Ten years after Americans declared their independence from the British Empire, a charter was granted for the construction of the Santee Canal, the nation's first. Construction began in 1793 and was completed in 1800. The Santee Canal was 22 miles long with three locks to lift boats from the Santee River to the summit level and seven locks for the descent of the boats to the Cooper River. Droughts and increased competition from railroads prompted shareholders to revoke its charter in 1850.
In 1934, the Santee Canal was the inspiration behind the creation of the South Carolina Public Service Authority, more commonly known as Santee Cooper. Building upon the canal's initial purpose of improving inland navigation, the Santee Cooper project electrified rural South Carolina and created lakes Marion and Moultrie.
Today, most of the Santee Canal lies beneath Lake Moultrie, but visible portions remain where boats entered from the Santee River and at Biggin Creek, where it joined the headwaters of the Cooper River. It's also here, in Moncks Corner, where you will find the Old Santee Canal Park.
Opened in 1989, the 195-acre park commemorates the area's rich history and habitat. Among its attractions are the Stony Landing House, built in 1843, and four miles of boardwalks that meander through the quiet backwaters of Biggin Creek and its surrounding swamp. The park's centerpiece is its Interpretive Center that chronicles the area's history as far back as 4000 B.C., including the 1863 construction of the Little David, a semisubmersible Confederate torpedo boat used in the Civil War. The Berkeley County Museum and Heritage Center is also located within the park's gates.
Beyond its historical offerings, the park has become a popular destination for bird watchers, hikers, paddlers and other outdoor enthusiasts.
Originally referred to as "Stone Landing" and named for the high grade of marl found near the surface of the soil, the name Stone Landing was dropped sometime in the late 1700s, and the site became known as Stony Landing.
This landing on Biggin Creek, where the west branch of the Cooper River begins, was extremely important to the commerce of the early South Carolina colony. Supplies for the interior regions were brought up the Cooper River by boat, unloaded at Stony Landing and carried by Indian carriers or pack horsemen (and later by wagons) up the Cherokee Path. The Cherokee Path went through the Congaree, Cherokee, High Hills of the Santee and the Waxhaws, and then on westward to the Mississippi.
Rice planters in upper Berkeley County hauled their rice to Stony Landing to be loaded on flatboats or schooners to be transported to Charleston. While waiting for a boat, rice planters stored their crop in a large warehouse.
The large volume of riverboat traffic ceased around 1800 with the construction of the Santee Canal and development of new roads.
During the time Dr. St. Julien Ravenel owned the land, he experimented with the use of marl to produce lime. Cement was found under the limestone layers, and as a result Dr. Ravenel and Gen. C. H. Stevens founded the Colleton Lime Works. Lime sold for 90¢ a barrel and was considered top quality.
During the Civil War, in extreme secrecy, the Little David was constructed at the landing site claiming title as the first successful semisubmersible torpedo boat attack in the history of naval warfare.
On June 12, 1882, The Stony Landing Company was organized for the manufacture of stone brick and building lime.
There were 622 acres of land in 1919 when Sen. Edward James Dennis bought the property compared to the 2,319 acres of land in 1839 when John H. Dawson purchased it at a Master-in-equity sale.
The Stony Landing Plantation House was built circa 1843 by the Charleston merchant, John H. Dawson, who acquired the land in 1839. The house was a great contrast to the more elegant homes built along the Cooper River in those days.
By 1861, during the Civil War, the property was in the possession of Dr. St. Julien Ravenel of Charleston. Ravenel was noted for his scientific endeavors as well as for being a physician. He gave up his medical practice, however, and devoted his time to chemical and plant research.
This led him to the discovery of limestone application in soil, a discovery far in advance of its time. Ravenel is given most of the credit for promoting the construction of the Little David, which was built in total secrecy at Stony Landing.
A closer look at the underside of the house shows the original hand-hewn timbers that were used in its construction. The house was built on 8 ft. brick pillars and was very often used for picnics. Children at these gatherings played with several small cars on wheels formerly used by the brick manufacturing company located on the premises.
The house is furnished with period reproduction furniture and is open for tours.
2013 OLD SANTEE CANAL PARK