Thursday, December 15, 2011
Dateline: Summerville. South Carolina, Friday, December 17, 1847. There’s a quiet buzz in this tiny village, a week and a day before Christmas. It’s the holidays and celebration preparations are well underway. Backyard kitchens have long been heating with seasonal baking. Local cooks baste fruit cakes and mix ginger cookies; they arrange for the gathering of the best cream and pick the best recipe for making syllabub for toasts on the 25th. They’re also planning to make Charlotte Russe, that delectable southern concoction of whipped cream, sherry, and light cake fingers in crystal bowls. Wives have decided how they will roast and dress wild turkeys bagged by husbands and sons. They are decking their homes with holly, cedar and magnolia branches.
And of course, the village’s three dozen families look forward to Christmas Eve and the decoration of signature trees. Most will be pines as these trees tower above so densely that the sky is often eclipsed. Pines are massive and magnificent, outlining the neighborhood’s moseying byways.
Yes, anticipation is rife, but it’s not only Christmas on the horizon, but Summerville’s official birthday as well. The village’s Four Wise Men, Henry Arthur, William Boyle, George Heape and Edward Hutchinson look west, to the State Capitol in Columbia, for finalization of incorporation papers they presented to the State of South Carolina in August. Summerville has been losing vast numbers of valuable trees because of the village’s growth. Trees were being felled to lay railroad tracks, fuel engines and build homes and commercial buildings because of the boom that railroad had initiated some 17 years ago.
Incorporation, a first step to preserving village trees, happens today, the last day of the last session of this year’s legislature. It enables Summerville to become an official town, empowered to pass her own laws and protect treasured pines. Imagine the jubilation this quartet shared on hearing this long awaited news!
Pines are the reason there is a Summerville. Hunters came to her relatively high and thickly treed location in the late 1700s to escape the summertime malaria scourge of the lower lying areas. River plantation owners followed suit over the “sickly season” from May to October, and finally a year-round community sprang up because of the beauty and healthy environment of her site.
In this year when the Town of Summerville begins her official trek into the history books, our 11th President, James Polk is in the White House and Victoria is on England’s throne. The Bronte sisters, the Brownings, Poe, Longfellow, Emerson, Hawthorne and Dickens are prominent authors. Musicians include Chopin, Mendelssohn and Jenny Lind. Fashion wise, ladies dresses grow shorter, revealing mere glimpses of the ankle and men’s side whiskers are shaped like mutton chops. Ninepins is America’s favorite game and the country’s most popular dance is the polka. In Summerville however, the Virginia Reel reigns supreme.
This village, which becomes a town on this day in 1847, is a warm and caring place with strong leadership. Today the Town of Summerville moves forward from pineland village status to a community with growing businesses. She has the welcome mat out for visitors and new residents to come and share her history, natural beauty and high quality lifestyle.
Wonder what she’ll be like in 164 more years