Native Americans exhibit at the Upcountry History Museum in Greenville

The history museum in downtown Greenville has an interesting exhibit about Native American tribes in the South Carolina Upcountry. Admission is $5 adults, $4 seniors, $3 children and students age 4 to 18 and free for children age 3 and under.

The Cherokees
“…The Great Buzzard flew all over the world…when he reached the Cherokee country, he was very tired, and his wings began to flap…wherever they struck the earth there was a valley, and when they turned up again there was a mountain.” Cherokee myth

“The males of the Cherokee…are tall, erect, and moderately robust, their limbs well shaped so as generally to form a perefect human figure…”
William Bartram, naturalist, 1791

18th century encounter with the Cherokee tribe

Early description of Cherokee men

Drawing of early Cherokee settlements in the Carolinas.

Cherokee settlements around 1250 AD

Cherokee village near Pisgah North Carolina 1250 A.D.

Over time the Cherokee settlements turned into towns that were more spread out and more advanced than earlier villages, as illustrated in the Tennessee’s Chota town layout below.

Cherokee town settlement

A look at a more developed prehistoric Cherokee town

Trade and war
In 1730, seven Cherokee warriors went to London to sign a treaty with the British government. They signed a trade agreement that will eventully build colonial fortunes for Great Britain. European traders obtained deerskins and sometimes slaves from the Cherokees. In the early 1700s, South Carolina exported 54,000 deerskins annually.

Cherokee come to England the early 18th century for a trade contract

Cherokee leaders travel to London in 1730 to establish a trade agreement


Native Americans became dependent on European manufactured goods, such as fabric, farming tools, hardware and weapons. They soon exhausted the deer population.

Mounting debt forced them to sell land in order to satisfy their creditors.

Treaties between the Cherokees and the Charlestown-based government limited European settlement in the Upcountry. South Carolina Governor James Glen secured treaties with Native Americans in 1743 that promoted trade and designated land for European settlement. However, as Piedmont region offered rich soil and clean water for farming, settlers ignored these treaties and moved into Native American land.

Native American artifacts from the Upcountry

Cherokee hunting and harvesting tools


In response, the Cherokees attacked the settlements in 1759. The following winter,
at Fort Prince George, the colonial militia killed hostages when Cherokee warriors stormed the fort.

After intese fighting a new treaty was signed creating a new boundary between Cherokee lands and European settlements.

During the American Revolution the Cherokees sighted with the British, hoping they would stop the advancement of the settlements. Patriot militia burned Cherokee towns and crops. On May 20, 1777 at DeWitt’s Corner, Outacite and other Cherokee leaders gave up their lands to the new American government.

The Catawbas
The Catawbas settled east along the Catawba and Wateree Rivers. They often fought with the Cherokees over precious Upcountry land. When the Europeans arrived the tribes agreed to a truce in order to participate in trading. Over time Catawba pottery became highly desired by European settlers who used it for cooking.

Catawba tribe artifact

Catawba peace pipe artifact

Once a distinct nation, by the 1730s, the Catawbas became an amalgam of different trives joined together from wars, settler incursion and disease. By 1760, war and smallpox ravaged the Catawbas to just about 500 people.

The Catawba in the Upcountry

Early drawing of a Catawba man

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Military war camps at the Upcountry history museum in Greenville

For over 200 years the Upcountry sent her sons and daughters to serve in the military and has provided a home for several training camps.

Uniform and personal items worn during WWI

Army uniform in WWI


The tradition started before the American Revolution, when militia troops trained at Fort Prince George.

Throughout the years residents understood the benefits of having troops nearby. Local businessmen sold land for camps, built houses, outfitted and entertained the soldiers.

Come camp payday, money “bounced from one merchant’s cash register to another.”

You can learn more about it at the Upcountry History Museum in downtwon Greenville. Admission is $5 adults, $4 seniors, $3 children 4-18 and free for children age 3 and under.

Disclaimer: historic data and pictures in this post are from the museum exhibits.

During the Spanish American War of 1898, horses were still the main mode of transportation. Sick soldiers recovered at Camp Wetherill in a hospital tent that had a wooden floor. Other places had tents with dirt floors that sometimes turned into mud when it rained.

