Virtual Travel Video: Limestone Springs, South Carolina

Our latest Virtual Travel video focuses on the story of Limestone Springs in Cherokee County, South Carolina

Limestone Springs was located in the Piedmont region, in what's now the town of Gaffney, SC. Throughout the 19th century, it attracted many people from the Lowcountry and Midlands due to its medicinal springs and mild climate. The area was also home to a limestone quarry, which would eventually play a role in building one of our nation's most distinctive monuments.

In 1849, a request was sent throughout the United States asking for rock to aid in the construction of the Washington Monument. In South Carolina, this request was answered by Thomas Curtis, the president of Limestone College (located, of course, in Limestone Springs). Founded in 1845, the college was the first institution of higher education for women in the state. Curtis owned the nearby limestone quarry, from which a large slab of limestone rock selected. This stone was engraved with the state seal, and sent on to Washington. If you visit the Washington Monument today, some of these stones with commemorative seals can be seen from inside the elevator shaft! 

Click to join Chumley, and let's explore . . . 

Posted on June 5th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Northern Ireland's Presbyterian Heritage

Our latest Virtual Travel video focuses on the story of a community of early Scots-Irish Presbyterians in Chester County, South Carolina

William Martin was a Presbyterian minister who fled religious persecution in Northern Ireland in the 1770s, and brought his congregation of around 500 families to live in what's now Chester County, South Carolina. Martin and many of his parishioners worshiped at the Catholic Presbyterian Church - an intriguing name, which we'll explain!

During the American Revolution, Reverend Martin became what the frustrated British called a "sedition preacher" - a man who effectively stirred Patriot support in his community from his pulpit. Since churches served as key gathering spots for rural colonial communities, local preachers were often effective recruiters for the cause. Men from William Martin's congregation would ultimately form two entire Patriot regiments! 

Click below to join Chumley, and let's explore . . . 


Interested in Scots-Irish history? We invite you to join us this fall for
Exploring Northern Ireland's Presbyterian Heritage!
This is a once-in-a-lifetime insiders’ tour of Northern Ireland’s ancient kingdom of Ulster.
Discover some of the most legendary and beautiful Irish sites, rich heritage connections to America, and evocative places and stories prominent in Presbyterian history.
We'll stay in lovely country lodging in elegant manor houses and estates, and our small group will enjoy wonderful private site visits, lively musical performances, and fascinating evening presentations - from “The Ulster American Presidents” to “Scottish Borderers and Ulster Scots."
This special trip will be led by a trio of passionate historians: Chumley Cope with Explore Up Close; Sam Thomas of the T.R.R. Cobb House in Athens, Georgia; and Dr. David Hume, a historian of Northern Ireland.
Questions? Contact us, and let's chat.

Posted on May 29th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: The Major of Saint-Lô

Our latest Virtual Travel video focuses on the story of Major Thomas Dry Howie - the Major of Saint-Lô. 

In honor of Memorial Day, we wanted to share the story of this native South Carolinian who stormed the beaches of Normandy, and continued to inspire his men, and the world, after his death. 

Thomas Howie was born in Abbeville, SC in 1908, descended from the French Huguenot community who established themselves in South Carolina before the Revolution. They named the town Abbeville, in honor of their French town they left behind. 

Over 150 years later, one of their descendants would return to Normandy to liberate France in World War II, and is buried on French soil in the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. Thomas Howie is one of South Carolina's heroes - and today, we wanted to share his story. We'll also show you the moving memorial in his honor that is located in Abbeville.  

Click below to join Khal, and let's explore . . . 


Here is a link to the famous photograph of Major Howie's flag-draped body in Saint-Lo, published with the following caption:

"25 Jul 1944, St. Lo, France --- Under Old Glory, the body of a U.S. major identified only as "Major Aowie" rests atop the ruins of St. Croix Church in St. Lo, France. The major was killed leading an assault on the town... His last wish being his desire to lead his men into the German stronghold. His troops, fulfilling his wish placed his body among the ruins as they fought to drive the enemy from the area."


For those of you who are fascinated by the poignant history and sacred spaces of this beautiful part of France, and dream of experiencing it for yourselves . . .

We invite you to take a look at our 2021 small group adventure: Normandy + Brittany: France's West Country.

