Clarendon history larger than life

Swamp Fox Murals Trail Society celebrates 15th anniversary

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When you drive through the main cites and towns of Clarendon County you may not realize that you are traveling near areas where American Revolutionary War battles were once fought. But you will notice many murals depicting that era. Twenty-nine to be exact.

Some depict battles in action, while others show everyday life in the mid- to late-1700s. Many of the murals include a portrayal of Brig. Gen. Francis Marion, a South Carolina hero who became famous for defeating the British in the swamps with guerrilla warfare tactics, earning him the nickname "the Swamp Fox."

The project was started 15 years ago by Manning residents George and Carole Summers. Their goal was to create an attraction for tourists to travel through Clarendon County and to also let the local residents enjoy the portrayals of their history, George Summers said.

Summers said he had heard about small towns in other states that saw their tourism increase after murals were painted there.

"We wanted to bring the same concept to Clarendon County and use the rich history here to promote it," he said. "We never dreamed we would be a part of this project for 15 years."

The project, which started with one mural in Manning, has expanded to include 29 total murals spread throughout Manning, Summerton, Turbeville and Paxville. It has attracted multiple mural painters and artists who have worked on the project.

Three more murals are in the works in Turbeville.

Carole Summers said when the project first began the theme of the American Revolutionary War seemed to be the most relevant as there were multiple battles during the war that were fought in the backcountry of South Carolina. The locations of these battles included swamps of modern-day Clarendon County.

The Summers, along with many volunteers, formed the Swamp Fox Murals Trail Society, a nonprofit organization with an aim to promote the history through murals. With fundraising efforts and assistance from Clarendon County Council, the first mural was painted on the side of the Manning Fire Department building in 2001.

Ideas for the murals have since spread and are generated by the Swamp Fox Murals Trail Society. The murals are funded through support of private donations, fundraisers and local civic organizations.

The Swamp Fox Murals Trail Society also hosts several events throughout the year. The society honors Brig. Gen. Francis Marion Memorial Day annually in mid-February by hosting the Francis Marion Living History Days at Camp Bob Cooper in Summerton. The event includes historical reenactments of the Revolutionary period and attracts about 500 third-grade students from the surrounding areas.

The society also hosts an annual Francis Marion Symposium in October, with experts who speak on various Revolutionary War topics, including the historical significance of the War of Independence in South Carolina and Marion.

For more information on the murals or the Francis Marion Living History Days, visit www.clarendonmurals.com or www.francismarioncountry.com.

George and Carole Summers can be reached at (803) 478-2645 or gcsummers@ftc-i.net.

Guided maps for the murals throughout the county can be picked up at the Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce, 19 N. Brooks St., Manning and the Clarendon County Archives and History Center, 211 N. Brooks St., Manning. Donations to the Swamp Fox Murals Trail Society can be sent to P.O. Box 667, Manning, SC 29102.