Military training camps in the 19th century

Horses were the main way of transportation during the Spanish American War

Bootcamp humor – The unusual cold winter of 1898-1899 surprised soldiers from northern states who expected to lie around in the shade of palms trees and gorge on oranges and bananas.

Soldiers jokes on military training in the Upcountry

Guard duties humor

During World War I soldiers were required to shave to allow gas masks to fit properly. In 1901 Gillette developed the safety razor, a welcome improvement over the dangerous straight edge razor. The army bought millions of the new razor and blades for soldiers.

Army soldiers personal items

The first safe razor used by military personnel during World War I

The mess kit or “meat can” contained eating utensils and a frying pan that could be used as a plate. After the meal the utensils went back into the pan, the cover slipped on, and the handle slid across to secure it.

The mess kit used in the army

The multi-purpose meat can, frying pan and dinner plate for the WWI army soldiers

American soldiers used a Coupon Book containing one, two and five francs, to pay the French luxury tax on items purchased there. The Army Air Force published an Emergency Book with jungle and desert survival techniques to airmen deployed to the Pacific and Africa battle fronts.

WWII personal items carried by soldiers

World War I French coupons, Emergency manual and medals

During World War I, medical personnel at Camp Wadsworth took part in stretcher drills to learn how to care for casualties. Did you know? Camp Wadsworth sent out a call for dried peach pits which provided the carbon for gas masks filters.

Medical personnel doing stretch drills in the Upcountry

Medical drills at Camp Wadsworth during World war I

During World War II at Camp Croft, troops conducted war maneuvers and prepared for battle in the European and Pacific fronts in. Camp Croft also housed German POWs who picked peaches, fixed jeeps and cooked their own food.

Military exercises at Camp Croft in 1940s

Bombardment drills at Camp Croft during WWII

Women were able to serve their country as WACS (Women’s Army Corps), at Greenville Army Air Base during World War II.

Training camps for service women during World War II

Army women training in Greenville during WWII

More interesting things to see at the museum and surrounding areas:
• “Mud, Sweat & Cheers Football in the Palmetto State, 1889-Present”, a fun filled exhibit dedicated to over 120 years of football in South Carolina. Check out the heated Gamecocks – Tigers rivalry, the early days rules and legends and interesting collectible items.
Be a textile worker in the early 1900s (Greenville used to be the “Textile Capital of the World”)
• Be inspired by the impressive collection of paintings by Southern artists at the Museum of Art. Right now you will be delighted to see exquisite watercolor work by Mary Whyte and Andrew Wyeth. Admission is free.
• Enjoy the historic 1838 Kilgore-Lewis home and garden, one of the oldest and best preserved houses in the area. Admission is free.

Monkeying around the Greenville Zoo, the kids wild fun things to do

The baby is so cute! The most interesting exhibit at the Greenville Zoo featured the Angola Colobus Monkeys.

Adanna was born in January 2011, a third successful pregnancy for mother Lami and father Valentino. At birth, a baby Colobus monkey is completely white. It will start changing color after one month.

Greenville Zoo newest monkey addition

What is that?

Colobus monkeys are the most arboreal of all African monkeys, spending their entire life in trees. Although their hands are thumbless they are extremely good climbers, known to jump from branch to branch, sometimes leaping up to 50 feet in the air!

Mother Colobus Monkey with her two youngsters

Time out guys!

Avid eaters, the Colobus monkey will consume fruits, seeds and seeds throughout the day. Their super sized stomach can hold up to a third of their body weight!

Baby Adanna sharing a private moment with her mom

Snack time!

The Greenville Zoo is open daily 10AM to 5PM. Admission is $7.75 adults, $4.50 children 3-15 and free for children under 3 (Riverbanks Zoo members get in for half price).

Cool animals to see at the Zoo, Greenville fun cheap things to do!

The Greenville Zoo is not big by any means. It doesn’t boast 21st century facilities like other zoos (see North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro).

