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Over 350 Million Dollars Given Away

He was fond of saying that “the man who dies rich, dies disgraced,” And so he, turned his attention to giving away his fortune. He abhorred charity, and instead put his money to use helping others help themselves. That was the reason he spent much of his collected fortune on establishing over 2,500 public libraries, as well as supporting institutions of higher learning. By the time his life was over, he had given away 350 million dollars.

Who was this American philanthropist? Andrew Carnegie.

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This industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was born on November 25, 1835, in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. Carnegie grew up in a family that believed in the importance of books and learning. The son of a handloom weaver, Carnegie grew up to become one of the wealthiest businessmen in America.

At the age of 13, in 1848, Carnegie came to the United States with his family. They settled in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and Carnegie went to work in a factory, earning $1.20 a week. The next year he found a job as a telegraph messenger. Hoping to advance his career, he moved up to a telegraph operator position in 1851. He succeeded at each new job; he worked hard, kept his eyes open, and mastered each position. As they say, the rest is history.

My hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina’s first “public” library opened on October 17, 1885, on the top floor of a two-story building facing Kennedy Place; it was a gift to the city. Among the library’s first holdings was Dr. Kennedy’s 600-volume medical library and some 300 other books collected by the citizens of Spartanburg. The yearly subscription fee was $3.

The facility soon was adopted by the Ladies Auxiliary Association, which kept it stocked with books and furniture. By 1899, the ladies realized that Spartanburg was on the verge of outgrowing the little library. They wrote Andrew Carnegie, asking for a contribution to help build a new library. After four years of correspondence, the Kennedy Library Board was notified in June 1903 that Carnegie would donate $15,000 if the city would purchase the land and contribute $1,500 annually in support of the library. And it was done.

His generosity helped communities construct 2,811 free public libraries across America and 13 in South Carolina.

“A taste for reading is one of the most precious possessions of life.” -Andrew Carnegie

“There is not such a cradle of democracy upon this earth as the Free Public Library.” -Andrew Carnegie

“The man who enters a library is in the best society the world offers”                  -Andrew Carnegie


In Union, SC  is another library at 300 E. South Street which bears Carnegie’s name.

In Union Carnegie Library History, Jennie Holton Fant describes Carnegie as “a self-made immigrant,” who “succeeded in becoming the richest man in the world, with little education. He believed great wealth begets an obligation to provide for those of lesser fortune and he spent his money making books and information the shared property of all people, rich or poor. His free libraries were built to be a progressive hub of civic and cultural life for all citizens of a community. Fourteen towns in South Carolina benefited from the millionaire industrialist’s generosity between 1903 and 1920. He gave South Carolina $124,700 for thirteen public libraries to be built, and aid to one private library — the equivalent of over a million dollars today.”

The Union Library was the first public library in South Carolina.

Carnegie had a mission. This mission was born in Allegheny City, Pa., where Carnegie worked as a bobbin boy in a cotton mill — his job was to fill the bobbins with thread and oil them for the machines. He was determined to improve his lot, but he couldn’t pay the $2 subscription for a local library that was available only to apprentices (and he certainly couldn’t afford to buy books).

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He sent a letter to the library administrator asking for access to the library, but the administrator turned him down flat. So 17-year-old Andy got the letter published in The Pittsburgh Dispatch.

“He made his case so well that the administrator backed off immediately,” explains Carnegie biographer David Nasaw. “And the library was opened to working men as well as apprentices. He got what he wanted.”

In 1889 Carnegie wrote an article called “The Gospel of Wealth,” in which he spelled out his views on philanthropy: “In bestowing charity the main consideration should be to help those who help themselves.”

I would describe myself as an avid reader. From the early years of reading about Dick and Jane, I have sought out stories. During elementary school years, there was a limit of 15 books that could be checked out of the Kennedy Library in Spartanburg. They could be kept for two weeks. I ravenously read my choices and was always ready to check out more before those weeks were up.

Following in the reading lists of Mother and my grandmothers, I tended to read historical novels and biographies. There was a series of biographies of famous people that were in orange covers that I perused over-and-over. Gwen Bristow, Ken Follett, and Inglis Fletcher enthralled me with places and times I could only read about. Historical fiction is still my go-to comfort, but suspense and stories about my state also have their places on my book shelves. Pat Conroy, David Baldacchi, Kristin Hannah, Anthony Doerr, John Grisham are a few favorites.

Another one of my favorite authors is Charles Dickens, and he said,  “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”

Thank you, Andrew Carnegie, for giving so much money away to brighten our lives one hundred years later.




