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Stinking Stones and Rocks of GoldPhosphate, Fertilizer, and Industrialization in Postbellum South Carolina$

Shepherd W. McKinley

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780813049243

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813049243.001.0001

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Antecedents, Precedents, and Continuities, 1800–1865

Antecedents, Precedents, and Continuities, 1800–1865

(p.10) 1 Antecedents, Precedents, and Continuities, 1800–1865
Stinking Stones and Rocks of Gold

Shepherd W. Mckinley

University Press of Florida

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores antebellum and wartime background issues (the evolving American fertilizer industry) and personalities (lowcountry scientists, businessmen, and slaves) of the three industries. Before 1860, northern fertilizer dealers and manufacturers created a dynamic supply system using urban waste and guano, and northern farmers were enthusiastic fertilizer consumers. International scientists and agricultural reformers refined fertilizer formulas and searched for raw materials. In the South, farmers rarely fertilized their fields, and they blamed slavery and high prices for the lack of fertilizer use. Reformers such as Edmund Ruffin preached the “gospel of guano” but only a few, including some lowcountry gentlemen-scientists, listened. Chemists Nathaniel A. Pratt and Charles U. Shepard Sr. and lowcountry natives Francis S. Holmes and St. Julien Ravenel built the foundations of lowcountry agricultural science before and during the war. High profile Confederates (C.G. Memminger and George A. Trenholm) and several cotton factors and shipping merchants (Ravenel & Company, James Adger and Company) turned blockade runners used similar international business relationships, entrepreneurial experience, and organizational skills in the postwar industries. The Civil War delayed the industries’ development but brought together the talent that emancipation would unleash after the war.

Keywords:   uano, Nathaniel A. Pratt, Charles U. Shepard Sr., Francis S. Holmes, St. Julien Ravenel, C.G. Memminger, George A. Trenholm, Ravenel and Company, James Adger and Company

The rocks seemed to be everywhere, but no one knew their value. Francis S. Holmes was a nineteenth-century planter, slave owner, and gentleman-scientist living next to the Ashley River, northwest of Charleston, who followed local tradition and directed slaves to remove the “useless nodules” from his fields. Before the discovery that phosphate-based fertilizer could reinvigorate worn-out fields, planters considered the phosphate rocks physical obstacles to agricultural production.1 Industry chronicler Edward Willis testified that most local plantations contained piles of the seemingly worthless rocks and that specimens weighing up to several hundred pounds had been found on or near the surface. Travelers on the Dorchester Road labeled the rocks “stinking stones,” because the rocks emitted a “fetid” odor when broken. Colonial and antebellum South Carolinians found phosphate rocks on both sides of the Ashley but rarely east of the Cooper River. More rocks lay just below the surface. Later, entrepreneurs and scientists discovered the rocks in rivers near Charleston and Beaufort. Three important lowcountry industries—land mining, river mining, and fertilizer manufacture—emerged within a few years. Industry insiders Holmes, Willis, and Nathaniel Pratt marveled that the rocks had appeared as if by holy design to offer “their” state and section “redemption” during their most dire hour of need, Reconstruction.2 In reality, the revelation had begun decades before.

The gestational period for the three industries began about 1800 and ended in 1865. Developments within the American fertilizer industry and lowcountry scientific community during the antebellum era established the foundation for commercial exploitation of lowcountry land and river rock (p.11) after the Civil War. With fertilizer, farmers realized the needs, scientists refined the formulas, and entrepreneurs marketed the new products. The lowcountry, and especially Charleston, was home to a strong tradition of agricultural science before the war, but slavery slowed the adoption of fertilizer and the development of a local fertilizer industry. The slaves themselves formed the most significant feature of the area’s society and economy but only tangentially contributed to the discovery of phosphate rock as a fertilizing material. Involving local entrepreneurial and scientific talents, the Civil War was both a catalyst and an obstacle to the development of the industries. Emancipation became the major event in unleashing lowcountry entrepreneurs, scientists, and free laborers to exploit the land and river rock and to develop the region’s fertilizer industry.

The American Fertilizer Industry

South Carolina’s land-mining companies had their roots in the development of the American fertilizer industry. The national industry began as crude domestic soil enrichment and waste disposal, and evolved, by mid-century, into the mass marketing and production of commercial fertilizers—sophisticated chemical mixtures often made from imported materials and specifically designed to improve soil and yield. Due to increasing soil exhaustion, land scarcity, and market demand, northeastern farmers began to use homemade fertilizers in the first decades of the nineteenth century. Mid-Atlantic farmers, especially those in eastern Maryland and Virginia, experimented with fertilizers in the 1830s. Farmers and planters in the Southeast began to use some fertilizers in the 1850s, while midwesterners, especially residents of the Ohio Valley, began late in the century. Price differences (based on transportation costs and accessibility), density of cultivation, and social structure were important factors in the timing of each region’s adoption of commercial fertilizers.3

Northern farmers were quick to realize that agriculture drained soils of crucial nutrients and that their soil needed active maintenance. Initially, farmers collected manure and other waste materials from their own farms and spread them on fields. To meet the demands of the growing population, especially in the Northeast, farmers needed greater waste supplies to increase agricultural production. Historian Richard Wines argues that (p.12) northeastern farmers, by mixing into their fields various materials from the nearby and burgeoning cities and then selling their produce back to the urban markets, fully embraced a “recycling” mentality by the 1840s. In a significant step in the evolution of commercial fertilizer, the farmers abandoned self-sufficiency for dependency on added nutrients from outside sources.4

Wines contends that with the substitution of Peruvian guano for locally obtained urban waste in the 1840s, the commercial fertilizer industry in the United States was born. The industry switched from bulky, locally derived, recycled material to modern commercial fertilizer manufactured from imported and nonrenewable resources. The relatively casual collection of waste materials became a large, highly organized business of importing, manufacturing, developing, marketing, and distributing. Entrepreneurs in Baltimore and other cities imported large amounts of guano from Peruvian islands, the South Pacific, and the Caribbean. Fertilizer was now a manufactured and marketed commodity to be purchased rather than collected.5

The American fertilizer industry created demand by training farmers to become Peruvian guano consumers. Northeastern farmers easily adopted guano, because it fit into the existing recycling system as well as their established fertilizing mentality. Guano came from city merchants, improved the soil, and helped increase production for expanding urban markets. In addition, the major guano importers were located in New York and Baltimore, making the substance both accessible and relatively affordable. In the North, the transition from farmers’ intuition to “book farming” was not difficult. The result of scientific experiment and commercial marketing, complicated mixtures including guano represented merely differences of degree, rather than substantial changes in a farmer’s agricultural routine. Indeed, most American farmers referred to guano as “manure” and to the later commercial fertilizers as “manures” or “guanos.”6

Guano importation and distribution were major milestones for the development of the modern commercial fertilizer industry.Although “book farming” involved scientists, manufacturers energetically marketed fertilizer, selling brand names for the first time to increasingly demanding consumers. Farmers continually viewed the new and improving fertilizers as a necessity, not a luxury.

