundred yards from Ferguson Landing Road off of Fredcon Road. Now Lake Marion’s waters cover much of the site where the former mill town once stood.

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Information from: The Times & Democrat, https://www.timesanddemocrat.com


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