A Walking Tour of Winnsboro, South Carolina
by Doug Gelbert
There is no better way to see America than on foot. And there is no better way to appreciate what you are looking at than with a walking tour. This walking tour of Winnsboro, South Carolina is ready to explore when you are. Each walking tour describes historical, architectural landmarks, cultural sites and ecclesiastic touchstones and provides step-by-step directions.
Every tour also includes a quick primer on identifying architectural styles seen on American streets.
Although named for prominent Patriot leader Richard Winn, who arrived in what would become Fairfield County a few years before the outbreak of the American Revolution, the picturesque town is better remembered as the winter headquarters of Lord Cornwalis after the disaster at Kings Mountain aborted his first invasion of North Carolina. The British remained in Winnsboro for four months beginning in October 1780, building the army’s strength to more than 4,000 troops. Quite an influx for a tiny village that maybe sported 20 residences when the British arrived.
That army found room to camp on the grounds of Mt. Zion Institute that had been founded in 1777, one of the first upcountry schools in South Carolina. During the stay of Lord Cornwallis, Colonel John Winn and Minor Winn attempted to ambush and kill his Lordship, but they were frustrated. They were captured and condemned to the gallows, but Cornwallis pardoned and released them.
From its beginnings until the exhausted soil gave out in the 1920s this was cotton country. In December 1832 Winnsboro, already the Fairfield County seat, was incorporated as a town. Industry never intruded much on the town as it grew around its agricultural and educational heritage. One exception was the quarrying of Winnsboro Blue Granite or simply Winnsboro Blue, a light-blue or gray-colored stone was quarried in Fairfield County between 1883 and 1946. A 1893 publication described the rock as “the silk of the trade.” It was used in buildings from Columbia to Philadelphia, including the South Carolina Statehouse. In 1969 Winnsboro Blue Granite was designated the South Carolina State Stone.
We will see some Winnsboro Blue on our walking tour that will begin in the center of town under a clock tower whose main components are not local at all but in fact come from across the sea...
- Doug Gelbert, March 2011
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