Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Emerson Field and the Carolina Aircraft Corporation

by Paul Armstrong

Click on photos to enlarge.
276th Aero Squadron Patch
Author's Collection
While doing research on early aviation activity in Columbia, I came across information about Emerson Field, which may be the area’s first purpose-built airfield and first purpose-built airfield used for commercial aviation.  Below is a summary of my research on Emerson Field and the company that used it for commercial aviation activities after World War I.


Shortly after the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, Camp Jackson was established near Columbia as a training center.  A little over a year later, the Army Air Service decided to establish an airfield near the cantonment on which to train pilots and spotters for observation service in connection with the artillery brigade firing center at Camp Jackson.  The airfield was built on over eighty acres of land along Garners Ferry Road where the University of South Carolina School of Medicine is now located.  The land was leased by the war department from two owners.  Part of the property was owned by Frank Hampton and the rest was owned by Annie M. True.  The property had once been the site of a pre-Civil War racetrack maintained by Wade Hampton II to train and race his thoroughbred horses. Since the Civil War, it had primarily been used for growing cotton and other crops.

The new airfield was named Emerson Field after 2nd Lieutenant William K. B. Emerson, Jr., the first US artillery observer killed in action during World War I.  The runway was over 800 yards long and 275 yards wide and was turfed with well-maintained Bermuda grass.  It eventually had hangars, barracks, officers’ quarters, maintenance shops, and other aircraft service facilities.  The field was opened in the summer of 1918 under the command of Major Norman W. Peek. The 276th Aero Squadron was moved to Emerson Field after having been organized in February at Camp Sevier in Greenville County. The squadron was commanded by First Lieutenant Harley H. Pope and eventually consisted of around 130 men with 17 airplanes. An observation balloon company with three balloons was also assigned to Emerson Field.  All total, 300 men were attached to the airfield including the aero squadron, balloon company, and miscellaneous support personnel. 

Norman W. Peek
An Illustrated History of Scott Air Force Base, 1917-1987
In addition to training with the artillery brigade at Camp Jackson, the aviators stationed at Emerson Field were also assigned missions around the area for forest fire spotting, mapping, etc. On January 1, 1919, Lieutenant Harley Pope and Sergeant Walter W. Fleming left Emerson Field to map airmail routes in the Carolinas and southern Virginia. During a leg of that mission on January 7, they were both killed when their Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” crashed into the Cape Fear River near Fayetteville, NC.  In April 1919, the newly built airfield adjacent to Camp Bragg near Fayetteville was named Pope Field in honor of the deceased commander of the 276th Aero Squadron.

Harley H. Pope
Fort Bragg: 100
In March 1919, the War Department decided to abandon Emerson Field and allow the lease on the property to expire in June. The balloon company at Emerson Field was transferred to Langley Field in Virginia and the 276th Aero Squadron was moved to Pope Field. The property on which Emerson Field had been constructed was turned back over to its owners who were now in possession of a good aviation facility. The well-maintained runway and maintenance shops were left intact.


In early November of 1919, the Carolina Aircraft Corporation was formed by eight Columbia businessmen who owned or worked for local automobile companies. The new company, headed by Overland dealer R. D. “Bob” Lambert, was formed to provide flying services and to sell aircraft. They arranged to use the racetrack infield at the fairgrounds as a temporary field for flight operations and established a sales office at 1233 Hampton Street. They immediately ordered a Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” airplane, secured a Curtiss dealership, and hired their first pilot, Edmund P. Gaines. The initial airplane sale was to L. D. Jennings of Sumter.
Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" similar to the one owned by the Carolina Aircraft Corporation
George Johnson, Aviation Section, US Army Signal Corps - family photo

The first airplane for the company’s own operations arrived in Columbia on November 22, and Carolina Aircraft Corporation held its first flying event the following day, a Sunday. Sightseeing flights were offered continuously from 11 AM to 6 PM with a break at 3 PM during which Edmund Gaines put on a flying exhibition. The Jenny could only accommodate one passenger at a time and its back seat was booked all day long. During the exhibition, pilot Gaines went up by himself and performed a series of stunts to delight the crowd. These included the tailspin, loop-the-loop, spiral stunts, a somersault, and more. After the enthusiastic first day reception, the Carolina Aircraft Corporation offered daily sightseeing flights from 2 to 6 P. M. and their newspaper ads invited readers to “See Columbia From the Clouds”.
Carolina Aircraft Corporation Ad
From The State, November 23, 1919
Although Columbia had been visited by barnstorming pilots and air shows since 1910, the city now had its own commercial aviation firm that could provide regular air service and aerial entertainment. The company offered a variety of flying services including sightseeing jaunts over the capital city, advertising flights dropping promotional leaflets, exhibition shows, aerial photography flights, and chartered excursions to other locations including for business trips and golf outings.

In February 1920, Carolina Aircraft Corporation leased Emerson Field as the primary base for airplanes and aviation operations.  The firm still used the fairgrounds field when providing sightseeing and promotional services for events that catered to downtown crowds at events such as parades, trade shows, and auto races, but Emerson Field was now its home base for flight operations.  A hangar and flight support facilities were built for the storage and maintenance of their flying inventory which soon went from one plane to two.
Carolina Aircraft Corporation Ad
From The Columbia Record, June 13, 1920
On April 4, 1920, the staff of the Carolina Aircraft Corporation took delivery of a new Curtiss Oriole airplane.  The Oriole was a three-seater and allowed the company to offer two-passenger flights for sightseeing, business, or other purposes.  The new plane’s fuselage was orange and the wings were cream colored.  This paint scheme led Columbian’s to quickly nickname the plane, the “Easter Egg”.
Restored 1919 Curtiss Oriole similar to the one owned by the Carolina Aircraft Corporation
Glenn H. Curtiss Museum
Eventually the firm would have three pilots and three planes and, in addition to Columbia, offered commercial aviation services all around South Carolina and beyond.  Over the next two years Carolina Aircraft Corporation’s pilots performed flying shows, gave sightseeing flights, and delivered advertising services in Lexington, Greenwood, Abbeville, Gaffney, Union, Spartanburg, Greenville, and Anderson.  The company’s pilots also went into Georgia for advertising services and sightseeing rides in Augusta and Hartwell.  Chartered flights were given to Clinton, Charlotte, Greensboro, NC, and other locations. Among the firm’s well-known passengers were Evangelist Gipsy Smith Jr., Columbia photographer John Sargeant, and Lexington beauty queen Pauline Hook.