Knights of the Golden Horseshoe

My brother and I grew up listening to the story of Lt. Governor Alexander Spotswood and the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe. We never tired of hearing our grandmother Lulu tell this exciting tale.

While on the Internet yesterday, I ran across an event that was celebrating the 300th anniversary of the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Expedition, which took place in August and September 1716 and ended at Fort Germanna. Oh, how I wish I could have been in Virginia this past weekend.

Governor Spotswood was a visionary, as well as an entrepreneur. He designed the Governor’s Palace, the magazine,  and St. Bruton’s Church in Williamsburg. Looking for ways to expand the colony of Virginia, he recruited a “company of gentlemen,” to prove that the Blue Ridge could be easily crossed.  And he was the first to cross the Appalachian Mountains.

It was an illustrious group who mounted their horses and rode into uncharted forests, over rivers, and up mountains.

Many of these recruits had sons and grandsons who played important roles in the development of the American Republic. Among them was George Mason, whose son worked with George Washington to draft the Fairfax Resolves, and who designed much of the constitution of the new state of Virginia. Then there was James Taylor, the ancestor of two Presidents—James Madison and Zachary Taylor. Robert Brooke’s grandson became governor of Virginia in 1798, and Thomas Todd’s family helped secure Kentucky for the Americans during the Revolution, and produced a future First Lady for Abraham Lincoln.

We know about their adventures because John Fontaine described  and wrote about them; he kept a diary. Then there were others who recounted the narrative.

The reality started on August 20, 1716. Pack horses carried ample provisions. After all, this was a gentleman’s journey.

(See how Spotswood’s party lived on the trail in the picture to the right.)



Before beginning the ascent, the well-mounted, well-armed company had their horses shod, horses being accustomed to traverse the low country, where there were few stones, without shoes, and then camping and eating and drinking by night and pressing sturdily on by day the party finally reached the mountain’s summit, where they cut his Majesty’s name upon the rock of the highest peak, naming it Mount George, in honor of their sovereign, King George I, and the next highest peak Mount Alexander, in honor of Governor Spotswood.

The men, including the Indian chief, who had led their party sat on various rocks to behold the splendor of Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Governor Spotswood carried his thoughts into the future, and imagined the fine country which he beheld, peopled and glowing under the hands of the husbandman, and all his bright anticipations were more than realized. He could see farms, crops, dirt roads, and villages. At length he turned the man who sat near him not less entranced, and said, “They call me a visionary, but what imagination ever conjured up a vision like that?”

tomajestyFinally they descended to the Valley of the Shenandoah, loaded their muskets and feasted. They drank the health of the King in champagne and fired a volley; the health of the Princess in burgundy and fired a volley; the health of all other members of the royal family in claret and fired a volley, and wound up by drinking to the health of the energetic Governor who had led them to the promised land — not forgetting the volley.

goldenhorseshoe1And then they rode homeward as cheerily as they had set out reaching Williamsburg on September 17.

To commemorate the event and encourage new enterprises and settlements westward, Governor Spotswood gave to each of the company a miniature golden horseshoe, set with garnets to represent nail heads. Upon each was the inscription “Sic juvat transcendere montes” translated “Thus it is delightful to cross the mountains.” (Lulu’s voice took on a sense of wonder as she said these words.)

Thus the members of the expedition were known as the “Knights of the Horseshoe” and any gentleman entitled to wear this golden horseshoe proved he had drunk his Majesty’s health upon the summit of Mount George.

This is the only portrait of Governor Spotswood. The last time I saw it was hanging at Carter’s Grove Plantation. Don’t you love his wig? But his face is so kind. I believe I am going to be sharing more stories about this adventurer, because he was a Renaissance man that helped change America’s history.

Today in 1714: Virginia Gov. Spotswood takes note of new colony of Germans

“Bum, Bum, Bum Here We Come!”

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The serious Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.”

As adults, we don’t play like we did as children, but the memories of those fun days of playing with neighborhood children can suddenly flood our minds.

Yesterday, I went to a PEO meeting and was asked by one of the members where I had been. I missed last month’s meeting, and she had missed the one in July, so we hadn’t seen each other.

What came out of my mouth was certainly unexpected and truly made me smile.

I replied, “Pretty girl’s station” and then went on to recite the rest of that game’s answers.

Sitting in front of me was one of my contemporaries, and we laughed together. Neither one of us could remember how it started, so I went to Google for information today. If you aren’t of a certain age, this outside game might not be familiar to you.

Pretty Girl Station is the game I remember playing in the front yard of our home on Penarth Road. Even though the name is exclusive for today’s time, it was played by the neighborhood children for a slew of years.