Cute baby orangutan showing off her skills

Cute baby orangutan showing off her skills


Yet every time we come to Greenville we end up at the zoo where we have a great time!

It helps that we get in for free with our Riverbanks Zoo membership. General admission is quite cheap $6 adults, $3 children 3-15 and free for kids 3 and under.

This time around Baby Bob stole my heart. Since my visit to the Como Zoo, proud home to another rambunctious youngster orangutan, I got a thing for these great auburn apes. The Orangutan Island show may have something to do with it too…

The Greenville Zoo participates in the Orangutan Species Survival Program aimed at increasing and diversifying the population of Bornean and Sumatran orangutans.


Did you know orangutans only have 2-3 offspring in their 40 – 60 years lifetime?

Things to know before you go

• The zoo is quite small, about one hour should be enough to go through it all. Be prepared for a hearty walk up and down winding pathways.

Giraffe Greetings from Greenville Zoo

Giraffe Greetings from Greenville Zoo

• Most interesting exhibits: orangutans, giraffes, Siamang monkeys, Aldabra tortoises and reptile house to some extent. Lions, elephants, alligator are a little overrated…not much action going on.

• You can purchase drinks, hot dogs, chips, popcorn and candy at the food stand pass the Reptile House. Beware is cash only and there’s no ATM inside the zoo.

• There’s a nice play station area where you can relax in shaded Adirondack chairs gazing at the giraffes while easily keeping an eye on the kids.

• As expected toddlers love the petting zoo farm the most, especially the goats. Make sure to get food from the zoo entrance.

• You may want to start your trip at the huge playgrounds outside the zoo. They’re recently upgraded with top-notch playing equipment.
On a downside there isn’t much shade besides the shelters (always occupied) and the smell emanating from the rubber carpet can be nauseating after a while.

Meet Bubba the Aldabra tortoise.

65 years old 400 lbs Bubba enjoying a snack at Greenville Zoo

60 years old 400 lbs Bubba enjoying a snack at Greenville Zoo

At 65 he is still a teenager, as these giant reptiles can live up to 200 years old.

The Aldabra is bigger than the more famous Galapagos turtles and can reach over 4 feet in length and up to 700 pounds in weight!

Did you know that Aldabra can hunt too?

She collapses on birds feeding on dead fish under her.

Don’t worry Bubba is happy to just munch on grass along with his girlfriends the Bubbletes!

The elusive Axolotl…

A beautiful ghost, the Axolotl salamander

A beautiful ghost, the Axolotl salamander

My favorite resident inside the Reptile House is the little known, weird looking Axolotl.

This translucent salamander lives only in the water and feeds on insects, fish and crustaceans.

Did you know at if one of its limbs is removed, the Axolotl salamander can grow it back?

How’s that for health insurance!

Let the adventure begin at majestic Table Rock State Park (Greenville weekend fun outdoor activities)

So much to see, so much to do at Table Rock State Park the undisputed jewel of the South Carolina mountains. The park is at the edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment off of scenic highway 11, relative short drive from Greenville and little over an hour drive from Charlotte. Table Rock Visitors Center photo Table Rock mountain has a spectacular granite outcropping which at 3124 feet is a stark contrast to the heavily wooded forests below.

The first white men moved in the Oolenoy Valley soon after the Cherokee treaty at a place called Pumpkintown. In 1840 the Keith and Sutherland families built a hotel that soon became a popular area attraction. A second hotel was built in 1899 at present White Oak Picnic Shelters site then moved in 1920 to Saluda Valley to become a summer lodge.

