Spartanburg author traces roots to Beaufort in "From Harleyville to Beulah Land"

charley@beaufortgazette.comMay 18, 2012 

When overnight thunderstorms knocked out telephone lines and electricity in Beaufort around 1920, June Gardner's grandfather, Robert Raymond Fitts, braved the wind and rain on his horse and buggy to locate the tangled lines with his 5-year-old son, J.E., in tow.

"While looking for the problems ... they came to the river before they found (the issue). (My grandfather) left J.E. in the wagon, climbed up the pole and walked the telephone lines across the river. J.E. said he was left in the wagon all night until his dad came back the next morning," writes Gardner, 77, of Spartanburg.

The story is one about Gardner's connection to Beaufort and is featured in her recently released book, "From Harleyville to Beulah Land: The Story of George Ashbury Harley and Lydia Elizabeth Williamson of North, SC and Their Ancestors, Descendants, and Stories." The 300-page book traces Gardner's roots in South Carolina and includes old family documents, recipes and stories by John Edward "J.E." Fitts, who shares details about growing up as a civilian on Parris Island in the 1920s.

The Beaufort stories in the book begin around 1913 when the Fitts brothers arrived in the city.

When Gardner's great-uncle, John Reid Fitts, started the telephone company in Beaufort, her grandfather, Robert Raymond Fitts of Brunson, helped his brother install telephone lines in Beaufort, on Parris Island and in all surrounding towns. Once the lines were installed, her grandfather became the first chief electrician on Parris Island.

While her grandfather and uncle were connecting Parris Island and Beaufort with electricity and telephones, her aunt and mother found their own ties to the area, marrying two Marines just a year apart.

The family bonds extended to Beaufort Naval Hospital where her brother, Capt. William Griffins McManus, a chaplain, was stationed about 30 years ago.

Gardner used the memoirs of her Aunt Raye as a basis for the book. "It was fun putting it together because no one had already done this," she said.

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