2019-01-11 / Travel

My Mother's People

By Warner M. Montgomery, Ph.D.


A bridge was built over the Santee River in 1932. A bridge was built over the Santee River in 1932. Where you f rom? Who yo’ people? These were important questions asked while I was growing up in Columbia. I learned to answer in this way....

My parents, Mary Gourdin and Miller Montgomery, were married in Pineville, S.C., in 1938 and rented an apartment in Columbia where both had gone to college and where my father had a job at The State newspaper. I was the first baby born in the Providence Hospital. That was May 10, 1939, at 6 pm. (Note: Providence Hospital in Columbia was founded by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Augustine in 1938.)

My mother’s people were among the early Huguenot families who landed in Charleston after fleeing bloody persecution in Napoleonic France. They paddled up the Cooper River to a high dry pine forest adjacent to the Santee swamp and relatively free of mosquitoes. In 1715, they joined other European settlers to defeat Yemassee warriors in a bloody battle. After burying 22 fallen settlers, they cleared land, built homes, and planted crops in the county named Berkeley in honor of Lord Proprietors John and William Berkeley.


I was the first baby born in the Providence Hospital in Columbia. I was the first baby born in the Providence Hospital in Columbia. The S. C. General Assembly granted Joseph Murray, Theodore Gaillard, Theodore Gourdin, William Staggers (a slave trader), and several other Huguenot settlers the right to build and operate a ferry across the Santee River in 1741. This provided access to settlement in the Up Country.

In 1793, retreating from the heat of Charleston, James Sinkler, John Cordes, Peter Gaillard, John Palmer, and brothers Peter, Philip, and Samuel Porcher established summer homes on the banks of the Santee River in Berkeley County. They named their village “Pineville” for its pine forest and its sweet and balmy air.


This Episcopal chapel was established in Pineville in 1810. This Episcopal chapel was established in Pineville in 1810. The Pineville settlers erected an Episcopal chapel in 1810, giving up their religious ties to Protestant France. They tended crops, sang Anglican hymns, worshipped their ancestors, and carefully watched Presbyterians moving in on their flank in the newly created Williamsburg County.

By 1830, Pineville had more than 60 houses, a chapel, an academy, a library, and a race track. Union troops burned the village in 1865, except for the chapel, library, post office, and a Gourdin House ( ca. 1820). The Pineville Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

In 1932, a small bridge on highway 45 over Crawl Creek connected Pineville with the town of St. Stephens, and a bridge over the Santee River on highway 52 connected St. Stephens with Greeleyville in Williamsburg County. At the junction of highways 52 and 45 between the two bridges was a hotel-store-gas station called the Swamp Fox Inn. It was named for Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion whose grave was only a few miles away in Pineville.


A ferry was established across the Santee River in 1741. A ferry was established across the Santee River in 1741. Next Week: My Father’s People



The Swamp Fox Inn (hotel-store-gas station) was at the junction of highways 52 and 45 between St. Stephens and Pineville in the 1930s. The Swamp Fox Inn (hotel-store-gas station) was at the junction of highways 52 and 45 between St. Stephens and Pineville in the 1930s.

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