Six Mile turns 100,Town celebrates rich history

By Nicole Daughhetee
Staff Reporter

SIX MILE — Six Mile was incorporated as a town in December 1910, making 2010 its centennial anniversary.
Its quaintness is wrapped in a mere square mile, and the 2010 US Census reports a population of 585 residents; however, while Six Mile may be small when measured geographically or by population density, it certainly has an incredibly rich history.

Celebrating 100 Years of History and Heritage
In honor of this momentous occasion in Six Mile’s History, Mayor John Wade, Town Council members and the Centennial Committee have compiled a collection of approximately 250 historical artifacts, newspaper clippings and photographs into a visual history exhibit that will be placed permanently on the walls of Six Mile’s Community Center.
On December 11, Six Mile’s Visual History Exhibit will be unveiled, and people are invited to visit the Community Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Beginning December 13, the exhibit, which documents the Six Mile community before 1910 and continues through 2010, can be viewed by the public anytime during normal working hours.
On December 10, Six Mile is hosting an invitation-only banquet that will feature guest speaker Lindsay Graham.
Anyone who has never visited Six Mile has this incredibly special opportunity to do so. It is quintessential small town America: community residents know one another by name and there is not the hustle and bustle associated with larger cities. In the case of Six Mile, it is true that good things come in small packages.
How Six Mile Got Its Name: Folklore and The
Legend of Issaqueena
According to legend, the history of Six Mile can be traced back to the French and Indian War, which took place in late 18th century Colonial America. In the later part of the 1700s, the geographical area of Pickens County belonged to Native Americans from the Cherokee Nation. The Native Americans had developed an intricate network of trails and paths, the most heavily traveled of which was a route that connected Charles Town (modern-day Charleston) with Keowee.
Popular folklore attributes Six Mile’s name to the Indian maiden Issaqueena. James Francis and James Gowdy established an Indian trade based out of Ninety Six, located in present day Greenwood County. Assisted by Francis’ two sons, Alan and Henry, the business grew to become the largest of its kind operating outside of Charleston during the 1750s.
During his trips from Ninety Six to Keowee, Alan Francis fell in love with Issaqueena, the daughter of one of the tribal chiefs. The relationship between the colonists and the Native Americans began to deteriorate. After Issaqueena overheard news of a Cherokee plan to attack her beloved’s fort in Ninety Six, the maiden set out on horseback to warn Alan Francis about the impending assault on the people of Ninety Six. Issaqueena marked her journey by giving numerical names to the creeks and rivers she passed on her route from Keowee. This is why present day Pickens County is home to Mile Creek, Six Mile Creek, Twelve Mile River, Eighteen Mile Creek and so forth. Interestingly, the distance between Greenwood and Keowee is approximately 96 miles.
Thanks to Issaqueena’s warning, the people at Ninety Six were able to flee and survive the Cherokee attack. Alan and Issaqueena were married and had a child. Together, they built a house on stumps on a mountain and the area, located in Oconee County, is now known as Stumphouse Mountain. Because of her allegiance to her lover and the perceived betrayal of the Cherokee Tribe, Issaqueena became a targeted outlaw. Eventually a group of men from the tribe was sent to kill Issaqueena. She fled and in her attempt to escape, she leapt over a waterfall. Her pursuers, thinking her dead and being wary of evil spirits around waterfalls, departed. Issaqueena, however, had landed safely on a ledge just a few feet below. Issaqueena Falls was named in honor of the courageous maiden.
Each year, on the third Saturday in May, Six Mile pays homage to this fantastic legend with a celebratory Issaqueena Festival. Main Street is closed from Liberty Highway to Six Mile Baptist Church. The annual festival combines free entertainment, arts, crafts and other assorted vendors and, of course, a variety of culinary delights. May 2011 will mark 24 years that the Issaqueena Festival has been hosted in Six Mile.

The Early Settlers:
Agriculture and Industry
Around the early 1800s, the earliest white settlers — a mixture of Scotch-Irish, Dutch-German and English pioneers — migrated to Six Mile because of its location along the Keowee Trade Route famous for prosperity. Proficient farmers, the European settlers are credited with the vital role agriculture played in Six Mile’s economic development from the 1800s to World War II. Agriculture was paramount to South Carolina’s economic, social and political development.
The Happy Berry Farm, founded in 1979, continues to thrive in Six Mile and serves as a reminder of the agricultural history upon which the town was founded. Wooded areas surrounding the farm were opulent cotton fields until the early 1900s when soil erosion and the boll weevil forced farmers to abandon them. For many years, Six Mile was a tightly knit farming community. The legacy of “integrity, industry, and independence” characterized by settling business deals with handshakes and helping neighbors in need is still evident today.
The community’s first post office was established in 1878. The community was incorporated in 1910, and a few establishments including saw mills, blacksmith, welding and barber shops, furniture stores, groceries, service stations and a mortuary began to spring up over the next few decades. Six Mile remained chiefly a farming community until World War II, when many men went overseas to fight and still others moved to bigger cities to obtain jobs. After the war, it became unprofitable to grow cotton, and textile mills began to spring up around the area.
The 1950s brought Six Mile street lights throughout the community, and in 1968, Mayor Kay Baumgarner operated the first telephone exchange.
Over the years, Six Mile has lost some residents to jobs in other counties. Employment opportunities usually require traveling out of town, and the number of businesses diminished once automobiles became widely available. Since then, Six Mile has become a community with strong ties to larger cities where townspeople find more jobs, goods, and services. Today, many residents earn a living working for Clemson University or Duke Power.

