Category Archives: Lifestyles

Sweet dreams are made of these


A True Sense of Place and Belonging

By Dr. Thomas Cloer, Jr.
Special to The Courier

For Black History Month, we have focused on the book Liberia, South Carolina: An African American Appalachian Community, by Dr. John M. Coggeshall, an Anthropologist and Professor at Clemson University. Liberia is a historic community that dates back to the abolition of slavery here in upper Pickens County, South Carolina.  Soapstone Baptist Church and Soapstone School date back to the Emancipation Proclamation, and are part of a community

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Soapstone Baptist Church: A Link to the Distant Past

By Dr. Thomas Cloer, Jr.
Special to The Courier

Soapstone Baptist Church, a historic Black Church, is located in an area here in Upper Pickens County called Liberia, South Carolina. The name, Liberia, dates back to the continent of Africa.  As I write, Soapstone Baptist Church is still functioning on Liberia Road after all these years. The Church started shortly after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed those in slavery. You can attend and worship in this Black Church with people who had ancestors in slavery right here in Pickens County.

In the same year (1967) that my wife and I were finishing our undergraduate work at Cumberland College in the Kentucky Mountains, and after deciding to teach in Upper Pickens County, SC, we received some very shocking and disturbing news. White supremacists had burned and destroyed the old sacred Soapstone Baptist Church building in Liberia, not very far from Holly Springs School where we were going to teach. The old Soapstone Church had served as a refuge for freed slaves, and for the descendants of enslaved people, for over a century.

However, the soul and spirit of the historic Soapstone Church did not burn, did not die. It still functions today in a different building. I am reminded of the words of Harriet Tubman, the great Black Abolitionist who so eloquently said, “We’re rooted here now, and they can’t pull us up.” The members of Soapstone Baptist Church are indeed deeply rooted.


My Upstate South Carolina Ancestors

My Mom’s maiden name was Grace Moody. My Moody ancestors were here in the old Pickens District, now Pickens and Oconee Counties, when slavery was common. They were here by the late 1700’s. My great-great-great-great Grandfather, Daniel Moody, and his son, Martin Moody, acquired land on the Toxaway River, Devil’s Fork, Crow Creek, Little River, and on the south side of Keowee River. Daniel Moody is buried in the old Wolfpit Cemetery at the Cheohee Community Center, now in adjacent Oconee County. Cheohee Community Center is located on Cherokee Lake Road in the Cheohee Valley.

Daniel Moody’s birth date was only three years different from the eighth President of the United States, Martin Van Buren. Their lifespans were similar.  Daniel Moody’s son, Martin Moody, was a namesake of President Martin Van Buren. Daniel Moody’s grandson, Daniel Van Buren Moody, was also a namesake of the eighth President of the United States. President Martin Van Buren was President for one term only, 1837-1841. I expected to find political controversy about slavery from the moment I discovered the one term only of the relatively young president.


Moody Ancestors and Slavery in Pickens District

About the time that my ancestor Daniel Moody died in 1854, there were 248 families with slaves in the Pickens District. In 1840 there were 2,715 Black people in the Pickens District who had been bought and “owned.” By 1850, ten years later, that number of slaves had more than doubled to 5,808.

I have tried diligently to learn about my Moody ancestors during slavery in our area. I had pressing questions that needed answers. The first question, of course, was, “Did my Moody ancestors here in the old Pickens District have slaves?” They owned much land.

Exhausting all the resources I can find; I have concluded that my Moody ancestors in this area had no slaves. If they didn’t have slaves, what were their attitudes about enslavement? What were President Martin Van Buren’s views on slavery? How did his views affect his Presidency? I sensed a connection between President Martin Van Buren’s views of slavery because he only served the one term. He finished that term in 1841 when he was only in his 50’s, and certainly too young to retire from office because of age.

Another thing that piqued my interest was that Daniel Moody’s son, Martin Moody, was Pastor of Cheohee Baptist Church in the old Pickens District in 1838. I hypothesized that Martin Moody, as a pastor, probably saw himself as a moral voice to those whom he ministered in his congregation. My Moody ancestors were charter members of Cheohee Baptist Church. Would Martin Moody’s search for ultimate truth about religion, morality, and slavery influence his choice of names for his son, Daniel Van Buren Moody?


Antislavery President Martin Van Buren

President Martin Van Buren was one of the first politicians to suggest that slavery was immoral. His exact statement was, “Morally and politically speaking, slavery is a moral evil.” He introduced a bill forbidding the importation of slaves. President Martin Van Buren tried to stop the slave trade. The pro-slavery politicians openly opposed Martin Van Buren’s reelection bid, and were responsible for his one term only as President of the United States.

It is clear to me that Daniel Moody and his son, Martin Moody, felt that slavery was a moral problem. That helps explain the namesakes of Martin Moody and Daniel Van Buren Moody. However, the South’s economy was such that many people in the Pickens District thought their livelihood relied on the evil of slavery. Many people in our area really feared that people such as Martin Van Buren and Abraham Lincoln would end slavery, or severely limit it.


Ancestors Divided Over Slavery

I knew there was a later split among my Moody ancestors over slavery when I saw that my Great-GreatGrandfather, ironically named Daniel Van Buren Moody, had left his father’s home here in the old Pickens District, and fled to Jackson County, North Carolina. There he joined the Confederacy on May 30, 1861. Later, he was a casualty at the Battle of Fredericksburg in Fredericksburg, Virginia, while serving in Company B, 25th Regiment of the North Carolina State Troops, and Confederate States of America.

This division among my ancestors over slavery was indicative as to how the Civil War divided families. For example, three half-brothers of Mrs. Abe Lincoln died as Confederate soldiers. In another family, John Crittenden was a Senator from Kentucky. One of his sons was a Confederate General. Another son was a Union General.

I saw the deep divisiveness among my Moody ancestors when I found my Great-Great-Great Grandfather Martin Moody’s Last Will and Testament here in Pickens’ old records. Martin left his son, the Confederate soldier, Daniel Van Buren Moody, with nothing in his will because the son left home “without just cause as I think.” The son left home and fought for the Confederacy, who had chosen not to be part of the United States of America if slavery was abolished.


Free at Last: A New Beginning

I think it important to note that historic Soapstone Baptist Church originated in April, 1865. This was the month and year that the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, was assassinated by a promoter of white supremacy. The assassin was John Wilkes Booth. The message of white supremacists had always been the same. No Black individual or supporter thereof was ever safe unless white supremacy was the norm.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves on January 1, 1865. Union General Tecumseh Sherman, and Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, met with a large group of Black Baptist and Methodist Ministers to discuss what needed to be done after slavery was abolished. They met on January 12, 1865, in Savannah, Georgia. There was no doubt about what the freed slaves needed; they needed land.


The Need for Land After Emancipation

Union General Sherman and Secretary of War Stanton liked the idea of using formerly held Rebel plots of land. That action would get the freed slaves away from Union military lines. A special order was issued that all formerly held Rebel lands between Charleston, SC, and the St. John’s River in Florida would be given to free slaves in 40 acre plots. That, of course, didn’t happen, and freed slaves for the most part, stayed close to where they had been enslaved. That is what happened with the freed slaves at Liberia here in Upper Pickens County.

Land was not just given to freed slaves; they had to work for it. Neither did white land owners give their best land.  This is what occurred at Liberia, according to Professor John Coggeshall, a Professor and Anthropologist at Clemson University, and author of Liberia, South Carolina: An African American Appalachian Community. Dr. Coggeshall’s book is available in paperback and hardback online. It is really an encyclopedia of information about this historic Liberia Community. For example, the second chapter is titled “You Zip Your Lips.” It tells about life in slavery here in the Pickens District as Dr. Coggeshall’s research pulls back the curtains for all to consider.

Many freed slaves in our area stayed close to their previous enslavement. They needed and wanted land. Soapstone was a hilly and rocky place at Liberia with no obvious place to cultivate. The soapstone mineral in the area had been formed from intense heat and moisture within the earth. The mineral has a soapy feel. Indigenous people used it for such things as utensils, bowls, and smoking pipes. The premises of Soapstone Baptist Church and Soapstone School have many beautiful soapstone outcroppings. They make for a real wonder and treat to see.

The property for the homes in the community of free slaves, where Soapstone Baptist Church and Soapstone School would be located, became home for the ancestors of Mable Owens Clarke. Mrs. Mable Owens Clarke is still there today as I write. She is a very busy Deacon at Soapstone Baptist Church today.


Next Week, Part 2: Reconstruction and White Backlash after Emancipation


About the Author:  The author received his Bachelor’s Degree from Cumberland College in the Kentucky Mountains, his Master’s from Clemson, and his PhD. from the University of South Carolina. He was the first South Carolina Professor of the Year, being chosen by the Governor’s Office and the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education.

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Clemson students help Central Academy of the Arts second-graders become authors

CENTRAL — Clemson University students at the Pearce Center for Professional Communication helped local second-graders at the Central Academy of the Arts (CAA) achieve the dream of becoming authors this spring.

Working together, the students created a 140-page book, titled “Our Favorite Animals,” which

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Southern Appalachian Mountain dialect: Purt nigh gone?

Revisiting the regional history of the English language

By Dr. Thomas Cloer, Jr.
Special to The Courier

The Southern Appalachian Mountain dialect is a topic of interest for people in our area. There are those questioning whether or not it still exists.

The writer wishes to deal with this question by carefully examining past and current Southern Appalachian language. Three main areas of emphasis will be explored: (1) Do any archaic English words, used by early immigrants in Southern Appalachia, still occur in our language in an age of Modern English? (2) Does any of

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Finding the right Father’s Day gift

Father’s Day is an annual celebration of fathers and the contributions they make to their families. Dads get their due on Father’s Day, when sons, daughters and wives typically give dad a few gifts to show their appreciation for all he has done for them and how much he means to them.
Finding the right Father’s Day gift is not always so easy. No two fathers are the same, so while a silk necktie might bring a smile to one father’s face, such a gift may fall flat with other dads. By asking themselves a few questions in the weeks before their dads’ big day,

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How to make the big day more enjoyable for Dad

Dad gets to be king of his castle at least one day during the year. Come mid-June, children near and far scramble for ideas to treat their fathers to a special day and award him with gifts for being a role model, provider and confidante. Father’s Day activities should be centered around Dad’s interests. With that in mind, the following are some ideas to honor Dad or another special man in your life.

  • Sports Sunday: If Dad is a sports fan, his idea of spending a fun-filled afternoon very well may be cheering on his favorite players. Whether your father enjoys golf, tennis, baseball, soccer, or another sport like hunting or fishing, chances are there is a television broadcast on that you can watch together. Otherwise, you canYou must be logged in to view this content.

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Pieces of Pickens history

Local historian dives into one of city’s prominent early 20th-century businesses

By Barry Crawford
Special to The Courier

Editor’s note: In anticipation of the first-ever Pickens Bottle Show, planned for Saturday, Jun 3, at the Market at the Mill in Pickens, local historian Barry Crawford allowed the Courier to run this story about Pickens Bottling Works, which was located at the corner of Garvin and Main Street in downtown Pickens near the current location of the Courier office. This story is edited from a December 2017 Facebook post made by Crawford, who is also the facility manager at Market at the Mill.


Let me start by telling you this has been one of my favorite historic projects of all time.

This incredible adventure has taken me all around this country coast to coast, with one of my major sources of information being found in Bakersfield, Calif. I’ve been working on this project for almost 10 years, gathering all of the photos and

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Why relive the racial problems of America’s past? Part 2

The study of history is paramount to advancing democracy

By Dr. Thomas Cloer Jr.
Special to The Courier

There is agreement among America’s higher institutions of learning that knowledge about the past is critical in a democracy. The study of history is paramount as we develop into a better democracy that recognizes the teaching in holy writ that says “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

This is necessary for an advancing democracy. We in the USA have advanced from killing or running off the indigenous people, as was the case right here where we live. We have advanced from enslaving people brought to America and being sold as property. We have advanced from a Civil War that took more than 620,000 American lives. We must continue to advance.


Both GREAT-Great-Grandfathers Fought for the Confederacy

I know about heritage; I get it. My maternal great-great-grandfather, Dan V. Moody, from the Old Pickens District, was a casualty at Fredericksburg, Va. He was part of the Confederate Ransom’s Brigade led by Brig. Gen. Robert Ransom Jr. Dan V. Moody became a casualty on Dec. 13, 1862, in the most one-sided battle of the Civil War. Union casualties under Gen. Ambrose Burnside were more than twice those of the Confederates led by Robert E. Lee. The frontal attacks on Marye’s Heights, by the Union Gens. Edwin Sumner and Joseph Hooker, were totally futile. Dan V. Moody’s Confederate infantry used a huge stone wall as a barricade in the historic Sunken Road at the base of Marye’s Heights. The Confederate artillery on the high ground, facing in the same direction as the Confederate infantry behind the stone wall, fired safely over the heads of Dan Moody and his comrades at the base of Marye’s Heights.

Gen. James Longstreet’s position on Marye’s Heights was devastating to the Union troops. If the advancing Union troops survived the artillery blasts and pushed forward, they encountered the impenetrable Confederate infantry behind the stone wall. Here was the opposite situation of that which occurred later at Gettysburg. At Gettysburg, the Union Army held the high ground at Big Round Top and at Little Round Top. There, the Confederates were out in the open, exposed and on the losing end. Fredericksburg, where my great-great-grandfather was a casualty, was one of the largest and deadliest battles of the Civil War. The Union Army had 12,600 casualties; the Confederates suffered 5,377 casualties.

My paternal great-great-grandfather, William Marcus Cloer, was also a member of the Confederacy. I know about heritage. He was part of William Thomas’ 62nd Legion from North Carolina. William Thomas later became chief of the Eastern Cherokee Nation. Marcus Cloer became disenchanted with the Civil War. He went AWOL, came home to see his wife, and later went back to his company, wherein he was immediately incarcerated in a dismal Confederate prison. He stayed there for a month. I have his letters to my great-great-grandmother, Susan Cloer. These letters are gut-wrenching when Marcus talks about wanting to die, rather than stay alive. After release from the Confederate prison, his Confederate company went straight to the Cumberland Gap, where he was captured and sent to the horrific Union prison, Camp Douglas, in Chicago. This prison was constructed to house 4,000. By the end of the war, there were more than 12,000 Confederates there. At Camp Douglas, 6,000 Confederates were entombed in the largest Confederate cemetery outside of the South. Marcus Cloer stayed at Camp Douglas until the end of the Civil War. When he came home, he was unrecognizable and had to be disinfected before entering his mountain home in Macon County, N.C.

Why mention this? I want my readers to know I understand “heritage.” I also know that we have advanced greatly as a democracy since the Civil War. There are simply not that many people left who would argue for enslavement of a race of Americans. It is also chilling to think how hard it has been to get to where we are now. I can sit and eat with my black friends. They can stay at fine hotels when we speak at conferences. They can use public transit. But getting to this point in our democracy has involved much bloodshed. My ancestors, including those who were Confederates, were living in an infant democracy that was barely underway. We had to find our way to a different time, a time when women would vote, would work outside the home, and could own property. We had to advance. People with disabilities had to make it the best way they could. People who became elderly had to make it until death the best way they could. There was no Social Security or Medicare. We had to make advances as a democracy. Thank God, we are still advancing.

That is why I write today. I am in my twilight years. Most of the sand is in the bottom of my hourglass. I want to leave this world a better place than what it was when I was born. I was alive when Adolf Hitler was alive. I lived under Jim Crow segregation. I went through the civil rights movement in the USA. I saw racist Southern people who were victims of circumstance and would say positive things about white supremacy. I never dreamed I would live to see a time when people would again dare to say something positive about white supremacy. God help us! We can’t go backward; I won’t go backward. The founder of Christianity would not have us go backward.


Critical Race Theory: What is it?

I cannot believe the confusion that has come forth over Critical Race Theory. In the first place, why the educational elites would call this by this title is a total enigma. Like the comedian Steve Martin, when somebody made fun of his nose, I can create scores of better titles. First of all, I would never, ever, use the word “theory.” It has a ring of non-authentic drivel from educational elites. Why make it difficult? I would never use the word “critical,” which, in the South, immediately triggers the word “criticizing.” This brings natural negativity. What one word brings more immediate negative responses than the word “race?”