Guano was not the ideal raw material for the fertilizer industry. It was (p.13) costly to transport. Foreign governments began by the 1850s to demand more control over their raw materials, and guano costs rose. Northern farmers had become dependent on commercial fertilizer by this time, and rising guano prices gouged their incomes. Most significantly for price and accessibility, guano became increasingly scarce. As Peruvian sources dried up, high-grade alternative supplies of guano proved difficult to find, control, or transport. Guano imports into the United States peaked in 1856 and steadily declined thereafter. Guano had helped to change northern agriculture, but the end of the guano boom was in sight before the Civil War.7

Even at the height of Peruvian guano mania, merchants searched for cheaper and more abundant raw materials. “Superphosphates” were substitutes for Peruvian guano made from bones and from phosphatic guanos that helped pave the way for later adoption of South Carolina’s phosphate rock. Recognizing in the 1850s the agricultural value of what came to be called bone phosphate of lime (BPL), American manufacturers burned, pulverized, and dissolved (in sulfuric acid) bones to make a fertilizer material labeled “superphosphate.” Manufacturers utilized a similar process on phosphatic guanos from Caribbean and Pacific islands, also calling the result “superphosphate.” Although both superphosphates were attempts to supplant Peruvian guano as the favorite fertilizer, they managed to gain only a small share of the fertilizer market. And as was Peruvian guano, bones and phosphatic guanos were expensive, scarce, and of inconsistent quality. In order to keep the retail price competitive with Peruvian guano, producers often added fillers, such as sand, which only intensified farmers’ and agriculturists’ suspicions.8

With an expanding fertilizer industry came better chemistry, or at least more scientific research. Although early superphosphates failed to overtake Peruvian guano, they did help to introduce a change of perception in soil chemistry. Aware that urban waste materials contained low amounts of important nutrients, scientists experimented to find the correct balance of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to reverse soil exhaustion. Adding to the soil potassium from ashes, nitrogen from Peruvian guano, and phosphorus from superphosphates, commercial and academic scientists hoped to improve crop yields and extend soil life. Until the introduction of super-phosphates, most scientists followed the “ammoniacal,” or “organic,” theory in claiming that nitrogen was by far the most important factor in restoring (p.14) worn-out soils. Phosphatic guano merchants, in aggressively promoting their new product, helped to change scientific orthodoxy by promoting Justus Liebig’s “mineral theory.” In 1843, the German agricultural chemist argued that phosphates and other minerals were more important to the soil than ammonia content. Adding sulfuric acid to make crushed bones more soluble, Liebig proved that phosphate of lime, not gelatin, was the fertilizing element in bones. By eliminating grease and gelatin from bones, he also proved that phosphate of lime from bones was identical to phosphate rock. While exaggerating nitrogen’s faults and mineral phosphates’ benefits, the merchants helped popularize the need for phosphate in fertilizer. Although English and American manufacturers had added small amounts of phosphate rock to commercial fertilizers since 1845, the material did not immediately assume major importance. In 1855, John Ketterwell added Mexican guano, which contained no ammonia but high BPL (50–60 percent), to Peruvian guano to produce Ketterwell’s Manipulated Guano. In the decade after the Civil War, “complete” fertilizers—those that included high concentrations of potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus—gradually became the industry standard. Most importantly for the South Carolina fertilizer industry, with the dissemination and acceptance of Liebig’s theory, a large and increasing demand for phosphate rock began.9

Fertilizer in the South

Although fertilizer consumption increased throughout antebellum America, it took a significantly different path in the South. While northern farmers identified and acted on soil problems, and substantially increased their fertilizer use over the first half of the century, southern planters began talking about soil exhaustion in the 1830s but used comparatively little fertilizer before the Civil War. Scientists and agricultural reformers published papers and gave speeches for agricultural societies, and letters to the editor after 1850 reflected a growing sense of panic about southern soil conditions. This sense of alarm only increased as war and the consequent need for self-sufficiency approached. However, few southern fields received adequate amounts of any fertilizer, and many farmers and planters generally avoided commercial varieties. Use of manure was scattered and ineffective. Peruvian guano and its substitutes made some headway in the upper South (p.15) and near coastal cities in the 1840s, but dealers’ hype obscured the reality that only a small minority did more than experiment with the materials before the late 1850s.10

Economically based on plantations and slaves, the antebellum South held fast to soil-depleting agricultural methods and remained a poor candidate for increased commercial fertilizer use. The result was an agricultural system that exacerbated the national fertilizer industry’s major weaknesses—price, quality, and supply. While successful northern farmers intensively cultivated smaller fields near cities using family labor, southern planters farmed huge tracts of rural land with slave labor. Planters and yeomen farmers in the South found the new commercial fertilizers too expensive, uneven in quality, and often inaccessible.

Rural southerners did not become enthusiastic fertilizer consumers before the war. Inadequate transportation networks increased fertilizer prices and decreased availability. Poor communication networks left rural farmers ignorant of proper fertilizing methods. Immature channels of capital flow left most without a way to purchase fertilizer on credit. The South had comparatively few urban centers, and consequently, the vast majority of farmers and planters lived far from city waste, the keystone of the North’s recycling system. No farm could supply enough manure for adequate fertilization. Without a homegrown fertilizing mentality, southern farmers developed and maintained a severe skepticism toward “book farming”and the industry’s Yankee promoters. Most fundamentally, the limitations of slavery and the plantation system made the extensive farming of large tracts a logical option but intensive farming a virtual impossibility. Only the most ardent reformers were willing to undertake a major commitment to manure collection, storage, and distribution. Fertilization, crop rotation, and deep plowing made little sense to planters who controlled an indifferent labor supply. Centuries of this type of farming left southern soils nutritionally deficient. While planter-led southern state governments defended their peculiar institution as the ideal social and agricultural system, the reality was declining crop yields and poor soil conditions. Commercial fertilizers made little headway in this environment.11

Historians Eugene Genovese and Gavin Wright suggest several specific obstacles to greater fertilizer use within the slave South. Genovese argues that agricultural reform in the Southeast, including the adoption (p.16) of fertilizer, proceeded “slowly and painfully” and that the region’s failure to fight soil exhaustion became “one of the most serious economic features of its general crisis.” The slave labor system contributed to poor agricultural practices, low capital accumulation, and the inability to buy adequate amounts of commercial fertilizers. In a society whose wealth was tied up in human capital, little liquid capital was available for fertilizer purchases. Wealthy planters in the Deep South owned slaves and land but not cash. Only in Maryland and Virginia were planters, through sales of surplus slaves to the Lower South, able to afford improved agricultural methods, including the use of fertilizer. Genovese contends that in passively resisting their condition, slaves were careless with tools and in cultivating fields, and consequently, planters felt that any program of fertilization would be “of doubtful outcome” with slave labor. The vast increase of slave supervision, as more slave labor would be needed to gather, store, and apply manure, discouraged most planters. Even had planters been willing to increase supervision, inadequate manure supplies were another roadblock. Antebellum planters generally kept a small number of livestock, and consequently, manure for cotton fields was in short supply.12

The peculiar institution helped to undermine planters’ need to practice intensive farming. As Wright suggests, the mobile “laborlords” had two-thirds of their wealth tied up in slaves and were primarily interested in maximizing labor output, not land values. Planters were “land killers” and considered land productivity, town building, internal improvements, and a modern financial system low priorities. Many considered moving to the Southwest a better alternative than improving their “old” soils. Those who stayed in the Southeast kept alive a tradition of indifferent soil husbandry that left only the most successful planters able to afford expensive fertilizers. Not surprisingly, the exhortations of southern agricultural reformers made little headway with laborlord elites. While Wright argues that planter priorities rather than the quality of slave labor limited agricultural reform in the South, both Genovese and Wright think that soil exhaustion was a fundamental weakness in the slave South. And soil exhaustion was an important part of the cycle involving poor yields, lack of capital, expensive slaves, and abundant land that helped discourage planters from purchasing fertilizer.13 Neither manure nor commercial fertilizer made much of an impact across the South before the Civil War.

(p.17) The slave system undermined the efforts of agricultural reformers in the South. Antebellum planters’ bombastic rhetoric on the national political stage contrasted sharply with their anxious discussions in southern agricultural societies and journals. Agricultural reformers and proslavery ideologues, such as Edmund Ruffin and South Carolina Governor James Henry Hammond, preached improved soil management, especially fertilization, but the response from their fellow planters was underwhelming. Given the costs of manuring, Ruffin and Hammond began to advance the mining and spreading of marl as the answer to soil exhaustion. Beginning in the 1820s and continuing through the 1850s, Ruffin promoted marl as the ideal fertilizer for Virginia and the South. Rich in calcium carbonate, the clay-like substance was abundant and easily accessible in parts of the South, including the South Carolina lowcountry, and was significantly less expensive than Peruvian guano. Hammond solicited Ruffin’s 1843 agricultural survey of South Carolina and experimented with and promoted marl throughout the antebellum period. The labor-intensive marling reinforced Ruffin’s belief that his reform agenda had to be built on the continued existence of slavery, but poor sales of his published works underscored the contradictions between scientific agriculture and slavery. Labeled “book farmers,” Ruffin and Hammond failed to change farming practices in the state and the South.14

Despite structural weaknesses in the antebellum southern economy that discouraged the use of commercial fertilizers, northern manufacturers and southern distributors continued to try to open the southern market and establish a “gospel of guano.” They faced skeptical and reluctant consumers. Skepticism, however, was only one of many enemies for Peruvian guano sellers. Guano was difficult to obtain in many parts of South Carolina, especially the upstate, due to poor transportation. Across the South, inland and rural farmers had similar difficulties. Where guano was available, high costs and uncertainty over how to apply the substance discouraged many potential users. In 1853 William Allston Gourdin established the first guano dealership in Charleston but paid a carrying charge of nine dollars per ton—an addition of approximately 15–20 percent of the total cost— to import it from Baltimore. Thus, while only wealthy planters from the lowcountry had access to guano, the size of their vast holdings made buying adequate amounts of the material unlikely. Across the South, studies (p.18) revealed little or no use of manures or commercial fertilizers, despite the “mania” in the North during the 1840s and 1850s. Even prosperity could not produce change. The agricultural boom of the 1850s helped to continue the anti-fertilizer trend in the South. The region’s farmers seemed to be technologically complacent in the midst of “dizzying prosperity.”15

For those who did purchase the substance, fertilizing the fields with Peruvian guano was expensive and time consuming. At ten to fifteen dollars per acre, the sum constituted a major expense for owners of large plantations. Slaveholders worried that costs would rise further if additional labor and supervision were needed to adequately fertilize the large plantations. Others questioned whether slaves could be induced to fertilize the fields properly. While many agriculturists questioned whether guano affected the soil enough to justify the additional effort and high costs, another large faction believed that it was too much of a stimulant, and rather than improving the soil quality, it exhausted the soil at an accelerated rate.16

Guano quality also was an important issue. South Carolina and other southern states lacked fertilizer inspectors until after the war, and farmers suspected, often for good reason, that Baltimore’s guano merchants adulterated the product with dirt and other fillers. Another quality-related problem came to light in the 1860s as supplies of high-quality Chincha guano dwindled, and American importers switched to lower-grade guanos. Only in the last few years before the war did residents of Georgia and the Carolinas become interested in Peruvian guano.17

Bone and phosphatic guano superphosphates, while not transforming fertilizer use in the South, helped to increase consumption by the region’s farmers and planters. The South Carolina Agricultural Society’s endorsement of Rhodes Super-phosphate in 1860 helped popularize the fertilizer, but its price, substantially less than Peruvian guano, made the real difference. While too expensive for the vast majority, fertilizers were becoming affordable. Still, skeptics urged caution. In December 1859, the editor of The Farmer and Planter warned,“the mania … for the phosphatic manures seems to be very great. Every paper is full of puffs and advertisements. It is well enough to look into the business.”18 Southern demand for fertilizer was increasing on the eve of the war, but caution still reigned supreme. Some planters and farmers realized the need for fertilizer and accepted its (p.19) basic virtues, but affordability and accessibility were the most important impediments to its widespread use.

The Gentlemen-Scientists

While southern farmers reluctantly inched their way toward greater demand for commercial fertilizers, gentlemen-scientists in the South Carolina lowcountry made significant contributions to the international study of natural history and agricultural science. Their passion for paleontology, geology, and soil chemistry led directly to the discovery, exploration, and adaptation of the state’s phosphate reserves and to the manufacture of phosphate-based fertilizers. War interrupted but did not derail the progress of South Carolina’s homegrown scientists, and their scholarship and leadership continued after the war, influencing the postbellum entrepreneurs and their scientific advisers. Gentlemen-scientists were also instrumental in founding the first mining and manufacturing companies, serving as presidents, chemists, or superintendents.

Near Charleston, geology, paleontology, chemistry, and planting came together in a unique community of gentlemen-scientists, who, in the antebellum period, began to lay the groundwork for changing soil chemistry and fertilizer use in the South. The fossil-rich South Carolina low-country shared the South’s problems with soil exhaustion, and many of its planters and their friends collected fossils and fauna, wrote about soil chemistry, studied geology, and experimented with fertilizers. They also kept abreast of scientific advances and corresponded with internationally known researchers. The result was an unusually rich history of scientific experiments, debates on soil exhaustion, and knowledge of local geology. This scientifically and agriculturally linked environment provided the foundation for the South Carolina phosphate land-mining, river-mining, and fertilizer-manufacturing industries after the Civil War.19

Antebellum Charleston’s scientific community became, by the 1850s, the Southeast’s “center of scientific inquiry.” The city featured several intellectual and scientific societies, and several of its scientists achieved international recognition. Natural history was the passion of the lowcountry’s gentlemen-scientists, as well as a popular obsession in Europe and (p.20) the eastern United States between 1810 and 1860. In an age when the line between professional and amateur was blurred, the generalist—often a planter, clergyman, doctor, or politician—wrote natural histories geared toward professionals and lay audiences alike. Natural history also served as a way to understand God’s order. Many of South Carolina’s naturalists subscribed to natural theology and inherently denied the evolution or extinction of any species. After the 1859 publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Holmes and other lowcountry naturalists struggled to reconcile their frequent discoveries of dinosaur bones with their rejection of evolution and extinction. Popular interest in natural history began to decline before 1860, and amateurs like Holmes would find themselves marginalized among increasingly specialized and professionally trained scientists in the coming decades.20

Although Holmes and his lowcountry peers would never restore the Charleston scientific community to its 1850s stature, their experiences were not wasted. Antebellum explorations and experiments paved the way for the formation and maturity of the postwar land-mining, river-phosphate mining, and fertilizer-manufacturing industries in South Carolina. Geologists Ruffin and Michael Tuomey systematically explored what became phosphate country. Chemists Nathaniel A. Pratt and Charles U. Shepard Sr. made significant contributions to chemistry before and after the war. Finally, gentlemen-scientists and lowcountry natives Holmes and St. Julien Ravenel built the foundations of lowcountry agricultural science before the war and played integral parts forming and advising companies after the war. Indeed, Holmes became a founding father of the land-mining industry, while Ravenel played a similar role for the fertilizer-manufacturing industry.