Edmund P. Gaines
Carolina Aircraft Corporation’s first and primary pilot was Edmund Gaines. A native of Greenwood County, Gaines had entered the University of South Carolina in 1916, only to have his college education interrupted by World War I after his freshman year.  He served in the Army Air Service during the war, first as a flight instructor stateside, and then as senior flight commander for the 186th Aero Squadron in France and Germany.
Edmund P. Gaines
Garnet and Black 1921
After his discharge from the Air Service, Gaines returned to the university to complete his degree. To help fund his education, he accepted a position as pilot for the Carolina Aircraft Corporation at its startup in November 1919. He attended classes in the morning and flew for the company in the afternoons and on weekends. As the company’s only pilot for nearly a year, Gaines flew for sightseeing, advertising, charter travel, and exhibitions. He became well known in Columbia as the only local student earning his way through college as an airplane pilot.

During his time at Carolina Aircraft Corporation, Gaines also served as a captain in the Army Reserve and rejoined the Regular Army Air Service in November 1920.  He was allowed to remain in Columbia to complete his degree in engineering.  Then, in August 1921, he was transferred to Fort Benning, thus ending his time as a commercial flyer in Columbia.   Colonel Edmund P. Gaines completed a long military career when he retired in 1953 after 35 years in the United States Air Service/Air Corps/Air Force.
Roscoe Turner
Twice during 1920, flamboyant aviator, Roscoe Turner, and his partner, Harry Runsor, brought their “Roscoe Turner Flying Circus” to Columbia while on tour throughout the country.  They wowed the crowds at the fairgrounds with wing walking, parachuting, and other stunts in their British made Avro 504 plane. During these visits, Turner met Bob Lambert and the other members of the Carolina Aircraft Corporation.  In January 1921, he moved to Columbia and took positions with the aviation company, as sales manager and pilot, and with the Southern Motor Company as assistant sales manager. Over the next year, Turner split his time between selling cars and airplanes, delivering lectures on aviation at Emerson Field and other places, flying for Carolina Aircraft Corporation’s events, and barnstorming around the Southeast with Runsor.

Photo of Carolina Aircraft Corporation's Curtiss Oriole beside a car with inset photo of Roscoe Turner
From The Columbia Record, January 9, 1921
In September of 1921, Roscoe Turner and Harry Runsor allegedly purchased a Marine Corps airplane near Savannah that had been stolen from Parris Island. On January 24, 1922, Turner was arrested in Columbia and was sent to Savannah to stand trial. He pled guilty on February 25 to charges of conspiracy and possession of stolen government property and was sentenced to one year and one day in a federal prison in Atlanta. He was released on parole in July 1922 and received an unconditional pardon in 1924 from President Calvin Coolidge.

Harry Runser and Roscoe Turner
After his release from prison, Turner returned to his hometown of Corinth, MS, relaunched his aviation career, and went on to become one of the most well-known flyers in the world.  From barnstormer he transitioned to aviation instructor, airplane racer, Hollywood stuntman and actor, and airline pilot. He set the transcontinental speed record four times, won the Thompson Trophy Race three times, and pioneered cross-country passenger service.  Roscoe Turner died in 1970 and was posthumously inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1975.

Other Pilots
There were at least three other pilots who flew for the Carolina Aircraft Corporation during its existence. Benjamin R. Stroup was a Citadel graduate and World War I veteran who flew for the company during the summer of 1920.  C. Harmon Siebenhausen was a Texas native and Army Air Service veteran who worked for the Carolina Aircraft Corporation from the fall of 1920 until the summer of 1921. After Siebenhausen left to open an auto repair business in York, SC, he was replaced by Thomas C. Blencowe, a Virginia native who had flown for Royal Flying Corps Canada during World War I.  Blencowe flew for the Carolina Aircraft Corporation into 1922 and then went to work for the Southern Bell Telephone Company in Columbia.


The Carolina Aircraft Corporation went bankrupt in 1922 and its airplanes and other property were put up for auction in August at Emerson Field.  The land on which the airfield had been operated was returned to agricultural use, primarily for cotton production.  In 1931, the land was part of the site chosen for a new veteran’s hospital. The facility, consisting of 13 buildings, received its first patients on December 1, 1932, and served veterans for over 46 years. The adjacent Dorn Veterans Hospital opened in 1979 and the University of South Carolina School of Medicine has occupied the renovated old facility since 1983.