O.K. Blowhard Cloer, let’s hear some alternatives. “How many you want?” Like Steve Martin, I’ll present enough to prove my point, but not enough to bore you. That was always my first goal as a teacher and professor. (Under no circumstances should a teacher or professor bore students. It is the unforgivable sin in pedagogy.) Instead of “Critical Race Theory,” let’s call it “Improving Democracy as We Advance,” or “Looking for a Better Democracy.” Here are some obvious substitutions: “Advancing America’s Democracy,” or “Improvement as We Advance our Democracy,” or “Seeking Ways to Better our Democracy.”

Here is the substance of Critical Race Theory: Our American institutions have been affected historically by dividing the races. Prejudicial stratification, where one race is more entitled than another, led to the cancer of racism. This embedded, metastasized cancer is then made manifest at a later time in some of our American institutions. One that I am most familiar with, since I observed it so closely, was in our educational institutions. Most are familiar with the embedded problems seen so frequently of late in America’s criminal justice system. Others have studied and brought to the attention of America the disparities in our health care systems. Racism is a cancer that metastasizes and embeds deeply into a nation’s most important organs. I will give two very clear examples.


Educational Example

I began my educational career in the 1960s. I first went to school with African-Americans at Clemson. I was a student there when Clemson integrated its football team.

It was an ugly scene when the first African-American played in Clemson’s stadium. This was just before Clemson integrated its football team. Darryl Hill was the first black player to play in Clemson’s Memorial Stadium. Can you imagine the atmosphere when every school in every southern conference was segregated? Hill was an unbelievable pass receiver for the University of Maryland. His mother, Palestine Hill, was his greatest fan. When she arrived at Clemson’s football stadium, she was denied admission. The progressive Dr. R.C. Edwards was the president of Clemson when I was enrolled and was president when Palestine was denied admission. He was at the game and immediately made it very clear that Palestine was to be his most special guest to sit with him and his family in the president’s box.

Unfortunately, this did not deter the boisterous crowd that day. Racial slurs were heard throughout the stadium. Edwards was the man for the hour. He went to the center of the field and demanded the attention of the crowd. He so very eloquently appealed to the crowd’s better angels. “Clemson, we are better than this; I know we are.” Know what? He was right! The game proceeded, and Hill set records in receptions that stood for 30 years. Dr. Edwards’ “chemotherapy” arrested the boisterous crowd, and Clemson was on its way to “remission.” I am thankful that I was alive when this advancement in our democracy occurred.

The first African-American to play for Clemson was Marion Reeves, a defensive back. He played cornerback beside one of the best friends I ever had, Bobby Johnson, who later became football coach at Furman University. Coach Bobby Johnson took Furman to the national championship.


Metastasized Racism in

the Criminal Justice System

At one point in my career, I observed firsthand one of the most pathetic and poignant acts of discrimination that I have personally encountered in the criminal justice system. It has affected me to this day. For total anonymity, I will avoid all names and places.

A public defender called me from a county and asked me if I would consider giving diagnostic information to a court of law about a certain individual that he was trying to help. I said. “I’m interested; tell me more.” He then proceeded to ask me several questions. He said, “I’ve been told you have the credentials to testify in court and help me with a case. If a judge asks ‘What are his credentials?’ What should I say?”

I replied, “I have a PhD. in reading with an aligned field of psychology.”

“Dr. Cloer, can you determine a person’s reading level?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Can you determine what level of reading ability a passage of text would require in order to read and understand?”

“There are several readability formulas in the professional literature that I use regularly for such purposes,” I replied.

He went on to tell me what the situation was.

“I have a poor black lady who is raising several young children. She was accused of signing a passage of text that she was supposed to have read and agreed to follow. Dr. Cloer, I really don’t know if she could have possibly read it. It supposedly required her not to work if she was receiving any welfare. She took a job cleaning, made a pitifully small amount of money, and was arrested. She is going to prison if found guilty. Can you help me?”

I wish I could forget the pitiful, pretty little black lady wearing an old tattered black sweater and carrying a little pink pocketbook. I was touched emotionally, because she was frightened. I calmed her fears and helped her relax.


