Peach Country

Millions of Peaches –
And a whole lot more in and around Edgefield, S.C.

About 50 miles southwest you’ll find a place and season Van Gogh would have loved. Come spring, South Carolina Peach Country, a land where Highway 23 threads through acres and acres of peach trees, would have delighted the legendary artist. Winding along, that little highway will take you through Ridge Spring, Ward, Johnston, and on toward Edgefield where you’ll find great expanses of pink peach orchards blooming and things other than peaches.

Van Gogh found a sense of renewal in a peach tree’s delicate blossoms and so will you. A carpet of pink cloaks the sandy hills, a sight that has seduced many a photographer. Keep an eye on the farm reports and you can catch the orchards in full bloom and later make a return trip to get split-oak baskets filled with sweet Carolina sunshine: a treat hard to resist.

In 1984, the peach became South Carolina’s official fruit, and with good reason. A tree-ripened peach may well be the greatest-tasting fruit of all. Loving care attends this state fruit. Tender and easily bruised, hands pluck peaches, not machines. When peaches turn a creamy yellow color they’re ready to be plucked. Soon you’ll see “Peaches For Sale” signs along roads where trucks heavy with peaches back up along the shoulder. (The split oak baskets will come in handy.)

In addition to gorgeous orchards, your journey will take you past interesting places. Driving through Ward you’ll spot an exceptional cemetery beside Spann Methodist Church. The church had its start around 1805 as part of the plantation of John Spann Jr. The cemetery came to be in 1840. The founder of Ward, Clinton Ward, his wife Martha, and their only child, Josephine, sleep here. Josephine stands atop her monument. She died at age 6.

The statue of Clinton, with his period-vogue lamb chops and beard, stands atop a tall monument but Martha merely has a large sphere atop hers. Unusual too is the cast iron statue of a deer at the cemetery gate. The statue of a dog by a tree stands near the railroad track. Ward’s marker, his wife’s, the deer and the dog made the Smithsonian’s Inventory of American Sculpture. The church and its cemetery made the National Register of Historic Places. Not your ordinary graveyard. Nor is this your ordinary day trip. Travel on to Edgefield, the home of 10 governors, and you’ll spot colorful fiberglass turkeys at street corners and on porches. Edgefield is home to the National Wild Turkey Federation. As the 10 governors go, they are Andrew Pickens, George McDuffie, Pierce Mason Butler, James H. Hammond, Francis W. Pickens, Milledge Luke Bonham, John C. Sheppard, Benjamin R. Tillman, John Gary Evans and J. Strom Thurmond.

Edgefield has a strong history of potters too. Plantations here led to a demand for large-scale food storage and preservation. In the 1800s, slaves made alkaline glazed, traditional pottery much as they had in Africa. Particularly notable were the “grotesques” or “voodoo jugs” upon which slave potters applied facial features.

Peaches, politicians, pottery, and a pleasant trip. That’s what a day trip over to Peach Country delivers.

If You Go …

• Take a camera, and a healthy appetite for peaches.

Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected]

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