  • “Aero Ball Last Evening.” The Columbia Record, July 24, 1918, page 5.
  • “Aeroplane Flights.” The Columbia Record, December 3, 1919, page 7.
  • “Aeroplanes to Orangeburg.” The Columbia Record, November 10, 1920, page 11.
  • “Aeroplanes Visit Columbia on Their Trips Over Cities.” The Columbia Record, November 25, 1919, page 3.
  • “Aero Squadron Sent to Columbia Camp.” The State, June 15, 1918, page 5.
  • “Air Limousine for Columbia.” The Columbia Record, May 15, 1921, page 7.
  • “Airplane Company for Columbia Now.” The Columbia Record, November 13, 1919, page 16.
  • “Airplane May be Used for Business.” The Columbia Record, May 26, 1921, page 2.
  • “Airship Coming Today to Spend Several Days Here.” The Gaffney Ledger, February 15, 1921, page 1.
  • “Airship Left for Union, Forced to Land, Report.” The Gaffney Ledger, March 1, 1921, page 2.
  • “Air Ships Guarded.” The State, November 1, 1918, page 9.
  • “All in Readiness for Great Parade That Opens Drive.” The Columbia Record, September 27, 1918, page 2.
  • “Another Feather in Columbia’s Cap.” The Columbia Record, July 9, 1920, page 5.
  • “Auction Sale” The State, July 22, 1922, page 7.
  • “Automobile Races Today.” The State, November 27, 1919, page 8.
  • “Auto Races Feature Holiday Here.” The Columbia Record, December 26, 1921, page 1.
  • “Aviation Coming to South Carolina.” The State, May 22, 1920, page 12.
  • “Aviation Field to be Abandoned.” The State, March 8, 1919, page 3.
  • “Aviation Stunts to Thrill the People.” The Columbia Record, January 9, 1920, page 16.
  • “Aviator and Bride to Take Part Today in the Aerial Derby.” The Columbia Record, November 13, 1920, page 1.
  • “Aviator Carries News of Big Show.” The Columbia Record, March 23, 1920, page 14.
  • “Aviators Kept Busy on Monday.” The Columbia Record, April 26, 1921, page 8.
  • “Aviator’s Stunts Will Feature Day.” The Columbia Record, November 11, 1920, page 9.
  • “Aviators to Fly by Night, Friday.” The Columbia Record, April 20, 1921, page 2.
  • “Aviators to Give Thrilling Stunts.” The Columbia Record, January 4, 1920, page 5.
  • “Aviator Visits City.” The Abbeville Press and Banner, December 6, 1920, page 1.
  • “Award Diplomas to Citadel Class.” The State, May 25, 1918, page 2.
  • “Barracks for Fliers.” The State, September 24, 1918, page 8.
  • “Beckham Promoted in Highway Force.” The State, March 24, 1926, page 12.
  • “Big British Plane Takes Wednesday Fly.” The Columbia Record, April 13, 1921, page 10.
  • The Birth of Camp Jackson. Columbia, SC: U. S. Army Basic Combat Training Museum, 2016, page 131.
  • “Bishopville Man is First Patient at Vets Hospital.” The Columbia Record, December 1, 1932, page 1.
  • “Bodies Not Found.” The State, January 10, 1919. Page 8.
  • “Body of Bedford Flier Found in Southern River.” The Indianapolis Star, April 11, 1919, page 20.
  • “Brave Aviator’s Memory Honored.” The Columbia Record, October 27, 1918, page 2.
  • “B. R. Stroup.” The State, February 18, 1971, page 6-D.
  • “Camp Jackson News.” The State, November 25, 1918, page 9.
  • “Carolina Aircraft Corporation.” The Columbia Record, March 21, 1920, page 11.
  • “Carolina Student Made a Captain.” The Gamecock, April 1, 1920, page 5.
  • “Carolina’s Annual Staff is Chosen.” The Columbia Record, October 26, 1919, page 18.
  • “Chamber’s Flight to Rock Hill to be Made Sunday.” The Columbia Record, June 3, 1921, page 5.
  • “Chapman-Blencoe.” The State, August 18, 1921, page 3.
  • “City Should Have Landing Field.” The Columbia Record, November 9, 1919. Page 17.
  • “Clinton Enjoys Red Letter Day.” The State, May 9, 1920, page 1.
  • “Col. Edmund Gaines Services Set Thursday.” The Columbia Record, July 2, 1979, page 11-D.
  • “Colony from Virginia Town Is Domiciled in Columbia.” The State, January 29, 1928, page 31.
  • “Columbia Airplane Pleased Piedmont.” The Columbia Record, July 5, 1920, page 10.
  • “Columbia Girl in Flight to Clinton.” The Columbia Record, May 7, 1920, page 3.
  • “Columbians Enjoy Ride in Airplane.” The Columbia Record, November 24, 1919, page 7.
  • “Columbian Would Fly Mt. Everett [sic].” The Columbia Record, March 14, 1921, page 7.
  • “Columbians Form Aircraft Company.” The State, November 13, 1919, page 5.
  • “Columbia’s Plane Has Good Business.” The Columbia Record, November 25, 1919, page 10.
  • “Columbia Should be the Aviation Center for the Entire Southeast.” The Columbia Record, January 9, 1921, page 1.
  • “Dance Tonight.” The State, July 23, 1918, page 3.
  • “Daring Aerial Meet at the Fair Grounds Thursday.” The Columbia Record, November 10, 1920. Page 16.
  • “Daring Aviators Make Great Trip.” The Columbia Record, November 17, 1918, page 18.
  • “Edmund Gaines, Retired Air Force Colonel.” The Miami Herald, July 6, 1979, page 46.
  • “Emerson Field Back to Owners.” The Columbia Record, April 17, 1919, page 2.
  • “Emerson Field Finest of All.” The State, August 16, 1920, page 3.
  • “Emerson Field is for Future Use?” The Columbia Record, April 5, 1919, page 2.
  • “Emerson Field May be Abandoned Soon.” The Columbia Record, January 26, 1919, page 10.
  • “Emerson Field Passes.” The State, March 11, 1919, page 13.
  • “Enjoy Paved Road.” The State, March 9, 1919, page 2.
  • “Famous Birdman Visits Columbia.” The State, February 22, 1920, page 3.
  • Faurote, Fay L., ed. The Aircraft Year Book. New York, NY: Manufacturers Aircraft Association, Inc., 1919, page 347.
  • “First Airplane Visits Winnsboro.” The State, May 24, 1920, page 1.
  • “Flies to Columbia.” The State, May 18, 1920, page 2.
  • “Flyers May Come Back to Camp.” The State, July 11, 1919, page 5.
  • “Flying Circus.” The State, January 11, 1920, page 32.
  • “Flying Field Named in Honor of Lieut. Pope.” The Dispatch (Lexington, NC), April 16, 1919, page 6.
  • “Flying Taught.” The Birmingham News, April 5, 1923, page 18.
  • “Found in River.” Fayetteville Observer, April 10, 1919, page 1
  • “Gaines and Stroup Go to Greenville.” The State, July 3, 1920, page 8.
  • “Gaines Comes Back.” The State, August 7, 1920, page 10.
  • Gannett. “Fort Bragg:100.” USA Today Network. https://stories.usatodaynetwork.com/fortbragg100/ (accessed August 4, 2020).
  • Garnet and Black 1917.  Columbia, SC: The Student Body of the University of South Carolina, 1917, page 83.
  • Garnet and Black 1921.  Columbia, SC: The Student Body of the University of South Carolina, 1921, pages 44, 123, 177, 179, 184, 186, 189.
  • “Get New Airplane in Columbia Soon.” The Columbia Record, December 28, 1919, page 20.
  • “Getting Big Sausages Ready for Shipment.” The Columbia Record, March 8, 1919, page 7.
  • Glines, C. V. “A Showman Takes the Lead.” HistoryNet.com. https://www.historynet.com/showman-takes-lead.htm (accessed August 2, 2020).
  • “Give Program of Air Derby.” The State, November 8, 1920, page 5.
  • “Is Emerson Field to be Relocated.” The Columbia Record, July 5, 1919, page 5.
  • Kennedy, Betty R. An Illustrated History of Scott Air Force Base, 1917-1987. Scott Air Force Base, IL: United States Air Force Military Airlift Command, 1987, page 159.
  • “’Kitty’ Sargeant Takes Pictures of Stunts by Aviator.” The Columbia Record, January 12, 1920, page 3.
  • “Large Airplane Company Sought.” The Columbia Record, April 10, 1921, page 16.
  • “Leave for Augusta.” The State, June 27, 1920, page 12.
  • “Lieut Maynard May be Here Wednesday.” The Columbia Record, December 8, 1919, page 12.
  • “Lieut. Runser Will Live Here.” The Columbia Record, April 2, 1921, page 3.
  • “Lt. Gaines Changes Station.” The Columbia Record, August 2, 1921, pages 6, 10.
  • “Lunch in Columbia, and Dinner in New York, is Airline Possibility.” The Columbia Record, March 25, 1921, page 29.
  • Moore, John Hammond. “Air Showman Had Plans for Columbia.” The State, June 11, 1995, page F4.
  • “More Facilities for Army Camps.” The Columbia Record, August 5, 1918, page 1.
  • National Aviation Hall of Fame. “Turner, Roscoe.” The National Aviation Hall of Fame. https://www.nationalaviation.org/our-enshrinees/turner-roscoe/ (accessed August 2, 2020).
  • Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame. “Roscoe Turner.”  Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame.  http://www.nvahof.org/hof/roscoe_turner/ (accessed July 19, 2020).
  • “New Enterprises Were Authorized.” The State, November 20, 1919, page 3
  • “News of the Day from Camp Sevier.” The State, May 5, 1918, page 25.
  • “No Trace Found of Two Airmen.” The State, January 9, 1919, page 1.
  • “Old VA Hospital Renovation Planned.” The State, June 15, 1979, page 2-A.
  • Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War. Washington, DC: United States Army Center of Military History, 1988, page 1046.
  • “Palmafesta Queen Rides in the Air This Afternoon.” The Columbia Record, April 3, 1921, page 9.
  • “Pal of Turner Also Jailed for Plane.” The Columbia Record, January 27, 1922, page 1.
  • “Pictures from Sky Taken of Columbia.” The Columbia Record, February 29, 1920, page 24.
  • “Popular Young Couple Married in Blackville.” The Barnwell People, October 14, 1920, page 1.
  • “Prepare Planes for Palmafesta.” The State, March 24, 1921, page 12.
  • “Promises Good Roads to County.” The State, January 16, 1919, page 14.
  • “Propose Air Field for Capital City.” The State, August 2, 1921, page 1.
  • “Purchases Garage in York.” The Union Daily Times, July 20, 1921, page 1.
  • “Roddey on Plane Trip to Charlotte.” The Columbia Record, December 1, 1919, page 13.
  • “Roscoe Turner.” Columbia Record, December 22, 1921, page 8.
  • “Roscoe Turner Awarded DFC.” The State, August 15, 1952, page 7-B.
  • “Roscoe Turner in County Jail.” The State, January 25, 1922, page 10.
  • “Roscoe Turner to Atlanta Pen.” The Columbia Record, February 26, 1922, page 2.
  • “Runser and Turner Fly Home Again.” The Columbia Record, November 11, 1921, page 9.
  • “See Columbia from the Clouds.” The State, November 23, 1919, page 25.
  • “Seven Airplanes in Aerial Derby.” The Columbia Record, October 6, 1920, page 3.
  • “Shackelford Will Fly to Tarheelia.” The Columbia Record, December 21, 1919, page 7.
  • “The Attainment.” The State, December 3, 1932, page 4.
  • “The Trades Display Parade is Big Feature for Friday.” The Columbia Record, March 31, 1921, page 1.
  • “To Hold Funeral on Pacific Coast.” The State, September 30, 1918, page 2.
  • “To Select Queen for Aerial Derby.” The Columbia Record, November 1, 1920, page 7.
  • “Two High Fliers in Lexington.” The Dispatch-News, April 27, 1921, page 1.
  • “Two Landing Sites for Airplanes Now.” The Columbia Record, February 29, 1920, page 24.
  • United States Army. “History of Fort Jackson.” Fort Jackson. https://web.archive.org/web/20161013220746/http:/jackson.armylive.dodlive.mil/post/museum/history-post-wwii/ (accessed July 18, 2020).
  • “University Student Makes Money Flying.” The Gamecock, December 4, 1919, page 3.
  • “USC Plans Med School Dedication.” The State, September 22, 1983, page 8-C.
  • “Veterans’ Institution on Interesting Site.” The State, June 2, 1931, pages 1, 9.
  • Walsh’s 1919 Directory of the City of Columbia, SC. Columbia, SC: The Walsh Directory Company, 1919.
  • Walsh’s 1920 Directory of the City of Columbia, SC. Columbia, SC: The Walsh Directory Company, 1920.
  • Walsh’s 1921 Directory of the City of Columbia, SC. Columbia, SC: The Walsh Directory Company, 1921.
  • Walsh’s 1922 Directory of the City of Columbia, SC. Asheville, NC: House of Directories, 1922.
  • “Will Bomb Crowds with the Record.” The Columbia Record, November 5, 1920, page 12.
  • “Will Fly Very Soon.” The State, April 3, 1920, page 3.
  • “Within the Town.” Yorkville Enquirer, September 19, 1922, page 4. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020


