History of Pumpkintown & Oolenoy

Land of Grain and Clear Water

By Bert Hendricks Reece, Pickens, South Carolina

Originally published by Miracle Hill Print Shop.
© 1970 by the author. Edited for the net by John Reece
Contact: reece@pobox.com


A bit of historical lore is the colorful story of the naming of Pumpkinntown. The stranger flashes a smile when he hears the name "Pumpkintown, " for the first time and he asks, "How did it get its name?"

The bottom lands along the Oolenoy River were originally covered in cane, but when the early settlers cleared them, they found them to be fertile and very productive. Corn was the principal crop planted and a hill of pumpkins was planted after every three or four hills of corn. In the fall, the field was yellow with pumpkins. They hauled them out by the wagon loads and fed them to the cattle. People used them for food, also, and dried them for winter food. This land was granted to the Sutherlands in late 1700. Mr. William Sutherland bui lt a large log house and he entertained travelers who needed lodging for the night and tourists from the low country who came to enjoy the climate and scenery.

In that day, cattle and produce for sale were taken to Hamburg, a trading station across the river from Augusta, Georgia. A trader from the North Carolina Hills was driving cattle to Hamburg. He stopped for the night with Mr. Sutherland and put his cattle in Mr. Sutherland's cattle pen. Early the next morning, he was on his way. By night, he had reached a point below Greenville and stopped at a wayside inn. The innkeeper asked where he spent the night before. The trader replied, "I don't know if it has a name, but if I'm allowed to name it, I'll call it Pumpkintown. I have never seen so many pumpkins nor such big ones. The ground is yellow with them." The next day he traveled on to Hamburg and sold his cattle. On his return trip home, he stopped for the night again with Mr. Sutherland. He told Mr. Sutherland he had named his place. What's the name?" asked Mr. Sutherland, "Pumpkintown, " answered the trader', Mr. Sutherland was pleased and accepted the name. We have no way of knowing the exact date of this incident, but we do know the first map of Pendleton District published for Mill's Atlas in 1820, has Pumpkintown, Pendleton, and Pickensville on it, and Pumpkintown is located on the wrong side of Oolenoy River (named Oolenoy Creek on the map), On this map, the word "Keith" is located correctly east of Pumpkintown and "Lynch" on the west side. These pioneer settlers built their first log huts at these points.

The Sutherlands kept a general merchandise store through the years and the Pumpkintown post office, established in was located in the store. The Knob post office was located in Lynch' s store and Table Mountain post office in Hester-Hendricks store - later the James Hendri c k s place and now J. T. Edens place. In early years, there was a blacksmith shop at Pumpkintown operated by Alexander Edens. A cannon for practice at mustering ground was kept here prior to the Civil War with Col. John O. Hendricks in charge.

Through the years, the Pumpkintown land was handed down from one family of Sutherlands to another and they kept store through the years. The last family of Sutherlands to own Pumpkintown was Mr. Amos C. Sutherland and wife, Mrs. Nettie Chastain Sutherland. This family, like their ancestors, were public spirited in community upbuilding and became prominent leaders in State and educational affairs. Pumpkintown now has two stores and a garage. It continues to be the center of our Oolenoy Community.

The Anderson Independent under date of May 21, 1963 published one of the best early sketches of Pumpkintown and Table Rock that can be found today. This sketch was published from a journal entitled, The Neglected Thread written for the Calhoun Community 1836-1840byMay-E. Morague. Excerpts taken from her diary dated August 6, 1840 reads as follows:

Before sunrise we were several miles from Pickensville which was located some 15 miles from Purnpkintown , Though we had only 15 miles to travel in order to reach Pumpkintown, we found it exceedingly tiresome from the dullness of the road and eagerness of expecta lion at length - Oh, mighty to behold the Table Rock Mountain stood up with its huge broad top apparently right in our path. In five miles more we were at Pumpkintown. We crossed a stream which we crossed on a rude bridge then we ascended to a project the oldest, rudest, dreariest stopping place that ever greeted the eyes of a wayward traveler.

This was known as the Keith-Sutherland Hotel after it reopened in 1848.

Nestled in the Oolenoy Valley near Table Rock Mountain Pumpkintown was a flourishing trading center in the early 1800s. Merchants from as far as Charleston, Hamburg and Augusta sponsored wagon trains to this mountain stock yard. The merchandise from the cities was bartered for livestock and farm products here at Pumpkintown. The traders on their return trip stopped near Fair Deal Post Office located near Belton. Here the stock was watered and made ready for the long trek ahead to the cities. The diary goes on in the quaint lyric form describing the climb of the traders to the top of Table Rock Mountain in 1843. On June 6, 1843 Richards wrote:

Our peregrinations dear Brother have brought us to this delectable town - the anteroom so to speak of the noted Table Rock Mountain. We headed toward Keith and Sutherland Hotel which we were told was the only house where we could find shelter for the night. Understanding the term house, little did we dream the one hotel building was the only building the town could boast. We grew wise however, when upon passing a dingy, dilapidated tenemant house on a rising knoll to our right - we inquired of some travelers "how far we were from Pumpkintown?" and we received the response, "You are here, this is the place, gentlemen."
Next: Wedding in 1866