TROY — People don’t always decide how and when they die.
But descendants of those taken by acts of violence can control their history, ensuring their time on Earth is not forgotten through decades and centuries to follow.
Such is the case for ancestors of those who died in the Long Cane Massacre of 1760, when Cherokee warriors slaughtered 23 settlers near Troy. Among the victims was 76-year-old Catherine Calhoun, whose grandson John would go on to serve as vice president.
A short time after the killings, Calhoun’s son, Patrick, built a monument to remember its victims.
There it sat for more than 250 years, the engraving nearly impossible to read as seasons took their toll upon it.
Impossible, that is, until just a few months ago, when historical groups and relatives of those slain came together from Abbeville, Greenwood and McCormick counties to finance a new marker at the site, which was officially rededicated on Sunday and paid for by anonymous benefactors.
“This is an area just steeped in history, and we’re trying to accentuate the revolutionary and colonial period,” said Jenny Hagan Kelly, a member of the Mount Ariel chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, who has spent years fighting for and quietly helping to preserve and maintain the historic site. “It’s taken almost three years to get this done.”
Sunday’s brief ceremony marks the first time since 1994 that anything has been done to publicly remember the Long Cane Massacre, which happened on Feb. 1.
It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in January 1983.
Kelly, along with Greenwood Historical Society President Chip Tinsley and Eric Williams, chief park ranger at the Ninety Six National Historic Site, moved the rededication forward, but the story behind it is a remarkable labor of love: Relatives of the massacred pioneers have taken it upon themselves to make the 8-mile drive along Indian Massacre Road, a single-lane unpaved route that leads to small footbridge constructed in 1945 that leads to Calhoun’s weathered marker, volunteering to paint and maintain the area in preparation for an event just like Sunday’s.
Barbara Hinkel, originally from South Africa and now living in McCormick, said she was moved by the efforts of so many to keep the Long Cane Massacre from being just another historic footnote.
“l thank all of you for taking the initiative to get this out there, because people like me who love history have come here. This is the frontier land, and it’s exciting, because now that we’ve got all of these modern structures around, you can’t see what frontier land was like,” she said.
“With the initiatives that you have all taken, we need to keep the ball rolling.”
Tinsley, who sported a tartan spelled with the Calhoun family’s original Scottish name, “Calquhoun,” said the personal experiences of those who lost their lives that colonial South Carolina winter continue to reverberate.
“That is my family, and I am proud to be a part of that. I’m proud to be a part of history and I’m even more proud to look out and see who many people that care enough to be here,” he said.
Tinsley, who also teaches at Ware Shoals High School, said revitalizing the region’s local history through grassroots education is vital.
“We have to teach standards in school, so local history has kind of fallen to the wayside in the younger generation, and part of it isn’t their fault, because they are not taught,” he said. “But it is our job to make sure they know history is alive, and not just words on a page in a textbook.”