A brief history of the town that would become West Columbia

By Paul Armstrong

Brookland town officials posed in front of municipal offices in 1937.
From The State, November 11, 1937, page B-1.
In the 1880s, a US Post Office was established in the small settlement west of the Congaree River that is now West Columbia. Though the area was known commonly as Brookland, the US Post Office Department decided to name it the New Brookland Post Office because there was already a Brookland Post Office. Michael H. Witt, who operated a store in the area, was named as postmaster on July 21, 1887.

Along with Witt’s store, there were several established businesses in the modestly populated area by the early 1890s. These included the Brookland Canning Factory, a butcher shop, a livery stable, and a hall for public entertainment, dances, plays, etc. There was also a park at the corner of Meeting and State Streets that had been donated to the community by John Guignard. In 1891, The State newspaper called Brookland, “the thriving little town across the river in Lexington County”. Significant growth, however, would soon come from a development on the opposite side of the river.

Mill Village
The Columbia Mills Company was formed in February 1893 and built the world’s first all-electrically powered textile mill near the west end of Gervais Street. The plant, which went into production in June 1894 and employed 300 people in the first year, was less than 500 feet from the only bridge over the Congaree River. 

So, the Columbia Mills Company decided to build their mill village in Brookland. During 1893 and 1894 they constructed 40 houses for the mill employees to live. As was the custom at the time, families could occupy the houses rent-free as long as a certain number of family members were employed in the mill. The village was originally known as Aretasville in honor of the president of the Columbia Mills Company, Aretas Blood, but that moniker did not last long as the village soon became part of the incorporated town of Brookland.

Most of the Columbia Mills employees who lived in Brookland walked to and from work each day. To do so, they traversed a path of approximately one mile that included crossing the toll bridge over the Congaree River that had been built in 1872. This narrow roadway connected Meeting Street in Brookland to Gervais Street in Columbia and was the only bridge over the Congaree at the time. It was replaced in 1927 by the modern Gervais Street Bridge that is still in use today.

Photo taken circa 1900 shows the only bridge over the Congaree River from 1872 to 1927.
Courtesy of the Richland County Library’s Bicentennial Photograph Collection
Although Brookland’s population grew considerably in the 1890s primarily due to the creation of the mill village, it remained a small town for the next five decades. Its population increased by an average of less than one percent annually during the first half of the twentieth century. The bustling city we know today as West Columbia is vastly different from the sleepy town of Brookland prior to the explosive growth of Columbia’s suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s. The Brookland of the 1930s had less than three residents for every 100 Columbians whereas there are now more than 13 West Columbians per 100 Columbia residents.

Incorporation, First Mayor, Etc.
The growth spurred by the mill village led to a need for municipal organization. So, in December 1894, the Town of Brookland was incorporated by act of the state legislature and the first municipal elections were held on February 2, 1895. The citizens elected Michael H. Witt as their first intendant (mayor) by a vote of 54 to 18 over Edward W. Shull. 

Newspaper article headlines about Brookland’s first municipal election.
From The State, February 3, 1895, page 5

The town was chartered by the state as Brookland although its post office was still officially the New Brookland Post Office. Many people referred to the town as New Brookland and many references to it under that name can be found in the newspapers, city directories, etc., even though it was officially Brookland. The town was re-chartered as a city in 1911 and was classed with municipalities having between 1,000 to 5,000 inhabitants.

The first town hall was located on Center Street near State Street and was replaced in 1925 by a new building which is still standing at 430 Center Street. It served as city hall, firehouse, and jail. As municipal services expanded, a building at 103-109 State Street was also used for city offices.

Brookland City Hall and Firehouse Building on Center Street built in 1925
In its first two decades as an incorporated town, Brookland was plagued with many multi-structure fires. Two of these blazes, on October 2, 1895 and February 26, 1906, each destroyed 11 buildings and damaged several others.

