Berkeley County is home to many historic pineland villages, from Pineville to Pinopolis to Honey Hill. Read on to learn more about the history of these hamlets and the value of pine trees.
If you have thoughts, questions, or ideas about conservation efforts in Berkeley County, please reply directly to this email, reach out at [email protected], or give me a call at (843) 723-5127. I look forward to hearing from you!
The Berkeley County Dispatch
Rice plantations of the late 18th and early 19th centuries were dangerous places to be in the summer months. Of course, it was hardest on the enslaved Africans who were forced to work the land. The air was hot and stagnant. The sun was hot and constant. And the boggy swamps and low-lying rice fields bred thousands of mosquitos that spread malaria, a common cause of death at the time. To escape the heat and disease, planters established upland hamlets amongst the longleaf pine forests, believing the trees provided health benefits. The planters, their families, and a few enslaved domestic workers would retreat to these pineland villages to pass the summer, leaving the work and the miserable, deadly conditions of the plantation predominantly to enslaved field hands and overseers.
Pineville, located in the northwest corner of Berkeley County near the Santee River, was the first pineland village established in the region. It was settled by a small group of local planters in 1794. They named the village Pineville for its “religiously preserved” pine trees and “sweet and balmy air.” By the early 1800s, Pineville was a thriving hamlet, unequaled by other pineland villages in its culture and education. The village had a racecourse, ballroom, library, a renowned grammar school, and an Episcopal church—Pineville Chapel—built in 1810. However, throughout the 1830s, Pineville experienced a succession of epidemics and most residents moved to other nearby villages. In 1865, at the end of the Civil War, the Union Army burned most of the homes and other structures in Pineville. Only a few of the original buildings remain today, but those include Pineville Chapel, which was restored in 1940 and included on the National Register for Historic Places in 1992. To learn more about pineland villages in Berkeley County, check out the book Plantations, Pineland Villages, Pinopolis and Its People by Norman Sinkler Walsh.
Today, Pineville is a quiet, rural community in unincorporated Berkeley County, surrounded mostly by farms and timberland. A lot has changed since the village’s early heyday, but one thing has remained constant—the omnipresence of pine trees and their benefits to both humans and nature.
In the early days of Pineville, most of the trees in the area were native longleaf pines. Mature longleaf pines enrich their soil, absorb and filter vast amounts of water, and store carbon over long periods of time, which purifies our air. Well-managed longleaf pine forests provide excellent wildlife habitat as well. These unique ecosystems can support up to 40 species per square yard and are home to upwards of 30 threatened and endangered species, including the red-cockaded woodpecker.
The longleaf pine is known as “the tree that built the South” because it was harvested for decades to build structures, ships, and railroads. Unfortunately, these trees are rather slow-growing, and many of the mature longleaf pine forests in South Carolina have been lost. However, foresters, landowners and conservation organizations like The Longleaf Alliance have begun working together to restore and protect longleaf forests across the South for their immense ecological value.
Nowadays, many of pine forests you see in Berkeley County, throughout the Lowcountry, and across the state are actually timber tracts made up of fast-growing species such as loblolly pine. These forests are certainly distinct from longleaf forests, but they have many ecological and economic benefits. According to the 2020 Forest Action Plan composed by the S.C. Forestry Commission, forestry is a crucial component of the state’s economy, contributing over $21 billion every year!
As growth continues in Berkeley County and across the state, more forest land will be at risk of becoming converted to housing and commercial development. This threatens the productivity of the timber industry, increases stormwater runoff, decreases carbon storage capacity, puts more pressure on our public land such as National Forests and Wildlife Management Areas, and increases the risk of wildfires.
That is why the Conservation League is working hard to ensure future planning tools enhance conservation goals and establish a funding mechanism for land preservation.
Forests are fundamental to our history, our health, and our economy in Berkeley County. More measures for protecting them need to be established. One tool for this is the One Berkeley Comprehensive Plan. The second round of public engagement is set to begin this spring, and we must continue to advocate for more recommended policies that protect our natural resources.
Another important tool for helping foresters, landowners and organizations protect our forests is a local conservation fund. If you would like to learn more about what a local conservation fund could accomplish and how we can work together to establish a program, mark your calendar for March 26 from noon to 1 p.m. We will be hosting a webinar with our partners at Audubon South Carolina and Lowcountry Land Trust to discuss the effort. Look out for more details and links to register coming soon!
Getting Out and About in Berkeley County
As the weather warms and many of us receive long-awaited vaccinations, here are some opportunities to get out and about in Berkeley County.
- Wilson’s Landing Cleanup – Saturday, March 13 at 9 a.m. Hosted by Keep Berkeley Beautiful. Learn more and sign up here.
- Berkeley County Council and Committee Meetings – Monday, March 22 at 6 p.m. Administration Building – Assembly Room, 1003 Highway 52, Moncks Corner. Agendas, when posted, can be reviewed here.
- Berkeley County Planning Commission – Tuesday, March 23 at 6 p.m. Administration Building – Assembly Room, 1003 Highway 52, Moncks Corner. Agendas, when posted, can be reviewed here.
- Great American Cleanup – Sunday, March 28 at 8:30 a.m. Spiers Landing – 1505 Spiers Landing Road, Cross. Hosted by Keep Berkeley Beautiful. Learn more and sign up here.
- Clays for Conservation – Friday, April 16 at 8:30 a.m. Backwoods Quail Club – 647 Hemingway Lane, Georgetown. Hosted by Lord Berkeley Conservation Trust. Find more info and register here.
- Berkeley County Revolutionary War Battlefields Tour – Friday, April 30 at 8:30 a.m. Tour begins at 136 E Railroad Avenue, Moncks Corner. Hosted by Lord Berkeley Conservation Trust. Find more info and register here.