The South Carolina man who put the electric in "The Electric City"

Posted by Dave Tabler | July 3, 2015

Anderson, SC was the first city in the United States to have a continuous supply of electric power and the first in the world to create a cotton gin operated by electricity.

Portman Shoals Power Plant, Anderson, SC. Photo by Lewis D. Moorhead c/o Green's Studio, WPA Photograph Collection, The South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina.

Portman Shoals Power Plant, Anderson, SC. Undated, but clearly 1930s. Photo by Lewis D. Moorhead c/o Green’s Studio, WPA Photograph Collection, The South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina.

 

William C. Whitner, a native of Anderson, was largely the man responsible for the place becoming known as “The Electric City.” Born on September 22, 1864, he attended and graduated from the University of South Carolina with a plan to become a lawyer. After his father talked him out of that career, Whitner went back to USC and worked as an assistant to a mathematics professor while studying civil engineering. He graduated from USC for the second time in 1885.

Whitner’s early work was in railroad engineering, but a severe case of typhoid fever forced him into a long convalescence in his father’s home. While there the town of Anderson hired the 26 year old to build a water works systems and an electric plant. In 1890 he completed a steam-driven electric plant. It turned out to be too expensive.

Whitner conceived the idea of generating alternating current electricity using turbulent river water. For advice he went to New York to see Nicholas Tesla, the great Serbian scientist who had perfected the alternating current motor. A turf war was in progress between Thomas Edison, an advocate of direct current, and Tesla, an alternating current advocate.

George Westinghouse, another associate of Whitner’s, supported AC from the sidelines – and later became the big winner in the deal.

Whitner returned to Anderson in 1894 and leased a plant, in McFall’s grist and flour mill at High Shoals on the Rocky River 6 miles east of town, for his newly formed Anderson Water, Light & Power Company. There he installed an experimental 5,000 volt alternating current generator to attempt to generate and transmit electric power to the water system pumps at Anderson’s Tribble Street power and water yard.

It worked, and ended up supplying enough power to light the city and also to operate several small industries in Anderson. The Charleston News and Courier promptly dubbed Anderson “The Electric City.”

In 1897 Whitner’s initial success drew the attention of financial backers, which allowed him to replace the experimental plant with a 10,000 volt generating station at Portman Shoals, 11 miles west of town on the Seneca River. When it was placed in service on November 1, the Portman Shoals Power Plant was the first hydroelectric facility to generate high voltage power without step-up transformers in the nation and perhaps in the world.

These Stanley Electric Company built generators served not only the Anderson water system, the city street lights, other commercial interests and private homes, but more importantly, Anderson Cotton Mill, the first cotton mill in the South to be operated by electricity transmitted over long distance lines.

William Church Whitner statue, Anderson SCThis bronze sculpture of Whitner by Greenville, SC artist Zan Wells was unveiled in downtown Anderson on October 12, 2004.

The Portman Shoals power plant was the start of what became Duke Power (now Duke Energy), one of the largest energy companies in the country.

Thomas Edison and General Electric had refused to wind a motor for high voltage alternating current, but Whitner proved Tesla to be correct. Building upon his early success in Anderson, William Church Whitner developed hydroelectric power generating stations for a number of communities throughout the South, including Columbus, Griffin, and Elberton, GA.

Today, Whitner is remembered in several places of distinction in downtown Anderson, including a statue in front of the Anderson County Courthouse and a street named in his honor. Also, at the corner of McDuffie and Whitner Streets sits Generator Park. On the grounds of this 10,000 square-foot park stands the century-old generator that was operated by Whitner at the Portman Power Plant.

 

sources: www.sc.edu/library/socar/uscs/cc/08sprSUPP.pdf
www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=10697
www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~scyork/LouisePettus/indiah.htm
www.downtownanderson.com/downtown-guide.pdf

One Response

  • Furman Beck says:

    I have written a book, “Portman Shoals, The Forgotten Settlement,” in which I give a detailed report about Mr. Whitner’s achievements. He was a brilliant young man. Anderson missed out on a broad range of things by not promoting his efforts. In fact the Post and Currier was the first to nickname Anderson “The Electric City”. If you care to look my book is on Amazon. I enjoyed your article very much. Thank you, Furman Beck

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Gold is really good, only when wisely spent

Posted by Dave Tabler | July 2, 2015

A Kentucky folktale

Back in the olden days, an old man lived alone in a big house on his farm. He never married or raised a family. To him, a wife would have been too expensive. Raising a family would have cost at least half of his farm profit. And money, he believed, was too precious to waste on children. Besides, he believed he would need to spend all his spare time keeping his lazy share croppers busy, or else he’d find himself a pauper.

Over the years, the man who, no doubt, was a miser of the worst kind, accumulated more gold coins than he could carry. He kept the money hidden in small bags, scattered about the house. Then he became afraid that he might forget where he had hidden one or two of these many, small bags, or somebody might break into the house and find some of those many small bags. So he dug a hole inside his cellar, put the money into the hole, then he used a long pry-pole to move a large, flat rock over the hole.


