|History OF Cayce
“Cradle of the Midlands”: A Comprehensive History
In order to gain perspective on the City’s achievements and to measure progress, let us first look at Cayce’s rich and fascinating past. This rich heritage is an ample source of civic pride and identity today for every Cayce citizen.
From a trading post to a Revolutionary fort to a prominent suburb of the state capital, Cayce’s history is long and colorful and fills an important niche in the story of South Carolina.
It has been proven through archeological studies, that Native Americans have occupied this area continuously for the past 12 to 15,000 years.
Historians have discovered that the famous explorer DeSoto made a trip up the Congaree River in 1540 to a large Indian village at Congaree Creek, on the site of where Cayce now stands. At the time of DeSoto’s 1540 exploration, the village at the Congarees was considerable.
Near the end of the 1600’s, explorers began to explore here. John Lawson, an English explorer, visited and documented his trip in 1700. In 1718, the English built the first permanent fort here which became the first structure built in the Midlands. A second fort was built on the river in 1748. These forts were referred to as Congaree Fort # 1 and Congaree Fort # 2.
Cayce’s history cannot be told without including Saxe Gotha and Granby, two of its important forerunners:
In the early 1730’s King George II gave instructions that 11 Royal Townships be marked as potential settlement areas inland, each containing approximately 20,000 acres. One of these townships, Saxe Gotha, was laid out in 1733 at the Congaree River. Settlers began arriving as early as in 1734.
The town of Granby was laid out in 1735 and during the time of so much river traffic and transportation became the most important inland, commercial town east of the Mississippi River. In 1754, a Swiss immigrant named Fridig (Friday) purchased 100 acres on the Congaree River at Granby and established the first ferry on the Congaree.
James Chesnut and Joseph Kershaw, for whom Kershaw County would later be named, built a trading post at Granby in 1765. This two-story frame building was to stand for almost 200 years and was to have its place in American history. It was during the Revolutionary War in 1781 that the trading post was seized and occupied by the British. It became famous because of the battles at Fort Granby and because of young Emily Geiger, South Carolina’s own young Revolutionary War heroin. This building was:
In 1765 A Trading Post
In 1781 A Revolutionary War fort – Fort Granby
From 1817 – 1914 The Cayce House (the Cayce family home)
The town of Granby continued to flourish in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and was listed as the most important development between Camden and Augusta.
In 1785, Granby was named the seat of Lexington County and the Lexington District in 1804. In Drayton’s “View of South Carolina” in 1802, Granby was described as a settlement of 200 houses, considerably larger than Columbia that had between 80 and 100 houses. President George Washington visited Granby on his Southern Tour in 1791 and rode Friday’s Ferry across to Columbia, South Carolina’s new capital city.
But Granby’s prominence and prosperity were eclipsed by problems that ironically, stemmed from the river that had also brought the town so much prosperity. In 1818, the Lexington County Seat was moved to Lexington because of constant flooding in the Granby area, and the town of Granby fell into decline. (All that remains of old Granby today is the Granby Cemetery, a town cemetery, that was located just outside the town and which still has gravestones that date back to the 18th Century.)
In 1817, the Cayce family moved into the old fort and they and their descendants lived there for the next 97 years, until 1914. During the Civil War, the Cayce House regained prominence under the guidance of its gregarious matron, Mrs. Caroline Rucker Cayce who had become the young bride of R. W. G. Cayce in 1863. Their home being situated on the old State Road, the Cayce’s opened their doors to weary soldiers and to travelers making the journey to and from the Low Country.
The capital city of South Carolina had been moved from Charleston to Columbia in 1786 and as the new capital city grew, the Congaree River assumed its place of prominence. Around the turn of the 20th Century, the government locks were built, enabling modern steamships to travel this important aquatic highway to the Gervais Street Bridge in Columbia.
Guignard Brick Works operated on the west bank of the Congaree beginning in 1803 and remained one of Cayce’s most prominent businesses for almost 200 years. This important industry provided many of the building bricks for the local area and beyond. Bricks from Guignard Brick Works were used to rebuild Columbia after it was burned by General Sherman and the Union Army in 1865. Brick kilns that were used to “bake” the bricks still stand at the entrance to Cayce by the Blossom Street Bridge.
The modern City of Cayce was born out of the coming of the railroads in the 19th Century. At that time the area was known as Cayce Crossing, named for Uncle Billy Cayce, a prominent citizen. In 1914, when the city was formed, the name Cayce was chosen for the town to honor “Uncle Billy.”
Also, in 1914, the Cayce family built a new home in Cayce and moved there to be closer to the center of the town’s activities and the Cayce family’s general store. (Their second home still stands on Holland Avenue.) By 1930, the population of Cayce was around 3,000.
By 1941, the small town of Cayce had become predominantly a railroad town. The railroads made a substantial contribution to the city with the number of local citizens it employed and the payroll it generated for many years. Both the Southern and the Seaboard Railroads handled passengers and mail to and from Cayce and beyond At that time, the railroad, lumberyard, quarry and fertilizer plant were the principal places of employment. The City experienced phenomenal growth during the 1940’s. This period of time marked the initial expansion of the Columbia metropolitan area as a result of the World War II boom in population and economy.
The area now known as “The Avenues”, one of Cayce’s most beautiful present-day residential neighborhoods, was then known as “the field” because the Guignard family farmed the area around what is now Brookland-Cayce High School for many years. With the World War II veterans returning home and the need for new homes in the area, a wise real estate entrepreneur developed the area and gave it its initial name, Guignard Estates.
By the 1950’s the new McMillan (Blossom Street) Bridge was built to better connect this thriving suburb to Columbia. In an effort to promote orderly growth along the rapidly developing Knox Abbott Drive, Cayce’s Planning Commission adopted a master plan. This plan would set guidelines for planned development along this corridor. Cayce has always been a well-balanced city with a good tax base and with sufficient industry to help carry the tax load.
From the upscale Moss Creek neighborhoods to the charming “Avenues” and other desirable housing nearer the Congaree River, Cayce has a diverse mixture of housing choices. Cayce provides a small town atmosphere while enjoying the amenities of the large metropolitan capital city just across the river.
In the 1980’s a group of dedicated citizens approached city government on the possibility of building a museum that would chronicle the history of Cayce’s rich heritage. Using only grant money and citizen donations, this group of Commissioners built the Cayce Historical Museum. This was accomplished in only three short years from groundbreaking to completion. The key was presented to the city in April 1991 when the museum’s doors officially opened to the public.
The Cayce Historical Museum is a full time museum and has entertained visitors from all 50 states and international visitors from many foreign countries. The museum has become an important educational and cultural entity for Cayce and beyond and has done much to enhance the quality of life, making Cayce a good place to live and work.
Dating back to Cayce’s earliest development, the Congaree River has played a dominant role of strategic importance. Today, development on both sides of the river is a driving force in the continuing development of Cayce, the “City by the River.”