But the worst fire occurred on the evening of March 4, 1905 and nearly wiped out the town. This disastrous fire destroyed at least 47 buildings, including the US Post Office, Brookland Baptist Church, 31 residences, 11 businesses, and three halls used by fraternal organizations. Of the 31 residences that burned, 15 were mill village houses belonging to the Columbia Mills.

Brookland Develops and Becomes West Columbia
But with each fire, Brookland would bounce back and rebuild. And as the decades went by, it developed into a thriving municipality with vigorous business, educational, church, and leisure aspects of life. By the 1930s there were quite a few strong business concerns in Brookland such as Roof Basket Works, Stein King Beer Company, Brookland Ice and Fuel, Hite’s Sign Company, Lexington Building & Loan, and Thompson Funeral Home. The Brookland-Cayce school system provided a proficient first-through-eleventh grade education and there were churches of practically every major denomination.

Brookland also came to associate more and more with its larger neighbor across the river. Its residents often went to Columbia for shopping and entertainment and over 50% of them worked in the capital city. By the mid-1930s, a sentiment was growing to change the city’s name to West Columbia to reflect this relationship. In 1937, Brookland officials decided to petition the state legislature for a name change. As a result, an act changing the name of Brookland to West Columbia passed both houses of the General Assembly. It became law on April 21, 1938 after being signed by Governor Olin D. Johnston.

  • “A Lively Race”. The State, Columbia, SC, January 19, 1895, page 5.
  • Ancestry.com. Appointments of U. S. Postmasters, 1832-1971 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010, page 197. https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/1932/ (accessed April 19, 2020)
  • “Brookland Across the Bridge.” The State, Columbia, SC, March 11, 1891, page 9.
  • “Brookland Elections.” The State, Columbia, SC, May 14, 1899, page 2.
  • “Brookland Fights Fire Fiend Again.” The State, Columbia, SC, February 27, 1906, page 1.
  • “Brookland Gets Charter.” The State, Columbia, SC, September 26, 1911, page 1.
  • “Brookland Has a Second Destructive Fire.” The State, Columbia, SC, April 13, 1898, page 8.
  • “Brookland’s Election.” The State, Columbia, SC, January 31, 1895, page 8.
  • “Brookland’s Mails.” The State, Columbia, SC, December 25, 1891, page 8.
  • “Columbia’s Neighbor Across the Congaree River.” The State, Columbia, SC, January 29, 1922, page 3.
  • Douglas, C. M. The Columbia City Directory, 1895. Columbia, SC: The State Company, 1895.
  • “Half of Brookland Consumed by Fire.” The State, Columbia, SC, March 5, 1905, page 1.
  • Hill’s Columbia City Directory, 1938. Richmond, VA: Hill Directory Company, 1938.
  • “Industries of Columbia.” The State, Columbia, SC, June 4, 1895, page 1.
  • “It’s an Electric Mill.” The State, Columbia, SC, June 3, 1894, page 2.
  • “It’s Mayor Witt.” The State, Columbia, SC, February 3, 1895, page 5.
  • “It’s West Columbia.” The State, Columbia, SC, April 22, 1938, page 2.
  • “Mayor and Aldermen Selected by Columbia’s Thriving Suburb”. The State, Columbia, SC, May 15, 1900, page 2.
  • Neumann, Caryn E. "Columbia Mills." South Carolina Encyclopedia, 2016. http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/columbia-mills/ (accessed April 19, 2020)
  • “New Brookland and Cayce Thriving, Progressive Places.” The State, Columbia, SC, November 11, 1909, page 11.
  • “New Brookland, Live, Progressive, and Growing.” The State, Columbia, SC, June 28, 1936, page 1-D.
  • “New Brookland Visited by Fire.” The State, Columbia, SC, March 31, 1909, page 1.
  • “No Mushroom About This.” The State, Columbia, SC, January 22, 1894, page 8.
  • “Notice of Opening Books of Subscription of the Columbia Mills Company.” The State, Columbia, SC, January 28, 1893, page 4.
  • “The Brookland Fire Brought Large Loss.” The State, Columbia, SC, March 6, 1905, page 8.
  • “The Cotton to the Canal.” The State, Columbia, SC, February 3, 1893, page 8.
  • “The State’s Survey.” The State, Columbia, SC, April 25, 1894, page 4.
  • United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". https://www.census.gov/prod/www/decennial.html (accessed April 29, 2020).
  • United States Census Bureau. "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/popest/data/tables.2018.html (accessed April 29, 2020).
  • “Will Make Cloth This Week.” The State, Columbia, SC, July 2, 1894, page 8.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Confederate Currency Printers in Columbia, SC

by Paul Armstrong
October 10, 2019
Updated April 15, 2020

Click on photos to enlarge.

“None of it [Confederate money] was printed in the Gervais Street plant, which was used for other printing and lithographing business of Evans and Cogswell.”
- James F. Williams, as quoted in The State, October 7, 1930

One of the more notable historic landmarks in Columbia is the building along the north side of Gervais Street between Huger and Pulaski Streets that currently houses a Publix Supermarket and the Estates on Gervais Townhomes.  I have always heard that Confederate money was manufactured at this location.  However, while doing research on another subject, I came across a 1930 article in The State newspaper which contained the above quote by James F. Williams. This claim, made by an eyewitness who lived in Columbia during the Civil War, was counter to what I had always heard. Williams’ quote aroused my interest and inspired me to research the story of where, and by whom, Confederate currency was printed in Columbia. This article relates what I have found.

