History

Gills Creek Historical Timeline

Gills Creek Historical Timeline

Prehistoric Period — Gills Creek sustained Native American settlements by offering fresh water, fish, and a wildlife corridor for hunting deer and other animals. The tribes of the Congarees and the Waterees settled and hunted along Gills Creek and its tributaries.

A major Native American path crossed the area, connecting the Congaree River to the Wateree River.

1740s — James Gill settled on the creek and lends it his name. Nearby Jackson Creek is named for early landowners Richard and Philip Jackson.

Colonial period — the Indian path became a wagon road, connecting Saxe Gotha on the Congaree River and Pine Tree Hill (Camden) on the Wateree.

American Revolution — The wagon road became known as the Camden Road.

1785 — Thomas Taylor and Wade Hampton purchased land on Gills Creek. On the eastern bank, Hampton established two plantations, “Woodlands” and “Millwood,” which converged at Hampton Hill. Taylor’s plantation was on the western bank of Gills Creek, a portion of which is the future site of the city of Columbia. See related Historical Marker for additional information.

1786 — The State Legislature established Columbia as the state capital on a portion of Taylor’s plantation at the confluence of the Saluda and the Broad Rivers.

1796 — Thomas Taylor employed slave labor to build a gristmill on Gills Creek at the junction of the Camden Road. The mill was later sold to John and Edward Fisher, who used it to spin cotton. The Fishers later sold the mill and ran the Saluda Mill for Robert Gibbes. Ruins of this mill still stand in a private park on Old Mill Circle.  See Historical Marker for additional information.

c. 1870 — Samuel Dent dammed Gills Creek north of Camden Road to power a saw mill. This created Dent's Pond.

1871 — Bethlehem Baptist Church established atop a hill near the intersection of Shop Road and Beltline Boulevard. African Americans were buried in Childs Cemetery up until the 1960s. At some time, the cemetery was obliterated, but is now on Intertape Polymer Group property who have honored the dead by placing headstones for some of the souls known to have been buried there.

1912 — Dent's Pond was purchased by the Lake View Investment Company and the dam is improved to an 80 foot reinforced concrete dam. The lake became a recreational park for swimming and picnics. Other recreational areas grew up along the upper end of Gills Creek at this time.

1917 — The site for Camp Jackson was chosen and construction began on a portion of the Hampton Estate and on land donated by Columbia citizens. The approximately 200 acre Gills Creek Swamp was drained and the creek channelized. A railroad trestle was built across Gills Creek, and the Columbia City Trolley Company had a line to Camp Jackson.  See related Historical Marker for additional information.
 

1920 — Bower's Beach recreation area was built in the area of the current Lake Katharine. The trolley service provided a convenient way for city residents to get to the facility until it was discontinued in 1923.

1923 — Dent's Pond renamed Forest Lake. The Forest Lake Club is organized. John Hughes Cooper bought the Lake View property and created Forest Lake Land Company (now owned by his nephew, Edwin Cooper) in 1923. John Hughes and his brother created Forest Lake Country Club and developed Forest Lake.

1935 – The city of Forest Acres incorporated. The city is made up of sandhill ridges drained by Gills Creek and its tributaries, Eightmile Branch and Pen Branch.

1936 — Bower's Beach was closed and the land sold to developers around 1936. The lake was renamed Lake Lelia.

1937 — Arcadia Woods Lake created.

1938 — Cary(s) Lake created.

1940 – The US Army dug and dammed a new lake south of Forest Lake as an additional source of drinking water for troops at Fort Jackson. When the Army's lease was up (due to the poor quality for drinking water), the property reverted to Burwell Manning who named the lake for his mother Katharine.

1954 — Springwood Lake created.

1955 – Upper and Lower Rockyford and Spring Lakes created.

1959 — Town of Arcadia Lakes was established.

1960-62 — Richland Mall was constructed and Pen Branch channelized in that area.

1965 — Windsor Lake created.

1969 — Upper Windsor Lake created.

1962-2001 — Areas all along Gills Creek become heavily developed as Columbia’s residential population expands and old farmland is converted into suburban housing. Commercial and industrial entities also expand in the area. Gills Creek becomes threatened by development and pollution.

November 1998 — The Gills Creek Watershed Association is registered as a non-profit organization.

2007 — The Gills Creek Watershed Association holds a meeting in the Richland County Council Chambers Thursday, December 6, 2007, to introduce the association to the citizens of Richland County and enlist their help in protecting the Gills Creek Watershed.

2015 — The Gills Creek Watershed experiences record rainfall and heavy flooding. Several dams are compromised, and residents are forced to evacuate in many areas. President Barack Obama signs a disaster declaration, ordering federal aid to help recovery efforts in South Carolina.

2016 — Cary Lake, Upper Rocky Ford Lake, Rocky Ford Lake, and Beaver Dam homeowners voted to establish Special Tax Districts allowing them to borrow or issue bonds to repair the failed or damaged dams.

2017 — Spring Lake, Upper Rocky Ford, Lower Rocky Ford, and Cary Lake dams are rebuilt.

Sources:
Warner M. Montgomery, Forest Acres. Charleston SC. Arcadia Publishing, 2010.
Claude Henry Neuffer, Names In South Carolina. Spartanburg SC. Reprint Co (June 1984)
Debra C. Bloom and Margaret Dunlap, Richland County Library, Local History Room
Steven M. Bradley, PE, SC Dam Safety Hydrologist, Dams and Reservoirs Safety Program, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
The State Newspaper online archives at the Richland County Public Library web site.

Additions, corrections and historical images are welcome! Contact eric.goff@gillscreekwatershed.org.

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