Mountain Rest in Oconee County, South Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
This was a busy Appalachian farmstead in the late 1800's and early 1900's. You could hear the laughter of children playing in the creek, lowing cattle and clucking chickens as they searched for food. Ganaway Russell built a small house here in 1867 and enlarged it three times over the next 40 years to accommodate his growing family and guests.
Folks lacked motels, air conditioners and automibiles like we enjoy today. Vacationers flocked to the area that is now Highlands, North Carolina to escape the hot South Carolina summers. Their train ride ended at Walhalla where they boarded a horse drawn stage coach for two hard days of bumpy riding on the dusty, unpaved roads. It was a welcome sight when they rounded the curve and spied the large house where the Russell Family provided overnight lodging and good home cooked meals for weary travelers. As many as 80 visitors are said to have stayed in the house at one time when the Chattooga was too deep to cross and folks had to wait several days, and more spent the evenings in tents and hammocks. The guests even included a future president, Woodrow Wilson.
This self-sufficient farmstead included ten outbuildings clustered around the main house. Barns sheltered stage coach teams and draft animals used on the farm. A corn crib, sweet potato cellar, and smoke house permitted storing food grown on the farm until needed. Cattle and hogs provided meat while the rich soils along the Chattooga River produced abundant vegetables. The cooks frequently served more than 80 guests and reports say they ate as many as 20 turkeys at a single meal.
Many of life's necessities like shoes and metal items were made in the sheds and blacksmith shop. Follow the trail behind this sign to spring house that provided drinking water and served as a refrigerator for this proud family. A number of marriages were performed at the attractive location. A tragic fire destroyed the main house and three out buildings in 1988. The farmstead is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
William Ganaway Russell (B. 1835, D. 1921) helped drive a herd of cattle west to California and earned money selling meat to gold miners near Sacramento. He sewed his gold coins into a vest for the trip back home to avoid robbers and used the money to purchase this property. In addition to constructing these buildings he built and furnished Mill Creek School House a mile south of here for the many children living in
William Ganaway Russell (B 1835 D 1921) helped drive a herd of cattle west to California and earned money selling meat to gold miners near Sacramento. He sewed his gold coins into a vest for the trip back home to avoid robbers and used the money to purchase this property. In addition to constructing these buildings he built and furnished Mill Creek School House a mile south of here for the many children living in this area. Ganaway married Jane Nicholson (B 1851 D 1935) who stayed busy running the inn, especially during the summer. Jane, in addition to raising 15 of their own children, was a midwife, riding a horse to provide help. She also ran a post office in the main house from the late 1800's to early 1900's.
Erected by Andrew Pickens Ranger District Sumter National Forest.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Settlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #28 Woodrow Wilson series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1867.
Location. 34° 53.798′ N, 83° 10.301′ W. Marker is in Mountain Rest, South Carolina, in Oconee County. Marker is on Highlands Highway (State Highway 28). Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Mountain Rest SC 29664, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 10 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Chattooga Town (approx. 0.9 miles away); Chauga Town Mountain Rest School / Hillbilly Day (approx. 4.3 miles away); A Building with a Past (approx. 4.3 miles away); The Civilian Conservation Corps (approx. 4.3 miles away); Civilian Conservation Corps Monument (approx. 4.3 miles away); Oconee State Park (approx. 4.4 miles away); Cherokee Boundary (1777) (approx. 4.4 miles away); Building a Tradition (approx. 4.4 miles away); The Oconee Waterwheel (approx. 4.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Mountain Rest.
Also see . . . Russell House. The Russell House was constructed sometime after 1867 and considerably expanded around 1890 and in the early twentieth century. (Submitted on August 9, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.)
1. Russell House
Reputed to have been constructed after 1867 by William Gannaway Russell, the Russell House was enlarged and remodeled in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Besides the two-story farm frame house, the complex
The main house underwent considerable expansion, in several campaigns, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to arrive at its present form. The original hewn sills and their foundation piers suggest that the original house was an I-house with a central hall, two rooms per floor, and two exterior stone chimneys. Little original fabric remains from this period other than the sills, the lower parts of the chimneys, and one section of beaded weatherboarding preserved within one of the added rooms. A doorway with a transom and sidelights is also preserved, making the original entrance to the central hall.
The expansions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which corresponded with the growth of the Russell family and the increasing popularity of the house as a boarding house for travelers, encompassed the original house and resulted in the present two-story
Around 1890 the first major expansion was a two-story addition on the front, which included a two-tiered porch, and a two-story coach room/dining wing on the rear. The coach room space was added to provide lodging for the growing numbers of travelers. A one-story bath addition was constructed at the intersection of the main block and the coach room/dining wing in the twentieth century.
