In 2007, North Charleston attorney and historian Ruth Cupp donated a small collection of her research notes to the Charleston County Public Library. Among these papers were notes, newspaper clippings, copies of maps, and one very interesting photograph of the A. C. Tuxbury Lumber Mill in North Charleston, dated 1935. The photo is in panoramic format, measuring approximately 36 inches long and 6.5 inches tall, but at some point in the past it had been rolled into a tube shape and crushed flat. As a result, it had split into six pieces (one of which barely survived) and suffered a number of cracks. Someone in the past attempted to repair the photo using a generous helping of clear tape, which over the years had become brittle and turned brown. It looked like a mess, but we were determined to salvage this interesting remnant of the past.
Charleston Archive staff member Celeste Wiley, who has considerable experience in photo conservation, managed to coax the adhesive tape off without damaging the images, and then carefully bathed the individual pieces in distilled water to clean and flatten them. The photo is now clearer than it has been in decades, but the six pieces are still detached from each other. Further mending would be expensive and time consuming, and could potentially cause preservation complications in the future. Using computer software, however, Celeste has digitally stitched the pieces back together, creating a seamless view of how the photograph would have originally appeared.
Arrayed in front of the mill are 186 people, perhaps posing for a long-forgotten special occasion. Included among the 133 African-Americans and 53 Caucasians are five people whose faces are partially obscured and seven women and children barely visible in the background. Who are these people? Are any still alive? We have no information about their identities, but we feel confident that descendants of these men still live in the area. Do you see your father, grandfather, cousin, or uncle? If so, we’d be happy to hear from you.
If clicking on the photos above doesn’t open an enlarged version of the photo on your computer, try clicking on each of the sections below:
Tuxbury Mill was in operation by 1906, and was one of many lumber mills that flourished in this heavily forested area around the turn of the twentieth century. Like many of these mills, it was owned by a northern investor—the A. C. Tuxbury Company of New York, which had a chain of similar mills along the Atlantic seaboard. Additional images of the Tuxbury Company’s logging activities in the South Carolina lowcountry can be found at the Forest History Society Library and Archive in North Carolina.
The Tuxbury Lumber Mill in North Charleston is long gone, but its memory is continued by a street name—Tuxbury Lane—near the intersection of Meeting Street Road and Spruill Avenue. To view a modern map of the area, which borders on the west bank of the Cooper River, click on the image to the left.
The original Tuxbury photograph will be on display in the South Carolina History Room at the main branch of the Charleston County Public Library (at 68 Calhoun Street) through the end of September. A 16.5-foot-long enlargement of the photo will also be on view in the library’s lobby for the next several weeks. The public is invited to visit the library to view these fascinating images!