The two-mile-long Lockhart Canal in the Union County town for which it was named was completed in 1823. Designed by noted architect Robert Mills, who served as the State Architect and Engineer for the South Carolina Board of Public Works from 1820 through 1830, it was part of an eight-canal system built in the 1820s to create a navigable water transportation route and make most of the state accessible by water. The Lockhart Canal consisted of seven locks – six lift locks and one guard lock – made of local blue granite.
Despite the enthusiasm for the canal system in the early nineteenth century, the routes determined by the General Assembly were not efficient and thus were underused, causing most of the canals to close by 1838. Mills had recommended an inland navigational system between Columbia and Charleston, but the cost of such a system was more than the state wanted to spend, and Upstate canals were developed instead. The rise of the railroad system also siphoned business from the canals. The Lockhart Canal lasted longer than most, finally closing in 1849.
The canal diverts water from the Broad River, which runs adjacent to the waterway. When the textile boom arrived in South Carolina towards the end of the nineteenth century, the canal was re-cut and a dam was built to power a cotton mill that was established on land between the canal and the Broad River. The Lockhart Mill began operations in 1894, shortly after nearby Union Cotton Mills started producing textiles.
In 1912 the South Carolina legislature incorporated Lockhart Power, a hydroelectric power company that utilizes the canal and dam to supply electricity to the mill and community. Lockhart Power is an investor-owned company that continues to provide hydroelectric power to five Upstate counties – Union, Spartanburg, Chester, Cherokee, and York. In 1912 Lockhart Power planted 100 trees in its service area to commemorate its 100-year anniversary.
While the canal is still in use as a source of hydroelectric power, Lockhart Mill closed in 1994 as textile production became increasingly outsourced to foreign countries. What remains of the mill are a tower, seen above, and the bridge, which crosses the canal to the mill site. The bridge, seen in the photo above the mill tower, is presently closed to all traffic, including pedestrians.
Reflections on the Lockhart Canal
Contributor Peter Krenn says of his photo above, “This is the old footbridge where the workers walked over the canal to go to work at the mill from Lockhart. The mill is long gone, but the smokestack remains.”
There is an ancient, decaying cemetery (Old Irish Cemetery) between the fish dam and old Indian mound. My 5th great-grandfather is buried there. I just used his information to recently join the TN Andrew Jackson Chapter of the SAR (Sons of the American Revolution). His name is Robert Cowley. He lived to be 96 years old! His information and more about the cemetery and others buried there can be found on findagrave.com.
There is no SAR marker placed by his grave. It is extremely high on my bucket list to contact the regional SAR chapter and make that happen before I die.
Steven M. says
Where did Broadus and Lula Clayton live in Lockhart SC? I have 12 N. 3rd, but I can’t find that house. Thanks!
Kenneth Lee Estes says
William Sealy, I bet you remember my great-grandfather, Claude W. Howard. I had good times in Lockhart back when I was a boy and it was an actual town.
William D. Sealy says
My family moved to Lockhart area in the Fall of 1941. From about 1943 until 1954 I carried lunch to some of the mill employees on the first and second shifts. Thus I made many steps across the canal bridge. In April 1954 I became a “card tender” in the mill and this job continued until about mid August 1957. As I looked at these pictures today, they brought back many memories. I’m sure there are not many that would remember me and probably none that would recognize me in the little town at this time. A lot has changed in the last 60 years. May God bless all that see these pictures and especially those with memories of walking this part of God’s great earth.