Diagnosis, Findings and Conclusion

My head professor in my doctoral program was a renowned scholar, author and psychologist from Cornell University. He had researched and published extensively on the relationship of reading and listening abilities. His findings, which have stood the test of time, were that one can simplify the process of determining a person’s possible reading potential by comparing reading ability to that person’s listening ability. In other words, one should be able to read (if words are recognized) what one can listen to and understand.

The little lady worked diligently and showed clearly she was reading on a first-grade level. When I tested her listening ability using a well-developed instrument, she was also listening on a first-grade level. When I analyzed the written passage she had supposedly read, it was on a college graduate-school level. There was absolutely no way the little lady could have read and understood what she had signed.

I had done some similar work with the National Kidney Foundation. The foundation was having grave difficulty with South Carolinians reading and trying to follow written recommendations about diet. When I analyzed the difficulty of the written instructions, they were written on college graduate level by brilliant writers. The reading levels of those with kidney disease were elementary level. Since the outcome was life or death, I made a few simple suggestions. I suggested “Eat this” at the top of the recommended foods. I suggested they write “Do not eat this” at the top of the forbidden foods. I also suggested they put pictures with a check mark on each recommended diet picture, and a red “X” on each forbidden food. Understanding really is critical in some contexts.


In Court

I was about to get the shock of my life. Before my appearance in the court, the public defender shook my senses when he said, “Dr. Cloer, this is a case where the system wants to make an example of what happens when welfare is abused. This poor black lady is expected to be slammed, but I hope your testimony might reduce her sentence.”

I must say that I am embarrassed that I was so naïve. What I encountered shook my senses. It has forever challenged my perspective of justice being blind. When I began my statement, I told who I was and what my credentials were. I reported that the little lady whom I saw was reading and listening at a first-grade level, and the statement that she signed was written on a college graduate level.

“Whoa! Wait a minute here! Get the jury out of the courtroom!” the judge called.

The jury was escorted out. The judge then asked me a question that totally jarred my brain.

“How much are you being paid to come here and appear as an expert?”

I actually thought for a minute it must be a feeble attempt at humor. I answered, “Much less than I’m worth, Your Honor.”

I expected at least a smile from the judge; one was not forthcoming. Instead, I was about to be educated about being a very poor, lower-class black lady in our criminal justice system.

“Listen here!” the judge admonished. “I don’t like for someone to come in here and say that a person is retarded!”

I was appalled! I have never used that word! I began to see, however, that an attempt was being made toward a particular verdict.

It got much worse.

“I know all about you,” he said to me. “I even have one of your books here.”

He held up one of my books.

“I also hear you’re fond of running through swamps from the game wardens!”

He was referring to a situation when my then young son was duck hunting with me and his grandfather. It was a simple case of mistaken identity. Someone had been shooting over bait placed far away in a lake. We had never put out bait. We were not anywhere close to a lake. My family and I were completely exonerated.

The judge then looked at the little lady and called out very loudly, “You know right from wrong, don’t you? You know what happens down there on —- Street on Saturday night; don’t you? This is not about being unable to read or understand something!”

I was beside myself with cognitive dissonance. How could such a thing be happening? The jury was brought back in, and I finished my testimony before quickly getting the heck out of Dodge.


The Verdict

Later, I received a call from the public defender. “Dr. Cloer! You did it! We got a reduced sentence! I was very pleased with what we accomplished! Without your testimony, she would have spent a longer time in prison. She will probably get out now in ——.”

I was so shaken, I can’t remember what he said!

“What?? For God’s sake, who will take care of the children?” I asked.

“Now remember, Dr. Cloer, she was to be used as an example. I am absolutely happy with our result,” he said.

I was barely able to respond! I finally pulled myself together enough to say the following in closing our discussion.

“I didn’t know until now that, because of racism, sometimes a criminal justice system may be similar to professional wrestling. The outcome may be known before the bout!”

I then remember how gracious the public defender was, even after my comparison. I, however, felt as if I had just fallen from a turnip truck.



About the author: Dr. Cloer’s name is attached to an endowed scholarship in the Philosophy Department at Furman University by a thankful family “In appreciation for the guidance and concern for Furman Students.” He was the first South Carolina Governor’s Professor of the Year, chosen by the late Republican Gov. Carroll Campbell and his office, and the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education.