Promoting tourism in Clarendon County

George, Carole Summers share area's Revolutionary War history

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 3/15/18

They aren't natives to Clarendon County, but George and Carole Summers have surely adopted the county as their home.

Eat at a local restaurant, visit the library, drive around Manning, Summerton, Turbeville or Paxville, or even Google Clarendon …

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Promoting tourism in Clarendon County

George, Carole Summers share area's Revolutionary War history

This mural in Manning depicts the Chase to Ox Swamp. In November 1780, Francis Marion led the British on a 25-mile chase that ended at the Ox Swamp in Manning. At this point, according to many historians, the British gave up on trying to capture Marion.
This mural in Manning depicts the Chase to Ox Swamp. In November 1780, Francis Marion led the British on a 25-mile chase that ended at the Ox Swamp in Manning. At this point, according to many historians, the British gave up on trying to capture Marion.
BRUCE MILLS / THE SUMTER ITEM
Posted

They aren't natives to Clarendon County, but George and Carole Summers have surely adopted the county as their home.

Eat at a local restaurant, visit the library, drive around Manning, Summerton, Turbeville or Paxville, or even Google Clarendon County on the web, and you're bound to see the fruits of their labor.

Combine George, a military history buff who is a retired colonel from Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, and Carole, a retired educator, mix in their love for traveling, and you have a winning combination for tourism in Clarendon.

"They should be called 'Mr. and Mrs. Clarendon County for Tourism,'" said Nancy Cave, archivist with Clarendon County Archives and History Center. "They were the only people realistically promoting tourism in the county for many years, up until recently."

After retiring from Shaw, the Summerses moved to a lakeside home on Wyboo Plantation in Clarendon in 1994.

Once they settled in Clarendon, they said they wanted to increase the county's profile as a tourist attraction off Interstate 95.

"One thing that always comes up is: We have roughly 40,000 people roaring up and down I-95 every day. How do we get them off to spend a half day here or stay overnight in a hotel and eat a meal with you?" George Summers said.

He said he wanted to attract people to Clarendon so they could eventually learn about Lake Marion, the fishing and the county's golf courses as potentially an end destination.

Through their travelling of the West Coast for several years, the Summerses said they had discovered cities and towns that used mural programs as a tourist attraction.

They said they thought it was a good idea, but they needed a theme for murals for Clarendon.

A quick study of Clarendon's history, and they discovered American Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion fought in the county, which was then contained in the area known as St. Mark's Parish. Marion and his militia fought and won eight or nine significant battles in the county as part of the Southern Campaign of the war, George Summers said.

Marion, the key Patriot leader in the eastern region of South Carolina, was coined with the name "Swamp Fox" by the British because he alluded their capture by traveling along swamp paths in the area.

According to the Summerses and many historians, Marion is also known as one of the fathers of modern guerrilla warfare because he and his troops would rarely engage with enemies in head-on warfare. The "Marion Militia," as they were called, defeated many larger enemy groups with quick surprise attacks and also quick withdrawals from the field.

Marion's victories are not as well chronicled as those of some other leaders in the war because other significant battles occurred in the same timeframe as his engagements - 1778 to 1781. The southern campaign of the war is often referred to as a "Forgotten History," many scholars say.

As self-described "Francis Marion advocates," the Summerses set out to change that with the historical mural program.

In 2000, their first mural was put in place.

About 15 years ago, the retired couple formed a nonprofit organization called the Swamp Fox Murals Trail Society, and they started an annual symposium fundraiser to bring national attention to Marion, they said. About 10 speakers from across the U.S. - usually history buffs or college professors - present each year at the symposium, which is held at F.E. DuBose Center in Manning.

Today, about 28 murals have been painted and are located on walls and structures in Manning, Summerton, Turbeville and Paxville.

With a story board affixed next to all the murals, each tells a story about Marion, but not all depict battle sites, the couple said.

Now, the couple also conducts historical tours of the murals and battle sites in the county. They get requests for tours about once a month and emails about every week, Carole Summers said.

"It just keeps getting bigger and bigger," she said.

A few years ago, they helped develop a Clarendon County Tour android app, which is free to download. The app contains all the history markers in the county, including the murals and battle sites.

"It talks to you, too," George Summers said.

The couple has also developed a website, www.clarendonmurals.com, which links to other smaller sites they've created, detailing the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War in South Carolina and Marion.

Before the mural program, the Summerses' first creation to build interest and tourism in Clarendon was a monthly events calendar that can still be found in local restaurants, the library and numerous other places, they said.

The calendar was started about 18 years ago, and they said they also got that idea from their own traveling. The wallet-size calendars are printed and emailed out every month, Carole Summers said.

"We did that to build awareness that there's a lot going on here - both for the locals and visitors," George Summers said. "We are more than just a crossroads."

The Summerses said they continue to travel and bring back home various ideas and "goodies" to help the community.

Cave, of the county's archives and history center, boasts about the couple's work.

"Basically, George and Carole see stuff other places and come back and bring it to Clarendon County, whether it's an app or a mural or something from out west," Cave said. "It doesn't matter what it is, if they think it can help Clarendon County."

Along the way, the couple has taught many about Clarendon's history. Most think because the Civil War (1861 to 1865) had such a large impact on the South that - naturally - it must have been fought in the area. But it wasn't, according to historians.

"Most people initially don't think of anything before the Civil War and about 1865," George Summers said. "We've converted a few Civil War fans to Revolutionary War fans."