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On Ramp to EXIT 18-8 I-95s: Road 13, To: Switzerland Beaufort, Hilton Head Island, Hardeeville, South Carolina
“Believe it or not, America’s first Trade War with China happened almost 400 years ago. It was headquartered in a little obscure river settlement of Purrysburg, South Carolina as well as in world famous Jamestown, Virginia.
In the early 1600's, Jamestown the first settlement in Virginia, was originally financed by London investors to start a silk farm. Here too in southern South Carolina, silk worms were the original reason for starting early settlements. Unlike in Jamestown, the experiment nearby worked — albeit briefly.
Once landed near the upcoming Savannah River, Swiss Immigrants were tasked with meticulously planting and tending to the mulberry bushes that their British overlords imported with them. Mulberry leaves are the sole form of sustenance for silkworms. The silkworms -- which are larva to adult silk moths -- spin fuzzy white cocoons which when painstakingly unravelled, become silk.
Silk was originally cultured in China where the silkworm comes from. But in the 1500’s and 1600’s silk was all the rage in Europe. No self respecting lord, lady or aspirational merchant would be caught naked without their silk skivvies, silk pantaloons and sexy silk jerseys. So obviously breaking the Chinese monopoly was forefront in the colonial era investors’ minds.
The investors felt that South Carolina would be the proper climate for cultivating mulberry bushes. But what they did not anticipate here were the snake infested swamps and malaria mosquitos.
While this experiment -- as opposed to Jamestown -- did manage to export about a 150 pounds of silk in 1772, the indentured Swiss laborers died by the score.
After many stressful seasons, the Swiss abandoned the river farms near Purrysburg and created their new village on high dry ground. A bastion of health and clean living high now on a hill, obviously, it would come to be called Switzerland! Upcoming is the Exit.
What became of the low country the Swiss left behind? Well sadly that became the nexus of a far more successful slave based agrarian commodity. Also no surprise it may have echoes of Chinese culture as well. The Low Country of South Carolina was riven with creeks, black water rivers, and swamps. The semi-tropical environment with seasonal flood plains was ideal for the wholesale cultivation of rice.
To wring out a profit, rice requires Big investment. Vast industrial plantations sprung up. And of course, slaves could not complain about the heat, humidity, disease, and death. Slaves were, after all, expendable. We discuss the hard short life of a slave in the rice plantations at upcoming exits.
Incidentally, if you want to take a back road tour of South Carolina’s Low Country, in addition to Switzerland you can visit communities named Denmark, Norway, and Finland. Linked by roads draped over by ancient Spanish Moss covered Cypress trees, these European-named locales are very easy to visit with a short drive from the upcoming Exit. The Exit leads visitors through the swamps and forests and past the ghosts of the storied Low Country.
Meanwhile, Purrysburg too survives... hard along the swamp of the fast approaching Savannah River. But at least today the residents enjoy air-conditioning not to mention mosquito spray… lots and lots of Mosquito spray.”
#Jamestown #SwitzerlandSouthCarolina #Silk #Silkroad #ChinaTradeWar