Things to know before you go at Table Rock and Caesar’s Head parks

1. Carrick Creek is the only recommended hiking trail for young kids at the Table Rock state park. It starts at the Nature Center and about 2 miles it takes an hour to complete. It weaves around Carrick Creek and rewards hikers with dozens of gorgeous, refreshing and easy accessible mini waterfalls. It gets better at the end (or beginning!) when you and your brave little ones can goof around at the swimming area.
Rock sliding Nature Center at Table Rock Park photo

Here are all Table Rock hiking trails. Hikers are encouraged to register at the trail head kiosk and be off trails at least one hour before sunset. No overnight camping on trails. Foothills Trail hikers need to purchase a parking permit at the Visitors Welcome Center.
• Pinnacle Mt. 8.4 miles 6-7 hours
• Table Rock 7.2 miles 5-6 hours
• Mill Creek 5.8 miles 5-6 hours
• Carrick Creek (kid friendly) 1.9 miles 1 hour
Hiking on Carrick Creek trail photo

2. There is a big playground near Pinnacle Lake with plenty of age appropriate equipment in a nicely shaded place. Beware of the geese wandering throughout the parking lot and the picnic area. They are mean, mean, mean and will harass you as soon as they sense the food. My 4 years old and I had to take refuge on top of the picnic table. No kidding! I finally braved to chase them away using some stick musketeer style.
Young kid on Carrick Creek trail photo

3. Caesar’s Head State Park has the “take it with you, no trace left behind” policy. There are no trash canes or restrooms along the park. The welcome center has restrooms and vending machines. I encourage you to replenish there and use the facilities.
Caesars Head overlook photo

4. The trail to Raven Cliff Falls from Caesar’s Head is about 5 miles long so plan ahead. If there is not much time left you can still enjoy incredible vistas of Campbell, Paris, Table Rock, Raven Cliff and Glassy mountains and the immaculate Table Rock reservoir (it supplies the city of Greenville with fresh water) at the Caesar’s Head overlook. From there you can hike the short and moderate Devil’s Kitchen trail. Caesar Head park photo
Be mindful this park is frequented by black bears.

5. If waterfall viewing “it’s on the menu” drive to Dupont Forest State Park (couple miles after crossing the NC border off of hwy 276; here are driving directions to and map of Hooker Falls Access Area). It provides easy hiking and quick access to some of North Carolina most beautiful waterfalls: Triple Falls, High Falls and Grassy Creek Falls. There is a $12 map you can purchase at Caesar’s Head welcome center. Here are some great Dupont Foreast park hike trails details, an interactive map and waterfall photos.

Table Rock Admission, Lodging and Rental Prices

Admission fee: $2 per person; $15 per bus; $1.25 SC senior citizen. Annual passport $50 (good at all SC State Parks); Palmetto Passport $25 (for SC seniors or disabled citizens). Tip: if you got a permit or day pass from another SC park you can use it at Table Rock (and any other state park) as long as the permit / pass are still valid.
Lake Oolenoy Table Rock State park photo

Cabins: There are 14 cabins (8 with 1 BR, 5 with 2 BR and 1 with 3 BR) that can accommodate 4-10 persons. They range in price from $75 to $120 per night. Check in 4 PM, check out time 10 AM. Tip: rent Sunday thru Thursday to save $15-20 per night. Cabins 5, 6, 7 and 8 are right by Pinnacle Lake and have the best views. You can reserve a cabin up to 11 months in advance. Call 1-866-345-7275 or go online www.southcarolinaparks.com.

There are 96 camping sites at the White Oaks campground equipped with showers and a recreation building. Price is about $20 per night (including tax); again is cheaper during the week.

Equipment Rentals: Spring thru fall, Tuesday to Sunday from 11 AM till 5 PM (weather permitting).
• Pedal boats – 2 person $5 per half hour; 4 person boat $7 per half hour
• Kayaks and canoes – $5 per half hour; $15 per day
• Fishing boat – $15 per day; $35 per day for boats with trolling motor (3 person maximum). Note that no private boats are allowed on Pinnacle Lake however you can use them at Lake Oolenoy across Hwy 11.
Table Rock swimming area photo
Swimming: June till mid-August Tuesday to Sunday from 11 AM till 5 PM; August 16 thru Labor Day weekends only. Adults $2, children 4-12 years $1.50, free for kids 3 years and under.

Enjoy the beauty of the South Carolina Upcountry parks!

What kids, adults and even pets love to do at Oconee State Park (a fun and affordable family vacation in SC)

Recently I spent an extraordinary week with my 4 years old at the Oconee State Park in beautiful Carolina Upcountry. If you wonder about what to do, where to go and what places to visit while vacationing in the South Carolina mountains then read along.

