The Dark Corner

Tom Poland

Posted July 27, 2022

By Tom Poland
A Southern Writer

I’d been there many times but never realized just what a dark history existed until I visited a legal distillery up that way. “Folks still go in there and disappear,” and old timer told me. Maybe so.

This bright red beauty sits in the region known as the Dark Corner.

I asked around and did some searching and found plenty on the Dark Corner, a notorious region centered around Glassy Mountain and Hogback Mountain in upper Greenville County. The notoriety was earned. Political differences, killings, vanishing people, moonshining, a place where deserters of Union and Confederates hid and preyed on others, residents who didn’t see eye to eye on the Civil War, and a wariness of outsiders contributed to the Dark Corner’s reputation as a place to avoid.

I’ve been to Campbell’s Bridge. I’ve driven SC Highway 11, the Scenic Carolina Foothills Highway, and that put me in the Dark Corner. Outside of highways the terrain is tough. Forest clad slopes and waterfalls and rivers and creeks provide water aplenty. All that water attracted gristmills and stills, and the stills attracted trouble. Venture in there in the old days and it’s said you might not come out.

Back before highways braided through the region, a lot of land proved inaccessible. A fellow could be hard to find, especially if he didn’t want to be found. Folks didn’t like to tell strangers where it was. Outsiders never could quite find the Dark Corner. It was always over yonder a ways, up the road a bit, or back a ways.

Today, you’ll find yourself in the Dark Corner if you visit Campbell’s Bridge and Poinsett Bridge. Tryon, North Carolina borders it on the north, Spartanburg on the east. The region is not as wild as it was but apart from the settlements, exclusive developments, attractions, and highways, inaccessible places still.

The region possesses a dark history but it is enchanting. This folded land—cloaked in green and running white with rapids and waterfalls—forms a big part of South Carolina’s charm and consequently, tourism. It has its attractions. The first time I saw that quaint covered bridge it was late afternoon. The sunlight came in so low it made everything golden and lustrous but driving was a tad difficult. A bit blinded as I rounded a curve, I got a treat as my eyes adjusted—it was Campbell’s Covered Bridge.

If you go there, and you should, imagine moonshiners crossing the bridge with well-secured contraband that proved a man could make a better living with corn than those who tow the line. Here’s proof, the truth kind, not the drinking kind. From the South Carolina Encyclopedia—“As one Dark Corner native put it, he ‘could make three gallons of corn whiskey from a bushel of corn and sell it for one or two dollars per gallon when he could only get sixty cents for his corn. The same individual recalled that there were ‘as many as twenty distilleries in two miles of each other.’ ” Right, nothing succeeds like success.

While researching the Dark Corner, I came across the name Dean Stuart Campbell a lot. He’s considered the squire of the Dark Corner and he has written much about the region. He’s done a documentary as well. Check out his work. Shed some light on the Dark Corner. Even better pay it a visit. See Campbell’s Bridge and let your imagination run free.  

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