Participants are divided into two teams, and being even isn’t important. Even with all the trees in our front yard, it was easy to face each other in a line-of-sorts.

Both sides decide on an occupation they want to pretend to be for the other side to guess. Since this was a children’s game, those jobs were easy ones to guess and portray, like fireman, nurses, etc. Mostly the choices were from television or pictures in books that we were all familiar with.Then Team A, with much fanfare and drama, walked toward the other team, saying, “Bum, bum, bum. Here we come.”

And then the questions and answers begin.

Where’re you from? (Team B)
Pretty Girl Station (Team A)

What’s your occupation? (Team B)
Most any old thing (Team A)

Then get to work! (Team B)

And then Team A plays out their occupation, similar to charades. When the job is recognized Team B, then Team A runs screaming (a most important part of this game) to get back to their side without being caught by Team B. If caught, then a child had to become a member of Team B.

This game continues could while away many hours of a summer afternoon. I can picture the fun, even if I don’t recognize the children.

Besides playing it at school, we also played it on the playground at First Baptist kindergarten.

“Life is more fun if you play games,” said Roald Dahl, and his writing declares that reading can also be fun.

So I might not go to the yard to march around singing, “Bum, Bum, Bum, Here I come,” this afternoon, I will certainly have a book in hand for a while.

Why don’t you join me for a fun afternoon with your book? As Martha Stewart always says, “It’s a good thing.”


Donuts, Birthday Wishes, Starfish, and Turkeys

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We are all touched by the kindness of others.

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” -Mark Twain

My dad loved donuts, as well as all things chocolate and more specifically my mother.

When I was a teenager, I found out that he had a donuts ministry. At random times, he would visit Krispy Kreme to buy several boxes of donuts. Then he would deliver these boxes to his mechanic, his doctor’s and dentist’s offices, and the law offices of men that he worked with. Several times a year, this was his schedule before he went to work at the bank.

I found out about this when he had surgery and couldn’t drive. He asked me one day to help him with some errands. After we picked up the donuts, he shared his route with me. At each stop, Daddy delivered the boxes of donuts. It was quite obvious that he was welcomed by all.

When we headed home, I asked why he was taking donuts to these businesses. His response was simple; “I want to let them know I appreciate them.”

There is no telling how many years he treated his cohorts to a box of donuts, but I do know he gifted them after his retirement.

Then he started another thoughtful gesture with his friends at church. He was a member of a group called the Young At Heart. Obviously this was a group made up of retirees. They met each month for lunch and went on trips together. In their newsletter was listed individual birthdays. Daddy started calling those on the list to wish them happy birthday. Even when his macular degeneration took his eyesight, he would have mother dial the numbers for him and  then greet his friends.

It was amazing through the years to hear the genuine thanks from others for these two small things he did on a regular basis.

You probably remember this old story.

A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.

“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks.

“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”

“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”

The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”

My brother had a turkey ministry. He bought turkeys and took them to families during the holidays. Whether they were members of his church or not, he seemed to find out about situations where a turkey would make a difference.

Then when he was going through his last bout with cancer, he took homemade chicken salad or pimento cheese to the those nurses and technicians that worked in the chemotherapy department. No, he didn’t make these Southern standbys; his sweet wife did that. But he never went to an appointment empty-handed. He was grateful they were trying to help him, and he appreciated it.

“There are things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” -Henry James

So shall we be more kind? Can you imagine the difference in our world if everyone chose to be kind?

Whether a box of donuts, a phone call, a turkey, or homemade pimento cheese, kindness takes on its own heart when shared with someone else.


Remembering Hurricane Hugo

In the Colonial period tropical storms and hurricanes were known as “September gales,” probably because the ones people remembered and wrote about were those which damaged or destroyed crops just before they were to be harvested.

Charleston was hit on September 25, 1686. It was described as “wonderfully horrid and destructive…Corne is all beaten down and lyes rotting on the ground… Aboundance of our hoggs and Cattle were killed in the Tempest by the falls of Trees…” But this gale also prevented a Spanish assault on the city by destroying one of their galleys and killing the commander of the Spanish assault.

Hurricanes and tropical storms are irregular visitors to coastal South Carolina. Starting in 1851, there is more information about each one. In the period, 1851-2016,  24 hurricanes have made landfall.

Hurricane Hugo attacked South Carolina and North Carolina 27 years ago, but for us that lived through its assault have not forgotten its sound and fury.

“The weather on September 21st, 1989 started off not much different than any other late summer or early Fall day. But that all began to change quickly as nighttime approached. For those that decided to stay it was certainly a night they will never forget.”