Every time he collected money, he exchanged the silver for gold, pried the rock off the hole in the cellar, and deposited his money. After that, for an hour or more, he passed the gold coins through his hands and gloated.

But as more money piled up in the cellar hole, the miser became afraid someone might watch him go to his hidden money and steal it. Instead of going to his money, two or three times a month, he went only once every six months. Then he handled the money and gloated over it for two hours instead of one.
Then after going for one of his six months, he noticed the heavy, flat rock didn’t seem to be in the exact position he’d left it in six months before. As fear gripped him, he snatched his pry-pole and heaved, until the heavy rock slid off the hole. The hole was empty!

The old man fainted for a few seconds, as his arteries almost cut off the supply of blood to his brain. When he recovered, his screams were heard nearly a mile away. The nearby neighbors heard the old man screaming and crying and shouting, “My money is gone!” Several came running to the old miser’s house to find out what had happened. Through his sobs and cries, he finally explained how he had his money hidden in the hole he had dug in the cellar. He ended with the sob, “I’ll never again go in the cellar and look at the rock my precious gold was buried under. Oh, poor me!”

The oldest and wisest man there said, “Cheer up! You really have lost nothing. The gold did no one any good under that rock. Put the rock back over the hole, then come here everyday. Look at the rock and imagine the gold is under it. It will do you as much good as it always did; as gold is really good, only when wisely spent!”

 

source: ‘Old Farmer Was A Miser Of The Worst Kind! His Love Of Gold Led To Great Misery,’ as told by McCreary Roberts in ‘Kentucky Explorer,’ April 2000 online at http://kentuckyexplorer.com/nonmembers/4-tales.html

One Response

  • Rondell says:

    Hold up! Who done took he gold? I bet it be that no good thiefing leprekahn!

    Mr. Blogger, where you think that leprekahn hid that treasure? Rondell finna go out and find it for sheself!

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1 + = 7

A certain girl in the Senior Commercial room wrote the following

Posted by Dave Tabler | July 1, 2015

Barney was very industriously studying her history lesson when suddenly she looked up and asked: “Mr. Humbertson, what is beheaded?” “Why, beheaded is having the head cut off, of course.” After a moment of thought, Barney suddenly exclaimed: “Well, then I guess defeat is having the feet cut off.”

Oakland MD High School yearbook 1930
Miss Kraft who was given the children written exercises wrote this advertisement:

Wanted—a milliner. Apply by letter to Miss Smith, 10 Bank Street.

The children had to make application for the position.

Louise Moon wrote—I saw you wanted a milliner. I hate to trim hats.

Can’t you get someone else? Please let me know at once.

IMAGINE—

Miss Kochenderfer on a diet.
Miss Kraft losing her temper in French class.
Miss Broadwater controlling Freshman boys.
Mr. Jenkins saying “Forty minutes.”
Mr. Humbertson liking Nancy.
Mr. Speicher telling jokes.
Miss Engle with a girls’ basketball team.
Mr. Graser having a date.
Miss Conley in the office alone.
Miss Rice being in a good humor.
Miss Fernald keeping her hair up.
Mr. Smith without his derby hat.
Miss Falkenstein cooking a meal.

HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS VICTORIOUS
John Stevenson, Lewis Lawton and Betty Hardesty were recently awarded gold medals in the recent Marathon Loafing Races, which were held in Vienna last week. These three popular young folks withstood the test and were voted the best and most efficient loafers of all the contestants.

ALWAYS POLITE

“What is wrong with this sentence, children?” asked Miss Engle. “The horse and the cow is in the lot.” Crystal spoke up: “The cow and the horse is in the lot.” “What makes you correct it in that way, Crystal?” “The lady should be mentioned first,” answered Crystal.

Saint Peter—”Who’s there?” Helen Sollars—”It’s me.” Saint Peter—”Come in.”

KNOCKING

Saint Peter—”Who’s there?” Wilmot Bowen—”It’s me.” Saint Peter—”Come in.”

KNOCKING

Saint Peter—”Who’s there?” Voice—”It is I.” Saint Peter—”It must be one of those pert teachers again.—Come in.” And in walked Miss Kraft.

A certain girl in the Senior Commercial room wrote the following letter to a Corn Syrup Manufacturing Company: Dear Sirs:—I have eaten three cans of your corn syrup and it has not helped my corns one bit.
Yours very truly, G. W. N.

 

Oakland High School Yearbook, 1930
Garrett County, MD

 

source: Western Maryland Regional Library

Oakland+High+School +Garrett+County+MD +high+school+yearbook appalachia appalachia+history appalachian+culture appalachian+history history+of+appalachia

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Prohibition comes to Alabama. Again.

Posted by Dave Tabler | June 30, 2015

On July 1, 1915, statewide prohibition went into effect in Alabama, for the second time, five years before the federal prohibition amendment was ratified under the Kilby administration. Between 1907 and 1915, all but two Southern states enacted prohibition laws.