In 1861, the Confederate States Congress decided to begin issuing treasury notes (paper currency)1 as a medium of exchange and method for financing the costs of running the new government and a military at war. The responsibility for manufacturing, finishing, and distributing this currency fell to the Secretary of the Treasury, Charlestonian Christopher Memminger. Instead of creating a government-run engraving and printing operation, Memminger decided to contract with private printing firms to produce treasury notes.  A Treasury Note Division of the Treasury Department – later the Treasury Note Bureau2 - was created to manage these contractors.  Initially, these firms and their printing plants were in the Confederate capital, Richmond, and included Keatinge & Ball, Blanton Duncan, Hoyer & Ludwig, and others.  In order to ensure consistency in the notes, Memminger decided to have only one firm, Keatinge & Ball, do the engraving.  All the printers were required to use plates engraved by Keatinge & Ball to produce the treasury notes.

By early April 1862, Union General George B McClellan had transported over 100,000 troops to the lower end of the Virginia peninsula and moved within 65 miles of the Confederate capital.  McClellan’s goal was to drive up the peninsula and capture Richmond.  Understandably, the possibility that Richmond might fall caused great concern within the Confederate government. So, on April 18, 1862, Memminger gave orders to move the Treasury Note Division to Columbia which was well away from the front lines and considered safe.  He requested that the contractors relocate their currency printing operations to South Carolina’s capital city.  Two of the firms, Blanton Duncan and Keatinge & Ball, agreed and immediately began preparing to set up plants in Columbia.  The other printing firms in Richmond declined to make the move south.

By the end of May 1862, Columbia had become the center of Confederate treasury note production with three firms carrying out contracts from printing plants on Main Street.3 These three were Blanton Duncan, Keatinge & Ball, and James T. Paterson.  A fourth firm, Evans & Cogswell, was added in early 1863.

Click to enlarge.

Blanton Duncan
Kentucky native Blanton Duncan, a lawyer by training, was the son of a wealthy US congressman who moved to Europe in 1861 to avoid taking sides in the Civil War.  In contrast to his father’s decision, Blanton Duncan chose the Confederacy, raised a volunteer regiment in Kentucky, and received a commission as a Lieutenant Colonel.  After failing as a military leader and experiencing a near mutiny by his troops, Duncan resigned his commission and went to Richmond. There he set up a printing shop and talked his way into a treasury note contract.  He moved to Columbia in May of 1862 in order to continue his contract with the Treasury Note Division. Duncan set up his printing plant on the second floor of Charles Beck’s building on the southeast corner of Main and Washington Streets where the Barringer Building is now.4

Confederate $10 Note
Engraved by Keatinge & Ball and Printed by Blanton Duncan in Columbia

Florida State University Digital Repository

In April 1863, Memminger reset the printing contracts and took new proposals from the contractors in Columbia. Duncan’s bid was significantly higher than the others and was rejected.  After losing his treasury note contract, Duncan continued his printing operation for a few months, completing other existing contracts and producing commercial products, notably sheet music.  By early 1864, Duncan had left Columbia after selling his printing plant to Pierre Valory and Henry Gray. He made his way to Europe where he stayed until after the end of the war.5

Keatinge & Ball
Englishman Edward Keatinge was an expert engraver who had previously worked for the American Bank Note Company in New York City.  Memminger recruited him to do engravings for the Treasury Note Division and he formed a company with Virginian Thomas A. Ball for that purpose. Due to Keatinge’s superior engraving work and a need for consistency, Keatinge & Ball were selected as the sole engraving firm for Confederate Treasury notes.  They engraved and printed notes in Richmond from August 1861 until April 1862 when they accepted Memminger’s request to move operations to Columbia.

Keatinge & Ball’s first location in Columbia was on the second floor of the Hussung Building at the northeast corner of Main and Pendleton Streets where the Edgar Brown Building stands today.  In May of 1863, Keatinge & Ball purchased the City Hotel building and moved their printing plant.  This new, more spacious facility was on the southwest corner of Main and Laurel Streets where City Hall is now.

Confederate $1 Note 
Engraved and Printed by Keatinge & Ball in Columbia

As General William T. Sherman’s troops approached Columbia, Keatinge & Ball were forced to allow their engraving plates and some of their equipment to be moved along with the fleeing Treasury Note Bureau.  Their building and remaining equipment were destroyed in the conflagration that swept Columbia’s Main Street during the night of February 17-18, 1865.

James T. Paterson
A Scottish immigrant, James T. Paterson was a practicing dentist in Augusta, GA, prior to the Civil War. At some point he became interested in engraving and printing and spent most of 1861 in Richmond, VA, learning the craft from firms in that city. When the Richmond firm of Hoyer & Ludwig declined to move to Columbia with the Treasury Note Division, Paterson bought out their treasury note contracts and the equipment they used for those contracts.  He moved the equipment to Columbia and set up a printing plant on the second floor of the Stanley Building which was on the west side of what is now the 1400 block of Main Street.  Paterson’s company printed treasury notes in Columbia from May of 1862 until April of 1864 when he lost his contract with the Treasury Note Bureau.

Confederate $5 Note 
Engraved by Keatinge & Ball and Printed by James T. Paterson in Columbia

Around the same time that he set up shop in Columbia, Paterson assembled a printing plant in Augusta on the second floor of a building at the corner of Broad and McIntosh Streets.  From the Augusta plant, Paterson’s company engraved and printed postage stamps for the Confederate Post Office.  He also entered into contracts with North Carolina, Alabama, and other states to engrave and print state currency and other security instruments.  After losing his treasury note contract, Paterson closed his Columbia plant and continued his printing operations in Augusta until the end of the war.

