Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> Ephraim Bartlett, the Edisto Raftsman >> Page 408

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Page 408

Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription ["Ephraim Bartlett, the Edisto Raftsman" was published in 1852
as an installment of "Home Sketches, or Life A long the Highways
and Byways of the South," a series which Simms wrote for the
Literary World, edited by his friends, the Duyckinck brothers.
Explanatory and Textual Notes begin on page 792.]
The Edisto Raftsman.
j resume my narrative. In my last, we had just hurried across the
common road, once greatly travelled, leading along the Ashley,
to the ancient village of Dorchester. Something was said of the
fine old plantations along this river. It was the aristocratic region
during the Revolution; and when the Virginians and Marylanders,
at the close of the war, who had come to the succor of Carolina
against the British, drew nigh to Charleston, their hearts were won
and their eyes ravished, by the hospitalities and sweets of this
neighborhood. Many brave fellows found their wives along this river,
which was bordered by flourishing farms and plantations, and
crowned by equal luxury and refinement. Here, too, dwelt many of
those high-spirited and noble dames whose courage and patriotism
contributed so largely to furnish that glorious chapter in Revolu-
tionary history, which has been given to the women of that period.
The scene is sadly changed at this season. The plantations along the
Ashley are no longer flourishing as then. The land has fallen in
value, not exhausted, but no longer fertile and populous. The health
of the country is alleged to be no longer what it was. This I regard
as all absurdity. The truth is that the cultivation was always inferior;
and the first fertile freshness of the soil being exhausted, the opening
of new lands in other regions naturally diverted a restless people
from their old abodes. The river is still a broad and beautiful one,
navigable for steamers and schooners up to Dorchester, which, by
land, is twenty-one miles from Charleston. There is abundant means
for restoring its fertility. Vast beds of marl, of the best quality, skirt
the river all along the route, and there is still a forest growth
sufficiently dense to afford the vegetable material necessary to the
preparation of compost. As for the health of the neighborhood, I