Free activities
• Hike the easygoing 1 mile loop trail to enjoy gorgeous views around the lake. Lassie in the canoe!
Serious trekkers are rewarded with the start of the famous 80 mile Foothills Trail.
• Stop by the playground where little ones can run around and you can picnic, volleyball and relax by the lake.
• Visit the interpretive room to learn about the very rare chestnut and the versatile hickory trees. Centuries ago chestnut trees graced our forests from northern Appalachian Mountains all the way to Mississippi. The wood was resistant to rot and easy to split thus it was used for building fences and railroads. Legend has it a 20 foot rail could be split with a single wedge! Chestnut was a valuable source to produce the acid used for tanning leather. Back then, entire communities depended on the “acid” factories. In 1904 people in New York started to see trees being killed by blight and by 1930s all the trees were almost extinct.

Teen jumping in the lake At Oconee you can still spot stumps of this once majestic tree. Hickory, a truly American tree (there is only one other specy in eastern China), is quite abundant, with four varieties thriving at the Oconee park. Its wood has an unequal combination of strength, elasticity and toughness making it the major raw material for producing sporting goods. Hickory it’s also used to flavor barbecue.
• Swim Fri to Sun(11 AM to 5 PM). Lifeguards on duty. Bring some flotation device to keep little kids entertained. Older kids keep themselves busy at the diving platform
• Chase geese and ducks around. May not seem like much to you but trust me little ones never get tired of it. Don’t worry; no animals get harmed…when they had enough they just take off.

Activities under $5 and $10
• Putt-putt golf: $1.50 per game
• Pedal boats: $5 / hour (go with #7 the red sparkling one)
• Boating and fishing, canoeing or kayaking. Like paradise at Oconee lake

The sign says $10 / half-day or $20 / whole day. I paid $3 for an hour of kayaking. Cabin renters can get a “John” boat for the whole week for $50. Beware private boats are not allowed on the park lake, only rental fishing boats.You need a SC fishing license. The lake has excellent bass, bream, catfish and trout fishing.
• Friday night Square Dancing at the Barn: $2 for adults and $1 for children.

Tips to know before you go
1. There are 2 things you MUST bring along to keep little ones entertained in the evenings: a portable or car DVD player and a flashlight.

2. There is no TV and the cell signal is almost null. Those of you who can’t survive without the world wide web, the Chick-fill-A in Seneca has free Wifi Internet and an awesone indoor playground.

3. Take advantage of the fire pit and grill and try to have a fire every night. It’s priceless. You don’t have to cook much; hot-dogs followed by marshmallows will do just fine. You can get a stack of wood cheaply from the stands along Hwy 28 that leads to the park.

4. Go to Ingles in Walhalla for grocery shopping and to Wal-Mart in Seneca for anything else…

Area Attractions
Here are some suggestions on things to do while vacationing at Oconee. Check and print this custom Google Map with all the attractions listed below. Everything is less than an hour drive and most of them are FREE to attend.
Walhalla Trout Fish Hatchery – see the life stages of, feed and even fish three species of trout
• Visit the centuries old Oconee Historic Station and Hagood Mill the oldest continuous operating grist mill in the Carolina.
• Learn how electricity is made and nuclear reactors works at Duke’s World of Energy museum.
• See the legendary Issaqueena and the breathtaking Whitewater waterfalls (highest in the East).
• Go to Lake Jocassee at Devils Fork State Park for year around swimming, boating and even scuba-diving. This is the finest fishing place in the Southeast.
• Mine for rubies, sapphires and even gold in Franklin, NC. Make sure to stop near Cullahasa Falls on Hwy 64 (between Highlands and Franklin) for some awesome rock-sliding in the river.
• Admire country largest collection of nature-based sculptures and hundreds of exotic ornamental plants at the SC Botanical Garden (located on the Clemson University campus).
• Journey back in time and shop for incredible antiques at historic Pendleton, the Charleston of the Upstate! Check out Farmer’s Hall, Hunter’s Store, Ashtabula, Woodburn and Old Stone Church.