Keeping our history alive

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Renovated courthouse gives Lancaster County its own history museum

From release
For many years, Lancaster County Historical Commission has wanted a building to use as a museum.


Lancaster County was one of only two counties in S.C. which did not have a county museum, so when the historic courthouse was renovated, Lancaster County council gave LCHC three of the four rooms on the first floor to use as a museum. The fourth room is the county welcome center, which was also much-needed.

The commission has not actively solicited donations of artifacts and items for the museum and have to be somewhat selective because of space restraints. However, the commission has not turned down any donation for display as long as it pertains to Lancaster County’s history. Several generous Lancaster County residents and former residents have donated some interesting and very valuable items.

The very first donation was from a former county resident who gave the commission a hand-crafted desk, made by an ancestor prior to the Civil War. It had been in his family for generations and the commission voted to accept this gift before the museum was even opened.  It is on display in the left corridor of the museum.

Various items pertaining to the history of Lancaster County are on display in the three museum rooms.

Items on display in Room One

  • An old and valuable silk flag, handmade in 1841, used by the Lancaster Invincibles, an early county militia group. The commission had this flag conserved in 2005 and prior to being placed in the museum, was on display in the county administration building.
  • An old silver Spanish coin found in the soil of the Unity Community over 30 years ago; Spanish coins were the most commonly used coins during the colonial period in early America until a monetary system was established, quite likely owned by one of the early settlers, “the Waxhaws.”
  • A broadaxe, a large-headed axe used for shaping logs by hand hewing;  the axe was found during the renovation and restoration of the building after the 2008 fire. 
  • A hand-made brick from the original courthouse which has the imprint of a dog’s paw print in it; other courthouse-related items, such as architectural remnants and hand-made nails are also on display. 
  • Old picture postcards of the courthouse.
  • Copies of the original, signed paperwork regarding the construction of the courthouse obtained from the S.C. Department of Archives; the museum plans to frame these documents and place them on display.
  • Two small flags said to have been used at a rally when General Wade Hampton visited Lancaster County while campaigning for governor of South Carolina in the late 1870s.
  • A large, framed 1890 map of the Carolinas, on loan from a county resident, stands on the mantel.
  • A collection of artifacts unearthed at the Buford Massacre site, also known as the “Battle of the Waxhaws” on loan until early next year from the S.C. Department of Transportation.

Items on display in Room Two

Two display cabinets display the following:

  • A camera collection that once belonged to Mr. Lavoy Bauknight, who had a photography studio in downtown Lancaster;  the collection of cameras includes some dating back to World War II, along with various accessories and different types of film.  The centerpiece is the collection is a large portrait camera on a tripod.
  • A medical bag, a pair of forceps and glass pill bottles that belonged to Dr. R. L. Crawford, who practiced medicine in Lancaster County for many years.  
  • Medical books and ledgers that belonged to one of the county’s first physicians, Dr. W. F. Laney; Dr. Laney’s barn lantern, which he used for night calls,  is on display.
  • A large collection of Springs Mill memorabilia.
  • Vintage photographs of Haile Gold Mine.
  • Items from old businesses and companies that operated in Lancaster County.
  • Old jury pool box, used by the county before the automated process and a group picture from 1967 of the first Lancaster County jury that included women.

Items on display in Room Three

  • A partially assembled 18th century loom, in the process of being restored.
  • A rocking chair owned by one of Lancaster’s pioneer families, the Dunlaps.
  • A collection of antique ironstone, transferware, pressed glass and flatware that belonged to the first chairperson of the historical commission.

Also for sale are copies of Death of a Goldmine, which was reprinted and has sold over $12,000 worth of copies. The books are still available for $20 each.

The museum recently received some donations including an old desk from Tradesville School, a Victorian piano bench from Oak Hill Baptist Church, a dome-top radio from the 1940s, a stoneware butter churn and advertising thermometers and an old glass advertising clock from old country stores. The museum is in the process of obtaining portraits of notable citizens including President Andrew Jackson, Governor Steven Decatur Miller and Governor James Hodges. Displays honoring Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke and Dr. J. Marion Sims, “The Father of American gynecology,” are also in the works.

In January, the museum expects to receive the conserved battle flag of the Lancaster Invincibles, Company H, Second S.C., organized on the grounds of the courthouse in 1861, which will be placed on display in a case.
The museum board consists of seven commissioners and six advisors, all volunteers appointed by Lancaster County council.