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Abbeville: birthplace and deathbed of the Confederacy

Abbeville: birthplace and deathbed of the Confederacy

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It started here.

And it ended here — that war of “Northern aggression,” otherwise known as the Civil War.

On Nov. 22, 1860, Secession Hill, in Abbeville, S.C., was the site of the first public meeting organized to consider seceding from the Union.

On May 2, 1865, at the Burt-Stark Mansion, President Jefferson Davis met for the last time with his Council of War and agreed to disband his Confederate troops.

There is no better way to follow the Civil War than to stand in history in Abbeville, a fully restored town that earned the name “Birthplace and Deathbed” of the Confederacy.

Of course, history of this small southern town goes further back to 1758. Early Huguenot, Dr. John de la Howe, named the town for his hometown of Abbeville, France. And, significant historical sites don’t end with the Civil War: There is the Trinity Episcopal Church and Cemetery, the Abbeville Railroad Depot, the Abbeville County Court House, a number of historical homes and churches, the Belmont Hotel (now, Inn) (c.1902) and the Abbeville Opera House (c.1908).

Up until popularity of silent films ensued, the 7,500-square-foot stage at the Opera House was filled by theatrical groups, road shows, famous performers and vaudeville acts who arrived, weekly, on the Seaboard Air Line Railroad. Today, the Opera House flourishes with lively stage productions and musicals and, between the summer and winter seasons, brings 36 weekends of live theater to the community and its visitors.

Activity in Abbeville still revolves around the town square, which has been restored to its original look, complete with its brightly colored buildings. A thoroughly walkable town, Abbeville allows visitors to soak up Southern ways as they stroll by the shops and restaurants.

Don’t leave town without stopping at The Village Grill for an incredible lunch or dinner. This establishment is committed to farm-fresh ingredients and a safe-for-the-environment business model. Try the Cajun spiced chicken fettucini with baby spinach and mushrooms. It’s amazing.

Abbeville is part of the Old 96 District, a five-county area that was reorganized out of what was the large territory historically called Ninety-Six; it was named in the 1700s for the trading distance between there and the Cherokee Village of Keowee in the upper foothills. Old 96 District is comprised of Abbeville, Greenwood, Edgefield, Laurens and McCormick. These towns are within an easy country drive of each other.

Make your way to Calhoun Falls State Park, located on Lake Richard B. Russell, for great fishing, camping, hiking and biking. Parsons Mountain, just outside of Abbeville’s city limits, offers primitive camping and biking trails.

At the end of the day, choose from among the fine lodging options. Enjoy the home comforts of the Bernibrooks Inn, just off the square. Wake up to a creative and delicious breakfast served family style. The historic Belmont Inn invites visitors to relax in its Victorian country inn charm. The movie “Sleeping With the Enemy,” starring Julia Roberts, was filmed here. Dine in at the Inn’s restaurant, Tatjana’s Fine Dining Room, which serves Sunday brunch.

Upcoming events

S.C. Festival of Flowers Arts and Crafts Show, various locations around Greenwood, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., June 20-21: You’ll be amazed at the incredible handmade and creative works. It’s a Southeastern Tourism Society “Top 20 Event.” Featuring original works from over 80 artists and crafts people. Free. See website for information on Topiaries & Tastings Wine Walk; Bee Buzzin’ Bike Tour; 5k Run & 1 Mile Walk/Run; Aviation Expo & Air Show + Radio-controlled Model Planes; Kidfest, Bluegrass Concert; and more events. For more information call (864) 223-8411 or visit http://www.scfestivalofflowers.org.

Thurmond Lake Sail and Power Squadron Fourth of July Boat Parade and Picnic, Dorn Boating Facility, McCormick, S.C., July 5: Gather at 10 a.m. Party follows parade. For more information call (864) 391-3591 or visit www.tlsps.org

S.C. Festival of Discovery, Uptown Greenwood, July 10-12: BBQ festival and competition, Blues Cruise. For more information, call (864) 942-8448 or visit www.visitgreenwoodsc.com.

McCormick Gold Rush Festival, McCormick, Sept. 19-20: For more information, call (864) 852-2835 or visit www.mccormickscchamber.org.

Edgefield Heritage Jubilee, Edgefield, Sept. 27: For more information, call (803) 275-0010 or visit www.edgefieldcountychamber.org.

Squealin’ on the Square, Laurens, Oct. 3-4: For more information, call (864) 984-2119 or visit www.mainstreetlaurens.org

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