Ninety Six is a South Carolina town with a number for a name and its name in its zip code, 29666.
Besides those distinctions, Ninety Six has a colorful history dating back to colonial times when a settlement began on a trail used by Indian traders. A little store, supplying traders with such items as rum, sugar and gunpowder, existed as early as 1737 and took its name from the distance to Keowee, a Cherokee Indian village in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The first land battle of the Revolutionary War in the South was fought at Ninety Six on November 19-21, 1775. About 500 patriots hastily built a rustic fort of fence rails and bales of straw, dug a well inside and fought off an attack from 1800 loyalists. There were casualties on both sides, the first blood shed for American independence in this region. The battle ended with a formal truce.
Considered a key backcountry outpost, British forces later fortified Ninety Six, building a stockade around the village, and on one corner, constructing a star shaped fort with massive earthen embankments. The British held out for 28 days in May and June, 1781, against a siege by General Nathanael Greene and his Continental Army. The Americans started a military mine to blow up Star Fort, but British reinforcements under Lord Rawdon marched from Charleston to aid the garrison. General Greene had to withdraw before superior numbers.
Embankments of the star shaped fort and some 35 feet of the military mine survived in the forest for 200 years. The site is now owned by the National Park Service.
Archaeologists have uncovered marks of stockades which provided protection for pioneers against Indian attacks in 1760. They have unearthed the foundations of the colonial courthouse and jail built in 1772. The village was the center of the Ninety Six Judicial District established in 1769, an area encompassing 14 modern counties.
After the Revolutionary War, Ninety Six was rebuilt, renamed Cambridge, and flourished for several decades. There were homes, a church, taverns, stores, lawyers, doctors and artisans. The state assembly also established a "college" there which inspired the new community name.
Romantic legends of two beautiful maidens are part of the Ninety Six folklore. An account of an Indian attack on the Ninety Six settlement said that advance warning of the raid was brought "by an Indian wench." Many years later, a story was written naming the girl Cateechee and telling of her daring horseback ride, traveling 96 miles to warn her English lover of the coming attack. The story said Cateechee and her lover were married and lived happily ever after.
The other legendary heroine was a pioneer's daughter who fell in love with a British officer at Fort Ninety Six during the Revolution. She is credited with smuggling into the fort the news that Lord Rawdon and his reinforcements were nearby, encouraging the British defenders to hold out.. An early historian did write that "a young woman of the neighborhood" helped pass along this message to the garrison. A later novel named her Kate Fowler. In Ninety Six today, Kate Fowler Road and Kate Fowler Branch commemorate her.
In 1856, national attention was focused on Ninety Six when 10,000 citizens gathered there to honor Congressman Preston S. Brooks with a dinner celebrating his assault on Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. Brooks had beaten Sumner senseless with a cane for a speech critical of the South and of Brooks' uncle.
In 1867, Dr. James Furman, founder of Furman University, and Dr. John Broadus, founder of Broadman Press in Nashville, along with other prominent Baptists came to Ninety Six to develop a method to reopen a theological seminary in Greenville, South Carolina, an institution now located in Louisville, Kentucky.
In 1894, Dr. Benjamin E. Mays was born at Epworth, just south of Ninety Six, the eighth child of parents who had been slaves. One of the state's most distinguished sons, Dr. Mays was a great champion for civil rights. He was Dean of the School of Religion at Howard University and President of Morehouse College. Dr. Mays was a scholar, author, and minister, and as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said: "He was my spiritual mentor and intellectual father."
The modern town of Ninety Six, with a population of 2200, has a mayor-council form of government. The business district is built around a traditional square and contains some 40 retail firms. Residents support efforts to improve the quality of community life -- beautification projects, construction of a visitor's center, and renovation of the abandoned depot as a Community Center.
Industry in Ninety Six includes four textile plants of Greenwood Mills, a modern cottonseed and peanut oil mill, a local cannery that produces hash under the Star Fort and Cambridge labels, and Southern Brick, one of the most modern brickyards in the nation.
Solutia, Inc., a nylon plan, Fuji Photo Film Company and Kaiser Aluminum are nearby.
Local recreational facilities include an 18 hole golf course, the Ninety Six National Historic Site, and Lake Greenwood State Park, offering camping and a variety of water sports. Private marinas and other facilities around Lake Greenwood also provide services for fishing, boating, water skiing, and other activities.
© 2000, 2001, 2002 South Carolina
Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism.