In honor of one of Historic Columbia’s most popular tours returning next week, here are some highlights of just a few of the countless interesting stories hidden in the historic Elmwood Cemetery. James Henley Thornwell was a professor at South Carolina College who joined the faculty in 1837 and replaced William Campbell Preston as the institution’s president. Thornwell’s term is best remembered for the “Great Biscuit Rebellion of 1852” in which students and faculty clashed over compulsory dining rules and the almost 40% of the student body quit school in protest. In November 1854, Thornwell resigned his presidency to accept a chair position at the Columbia Theological Seminary, today’s Robert Mills House. Just two years after Thornwell’s move to the Seminary, this distinguished teacher and administrator experienced a personal tragedy as his son, Jackson Witherspoon, died at just 8 years old. His plot marked with a motif of a lamb bears the inscription, “The lamb is a fit emblem of this dear child who delighted to call himself his mother’s lamb.”
Reverend John L. Girardeau was born on October 6th, 1845 and died on April 5th, 1911.
He was a professor at the Columbia Theological Seminary and served as a chaplain in the 23rd South Carolina Infantry during the Civil War. The 23rd SC Infantry fought in the Battle of 2nd Manassas where they suffered 68% losses. The regiment also incurred heavy losses at the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam) and at Petersburg, Virginia at the Battle of the Crater. His marker bears the distinct motif of a Bible on a pulpit. His marker is inscribed, “After patiently enduring he obtained the promise, Hebrews 6.15.” Reverend Girardeau had two grandsons who served in World War I, Hearne Girardeau Jr. in the American Ambulance Service attached to the Italian Army, and Charles J. Girardeau, his younger brother, who saw action at the Battle of Champagne and around the Verdun front. Both brothers died in their thirties and were buried next to their grandfather in Elmwood Cemetery. Today, many male and female veterans are buried in Elmwood Cemetery. The cemetery has set aside a portion of land for a veteran’s section to allow family members a National Cemetery-like atmosphere somewhere closer than Florence or Beaufort.
Find out more about these and other fascinating Columbians at Historic Columbia’s popular Cemetery Tours which return on Thursday, April 13 starting at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Elmwood Cemetery. Offered on the second Thursday of each month, April through September, Historic Columbia’s Cemetery Tours bring 160 years of history to life. Grab a flashlight and discover centuries of stories etched in stone on the markers and headstones found within Elmwood Cemetery’s acres of carefully planned grounds. To purchase tickets, visit historiccolumbia.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (803) 252-1770 x 23.
“I love museums!” The comment was enthusiastic and genuine. It came from one of South Carolina’s Congressmen last month during Museum Advocacy Day organized by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). A record attendance of more than 350 people from all 50 states who spent the day canvassing Capitol Hill underscored the concern over proposed cuts in federal funding for museums. Many of us do, as a matter of fact, love museums:
Museums are popular. There are approximately 850 million visits each year to American museums, more than number of people who visit theme parks AND attend major league sporting events. Just one local example, in 2016 the South Carolina State Museum had over 160,000 visitors and a school visitation of 68,000.
Museums impact our economy. Nationally, museums sustain more than 400,000 jobs and directly contribute $21 billion to the economy each year. Here in South Carolina, where tourism is our number one industry, museums play a vital role in both entertaining our visitors (where do summertime tourists go on a rainy day?) but also educating them about the role our state has played in American history.
Museums serve the public. Just one example includes the twenty-five museums in our state that participate in the NEA’s Blue Star Museums initiative giving free summer admission to all active-duty and reserve personnel and their families (serving over 923,000 people nationwide).
The South Carolina delegation visiting Capitol Hill included students from USC’s Honors College and museum folks from Richland, Horry, Charleston, and Oconee counties. We spent the day meeting with our representatives to request that they maintain funding for the Office of Museum Services (OMS). The OMS, which is part of the larger Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), awards grants that help to educate students, digitize collections, and engage communities.
Here are some interesting numbers that help to explain why we felt strongly enough to travel to D.C. to represent our state’s museums in person:
From 2014 to 2016, 3 South Carolina museums received IMLS grants totaling $139,000.
During those same years, 3 NEH and NEA grants totaling $553,000 went to five museums.
The Humanities Council of South Carolina received $2.1 million and the South Carolina Arts Commission $2.3 million. Those funds, in turn, flowed outward and supported a wide variety of museum programs and projects.
The proposed federal budget recently submitted by the White House will directly and negatively affect the historic and cultural organizations of South Carolina. Of particular concern is the proposal to eliminate entirely the NEA and NEH. Now is the time, if you love museums, to act. We have helped start the conversation, but now it’s up to those who value what South Carolina’s museums contribute to our quality of life to voice their support before it’s too late.
Caption: Fielding Freed with other SC delegates visiting Senator Lindsey Graham on Capitol Hill last month.