Francis Simmons Holmes was a Charleston native and planter, operating the 811-acre “Springfield” plantation owned by his brother-in-law, George Alfred Trenholm, in rural Charleston County. Holmes became an enthusiastic amateur geologist, paleontologist, and scientific agriculturist. With thirty slaves, Holmes, following Ruffin’s advice, began experiments fertilizing with marl in 1832. His passion and his hard work with the soil, the subsoil, and the fossils found beneath it led Holmes to become friends with some of the leading naturalists of the antebellum period.21 In 1837, Holmes discovered on the Ashley River’s west bank a “number of rolled (p.21) or water-worn nodules, of a rocky material filled with the impressions or casts of marine shells.” Holmes was holding phosphate rocks. He noticed that the rocks were “scattered” over the land, except for the cultivated fields, from which they had been tossed to the side into piles, so as not to interfere with planting. Five years later, he showed the rocks to Ruffin.22

In 1821, the Virginian Ruffin began experimenting with marl to improve soil conditions. In the 1830s, he published An Essay on Calcareous Manures and began a monthly agricultural journal, the Farmer’s Register. In 1842, with Governor Hammond’s blessing, Ruffin became the agricultural surveyor of South Carolina. A fellow agricultural reformer, Hammond warned his old friend that South Carolinians “will receive you cordially everywhere, but I cannot promise that they will go far to meet you… . You must have expected in your task to meet with much indifference, much obstinacy, & some opposition.”23

Despite Hammond’s warnings, Ruffin began his survey with high hopes of converting South Carolina’s planters to the gospel of marl and spent “nearly all the time” surveying the lowcountry’s abundant marl deposits. Holmes showed him some Ashley River phosphate nodules, and Ruffin later described them as “lumps of stony hardness, full of impressions of shells, containing six per cent of Carbonate of Lime.” Based on that analysis, Ruffin dismissed the rocks as “useless as a fertilizing substance.” Focusing on carbonate of lime instead of BPL and ever the “prophet of marl,” Ruffin was more interested in the river’s many outcroppings of marl. He found that great beds of marl underlay much of the lowcountry but was surprised how little South Carolinians knew about what he considered important agricultural matters. His survey was eight weeks old before he witnessed a marling operation, and many planters he met could not identify marl. Completing the survey “greatly disappointed” in the number of true converts, Ruffin published his results late in 1843.24

Ruffin’s visit inspired Holmes to continue fertilization experiments with several materials, especially marl. As his slaves practiced the “onerous” task of digging, hauling, and spreading the marl, Holmes found that marling improved yields to varying degrees but that accessing the marl presented obstacles—trees, drainage, and overburden—that nearly outweighed the benefits. And he realized that many planters would be reluctant to divert slaves from the fields and crops to the marl pits. Holmes’ prewar marling (p.22) experiences would prove valuable in solving similar problems during the early phosphate era.25

In his experiments, Holmes continued to gain an understanding of the connections between geologic phosphate and soil chemistry. Writing years later, Holmes realized that some of his early results were pointing him toward a focus on BPL. Marl mined close to the surface and applied to cotton and corn produced “greater effects” than marl mined below ten feet. Holmes concluded, with clear hindsight in 1870, that the surface marl contained more BPL than the lower samples, which had had their BPL content diluted over eons. Devoted in the 1840s to Ruffin’s gospel, Holmes had “not at the time even suspected” the connection to phosphate rock.26

Holmes’ interest in marl led to a friendship with Michael Tuomey, the geologist hired to continue Ruffin’s survey work. Tuomey believed that it was “difficult, if not impossible, to separate an Agricultural from a Geological Survey,” and he convinced Governor Hammond to expand the agricultural survey to include his discipline. Tuomey submitted his Report of the Geological and Agricultural Survey of the State of South Carolina (Survey) in 1844 and published his Report on the Geology of South Carolina (Report) in 1848. Holmes volunteered his valuable assistance, and Tuomey included Holmes’ marling experiments in both publications.27 Embedded within Holmes’ description of marling woes in Tuomey’s Survey lay frequent mention of phosphate. Under Ruffin’s influence, Holmes, while carefully identifying each layer of earth down to his prized marl, characterized the phosphate rocks as nuisances. Ever thorough, Holmes described the rocks as “closely embedded in stiff blue clay” and of “irregular shape, filled with holes and the prints of shells.” Holmes was aware that the rocks, rarely larger than a brick and usually the size of an adult’s fist, were a distinct substance, mingled with, but not consisting of, marl, green-sand marl, marlstone, clay, coprolites, conglomerates, fossil teeth, or fossil bones.28

Tuomey’s Survey described the mining operation that was marling. Holmes and “two fellows (prime hands),” opened a twenty-foot square marl pit, four and a half feet deep, in five days. Slaves could pump or bail the pit in ten minutes with comparatively little water seepage. As for transportation, the naturalist used two mule carts driven by two men for a distance of 600 yards. Valuable records for the future land-phosphate mining (p.23) entrepreneur, Holmes’ meticulous account of his marling operation included mining yield and a detailed cost summary.29

Like Holmes, Tuomey frequently commented on the abundant phosphate rocks on both sides of the Ashley River within a dozen miles of Charleston’s city limits. He observed that at Drayton Hall, phosphate rocks “have been gathered from the lawn and thrown into heaps.” But like Ruffin, Tuomey emphasized the disappointing carbonate of lime content in the “marl stone” (phosphate rocks). Tuomey was more interested in the marl beds, which, when following the Ashley River from Charleston, began at Bee’s Ferry.30

By utilizing elements of agricultural chemistry, Tuomey sought to help southern farmers achieve an “enlightened system of agriculture.” Reasoning that plants “analyze soils most accurately” and derive their nutrients from the soil, he declared that “if we continue to abstract these matters, by repeated cropping, and without making any return, sterility must be the result.” Tuomey argued that agricultural chemists should be called upon to analyze the plants, soil, and crops, and calculate what must be returned to the system to keep it functional.31

Tuomey’s Report featured the work of Charles U. Shepard Sr., an agricultural chemist whose analysis of marl’s phosphate content marked a major step in the evolution of the rocks from annoyance to asset. An assistant to Yale’s legendary Benjamin Silliman and a published mineralogist and geologist, Shepard held various posts at Yale, Amherst, and the South Carolina Medical College in Charleston. True to his lowcountry peers, Shepard also had an interest in soil analysis and contributed to Ruffin’s 1843 report.32 In Tuomey’s Report, Shepard began overturning the gospel of marl by moving lowcountry science toward two crucial insights: that the alleged nuisance rocks contained a high percentage of BPL and that BPL, not calcium carbonate, was the more vital ingredient for soil replenishment and plant growth. As did his many predecessors in the 1840s, Shepard analyzed marl instead of phosphate rock. Despite this near miss, Shepard’s early analyses contributed to his realization a decade later that the rocks, not the marl, should be the point of focus. In his Report, Tuomey credited Shepard with discovering significant traces (6 percent to 15 percent) of BPL in the marl. Shepard analyzed four different-looking “marls,” several samples of (p.24) which came from the future heart of the land-mining industry. In breaking down almost the entire chemical composition of the marls, not just their content of carbonate of lime, Shepard found significant traces of what he later would realize had leached from the phosphate rocks into the marl, BPL.33

