Ellenton, South Carolina a town that once was, and in the hearts of many still is.
( Town Created 1873 - Town Ended 1950-1952 )
Historic Notes on the town of Ellenton, South Carolina.
In 1870 construction was ongoing of the Port Royal Railroad, this railroad would extend 112 miles from Port Royal, near Beaufort, South Carolina to Augusta, Georgia and was operated under the leadership of Stephen Caldwell Millett, the railroad president and construction superintendant. As Mr. Millett traveled and worked to secure railway rights for the construction of the railroad he meet and stayed at the home of Robert Jefferson Dunbar, Jr., whose land was in the railway path. Mr Dunbar gave land to the railroad for right-of-way passage, and donated land for streets to be built around a new small train station on the Port Royal railway.
Mr. Millet becoming close to the Dunbars named the train station's area in 1873 'Ellen's Town' after the Dunbar’s youngest daughter Mary Ellen Dunbar, called Ellen by her family. There is some oral tradition that Ellen was only 9 years old at this time, but historically documents put Mary Ellen Dunbar at 22 years old and Mr. Stephen Millet at around 32 years old. This part of the history of Ellenton, presents some fascinating questions, whose answers we do not know.
Ellen’s Town, quickly known as Ellenton, became populated by farmers from nearby communities which sought the benefit of the railroad and train station area.
The Office of Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service documents the appointment of James Houston, Postmaster of Ellenton, South Carolina, on May 12, 1873.
Ellenton, SC was incorporated on December 24, 1880.
In 1950 President Harry S. Truman, alarmed by the growing power of Russia and fearing the advent of World War III, approved the selection of a government site in South Carolina along the Savannah River for the production of the world’s most destructive weapon, the hydrogen bomb. Because of the hazardous nature of nuclear production and potential safety and security concerns, the facility would require 300 square miles of protected land.
On November 28, 1950, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and the E. I. du Pont de Nemours Company announced that the 'Savannah River Plant' would be built on land from Aiken County, Barnwell County, and Allendale County in South Carolina.
The land of the town of Ellenton, and its smaller neighbors Dunbarton, Meyers Mill, Hawthorne, Robbins, and Leigh were evacuated by the federal government to make room for this production facility.
A number of South Carolina political leaders exhibited a sense of pride and excitement following the announcement of the plant. But for residents of Ellenton the news came as a shocking blow. For the older families in Ellenton, the announcement of the Savannah River Plant shattered a community in which they had invested and lived their entire lives. The citizens of Ellenton overwhelmingly declared that they were ready and willing to do whatever was required of them in love and support of their country, but being told to leave your home and hometown was heartbreaking and traumatic.
The people of Ellenton would be the first to tell you that the town was nothing special, as far as any town goes. The residents understood that their community resembled so many others throughout the USA. It had its strengths and weaknesses, its mansions and its dilapidated shacks, its rich and its poor.
They believed that their town was completely and utterly normal. They loved Ellenton not because it was a unique place chosen by the US goverment, but because it was theirs. Ellenton was home.
While many residents were given until March 1, 1952, to move, it became abundantly clear in the days and weeks following the November 28, 1950 announcement that even in the limited time remaining, Ellenton would never be the same.
While the displaced people of the Ellenton area may have begun new lives in other town and communities, they will always call Ellenton, home.
The story of Ellenton, South Carolina, has long served as little more than a footnote in American history. Nevertheless, the sacrifice of Ellenton and it's people is extraordinary.
'Oh, the friends we know and love,
We'll meet upon some other shore,
For Ellenton--fair Ellenton
Is gone forever more.'
-from the Song:
'The Death of Ellenton'
by Jesse Johnson & Dixie Smith