Each month there is a special South Carolina token or medal that is highlighted as the Token or Medal of the Month. This month we will return to the "parade" of 19th century South Carolina tokens, by featuring one of the earliest lumber company tokens known to have been issued in South Carolina.
In the mid-1800s, the town of Bucksville, South Carolina, rivaled the town of Conway for commercial dominance in Horry County. Now, the town no longer exists and not even a single building remains as a reminder of its proud past. But there was a time when Bucksville was a thriving village, with a large sawmill, a commercial ship-building company, several stores, a Masonic Lodge, and a small handful of professional people. This month's token was issued during that time, when the Waccamaw River was a busy thoroughfare and the primary commerical outlet for the entire county.
Henry Buck moved to Horry County in the 1820s, being attracted to the immense stands of virgin timber located in the lowlands bordering the Waccamaw River. Buck's family had founded the town of Bucksport, Maine and had engaged in the lumbering and ship-building trades there. As stands of large timber became scarce in Maine, Henry Buck naturally looked elsewhere for trees large enough to utilize in ship-building. His move to Horry County allowed him to slowly accumulate enough money and land to begin his own business in earnest. During the 1840s and 1850s, Buck's lumbering business flourished, and he built a total of three sawmills on the river. The large old-growth cypress timbers were prized by Northern ship-builders and Buck supplied them by the shipload. It was said that Buck's mills could fill the hold of a ship with roughcut timbers 90 feet long and 15 inches square on the small end. Besides supplying lumber for Northern ship-builders, Buck also engaged in ship-building himself. By the time the Civil War began, Buck was thought to be the richest man in the county and owned a total of 300 slaves.
After the Civil War, Buck's businesses were quick to regain their pre-war footing. Buck also found the time to enter politics in 1868, being elected to the State Senate. He died in 1870, however, and left his businesses in the hands of his eldest son, William L. Buck. In 1871, W.L. Buck formed a partnership with C.F. Buck, B.L. Beaty, and James E. Dusenbury. This enterprise was called the Greenwood Steam Mill and operated for a short three years. The partnership was dissolved in 1874 when the mill burned down. W.L. Buck rebuilt the mill, but it never regained the production it had enjoyed previously. The new company was apparently named W.L. Buck & Company, which was listed in the mercantile directories as early as 1875.
William L. Buck continued his father's ship-building enterprise for some time also. One of the largest and best known ships to have been built in Bucksville was the Henrietta. It was a large three-masted vessel, built specially for the China trade. Launched in 1875, the ship was later lost in a typhoon off the coast of Japan.
William L. Buck died in 1880, but the company that bore his name lasted until 1895. In 2002 some of the tokens issued by the firm of William L. Buck and Company were recovered from the Waccamaw River adjacent to where Bucksville had been located. There were a total of around 20 tokens brought up from the bottom of the river, and denominations ranged from 5 cents to 50 cents. There was even a 15 cent token recovered, an unusual denomination to have been utilized. This token, pictured at the top of this page and also below, is one of the few tangible reminders of Bucksville and its past. It is made of brass, measures 28mm, features incuse letters and numerals, and is uniface. And in nice condition to have spent over 100 years at the bottom of a river!!
Copyright 2006 by Tony Chibbaro.
Horry County, South Carolina, 1730-1993 by Catherine H. Lewis, University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, S.C., 1998.
Timber and Turpentine Industries published as an online publication by the Horry County Historical Society, http://www.hchsonline.org/places/turpentine.html.
If you collect or have a casual interest in South Carolina tokens or tokens issued by cotton mills, lumber companies, or other types of businesses, you may want to purchase my book, South Carolina Tokens and its three supplements. To read a description of these standard references, please click on this link: Books.
Token or Medal of the Month Main Page
A Short History of Token Use in South Carolina
South Carolina Trade Tokens for Sale - Page 1
South Carolina Trade Tokens for Sale - Page 2
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