AL Gov Charles Henderson, 1915Prohibition was a bitter issue in Alabama politics. “Prohibition in the South is a failure, not only because it does not prohibit, but because it is breeding a defiance of law and has set up in the place of licensed saloons illegal dispensers of liquor,” fumed the United States Brewers’ Association in their 1911 yearbook. “Not only has prohibition, as a general rule, failed to improve conditions that existed under the local-option system, but it has wiped out the reforms accomplished under the latter plan and has nullified the good effects of regulation wherever it existed.”

During the tenure of Governor Emmet O’Neal (1911-1915), prohibition forces controlled the legislature, which passed a bill to reinstate prohibition, submitting it to the governor on his last day in office. O’Neal ignored it, and after the inauguration, newly elected Gov. Charles Henderson promptly vetoed it.

“Both houses of the Legislature, within a few hours after Gov. Henderson had vetoed the bills and asked that the prohibition question be submitted to voters at a special election, voted on his proposal and repassed the bills by overwhelming majorities,” said the NY Times on Jan 22, 1915. “The prohibition measures re-enact the prohibition law repealed in 1911 after it had been in force two years. Under the 1911 local option law all but eight of the sixty-seven counties have voted dry.”

diagram of a whiskey stillHenderson was personally opposed to prohibition, and later vetoed a law against alcohol advertising. Despite his personal disagreement with them, Henderson upheld and enforced both of these laws.

Prohibition didn’t seem to slow whiskey production; 386 illegal stills were seized in Alabama in 1915. The “bone dry” law of 1915 stood till 1933, when the twenty-first amendment to the Constitution, repealing prohibition, was ratified.

 

Sources: www.archives.state.al.us/govs_list/g_hender.html
The Year Book of the United States Brewers’ Association, by United States Brewers’ Assn., 1911

 

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This boxing match got prize fighting banned in WV

Posted by Dave Tabler | June 29, 2015

[27a. I. If any person fight a prize fight in this State, or act as second or trainer, or time-keeper, or referee, or umpire, to any persons so fighting, or if any person assist or in any way aid or abet another to fight a prize fight in this State, he shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof shall be confined in the penitentiary not less than two nor more than ten years.
Chapter 144, section 27a of the
Code of West Virginia
Fourth Edition, 1899

On June 29th of 1899, the boxing match that led to a ban of prize fighting in West Virginia got underway at Fries Park in Parkersburg, WV. The match between local boxer George ‘Kid’ Wanko and Felix Carr of St. Albans was falsely represented to officials as a boxing contest and not a prize fight. (In the former the gloves must weigh over five ounces and the fight is for points with no purse. In the prize fight the gloves weigh five ounces or less, there is a purse to fight for and the fight is kept up until one of the men is knocked out. The boxing contest lasts only for a certain number of rounds.)

Fight referee J. H. Nightingale later told police he’d been informed the Wanko/Carr fight was to be a twenty round contest, for points only. He’d been approached by E. E. Wright, a saloon keeper of Huntington, who backed and managed Carr. Nightingale said he did not agree to referee until he had talked with Carr, who assured him that there was “no money up and that it was a glove contest for scientific points only.”

1899 boxing matchFurthermore, said Nightingale, before the fight began he called the two contestants, Ben Anderson (Carr’s second), Ben Morrison (a Commercial Hotel bartender who backed and trained Wanko), and Wanko’s second to the ring, and asked for the articles of agreement. He said none were produced, and that the contestants agreed with him that it was a friendly twenty round scientific contest.

The fight organizers understood among themselves, however, that the fight was to be for a decision and that the winner should take the gate receipts.

Both men weighed in at 151 pounds. According to the Parkersburg Sentinel, “about two hundred of the sporting fraternity and several women from the lower end of town” attended the fight.

The fight began at 11 p.m. In the second round honors were even. Though the blows were not brutal, they were hard. In the third round, Wanko slipped on the canvas and fell on the floor and rolled under the ropes. In the fourth, Carr was weak and appeared discouraged.

Early in the fifth round Wanko landed a long left-handed blow to Carr alongside the head which sent him to his knees, while he grasped the ropes with one hand and rested the other hand on the floor. The referee counted off the ten seconds. Carr fell forward on his face and made several wobbly attempts to rise. He couldn’t. Nightingale decided in favor of Wanko, and Carr’s seconds assisted him to his corner. They rubbed him down, and no one supposed that he was seriously hurt. Moments later he began vomiting and then went into convulsions. His condition was so alarming that his handlers dispatched a messenger for a physician.

But before Dr. W. J. Davidson could arrive Carr’s handlers carried him into a cab and headed downtown to the Commercial Hotel. From midnight, when they placed Carr in a room there, he slipped into unconsciousness, dying an hour later. Wanko was bedside with Carr the whole time. Others interested in the fight were also in the room. Wanko took it greatly to heart and did not make any attempt to escape. He later told police investigators he did not know that the governor had written Parkersburg officials to have the fight stopped, but he was aware that a prize fight would not have been permitted in the city.

In October 1899, Wanko was convicted of manslaughter. Following an autopsy, it was determined that Carr had several health problems that contributed to his death. The charges against Kid Wanko were dropped.

 

Sources: www.wvculture.org/history/sports/prizefight01.html
www.wvculture.org/history/sports/prizefight02.html
www.wvculture.org/history/sports/prizefight03.html

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