Once upon a time there was a colony called Carolina. It was a big place—too big, in fact, for the wide variety of people and places operating under the Crown’s royal thumb. So in 1712 it was split into North and South Carolina, and the border between the two remains a thorny subject to this very day. As the legislatures of both states now wrestle with a stretch of York County land that is still in dispute 300 years after the colony was divided, we have a chance to pause and ask how we got to this point.
In 1735, surveyors with instructions to set the boundary at the 35th Parallel made their first attempt. However, rough terrain, inhospitable conditions, and perhaps a lax attitude toward the task resulted in a line that was some 12 miles too far south—dispute number one. A second survey team set out in 1764, under orders from King George III to get it right if you please, and they established a new line. This time, their calculations robbed South Carolina of some 400,000 plus acres—dispute number two.
Efforts were then made to clarify the line once and for all and that brings us to the legend of the whiskey trail. The story goes that surveyors working to nail down that contentious line between York County, SC and Mecklenburg County, NC came upon a fellow traveler loaded down with corn for the whiskey still located a few miles north. The legend says the thirsty surveyors followed the wagon and availed themselves of the fine spirits of the still before setting a course to regain their targeted path without returning to the spot where they had left the road in pursuit of ye old happy hour. The result, some say, is the part of the map that juts up into North Carolina that effectively puts Fort Mill, Tega Cay, and Clover within the legal limits of the state of South Carolina.
Whether the legend of the thirsty surveyors is fact or fiction, it makes for a good story and doesn’t muddle the facts any more than they’ve been muddled by previous generations of mapmakers and politicians. So if you enjoy the lower taxes, excellent schools, and historically rich tapestry of our South Carolina home, raise a glass to those who may have left the dusty road and changed a town’s destiny. Bottoms up y’all.