They discovered stone implements far deeper in the ground than had ever been encountered before. Subsequent excavations and scientific studies revealed that ancient humans were present in the Salkehatchie region of South Carolina approximately 16,000 years ago, which is far earlier than previously thought.
Known as the Topper Site, this archeological treasure is one of a handful of sites in the eastern U.S. producing evidence that humans lived in the western hemisphere during the last Ice Age. Since this landmark discovery, the Topper Site has received national and international media attention from CNN, U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek, National Geographic, The New York Times, Scientific American and Science Magazine.
Salkehatchie, which derives its moniker from a Native American word for "salt ketcher," served as the site of a French colony in 1562, was explored by the Spanish in 1566, temporarily settled by the Scottish in 1686 and finally became home to the first permanent English colony in 1670. President George Washington even spent the night in Hampton County when he traveled from Charleston to Savannah in 1791.
The Salkehatchie area also played an important role in Civil War history. The Union army, under the command of General William T. Sherman, crossed the Savannah River in early February 1865 while en route to Columbia, S.C. His army cut a 30-mile swath of destruction through the heart of the region, encamping in Hampton County and converting a number of local houses and churches in Allendale County into impromptu hospitals. Confederate and Union troops clashed in the Battle of Broxton Bridge in February of 1865, at a site which now serves as a popular state park and features historic earthworks from the Civil War battle.
Today, the area boasts a rich and diverse heritage, blending different cultural traditions into one tight-knit community. In the 21st century, tourism and agriculture serve as major drivers for the local economy. A number of local homes, houses of worship and historic sites are on the elite National Register of Historic Places, in recognition of the rich history that defines Salkehatchie.