Educational Advancement
Founded on July 25, 1836, Six Mile Baptist Church remains one of the oldest existing entities in the town of Six Mile, predating other businesses or establishments by several years. As early as 1876, there was a desire among the member churches of the Twelve Mile Baptist Association to build a Christian high school to educate the local boys and girls. At the time, there were several smaller schools dispersed throughout the countryside where attendance was often influenced by the weather, swollen streams, deep muddy roads, trails and lengthy walking distances.
In 1910, the Twelve Mile Baptist Association, along with help from the Home Mission Board, began what would one day become part of the history of Six Mile Elementary. Six Mile Baptist Academy, which opened on the first Monday of October 1910, included a boy’s and girl’s dormitory. By 1920, there were 74 boarders and 130 local students.
In 1919, a tragic fire — the result of a faulty wiring system — destroyed the administrative building and classrooms.  The building was reconstructed, but soon after the girls’ dormitory was destroyed by fire from an overheated wood-burning stove.  It, too, was rebuilt. Burdened with debt, the Six Mile Baptist Academy was closed in 1927. By 1928, the public school system had become strong enough to provide a school for the Six Mile Community. It purchased the administration building and classrooms from the academy to be used as a high school. A new elementary school was built nearby.  
Six Mile Elementary continues to be at the forefront of educational advancement. Under the leadership of Principal Clif Alexander, the 2010-2011 academic year at Six Mile Elementary marks the second year of single gender classrooms being implemented in second, third and this year fourth grade levels at the school. There is a great deal of scientific evidence that advocates single gender classrooms, because boys and girls learn differently and have varied responses to teaching methodology. As a community, Six Mile values education, as demonstrated by the implementation of “outside-the-box” state-of-the-art programs.

Dr. Peek and Six Mile
Baptist Hospital
The fire in 1919 may have destroyed the girls’ dormitory at Six Mile’s Baptist Academy, but the reconstructed building managed to find other uses over the years. Dr. David E. Peek established the first hospital in Pickens County in the town of Six Mile. Heralding from North Carolina, Dr. Peek and his wife moved to Six Mile, where they established the 15-bed hospital in 1925. When he outgrew the 15-bed facility, Dr. Peek purchased the girls’ dormitory that once belonged to Six Mile Baptist Academy. His $1,900 investment turned the building into a 40-bed hospital. Today, Dr. Peek’s hospital is home to Six Mile Retirement Center.
Dr. Peek had a lifelong dream to build a larger hospital on top of Six Mile Mountain, so patients and medical staff would have a bird’s eye view of the town below. Shortly after the completion of a building that would be a nurse’s quarters, Dr. Peek, only in his early 50s, died of a heart attack in 1942. When Dr. Peek died, so did his dream of a hospital on top of Six Mile Mountain.

Other Interesting
Historical Tidbits
• At one time, Pickens County was home to more Congressional Medal of Honor winners than any county in the nation (there were only 27 in the whole country). Three of these four men were from Six Mile.
• On the night of March 13, 1929, a devastating tornado roared through Six Mile, killing nine people — five elementary-aged children, one high school-aged child and three adults. Other students, teachers and parents were severely injured during this disaster. Those killed in the storm are buried in two large graves at Six Mile Baptist Church.
This was the greatest blow ever to hit Six Mile or Pickens County. The tornado lifted Six Mile Elementary and moved it about six feet off of its foundation. According to reports, 30 minutes after the storm hit, hundreds of citizens rushed to the stricken community and offered any aid they could give. This continued for days despite heavy rain and nearly impossible roads.
• In the 1960s, Duke Power began construction of a power-generating complex that would be the largest of its kind in the world. It is located within a few miles of Six Mile. Folks expected that the presence of this mammoth complex would turn Six Mile into an urban metropolis. Plans to develop a “dream city” for a population of 100,000 people, on the outskirts of Six Mile, never came to fruition. Six Mile has remained much as it always was. Although there have been several waves of new residents over the years, the town is still largely populated by descendents of the original settlers.
• In 2010, Six Mile still does not have a police department. The Pickens County Sheriff’s office patrols the town regularly. Even without the constant presence of law enforcement, the town has little problem with crime. The Six Mile Fire Department is currently comprised of 25 volunteers, led by Fire Chief Ronnie Duncan. The department has two brush trucks, two pumper trucks, a tanker, and a blazer all housed in the six-bay fire station located beside Town Hall.