Much of Abbeville County is a nature-lover’s paradise where the outdoor sportsman can enjoy hunting, fishing and camping in a beautiful setting. There are also numerous possibilities for hiking and biking through the rural countryside. Scenic Highway 81 runs along the shores of Lake Russell. The Richard Russell Dam Overlook is located off this highway near Calhoun Falls, offering visitors breathtaking views of this dam and picnic facilities.
South of Abbeville itself is the Long Cane District of the Sumter Natural Forest. Established in 1936 the forest is known for its wildlife management and recreation areas.
Founded in 1785 as the Abbeville District, the county today is comprised of six towns and communities, the largest of which is the historic town of Abbeville. The courthouse town and county seat is built on a square near a large spring on land owned by General Andrew Pickens. Dr. John de la Howe, and early Huguenot, named the town for his hometown of Abbeville, France.
The town of Abbeville was so actively involved in events relating to the Civil War that it claims the title “Birthplace and Deathbed of the Confederacy”. On November 22, 1860, Secession Hill was the site of the first public meeting organized to consider seceding from the Union. On May 2, 1865, at the Burt-Stark Mansion, President Jefferson Davis met for the last time with his Council of War and agreed to disband his Confederate troops.
A tree-shaded square is surrounded with unique shops and stores, which as a result of their restoration to their 19th Century appearance, display their original colors and styles. The Abbeville Opera House was restored to its original splendor in 1968. In 1984, the Belmont Inn was renovated, completing the restoration of the historic square. The 20th Century Fox movie, “Sleeping with the Enemy” starring Julia Roberts was filmed here.
Due West is home to Erskine College and Seminary, the only Associate Reformed Presbyterian College and Seminary in the United States.
Calhoun Falls State Park is an ideal spot for both camping and boating enthusiasts. For more information: Calhoun Falls Chamber of Commerce (864) 418-8672, P. O. Box 452, Calhoun Falls, SC 29629.
Hiking – Parson’s Mountain Hiking Trails: Two trails start at the recreation area. A 1.4 mile trail climbs 400 feet in elevation from the lake to the fire tower, passing gold mines along the way. Another 1 mile interpretive trail is self-guided and depicts activities of the early settlers. Directions from Abbeville: Take SC28 South 2.1 miles. Turn left on Rd. #1-251, drive 1.5 miles to entrance on the right. Contact: US Forest Service (803) 637-5396
Abbeville’s Spring Festival – First weekend in May, 3-day event includes carnival rides, antique cars, flower show, live music, crafts, food vendors, 5K run/walk
Due West Fall Festival – Family event with music, arts & crafts, BBQ, white elephant sale, horse show, inflatables
Abbeville French Heritage Festival – 3-day event includes, tours, flower show, play, concert, wine tasting.
Lake Richard B. Russell - The newest of the Corps of Engineers hydroelectric lake along the Savannah River, Lake Russell was completed in 1985 and named for the late Georgia senator, Richard B. Russell. Located mostly in Abbeville County, it has about 550 miles of shoreline and covers 26,650 acres. Around 1,500 acres of the lake are flooded timber, and excellent habitat for largemouth bass, bream, crappie, catfish and trout. Bass and crappie are best in spring. Lake Russell offers exceptional bluegill fishing for a large reservoir. Traditionally, the best fishing for bedding bluegill takes place in May and June. There are more than twelve public access points on the South Carolina side of Lake Russell.
Lake Secession – Located along the Rocky River above the headwaters of Lake Russell, Lake Secession is owned by the City of Abbeville and is used primarily for municipal power production. A popular recreation spot, the lake has many private residences along its shoreline.
History & Heritage
Burt-Stark Mansion – Built in the 1830’s, this Greek Revival historic home was the site of the final meeting of the Confederate War Council with President Jefferson Davis on May 2, 1865. A National Landmark, located at the intersection of North Main and Greenville Streets, Abbeville. OPEN: Friday and Saturday 1:30 – 4:30pm, Monday – Thursday by appointment. Call (864) 366-0166. Admission is $10.00 per person, or $8.00 for Groups of 10 or more.
Trinity Episcopal – For more than 125 years, this church has stood as a historical and spiritual landmark. The stained glass Chancel window, given by a church in Greenville and made in England, was delivered to Trinity after being run through a Charleston blockade. Cemetery to rear and down left of church. Graves date from 1850. Located at the end of Trinity Street, Abbeville, just off the Town Square to the west. Open weekdays and Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday 2pm – 4pm. For information call (864) 366-4600.
The “New” Confederate Monument – The first Confederate Monument, placed in the public square and unveiled on August 23, 1906, was erected by the Daughters of the Confederacy in honor of the soldiers from the Abbeville District who served in the Civil War. It was destroyed by fire on December 28, 1991. A “new” Confederate Monument was hand-carved by Dario Franco Rossi, and Italian artist and sculptor. A dedication and unveiling was held on December 14, 1996. For information call (864) 366-4600.
The McGowan-Barksdale-Bundy House – This two-and-one-half story frame residence built in the Queen Anne Style in 1888 was donated to the Abbeville Historical Society in 1989. Efforts are well underway to restore the home to its original condition. Three one-room outbuildings boast sawed Gothic Revival bargeboards. For information call (864) 366-4600.