Posted on May 22nd in Virtual Travel Series

Exploring South Carolina's Rosenwald and Equalization Schools

Have you ever come across one of South Carolina's "Rosenwald Schools" or "Equalization Schools?" 

Rosenwald Schools were a progressive educational program born of a partnership between Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute, and Julius Rosenwald, philanthropist and president of the Sears Roebuck Company. These early 20th century schools played a critical role in educating young African-American students in rural communities, and around 5,000 schools were built between 1917 and 1932. 

Equalization Schools were created by the state government during the 1950s, in an attempt to prove the success of "separate but equal" schools . . . and to circumvent desegregation. Funding for these modern schools was produced through the first SC sales tax (3%), which funded new schools for white and black students - albeit still segregated. For a map of these schools - and further reading - check out:

We took a look at two examples of these historic schools on location. Join Explore Up Close, Chumley Cope, and let's go . . . 

The Hope Rosenwald School in Newberry County, South Carolina (built 1926)


Mary H. Wright - A South Carolina Upstate Equalization School (built 1951) 


Posted on May 18th in History and Culture

Virtual Travel Video: Due West + Erskine College

Our latest Virtual Travel video takes you to the picturesque campus of Erskine College, a private liberal arts school of about 800 students. 

Here, we'll uncover the origin of the little town of Due West, formed at the crossroads of the European and Cherokee trade in colonial South Carolina. Later, this crossroads became the beginning of a new life for Scots-Irish Presbyterians, fleeing religious and political persecution. 

Click below to join Caroline on location, and let's explore . . . 


Posted on May 15th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Historic Glenn Springs, SC

Our latest Virtual Travel video explores the historic resort community of Glenn Springs, SC. Though it all but disappeared during the Great Depression, this was once a popular resort for wealthy 19th century visitors, who traveled from far away to "take the waters." Thanks to local preservation efforts, several historic buildings still stand proudly - and are even being freshly renovated for the community to enjoy.

Join Explore Up Close founder Chumley Cope, and let's go! 

Posted on May 8th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Porto and the Douro Valley

Join Caroline on a virtual voyage in Northern Portugal, as we discover the city of Porto, and the storied Douro River Valley. 

Click below to watch the video, and let's explore . . . 

Posted on May 1st in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Rosemont Plantation & Ann Pamela Cunningham

Join Explore Up Close in Laurens County, South Carolina, as we delve into a fascinating tale of early historical preservation in the United States - the story of how George Washington's Mount Vernon was saved by a South Carolina lady. 

A Laurens County native, Ann Pamela Cunningham established one of the country's first preservation organizations, when she formed the Mount Vernon Ladies Association in 1853 and spearheaded efforts to preserve Mount Vernon for future generations. 

Her letters wryly describe her negotiations with George Washington's great grand-nephew, John Augustine Washington: 

"I shook hands with Mr. Washington; told him it was leap-year, women were bound to have their way. He might resist with all his might, but I knew I was to be victor, and must counsel him to follow the example of his illustrious ancestor, who never acted on a grave affair without having slept on it." 

Join us in Laurens County on the site of her family's ancestral home, Rosemont Plantation. The house burned in 1930, but the fascinating story of Ann Pamela Cunningham and her Mount Vernon Ladies Association remains. 

Click below to watch the video, and let's explore . . . 


For further reading:

Posted on April 24th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Conestee Mill + McBee Chapel

Join Chumley and Caroline with Explore Up Close, as we explore two historic sites in Greenville County, South Carolina: Conestee Mill, once known as McBee Manufacturing, and an intriguing chapel built for its workers, both established by one of Greenville's most influential early figures, Vardry McBee.  

Click below to watch the video, and let's explore . . . 

Exploring Conestee Mill + McBee Chapel from Explore Up Close on Vimeo.


Posted on April 17th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Cokesbury College

It's Friday, and we're back with another Virtual Travel video!  So far, we've been featuring snippets of "hidden" history that surrounds us, and today is no exception.

Join Explore Up Close founder, Chumley Cope, as he shows you one of his favorite buildings in the South Carolina Upstate: a beautiful 19th century women's academy, known as Cokesbury College, in Greenwood County. 



Posted on April 10th in Virtual Travel Series