At the azure margin where the green of the lake meets the blue sky, a line of stranded cypress trees beckoned. I pointed the nose of my kayak to a blocky mass in the center and paddled hard against the gentle spring breeze. Very soon a crumbling concrete and brick structure arose before me, providing both a barrier from the main part of the lake and a break from the ticklish wind. I had found the abandoned, flooded town of Ferguson in the middle of Lake Marion and a new day of adventure in the Lowcountry had begun.
The lumber town of Ferguson is one of many true "ghost towns" that can be found in South Carolina. The tides of time and economics have caused many towns and villages to fade away, but the unique feature of this one is that it is surrounded in its entirety by Lake Marion.
More than 50 years ago, Ferguson was a bustling lumber mill town on the banks of the Santee River. It served 350 families and worked overtime to harvest the rich bottomland virgin cypress forests nearby. Today it consists of piles of brick and other odds and ends scattered along the lakebed. The 110,000-acre lake swallowed the town after it was dammed in the 1940s. Now, only a giant lumber kiln and a few artifacts remain -- testimony to progress and a kayaker's delight. Fishermen, too, prowl the waters around its old footings in search of lake monsters hiding in the dark waters.
In the same neighborhood is a haunting reminder of the past that is even older. On nearby Church Island, the "Rocks Cemetery" marks the place where the Church of the Epiphany once stood. This burial ground dates from 1804 and was once the scene of a thriving congregation on the grounds of the ancient Rocks Plantation, dating from Colonial times.
The rising waters claimed the church, too, and altered the lives of its congregants forever. In fact, one member was so distraught that the lake project was taking his farm that he chose suicide rather than accept the fate of the land. He is buried in the cemetery on the shores of the lake he resisted. The cemetery is lovingly tended today as a testimony to undying community spirit.
Recently I kayaked out to Ferguson and Church Island with a group of friends. As you approach these places you are overwhelmed by the beauty of the lake and the fact that though age and progress have moved past these old places they are far from forgotten. As you glide between the Spanish moss-draped cypress, osprey cry overhead and history comes alive. A sign on Church Island reminds you that you tread on hallowed ground. Though Ferguson and The Rocks may be a place of rest one visit and you will feel your spirit soar.
Bluffton resident Matt Richardson enjoys taking day trips with his family and exploring the Lowcountry. To see more pictures from his adventures, go to www.Flickr.com and search on the username "greenkayak73." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.