Today the Eastern shores of Georgia and South Carolina await another hurricane named Hermine. It made landfall early this morning in Florida with a furious mix of rain, whistling winds and surging waves. As it continues to move, it has been downgraded to a tropical storm. Hermine’s toll has yet to be determined.

We don’t have to wait for storms to come into our lives; strong winds of hurt and loss can make us stumble during any day or month. But as Gandalf said, ““All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

I watched a DVD series last month called the Winds of War. It was a 1983 miniseries based on books written by Herman Wouk. The plot follows an American family as they face the history before World War II. Even though the circumstances are the same, each individual has different reactions and chooses his own path, just as in life.

In her book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott tells this story.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

When we encounter someone who is buffeted by hurricanes, let’s choose to encourage them. In fact, we can walk beside them. That is what friendship is all about.


September Events:

September 10 – Pioneer Day in Gray Court, SC

September 16 – Revolutionary War History Museum in Simpsonville, SC

September 17 – Bethabara Apple Festival in Winston Salem, NC

September 22 – DAR Chapter in Bishopville, SC



“That Ragged Old Flag”


In 1974, Johnny Cash released an album that included “That Raggedy Old Flag.” It is a spoken word tribute to the flag of the United States, and it speaks of patriotism and how our flag has led us in battles and wars.

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution which stated: “Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.

There is mystery over who made the first flag and where it was first flown.

The Betsy Ross story is the most popular, though there is no credible historical evidence to prove it so.

The story started in 1870, almost 100 years after the first flag was supposedly sewn, when William Canby, Ross’s grandson, told the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia that his grandmother made the flag at George Washington’s request. His evidence was based solely on family tradition.

While Ross did make flags in Philadelphia in the late 1770s, it is all but certain that the story about her creating the American flag is a myth.

I don’t believe it truly matters as to whom sewed the first flag. Americans love our flag. It is displayed on homes, at government offices, in parades, and at funerals. In our home, we proudly displayed my dad’s folded flag and my husband’s grandfather’s flag.

Truly its symbolism can bring a tear to a veteran’s eye or a smile to a child reciting its pledge.

From America the Beautiful to Yankee Doodle Dandy, lyrics about this flag stir our hearts.

Yes, to this continued stirrings of our hearts and our belief that Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

August Events:

August 18 – Sunrise Optimist Club

August 26-27 – SCDAR Fall Forum

Focus on the Family

I enjoy writing about families; my first books were about strong SC women and their families during the Revolutionary War. Researching that era made me realize the hard lives of two hundred years ago, and walking behind them at their home sites was a pleasure.

Then I wrote a piece about my dad’s years at the Citadel and how his junior class was sent to WW II. Interviewing him and his class mates taught me much about that Greatest Generation. Their tightness as friends in their 80’s was forged in their 20’s by their war experiences.

Next was an article on two audacious sisters in Greenville, SC who drove to ask Frank Lloyd Wright to draw the blueprints for their new house and he did. Being able to walk in that house and sit in the living room opened my eyes to an architecture that I had previously not appreciated. Having lunch with their contractor  and listening to him describe the materials he used gave an invisible depth to this home.

I have finished eight short stories about past generations of women in my husband’s family that worked in the cotton mills in SC. One will be published in the Savannah Anthology next month. Though I had met several of them, I had no idea of their challenges as mill workers; this was eye-opening.

After writing about John’s third great grandfather and three brothers who fought in the Battle of Fredericksburg, I learned much about their Appalachian history. I now have a visual of those tall, lanky, bearded, and blue-eyed men who wore slouch hats and ran into that bloody battle. Last summer, we walked along the Sunken Road where this grandfather died.

Looking back on these past ten years of retirement, I can see that my focus continues to stay on the same page, as my muse works with me to keep writing family stories.

Whether it is my family, your family, or a stranger’s family, they are all going to be a mixed bag of personalities and characters. One of my ancestors is the most famous thief in America, Jessie James. My grandmother always proclaimed he was maligned and more like Robin Hood. I am ready to discover his back story and maybe prove Lulu accurate.

We need to share our stories with the next generation. Seven years ago, I found myself the matriarch on both sides of my family. It was not a position I chose or was ready for. When my cousin Bobby accurately dubbed me the matriarch, I refused the title. Now I am intentionally sharing our stories, and they are my gift to the next generations.

Today, as I answered in an author’s site about what drove me to write, I realized again that my writing is a tribute to my family and other families. Can I suggest you tell your stories, too?

“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”– Mother Teresa