William Gilmore Simms researched the Dark Corner area

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2016

William Gilmore Simms, the antebellum author of essays, poems and novels—and the author of History of South Carolina, used for decades as a textbook in the state’s schools—spent a great deal of time in the Dark Corner area in 1847.

Much of that time was spent with James Fisher, a fellow whose family was among the very first in the Dark Corner area. James himself had a tendency to move around a lot, rather than remaining on his original homestead. He owned land on Jamison Mill Creek and the south side of Vaughn’s Creek near the peak called Dug Hill.

He was born at the headwaters of the Pacolet River in 1777, he told Simms. If that is true, then the Fisher family were squatters on Cherokee Nation land, since all land west of the old Indian Boundary Line (present-day Greenville/Spartanburg County line) was not ceded to the new State of South Carolina until 1778.

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Considered an expert hunter, Fisher was also a “teller of tales.” This is the reason Simms sought him out for research. Most of his novels were based on one-on-one interviews and shared experiences with people who liked to talk and liked to relate life experiences, in addition to being good storytellers.

Simms wanted to “get the measure” of Fisher, who had been an avid hunter for virtually all of his seventy years in the mountainous area.

In addition to short forays into Dark Corner woods, he made an extended hunting trip with Fisher over the line into North Carolina, from the western side of Tryon Mountain to the Canebrake Fork of the Toxaway River. Nathan and Bill Langford, Columbus Mills and a man named Green went along.

During the hunting foray, other hunters were asked to join the group because of their knowledge of the country and of the best places to find game.

Simms made copious notes about the hunters, how they dressed, the guns they used, and how they worked with their dogs.

He noted much about their poverty and their lack of comforts; how they helped each other and shared knowledge and game. He learned their pursuits and interests, and noted how they differed from Indians.

He even made mention of “their usefulness in paving the way for civilization and guarding the frontiers of the civilized” when he incorporated his notes into two novels, “Voltmeier” and “The Cub of the Panther,” as well as two masterful short stories, “Sharp Snaffles” and “Bald-Head Bill Bauldy.”