The History of South Congaree

By J.R. Fennell
Posted 4/27/23

South Congaree and Pine Ridge, as their close proximity would suggest, share a similar history. 

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The History of South Congaree


South Congaree and Pine Ridge, as their close proximity would suggest, share a similar history. 

The area that now comprises the Town of South Congaree was somewhat sparsely settled in the 18th and 19th centuries despite being somewhat close to the Platt Springs. The area received a boost when the Carolina Midland Railway (acquired by the Southern Railway in 1899) completed a railroad line connecting Cayce to the town of Perry in Aiken County. A railroad stop named Styx (after the river in Hades) was established near what would later become South Congaree. Legend has it that the daughter of the railroad manager was very interested in mythology, leading to her father naming many of the railroad stops on the line after mythological figures and locations (Thor, Styx, Pelion, etc.). 

The area changed dramatically when a National Guard training camp was established at what would become Pine Ridge. The camp, called Camp Moore or Camp Styx, was established in 1913. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson mobilized National Guard troops to help with fighting Mexican rebels during the Mexican Revolution. The 2nd South Carolina Infantry mobilized at Camp Moore and was sent to the Mexican border. During the Great Depression, Camp Moore was used by the National Youth Administration for camps for white and African-American young men and women during the late 1930s and early 1940s. 

The area grew somewhat, and by the mid-twentieth century, residents grew concerned that they would be annexed into Cayce. To stop this from happening residents within a one-mile radius of the JJ Chavis Grocery decided to hold a vote on becoming their own municipality on August 8, 1957, with Charlie Costner being elected mayor. 

The name was taken from the Native Americans, the Congaree, who once called the area home. A nearby community had already taken the name, though, so “South” was added to the name. By 1961, the population of South Congaree was around 650 and the mayor was Seibel Shumpert. According to former town councilman Dan Gensamer in an interview with The State newspaper in 2007, the town wasn’t welcoming to outsiders at first as town officials tried to keep him off town council by burning ballots and poured acid in his car. 

However, the town grew rapidly during the 1960s and 1970s as the construction of the interstates and other roads allowed for fast travel to Columbia and other areas of the Midlands. The town became the center of controversy in 2013 as the FBI and SLED raided Town Hall. Weeks later, several town council members and officials resigned and the town’s chief of police was indicted. He was later found guilty of corruption. 

J.R. Fennell has served as director of the Lexington County Museum since 2007. He holds a master’s degree in public history and a certificate of museum management from the University of South Carolina.


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