This early twentieth century grist mill in Boykin was preceded by a series of grist and saw mills dating from the 1700s. Built around 1905, the current mill is powered by Boykin Mill Pond, which was itself created sometime before 1786. The pond was formed by the damming of Swift Creek.
In 1786 the pond and surrounding land were platted for Robert English, who sold it to Samuel Boykin, son of town namesake William Boykin, that same year. Boykin then deeded a portion of the land to Israel Mathis for the construction of a mill. By 1792 Mathis had built the first known sawmill and gristmill on the tract. Mathis died shortly after establishing his mill, and the property changed hands throughout the subsequent years until it was purchased by Burwell Boykin in 1809. The mill remains in the Boykin family today.
Flour, cornmeal, and lumber have been milled at the location since the time of Mathis’s mill. The land surrounding the pond was often used as a community gathering spot, with local families enjoying picnics on its shores. However, the pond was the site of a tragedy in May of 1860 when between 30 and 40 people, including young children, set out for a boat ride. The flatboat carrying the passengers is said to have struck a stump in the water, causing a leak. In a panic, the passengers all fled to the opposite side of the boat. The boat tipped, dumping everyone into the water. Twenty-four people drowned.
Five years later, on April 18, 1865, the property was the site of a battle fought days after the Civil War had officially ended. The skirmish was the last Civil War battle fought in South Carolina. It was also here that the last Union officer was killed in action. As Union troops were destroying railroads and rail cars throughout the state at the end of the war, Confederate troops brought rail cars from neighboring Camden to safety at Boykin Mill.
The destruction of railroad infrastructure in central South Carolina was led by Union officer General Edward E. Potter and therefore called “Potter’s Raid.” When Potter’s Raid found its way to Boykin Mill, Confederate troops cut the dam and flooded the road. The Union troops were undaunted, and a skirmish broke out; Lieutenant Edward Stevens of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry was fatally shot by 14-year-old Burwell Henry Boykin. Boykin, who was named for an aforementioned ancestor, turned 15 the following day. Rifle trenches dug by Confederate soldiers along the railroad are still visible today.
Today the Boykin Mill Complex serves as an active commercial community, and the mill still grinds corn into grits and cornmeal. Several historic buildings now serve the community as commercial structures, including restaurants and stores. The historic Swift Creek Baptist Church is used for weddings and special events.
Boykin Mill is listed in the National Register as part of the Boykin Mill Complex:
(Mill Tract Plantation) Boykin Mill Complex is a central locale that has historically been important in the life of rural Kershaw County. At present, “Boykin Mill” denotes a community which consists of an old post office (ca. 1875), an old general store (ca. 1905), a ca. 1905 grist mill, mill pond, mill dam, gates, and canals. The community also includes an early nineteenth century Greek Revival style Baptist church (ca. 1827), one mid-nineteenth century residence, three twentieth century residences (ca. 1935) built for mill workers, and a smoke house. A Civil War battle site is also a part of the Boykin Mill community. The battle at Boykin Mill took place on April 17, 1865. The importance of these sites revolves around the large mill pond on Swift Creek. The pond dates to at least 1786, when it was platted for Robert English, who was apparently the first grantee of the mill pond tract. A succession of saw and grist mills has been located on or near the dam to the pond since that time.
More Pictures of Boykin Mill
Contributor Peter Krenn sent the following aerial photos of the Boykin Mill area, showing the buildings and the mill pond from a bird’s-eye view: