By Lauren Stepp
The chestnut oaks dropped their cardinal shawls months ago, leaving behind a rabble of disrobed branches and grayish-green pitch pines. Leaf lookers petered out after the first frost and out-of-town bikers have sought balmier riding. This is January in DuPont State Recreational Forest. Only tried-and-true locals remain. And the dead.
Little is known about Thomas Cemetery and Hooker-Moore Cemetery, DuPont’s two graveyards. The smaller of the two, Thomas Cemetery harbors descendants of John Thomas Jr., the forest’s first deeded landholder. In 1799, John Thomas acquired a parcel that included High Falls, Triple Falls and Bridal Veil Falls as an inducement to military service in the Revolutionary War.
Local vernacular offers a lively description of his son, Micajah Thomas. Born in 1808, Micajah grew up to be an enterprising man. In his 20s, he built the Buck Forest Hotel and Cedar Mountain Post Office at the intersection of present-day Cascade Lake Road and Staton Road. Accessible to Upstate South Carolinians, the stagecoach stop offered a taste of mountain living.
But much like the Micajah Trail, a rowdy one-mile section of single track near DuPont’s Corn Mill Shoals parking area, life as a businessman in the antebellum South had its ups and downs. Micajah is said to have been blinded in one eye after being assaulted by Union troops during the Civil War. He sold the hotel to Joseph Carson shortly thereafter and died in 1883. Micajah is buried alongside his grandson, Thomas M. Thomas, who passed away as a toddler, says author Danny Bernstein.
Last September, Bernstein released DuPont Forest: A History, a book chronicling DuPont’s evolution over the last two centuries. Her text tells of preservation—locals banding together to save the forest from imminent development—but also of loss. Case in point: the heartbreaking story of Isaac and Jane Heath. In 1861, the couple lost four of their ten children—Margaret, Milliard, Harriet and Hannah—to what historians assume was diphtheria. They now rest in the Hooker-Moore Cemetery, a public cemetery that once served Laurel Creek Baptist Church.
“Isaac Heath buried his daughters himself when they passed,” says Bernstein. “He didn’t want anyone else to catch the disease.”
He died in 1895 and, per his request, was buried beside his children. Clinton Moore, who sold a nearby gristmill to brothers Spencer, Edmund and John Hooker in 1882, is also buried in the cemetery. As is James Lewis Sentell, a Union soldier who was executed by Confederates or local militia in May 1864.
And though talk of the dead may seem morose, their stories are integral to the life of DuPont Forest. “Frankly, my book is more memoir than history,” says Bernstein. “Since there is little officially written about DuPont, I gathered information through interviews with Brevard locals, legislators and Forest Service personnel. I had to get it all down before it was lost with passing generations.”
Thomas Cemetery, an unassuming plot demarcated by split rail fencing, can be accessed via the Guion Farm parking area off Sky Valley Road. Hooker-Moore Cemetery, a larger plot with about 65 headstones, can be accessed from the Hooker Falls parking area off DuPont Road. For more information regarding Danny Bernstein, visit HikertoHiker.net.