Shepard’s chemical analyses of the marl in areas north and northwest of Charleston, along the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, and the Pon Pon region along the Ashepoo River, laid the foundations for discovery of the value of phosphate rock. At the Clement, Hanckel, Drayton Hall, Gedding, and Harleston plantations along the Ashley, Shepard found surprisingly high amounts of BPL. Likely influenced by Liebig, E. Emmons, a Dr. Vogel, and other international scientists, Shepard’s advocacy of BPL in marl was a significant break from Ruffin’s focus on marl’s carbonate of lime content. Shepard noted that when planters spread “phosphatic marls” (high-BPL marl), “the maturation of the grain is more perfect, the quantity and quality both, being highly promoted.” Shepard would not fix his sights on the phosphate rocks for another decade, but his explicit recognition of the benefits of phosphate on plants was a momentous juncture in the marriage between geology and soil chemistry.34

Tuomey was reluctant to stray from the gospel of marl, despite Shepard’s findings. Tuomey acknowledged that Ashley River marl was not only “the best in the state,” rich in carbonate of lime, but also contained what he termed an “exceedingly interesting ingredient,” phosphate of lime. He found 4 percent BPL in marl near Bee’s Ferry, later to be the epicenter of the land-phosphate mining industry. Tuomey even made a crude analysis of phosphate rock, mistakenly concluding that the nodules had an insignificant 15–16 percent BPL; postwar analyses consistently recorded 50–55 percent. The man whose career benefited greatly from Ruffin’s recommendation argued, “[S]till, I apprehend that the carbonate of lime will always prove the constituent of greatest importance, valuable as phosphates are.” Ironically, when Tuomey trumpeted the Ashley marl as being “generally accessible and … exposed,” and able to be “transported at trifling expense,” he unwittingly foreshadowed the utility of phosphate rocks.35

Meanwhile, Shepard had a chance encounter in 1855 with a substance of remarkably similar chemical composition to South Carolina’s phosphate nodules. When he analyzed a shipment of “stony phosphate” from Mong’s (p.25) Island in the Caribbean, he found that the “Pyroclasite” and the lowcountry phosphate nodules belonged to “the same species,” although the local rock was not as rich in BPL. In another description from what was probably the same incident, Shepard analyzed shipwrecked “Sombrero rock guano,” found it rich in BPL, and realized for the first time that “guano, or its equivalent as a fertilizer, may be found in hard rock-like masses.” This discovery turned his attention to the Ashley phosphate nodules themselves, not merely the BPL in marl.36

In an 1859 address to the Medical Association of the State of South Carolina, Shepard was the first lowcountry scientist to declare that phosphate rocks could be much more than a nuisance. He argued for “a careful examination of all our marl beds, with a view to determine which have the most of the precious phosphatic ingredient.” Shepard boldly predicted that “as the supply of guanos from abroad fail, we shall be looked to to fill the vacuum their disappearance will occasion; and it would not be strange, if a few years hence, Charleston, besides supplying her own state, should ship more casks of phosphatic stone to the North than she now receives of ordinary lime from that region.”37 Clearly, Shepard had left behind Ruffin’s marl and refocused attention on the rocks that cluttered marl beds and littered fields near Charleston.

Also in 1859, Shepard entered into a collaboration to manufacture fertilizer with Lewis M. Hatch, his son Melvin P. Hatch, and the senior Hatch’s brother-in-law, T. P. Allen. A Columbian guano dealer in Charleston, Lewis Hatch previously had hired Shepard to inspect each shipment. Having secured Shepard as the new company’s chemist, Hatch proposed to manufacture fertilizer mixing the city’s “refuse matter” with sulfuric acid and Peruvian guano. With “special partner” Lewis Hatch supplying the capital and “general partner” Melvin Hatch running the day-to-day operations, the new company was, in the elder Hatch’s words, “in every way a success.” The Hatches initially relied on bones to supply the phosphate content of their fertilizer but only were able to collect a year’s supply. Having concluded that phosphate rocks shared many similarities with rich Columbian guano, Shepard proposed that the Hatches consider “the Ashley River marl or rocks.” Shepard’s suggestion, the first recognition that lowcountry phosphate had value as a commercial fertilizer, spurred the Hatches to investigate the Ashley River marl beds for rock.38

(p.26) The prospect of a seemingly unlimited and cheap raw material obviously appealed to the Hatches. In the spring of 1860, they and Shepard began to look for the “nodules” on Ashley River plantations. That summer, the Hatches sent samples to Shepard at New Haven for chemical analysis. Shepard was not in New Haven when the samples arrived, so the samples were ground and spread into his garden, yielding impressive results. By fall, Shepard, apparently basing his judgment on the rocks’ physical appearance and their performance in his garden, told the elder Hatch,“I found it [the Ashley River phosphate rock] far richer than I expected; so rich, that with it we can drive other fertilizers out of this market, and may soon invade foreign markets.” Lewis Hatch immediately hired a steam engine “to push this business.”39 Hatch failed to clarify if his firm began to use the area’s phosphate rocks to “compete with the world in fertilizers,” but South Carolina’s secession on December 20th caused Hatch and company to suspend business.

Shepard did not keep the good news to himself or his employers. Sometime in 1860, he entered a partnership with George T. Jackson of Augusta, Georgia, to manufacture fertilizer. Apparently, the two men struck their agreement without first discussing phosphate rock. Soon, however, Jackson realized that the supply of bones in the region was insufficient for their manufacturing needs, and he discussed the matter with Shepard, who told him about “a large deposit of marl on the Ashley River” that would “answer our purposes.” Why Shepard had not initiated talks of fertilizer manufacture with this information is not clear. Equally confusing is Shepard’s use of the term “marl” when in fact he meant the phosphate rocks within the marl beds. Shepard sent Jackson samples of the rock, not marl, in the spring of 1861. As did the Hatches, Jackson and Shepard suspended plans for manufacturing phosphate fertilizer after secession.40

The War

The Civil War was both a catalyst and an obstacle to the development of the land-mining, river-mining, and fertilizer-manufacturing industries. War mobilization brought together the final pieces of the scientific puzzle as well as many key players in the future industries. Gentlemen-scientists working in the Confederate Nitre Bureau honed skills in chemistry, (p.27) exploration, and mining.41 Lowcountry shippers, merchants, and cotton factors turned blockade runners gained or maintained foreign trading relationships and perfected transportation networks. Charleston’s mechanics and scientists collaborated on marine inventions. But the four-year emergency also deferred development of the three industries. Despite the evolving attitude that phosphate rocks had commercial potential, Charleston’s nascent fertilizer enterprises dissolved with the outbreak of war, and scientific experimentation with the rock all but ended.

Charleston’s gentlemen-scientists were loyal Confederates. In January 1861, Holmes showed himself to be a firm supporter of secession, declaring in a letter to the Philadelphian Joseph Leidy, “Black Republicanism has driven us to this measure.” While assuring Leidy that their friendship was secure, Holmes argued that “there must be a Southern Confederacy” and that “we will never flinch before a ‘Lincoln Force.’” Father of eight and forty-six years old, Holmes volunteered for administrative work rather than soldiering and served as chief superintendent of Nitre District 6, South Carolina.42

While supervising his nitre works, Holmes struck up a friendship with Nathaniel A. Pratt, a Harvard-educated Georgian who specialized in geology and chemistry. His Confederate superiors transferred Lieutenant-Colonel Pratt to the Augusta office of the Nitre Bureau, where he spent the remainder of the war. Pratt became the chief chemist (and, later, acting chief ) at the Augusta laboratory, the experimental center for the Nitre Bureau, and also was the Confederacy’s top consultant for nitriaries and mines in South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and Alabama. His extensive travels demonstrated the Nitre Bureau’s comprehensive efforts to harness the South’s mineral potential for the war effort.43 His travels also exposed him to what would become the phosphate region of South Carolina.

Pratt visited Charleston twice in 1864 to inspect Holmes’ nitre works. During two trips up the Ashley River, Holmes brought Pratt to Bee’s Ferry on the west bank of the river to show him marl deposits, fossils, and another substance. In his postwar book, Holmes claimed that he showed Pratt “coprolites” and that Pratt found 15 percent BPL in the fossilized excrement. Holmes thought that Pratt never saw phosphates during the war, but Pratt, in a promotional work written after the war, claimed that the (p.28) “supposed Coprolites” were phosphate rock. Aware of Shepard’s findings (9–10 percent BPL in the Ashley marl compared to 2–3 percent for Georgia marl), Pratt took “various samples” back to his Augusta laboratory but never analyzed them. Impressed by the marl and other substances Holmes had shown him, Pratt resolved to return to the lowcountry after the war to manufacture fertilizer using local resources. At this point, Pratt had not positively identified the commercial value of South Carolina’s phosphate, but he had a hunch that the banks of the Ashley River contained superior (in terms of BPL) fertilizing material.44

The war also brought gentleman-scientist St. Julien Ravenel into the phosphate circle. The locally renowned Ravenel shared Holmes’ and Shepard’s passions for scientific discovery, agricultural adaptation, and business opportunities. Ravenel’s father was John Ravenel, a prominent planter, leading cotton factor, and railroad entrepreneur. As Edmund Ravenel’s nephew, St. Julien Ravenel was also a member of the lowcountry’s scientific aristocracy. Educated in Charleston, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Paris, St. Julien Ravenel was, like Holmes, interested in natural history, a close friend of Louis Agassiz, an expert in drilling wells, and part of the Charleston scientific community. Ravenel performed countless soil experiments throughout his career, seeking to lower fertilizer costs while improving lowcountry crop yields and diversity. He also established the Charleston Agricultural Lime Company at Stony Landing, his plantation on the Cooper River, using marl mined locally as a lime substitute. Ravenel was yet another lowcountry scientist whose antebellum and wartime pursuits prepared him for a postwar career in the fertilizer industry.45

Ravenel worked for the Confederacy in Charleston and Columbia. He had known Ruffin since the 1840s, and during the latter’s 1861 visit to Charleston, the Virginian visited Ravenel’s lime works, which supplied the Confederacy. As he toured Ravenel’s operation, where workers burned marl to produce lime, Ruffin wistfully reflected, about lowcountry planters, that “it is astonishing, and would seem incredible, that highly intelligent men, as are many of these proprietors, should not have used this manure, in its crude state as marl, and all over their land.” Ruffin undoubtedly approved of Ravenel’s efforts to exploit the marl.46

While on furlough in Charleston during the war, Ravenel collaborated with yet another fertilizer industry pioneer, David C. Ebaugh, in an (p.29)

Antecedents, Precedents, and Continuities, 1800–1865

Figure 1. The founders (clockwise from upper left): Francis S. Holmes, Nathaniel A. Pratt, Charles U. Shepard Sr., St. Julien Ravenel. Philip E. Chazal, The Century in Phosphates and Fertilizers (Charleston: Lucas-Richardson Lithograph & Printing, 1904).

(p.30) attempt to rid Charleston Harbor of enemy ships. Responding to Confederate incentives, businessman Theodore D. Stoney enlisted the help of Ravenel, who, in turn, contacted Ebaugh, a talented mechanic and the superintendent of the C.S.A. Nitre Works at Stony Landing. The three men formed the Southern Torpedo Company to fight the Union menace with new technology. Ebaugh, with help from Ravenel, built the world’s first “torpedoboat,” the CSS David, which attacked the USS New Ironsides in October 1863, disabling the vessel but failing to end the blockade. The Ravenel-Ebaugh partnership did survive, however, into the phosphate era.47

Integral to the war effort, two high-profile Confederates and several cotton factors and shipping merchants turned blockade runners used similar talents as entrepreneurs in the postwar land-mining, river-mining, and fertilizer-manufacturing industries. For many, C.S.A. service was a defining moment in their place in the community as well as their lives. More specifically, the men who managed and financed blockade-running firms gained or maintained international business relationships, entrepreneurial experience, and organizational skills that they used after the war in creating the three postwar industries.

Two future lowcountry fertilizer pioneers, C. G. Memminger and George A. Trenholm, held the same post in the Confederate cabinet. A wealthy landowner, lawyer, and slave owner, the German-born Memminger was a leader in the secession movement in the 1850s and a key player in drafting the Ordinance of Secession. In February 1861, President Jefferson Davis appointed Memminger secretary of the treasury. Like Davis, Memminger faced stiff opposition from factions within the Confederate Congress, and the besieged secretary finally resigned in June 1864.48 Trenholm succeeded his Charleston friend as treasury secretary, serving until the end of the war, but his service to the Confederacy as a financier and blockade runner was more significant than his brief role in Davis’ cabinet. As with several other cotton factors and shipping entrepreneurs in Charleston, Trenholm’s antebellum career prepared him to pursue patriotism and profit during the war. He was part of a trend in the 1840s, in which lowcountry merchants began to rival their planter neighbors in wealth and status. Charleston enjoyed boom times before the war, leading the South in Atlantic shipping. The city’s businessmen established alliances with northern firms and gained contacts in Europe, especially in Liverpool. Access to foreign capital and (p.31) businessmen allowed Trenholm and his local peers to make Charleston the center of blockade running during the war. Similarly, those northern and foreign contacts became critical after the war for establishing markets for South Carolina phosphate and fertilizer.49

Trenholm spent his entire career with the commission and shipping firm of John Fraser and Company. Founded early in the century, the company was antebellum Charleston’s dominant cotton factoring firm and one of the East Coast’s top importing and exporting companies. When John Fraser died in 1854, Trenholm controlled the interlocking firms of John Fraser and Company (Charleston), Fraser, Trenholm and Company (Liverpool), and Trenholm Brothers (New York). By 1860, Trenholm was “one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the South,” owning steam-ships, railroads, wharves, banks, hotels, cotton presses, plantations, and slaves. Trenholm’s copartners and managers included Theodore D. Wagner (Charleston), James T. Welsman (New York), and Charles K. Prioleau (Liverpool), and all three helped to create Trenholm’s postwar phosphate and fertilizer empires. Trenholm was active in state politics, served on several corporate boards, and maintained a close relationship with his brother-in-law and fellow southern nationalist, Francis Holmes.50

St. Julien Ravenel also had important family connections to the world of trade and shipping. Ravenel & Company, led by his uncle John and his father, William, was a leading antebellum Charleston shipping firm that did business in Russia, Sweden, England, and Rhode Island. After John retired, William continued the business with two of his nephews and also formed Ravenel & Huger.51 After the war, St. Julien Ravenel’s family and business contacts would provide the funding for several of his phosphate and fertilizer companies.

