Remembering Benjamin

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New marker honors Clyburn family legacy

By Michele Roberts

An unveiling ceremony for a historical maker designating the Old Clyburn Plantation was held Nov. 10 , just in time for Veteran’s Day.


The site of the old plantation home, located at the corner of Gold Mine Highway (S.C. 601) and Tom Gregory Road in Kershaw, marks the legacy of a family whose history predates the Civil War. The keynote speaker at the ceremony was Melody Clyburn Craig, chair of the Lancaster County Historical Commission. Craig is also the great-granddaughter of Thomas Lorenzo Clyburn, who built the Clyburn Plantation.

“I started working on the Clyburn family history about 20 years ago,” she said. “My mom was 90 years old when she died in 2005 and had spent over 60 years researching her side of the family, so I wanted to know more about my dad’s side of the family, the Clyburns.”

Craig initiated contact with Ruby Clyburn, a distant cousin and retired school teacher, who gave her one sheet of paper with a few Clyburn names on it. One of those names was Benjamin Rutledge Clyburn, the oldest son of Thomas Clyburn.

“A few years earlier, I had read his name in Mrs. Frances’ Jeffcoat’s book about Civil War soldiers from Lancaster County and had wondered if he and I were related. I had always loved Civil War history and had not found a Civil War ancestor in my mother’s family at that time.”

Clyburn said that there was something about seeing Ben’s name on that piece of paper that made her very sad.

“All it said about him was that he was born in 1840 and died in 1877 and had been married to Clara Mittag and had no children. Ben had literally been forgotten, and I made it my priority to find out all I could about him so he would be remembered. That one piece of paper is how I got started, and my research has never ended,” Craig said.

Craig’s research uncovered that Tom Clyburn and his wife, Kate Blue of Chesterfield County, had another son, Thomas Franklin, in 1843. Kate died when the boys were 12 and 9 years old, respectively, and Tom remarried Martha Marcella Williams of Fork Hill. The couple had three children between 1854 and 1857 – Catherine Almetta, Lewis Marcellus and William Uriah, who was known as “Bill U.”

Ben and Frank both served in the military during the Civil War, but Bill U was only 8 years old when Sherman’s forces marched through the area and burned Pleasant Plain Church, as well as destroyed Haile Gold Mine equipment. Craig said an older cousin passed down the story that Bill U hid under a bridge to watch what was going on, because he had heard the Union soldiers were “monsters” and wanted to see what they looked like.
Bill U inherited a good deal of land and built a house .25 miles from the original Clyburn plantation site, where it stands today. The home has been occupied by five generations of Clyburns. Today, Tom Clyburn Gregory, his wife Dorothy and their son, John, live there.

“I knew John had been trying to get a marker for this site, but I wasn’t sure it would be approved by (J.) Tracy (Power) down at the S.C. Department of Archives,” Craig said. “Unless a site is well-known, it is really hard to get enough documentation and get a marker approved, so I know John has worked really hard to make this happen. I appreciate all that he and Dorothy and Tom have done.”

Sonya Poole, founder and president of the Kershaw Historical Society, also spoke at the ceremony and stressed the importance of preserving local history.

“We need to have as much information available so future generations can learn about their family history,” Poole said.

Poole also emphasized that the mission of historical societies is to recognize, restore and preserve all family history.

“It’s not just about recognizing those who had a great impact on our communities,” she said. “Everyone has scalawags and rascals in their families, and we need to love them and embrace them, too. History is about everyone, not just the ones who made great contributions,” Poole said.

The Old Clyburn Plantation marker is the first one in South Carolina sponsored by the Kershaw Historical Society.
Poole also commended the Gregory family for their hard work in making the marker a reality, which was paid for by Haile Gold Mine.

Poole said it’s important to remember that these people were once living, breathing, passionate people, not just names and dates on a tombstone. “They lived, laughed and loved just like we do, and we are a result of those that came before us.”