Evans & Cogswell
With roots dating back to 1821, Walker, Evans & Cogswell operated a binding, printing, and stationery business with offices at 3 Broad and 103 East Bay Streets in Charleston.  After John C. Walker died in 1860, Benjamin Evans and Harvey Cogswell continued the firm and changed the name to Evans & Cogswell. The well-respected firm printed and published Bibles, popular novels and nonfiction editions, textbooks, and other commercial products.  When the Confederate States were formed, the firm began to contract with the Confederate government and military to produce products such as general orders, maps, forms, blank books, etc.  Their most famous publication was South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession.

After treasury note operations were relocated from Richmond to Columbia, Treasury Secretary Memminger soon realized the three firms there were not able to keep up with the demand.  So, in October 1862, Memminger asked Evans & Cogswell to establish a branch plant in Columbia and take on a contract for printing Confederate currency. Evans & Cogswell agreed and set up a printing plant for this purpose on the second floor of the Kinsler Building at the northwest corner of Main and Taylor Streets.  The building, located where Mast General Store is now, had a spacious hall on the second floor which had previously served as a venue for banquets, balls, operas, plays, etc.  This location was especially convenient for Evans and Cogswell since the Confederate Treasury Note Division/Bureau operated out of offices on the third floor of the same structure.

Confederate $5 Note 
Engraved by Keatinge & Ball and Printed by Evans & Cogswell in Columbia

After opening their treasury note branch in Columbia by early 1863, Evans & Cogswell continued their general printing business at their main location in Charleston.  Examples of books they printed in Charleston during 1863 are Benton’s Heavy Artillery and a novel, Macaria, by Augusta Jane Evans.  They also did work there for the Confederate military such as printing general orders and maps.

Then, in August 1863, Union artillery began a bombardment of Charleston that would last until the end of the war.  Artillery batteries, built in the marsh of Morris Island, rained deadly incendiary shells down on all parts of Charleston south of Calhoun Street.  When the State Bank building next door to Evans & Cogswell was hit, the printing firm decided Charleston was no longer safe and that they should move all their operations to Columbia.

So, Evans & Cogswell secured property on the north side of Gervais Street between Pulaski and Huger Streets, put up four brick walls, covered half the structure with a roof, and finished that half.6  They set up a printing plant in the finished part of the building, and moved their non-treasury note operations into this new facility. They continued printing Confederate currency in the Main Street facility and used the Gervais Street building for the other part of their business that had previously been done in Charleston.  By February 15, 1864, they were advertising their new plant capabilities and the publication of some 20 books including Chisolm’s Surgery by Julian J Chisolm and Phillip, a novel by William H Thackeray.  They also had a contract to print 100,000 New Testaments for the Confederate States’ Bible Society. All total in the combined Columbia facilities, Evans & Cogswell could boast of 72 printing presses and 24 binding machines.

Evans & Cogswell Invoice Letterhead from January 1865 Listing Both Columbia Locations

Evans & Cogswell continued treasury note operations on Main Street – as well as the general printing work in the new plant on Gervais Street – until being forced to evacuate Columbia with the Treasury Note Bureau ahead of Union troops.  Both of Evans & Cogswell’s plants were destroyed during the occupation of Columbia in February 1865. Though all but wiped out by the effects of the war, Evans & Cogswell were able to reestablish their business in Charleston in December 1865 with new partner Irvin Walker.  The firm, again named Walker, Evans & Cogswell, continued to do business in the Holy City until 1987.

The End
With Sherman’s army approaching Columbia in February 1865, the Confederate Treasury Bureau, along with the Evans and Cogswell firm, evacuated Columbia and eventually relocated to Greenville.  They were able to successfully transport approximately thirty-five printing presses from Evans & Cogswell’s plant, the engraving plates from Keatinge and Ball, and a small amount of ink, paper and other supplies.  However, before treasury note operations could be put in operation in Greenville, the Confederacy had collapsed.

The Confederate government did not own or operate facilities for engraving or printing currency.  Instead, they contracted with private companies for the engraving and printing of treasury notes.  Four of these companies produced Confederate treasury notes at plants located on Main Street in Columbia between 1862 and 1865.  One of these companies also built a plant on Gervais Street for their general publishing business.  Confederate currency engraving and printing took place on Main Street, not in the Gervais Street building where Publix and Estates on Gervais are now located.

  1. The Confederate States government contracted for the manufacture of paper currency in the form of treasury notes but did not mint Confederate coins beyond the evaluation stage.  They took over the United States mints in New Orleans, LA, Charlotte, NC, and Dahlonega, GA, and continued to produce US coins at those facilities for a while.  An effort to mint Confederate coins in New Orleans was cut short when that city fell to US forces.  Only four sample half-dollar coins were struck for evaluation before New Orleans was occupied in May 1862.  No Confederate coins were released into circulation.
  2. The Treasury Department’s Treasury Note Division officially became a bureau on February 3, 1864 by act of the Confederate States Congress.
  3. Main Street was officially named Richardson Street until 1892.  The name Main Street is used in this article because that is what readers will understand.  This moniker would have also been understood by Columbians during the Civil War because the street was often referred to as Main Street long before that was its official name.
  4. Blanton Duncan’s printing plant occupied an upstairs space that had previously been the site of the Columbia Athenaeum from 1856-1860.  In fact, the location was sometimes still referred to as the Athenaeum Building or Athenaeum Corner. The Athenaeum was a library, reading room, and lecture hall.
  5. While in Columbia, Blanton Duncan bought a house already in course of construction on Gervais Street where he and his family made their residence.  The house later served as General William T. Sherman’s headquarters and eventually became known as the Mimnaugh House.  It was demolished in 1962 to make way for an addition to the Town House Hotel.
  6. There is no indication that Evans & Cogswell ever completed the remainder of the roof and interior of the building on Gervais Street.

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  • “A Trip South.” Fayetteville Weekly Observer, Fayetteville, NC, March 9, 1863, page 3.
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