A third powerful firm on Charleston’s Cooper River wharves was James Adger and Company. Irish immigrant James Adger established one of Charleston’s premier antebellum cotton factorage, commercial exchange, and coastal shipping firms, and his son Robert took over the business in 1858 when the patriarch died. Although they did not own a lot of slaves, the Adgers became part of the lowcountry planter aristocracy. In the late antebellum era, many of Charleston’s planters sent their sons to the city for a “countinghouse education,” clerking in a mercantile house; the Adgers began with that practical education and were at home among the city’s upper (p.32) crust. The Adgers also maintained personal and commercial friendships with the Brown family and its shipping empire, which included Brown Brothers and Company (New York), Brown, Shepley and Company (Liverpool), and Alexander Brown and Sons (Baltimore). The gateway to British markets, Liverpool became one of the most important ports for the Adger family businesses, including what would become the dominant river-phosphate mining company after the war.52

Although New Yorkers dominated the Atlantic-coast shipping trade, Charleston firms entered the business in the 1840s and were solidly established by 1860. The Adger Line, owned by Charlestonians such as the Adgers and Fraser Trenholm and Company, lost the SS James Adger to Union seizure in April 1861, but Trenholm, Ravenel, and other local shippers made Charleston “the Confederacy’s lifeline of supply” after the war began. About 80 percent of the ships successfully ran the blockade through the city, contributing supplies to “The Cause” and garnering huge profits for the firms. William Ravenel formed the Importing and Exporting Company of South Carolina with Theodore P. Jervey, William Bee, and John Fraser and Company. Other blockade runners included the Steam-ship Charleston, Palmetto Exporting and Importing, Chicora Importing and Exporting, Charleston Importing and Exporting, and Atlantic Steam Packet companies.53 After the war, many of the principals in Charleston’s blockade-running companies became phosphate and fertilizer entrepreneurs and chose identical names for their new companies.

Trenholm and his three interlocking firms made the biggest impact on the Confederacy’s efforts in blockade running and financing. Trenholm’s ships protected Charleston and ran the blockade more than sixty times, and Fraser, Trenholm and Company in Liverpool became the South’s financial agent in Europe.54 Trenholm’s Liverpool connection was crucial for the firm and the Confederacy, as well as for Charleston’s postwar land-mining, river-mining, and fertilizer-manufacturing industries. The city of Liverpool shared strong business and personal connections with the antebellum South, especially Charleston. Initially, the trade of slaves and, later, cotton, united both cities, and firms such as Baring Brothers and Alexander Brown and Sons worked closely with Charleston’s cotton factors. When the war came, and despite Queen Victoria’s May 1861 Proclamation of Neutrality, Liverpool’s business community actively aided the Confederacy, by (p.33) helping southern agents thwart Britain’s neutrality laws, while making a profit. The city became “the hub” of blockade-running operations, and Fraser, Trenholm and Company’s office at 10 Rumford Place was, according to a British government document, “in effect the Confederate Embassy in England.” Confederate defeat meant bankruptcy for most of the blockade-running firms and years of legal troubles for Trenholm, but the close commercial ties established before and during the war paid dividends in the postbellum phosphate and fertilizer era.55 Directors and managers of the blockade-running firms leveraged their wartime contacts, capital pools, and organizational skills to create the three postwar industries.

Although the war damaged Charleston’s buildings, economy, and traditions, the “late unpleasantness” did not paralyze the region’s scientists and entrepreneurs. The antebellum heritage of agricultural science, natural history, and entrepreneurial drive remained intact in the lowcountry and provided a foundation for the postbellum land- and river-mining and fertilizer-manufacturing industries. The need for inexpensive and readily available fertilizer did not disappear either. Most of the postwar industrial pioneers had served the Confederacy in some capacity, and, after weathering the chaotic years of 1865–66, they returned to Charleston to resurrect the city, their fortunes, and their lives. The sons of Charleston and the lowcountry’s leading families began to diversify their careers, seeking alternative pursuits off the plantation.

But the South Carolina lowcountry had changed since 1861. Emancipation removed many of the obstacles to greater fertilizer use, and southern farmers began to purchase the material in prodigious quantities. The lowcountry’s grand planter families—including the Ravenels, Draytons, Middletons, and Pinckneys—retained most of their status, some of their land, and a bit of their fortune, but none of their slaves. The freedpeople either moved away, reveling in their new mobility, or stayed, to lay claim to opportunities in a region that also had been theirs for generations. Other ex-slaves moved from the interior to the lowcountry. Of those who stayed, few would work for their former masters and almost none would, in the early years after emancipation, work on plantation lands under a gang-labor system.

Former masters and slaves sought to adjust to a world after chattel slavery and military defeat. This fluid period coincided with the emergence, (p.34) for the first time in the lowcountry, of an industrial enterprise not directly related to the antebellum versions of the plantation, slavery, and King Cotton. And yet, the new land-mining industry would operate on plantation lands, be worked by exslaves, and fuel the new King Cotton. A bastion of the Old South and the birthplace of secession, the South Carolina low-country would host a convergence of business trends, agricultural change, and scientific progress. In the process, Charleston and the lowcountry would move, slowly and painfully, toward membership in the New South.


(1) . F. Holmes, Phosphate Rocks, 7, 27–35; Sanders, “Additions,” 10–12; Sanders, unpublished diagram, Charleston Museum, 1999. Before “phosphate rock” became the standard term around 1870, commentators used many other names to describe the mineral, including marl-rock, marl-stone, bone-phosphate, coprolites, conglomerates, and bone-rocks.

(2) . Willis, “Marl Beds,” 47, 80; F. Holmes, Phosphate Rocks, 3, 26, 31, 70; Pratt, Ashley River Phosphates, 42. Holmes estimated the Ashley River phosphate stratum to average fifteen to eighteen inches deep and yield six hundred tons per acre.

(5) . Wines, Fertilizer in America, 3–4, 157–59, 165–66.

(6) . Wines, Fertilizer in America, 33–47, 162–65.

(7) . Wines, Fertilizer in America, 45–46; R. Taylor, “South Carolina,” 179–89.

(8) . Wines, Fertilizer in America, 24, 83–87, 108–11, 165–70; R. Taylor, “Southeast Part I,” 308; Blakey, Florida Phosphate, 1–3; F. Holmes, Phosphate Rocks, 51. After 1867, marketers used the term “superphosphate” to describe phosphate rock dissolved in sulfuric acid. Roughly equal, modern and nineteenth-century BPL numbers measure the amount of phosphorus available to plants in the fertilizer.

(9) . Wines, Fertilizer in America, 70–75, 124–26, 163–70; Blakey, Florida Phosphate, 6–7.

(12) . Genovese, Political Economy, 26–27, 85–90.

(15) . R. Taylor, “South Carolina,” 179–89; R. Taylor, “Southeast Part I,” 305, 309–11; (p.171) R. Taylor, “Sale and Application,” 46; Genovese, Political Economy, 94–95; McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 99–102.