The present plan of the house is an expanded central-hall, with four rooms on the first and second stories of the main block. A two-tiered porch on the rear addition provides access to two rooms on each story. The original two rooms and central hall on the first floor survive as the two rear rooms of the main block. The expanded house is sheathed in unbeaded weatherboard.
The Russell House façade, as expanded, is three bays wide with a central door on each level of the two tiered porch. Chamfered wooden posts, with simple balustrades, enclosed each level of the porch. The east elevation includes the stone chimney, with the two windows of the original house flanking it on the first floor. Two other windows, for the front rooms of the expanded house, are on the first and second floors. The rear wing includes the kitchen and the dining
The interior of the Russell House has undergone continuous reconstruction, alteration, and addition. A stairway, believed to have been in the main hall, is no longer present. Mantels have been removed from most rooms; those that remain are of wood, with minimal elaboration. The rooms of the first floor were modified by the Forest Service to accommodate displays. Some of the original doors, floors, ceilings, and trim remain.
The log barn (ca. 1820) was built of hewn logs with saddle notching. The barn roof has collapsed in recent years, owing to vandalism and insect damage. Parts of the log walls and some of the added horse stalls remain; however, all have deteriorated.
The outbuildings at the Russell House include a spring house, an outhouse, a garage, a corn crib, a potato cellar, and other agricultural structures. Most of those outbuildings are of frame construction and date from the early twentieth century. Their conditions range from dilapidated to comparatively good shape.
A spring house is located about 75 feet north of the house. The spring has rock walls that form a sitting surface about 20 feet long and channels the water into the spring
In September 1867, William Gannaway Russell (1835-1921) of Macon County, North Carolina, purchased 600 acres of land on the Chattooga River, in what was then Pickens District, from Balus Nicholson for the sum of $1,200. Since the deed transferring the property stated that Nicholson lived on the tract at the time of the sale, a house was evidently on the land when Russell purchased it. According to family tradition, the Nicholson House burned and was replaced by Russell.
The Russell House was constructed some time after 1867 and considerably expanded around 1890 and in the early twentieth century. The house is significant in the area of transportation for its role as a late nineteenth and early twentieth century state stop and inn, which was operated by William Gannaway Russell (1835-1921). The inn provided accommodations for travelers between Walhalla and the mountain resort area around Highlands, North Carolina. The Russell House complex, which includes 10 agricultural outbuildings constructed in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is also significant in the area of agriculture. The outbuildings are representative of the diverse aspects of a small, turn-of-the-century Appalachian farmstead. In addition, the Russell House complex is significant in the area of architecture. The house is a good example of an expansion of an I-house to adept it to a growing family and commerce-related functions. The various outbuildings illustrate common building types and construction techniques used in the region in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
William Russell married Jane Nicholson (1851-1935) around 1870 (Keowee Courier, 1935). By 1880, the couple had seven children and were operating a self-sufficient farm. Fifty-two of Russell’s 600 acres were farmed; the rest were in forest. Crops grown by Russell included Indian corn, oats, rye, potatoes, and apples. Russell also had 1 horse, 2 mules, 4 milk cows, 11 beef cows, 15 sheep, 15 hog, and 52 fowl. In addition, he kept bees that produced 50 pounds of honey in 1879. According to Russell family members, W.G. Russell only went into Walhalla, the county seat of Oconee County which was approximately 14 miles from the Russell farm, twice a year for supplies. By 1900, the Russells had 14 living children.
In addition to farming, the Russells operated an inn for travelers between Walhalla and the mountain resort area around Highlands, North Carolina. The end of the Blue Ridge Railroad was in Walhalla, and many travelers who continued by carriage to the North Carolina mountains stopped for the night at the Russell House. According to local tradition, numerous prominent South Carolinians spent the night there. (Source: National Register nomination form.)
— Submitted August 7, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.
2. The Russells
Ganaway Russell was my Great Grandfather on my Dad's mother's side of the family. I am a commercial contractor and have done many historical restorations world wide. Should anyone need any help with the restoration if in fact it gets restored I would be interested in assisting in any way I can. I visited the property back in the mid seventy's and have no idea what has become of it.
— Submitted August 8, 2009, by William Doyle Lowery of Geneva, Florida.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on July 20, 2009, by Stanley and Terrie Howard of Greer, South Carolina. This page has been viewed 2,966 times since then and 68 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on July 20, 2009, by Stanley and Terrie Howard of Greer, South Carolina. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on September 4, 2011, by Anna Inbody of Columbia, South Carolina. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page.