Dawkins House awarded state historical marker

Charles Warner Editor

September 3, 2013

UNION — The house that briefly served as the seat of the Confederate government of South Carolina during the closing days of the Civil War is now one of more than 1,300 sites in the state with its own historical marker.

Located on the USC Union campus, the Thomas N. Dawkins House is currently owned by Peter Trigianni who is in the process of restoring it. Trigianni announced that the house, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, has now been awarded a historical marker by the South Carolina Historical Marker Program. He said the marker, which arrived last week and was briefly stored in the Union County Museum, relates the story of the house and its original owners as well as the role in played in the Civil War.

One side of the marker reads:

This was the home of Thomas N. Dawkins (1807-1870) and his second wife Mary Poulton Dawkins (1820-1906). Dawkins, a lawyer, state representative, and judge, married Poulton, a native of London, in 1845. They named the house “The Shrubs” for her grandfather’s home in England; Mrs. Dawkins designed her garden to feature shrubs. Dawkins served in the S.C. House in the 1830s and again during the Civil War.

The other side of the marker reads:

Governor Andrew Gordon Magrath, the last Confederate governor of South Carolina, left Columbia on February 16, 1865 a day before it surrendered. Forced to move the state government to temporary headquarters, Magrath arrived in Union on February 21. Dawkins invited him to stay here and Magrath used the library as his office for several days in late February and early March.

Trigianni said the marker was sponsored by the Union County Historical Society with the financial assistance of Union County. He said the application for the marker was the one of the last projects he collaborated on with the late Col. William J. Whitener, one of the founders of the historical society and its president emeritus at the time of his death.

“This sign was one of the last projects Col. Whitener and I worked on,” Trigianni said. “When he had his book made for his grandchildren I helped him with the computer work. When we were done he said ‘Lets you and I do another project together’ and we decided to get a historical marker for the house.”

Trigianni said the marker’s arrival is just the latest sign of the reviving fortunes of the Dawkins House which he said at one point was in such bad condition people were asking if it would be bulldozed. Since he began working to restore it, the house has been used as the site of a performance by Boogaloo Folklife Productions and will be open for Uniquely Union on Sept. 13 and 14.

The marker, according to Trigianni, is important also for its role in helping to preserve and promote Union County’s history.

“Mills, businesses and people come and go,” Trigianni said. “What remains is our history. For Union, a county with a tremendous history, its history is one of our greatest assets and should be continually promoted.

“As for the Dawkins house, many people do not know of its historical importance,” he said. “Perhaps now with the marker, people will further recognize that for a short tumultuous period, a house they see everyday, right here in their community, housed a short-lived South Carolina State Capitol and one the last vestiges of Confederate government at the end of the War Between The States.”

Trigianni added that now that it has a historical marker, the Dawkins House is now on the state marker online database. He said that people touring the state can access the database to plan out their itineraries. Trigianni said this in turn could promote historic or heritage tourism in Union County. He said historic or heritage tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry.

According to its website, the South Carolina Historical Marker Program was originally known as the South Carolina Historical Highway Marker Program. It was authorized in 1905 when the S.C. General Assembly passed legislation creating the Historical Commission of South Carolina. It was not until 1936, however, that it actually got under way when a marker was placed in McCormick County near the site of the Long Cane Massacre.

In the more than 75 years since then, more than 1,300 markers have been placed at historic sites throughout the state, a number that now includes the Dawkins House.

The program is now administered by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History which succeeded the Historical Commission of South Carolina in 1954. The website states the markers “mark and interpret places important to an understanding of South Carolina’s past, either as the sites of significant events, or at historic properties such as buildings, sites, structures, or other resources significant for their design, as examples of a type, or for their association with institutions or individuals significant in local, state, or national history.”

Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at cwarner@civitasmedia.com.