(16) . R. Taylor, “South Carolina,” 179–89; Genovese, Political Economy, 94–95.

(17) . R. Taylor, “South Carolina,” 184–85; Wines, Fertilizer in America, 41–42; Shepard Jr., “Report 1870,” 3–10.

(18) . R. Taylor, “South Carolina,” 184–85.

(19) . Stephens, Ancient Animals, ix, 1–2; D. Taylor, Naturalists, 2–9; Sanders, “Additions,” 10–12, 17–18, 25–26; Sanders, unpublished diagram.

(21) . Stephens, Ancient Animals, 3–5, 44; “Early Notice of the Charleston Phosphates,” RC 1, no. 10 (July 1870): 640–41; Willis, “Marl Beds,” 46.

(22) . Stephens, Ancient Animals, 3, 44; F. Holmes, Phosphate Rocks, dedication page, 10–12, 56–57; P.H.M., “Earliest Notice of the Phosphates,” RC 1, no. 11 (August 1870): 699–700.

(23) . D. Taylor, Naturalists, 122–23; Wines, Fertilizer in America, 19; Allmendinger, Incidents, 1, 64, 67; B. Mitchell, Ruffin, 13–14, 45–48; Allmendinger, Ruffin: Family and Reform, 29; Blakey, Florida Phosphate, x; Mathew, Crisis, 226. Marl (or “calcareous manure”) contained fossil shells and soil and combined clay and carbonate of lime. By decreasing soil acidity, it allowed the soil to absorb, rather than leach, added nutrients.

(24) . Ruffin, appendix 50–52; F. Holmes, Phosphate Rocks, 56–57, 65–66; Mathew, Crisis, 39–40, 88; Allmendinger, Incidents, 67–69, 176–77; Stephens, Ancient Animals, 3–5; B. Mitchell, Ruffin, 1, 48; Willis, “Marl Beds,” 47.

(25) . Stephens, Ancient Animals, 3–5, 9; Mathew, Crisis, 129–39; “Early Notice,” RC (July 1870): 640–41; Francis S. Holmes, “Calcinated Marl as a Fertilizer,” RC 5, no. 8 (May 1874): 402–3; F. Holmes, Phosphate Rocks, 45.

(27) . Mathew, Crisis, 36; Stephens, Ancient Animals, 5; D. Taylor, Naturalists, 144–45; H. Johnson, “Background,” 5–6; Tuomey, Survey (1844), 53–55; Tuomey, Report (1848), iii.

(28) . Tuomey, Survey (1844), 53–55; F. Holmes, Phosphate Rocks, 7–9, 58, 63; “Charleston Phosphates,” SCIPL, 69.

(29) . Tuomey, Survey (1844), 53–55.

(30) . Tuomey, Report (1848), 164–65; D. Taylor, Naturalists, 144–45; Willis, “Marl Beds,” 47–48.

(32) . Tuomey, Report (1848), 235, appendix xxxiv–xxxviii; Mathew, Agriculture, 337–38; Robinson, “Charles Upham Shepard,” 85–103; Year Book—1886, n.p.; Charles U. Shepard Jr., “Soils,” RC 3, no. 12 (September 1872): 646.

(33) . Tuomey, Report (1848), 235, appendix xxxiv–xxxviii; Stephens, Ancient Animals, 4.

(34) . Tuomey, Report (1848), 235, appendix xxxiv–xxxviii; Stephens, Ancient (p.172) Animals, 4; Blakey, Florida Phosphate, 6–7, 11; Wines, Fertilizer in America, 72; F. Holmes, Phosphate Rocks, 57; “Charleston Phosphates,” SCIPL, 69.

(36) . Charles U. Shepard Sr., “Notice of the Guanape Guano,” RC 1, no. 8 (May 1870): 469; “Charleston Phosphates,” SCIPL, 70; F. P. Porcher, “Popular View of South Carolina Phosphates,” CDC, 19 August 1870, 2.

(37) . “Charleston Phosphates,” SCIPL, 70; Charles U. Shepard Sr., “The Charleston Phosphates,” Address before Medical Association of the State of South Carolina (1859), 3–4, Wando Mining and Manufacturing Company pamphlet, EWS-1; Chazal, Century, 38–39; Simkins and Woody, South Carolina During Reconstruction, 305; Willis, “Marl Beds,” 50.

(38) . Lewis M. Hatch, “A Contribution to the History of the Charleston Phosphates,” RC 2, no. 6 (March 1871): 357–58; Willis, “Marl Beds,” 50; Chazal, Century, 39

(39) . Hatch, “Contribution,” 357–58; Chazal, Century, 38–43; Charles U. Shepard Sr., letter 7 November 1868, Wando Mining and Manufacturing Company pamphlet, EWS-1; Willis, “Marl Beds,” 50.

(40) . George T. Jackson (Augusta) to Charles U. Shepard Jr. (Charleston), 11 July 1873, in Chazal, Century, 41; Chazal, Century, 39, 41–43; Willis, “Marl Beds,” 49–50; Hatch, “Contribution,” 358.

(43) . “Dr. N. A. Pratt, Scientist and Builder,” 55–56; Wines, Fertilizer in America, 116; Donnelly, “Scientists,” 70, 76–79; Schroeder, “‘We Will Support,’” 302–4; City of North Charleston Historical and Architectural Survey, 60–61.

(44) . Stephens, Ancient Animals, 22–28, 44–45; Wines, Fertilizer in America, 116–19; F. Holmes (Charleston) to Pratt (Charleston), 17 September 1868, Pratt Papers; Pratt to F. Holmes, 18 September 1868, Pratt Papers; “Charleston Phosphates,” SCIPL, 72; Pratt, Ashley River Phosphates, 12–13; F. Holmes, Phosphate Rocks, 63–69.

(46) . “Dr. St. Julien Ravenel,” CNC, 17 March 1882, EWS-6; Holman, “Summer of 1841,” 2; Mathew, Crisis, 116.

(p.173) (48) . Capers, Memminger, 7–22, 24–35, 201–2, 242–43, 286–91, 345–65, 369, 382–84; M. Johnson and Roark, No Chariot Let Down, 40–43.

(52) . Davidson, Last Foray, 3–4; M. Johnson, “Planters and Patriarchy,” 62–64; Poston, Buildings of Charleston, 53–54; newspaper clippings and obituaries, Adger Family Papers, (within Smyth Stoney Adger Collection), SCHS; Stevenson, Diary of Clarissa Adger Bowen, 57.

(53) . Poston, Buildings of Charleston, 53–54; Fraser, Charleston!, 261–62; Coker, Maritime, 187–90, 200, 268, 278–83; Wise, Lifeline, 69, 114, 221.

(54) . Poston, Buildings of Charleston, 89, 581–82; Coker, Maritime, 271–78; Bulloch, Secret Service, 52–53, 70–71; Spence, Treasures of the Confederate Coast, 9–29; Ethel Trenholm Seabrook Nepveux, e-mail to author, 6 February 2003; M. Mitchell, Gone With The Wind; Ripley, Scarlett, 210, 230, 241–42. Spence and Nepveux claim that Mitchell based Rhett Butler on Trenholm. In Ripley’s sequel, Butler is a land-phosphate mining entrepreneur on an Ashley River plantation.

(55) . Coker, Maritime, 289–92; Loy, “10 Rumford Place,” 350–54, 360–61, 363–66, 371–74.