Historic Period Artifacts:
In the 1500s Spanish explorers and settlers came to South Carolina, but there is no documentary or physical evidence that they visited the Kolb site. After the English established their Virginia colony in 1607, traders visited the interior, eventually coming into the Carolinas. Although the Spanish and Virginians did not leave clear evidence of being here, they still had a strong impact on the people. Native Americans had no immunity built up to European diseases, and maladies like smallpox killed off a large percentage of the population.
At the same time, the groups the Europeans contacted began to move and try to survive, joining relatives far away. The Sara settled near Cheraw in the 1690s, and the Pee Dee had a town downriver. It is not known which group was here, but Native and European artifacts have been found intermixed in at least one context, indicating the presence of at least one post 1500s group.
English settlers came to the state in the 1660s, and settled at Charleston in 1670. A plantation economy developed, and Africans and Native Americans were enslaved and forced to work the fields. By the 1710s slaves outnumbered the settlers by more than two to one. As the settlement grew and prospered, this disparity in numbers led the whites to fear slave a insurrection. Native American groups in the interior traded with the English, and at times they came into conflict. In the 1730s the Colonial governor and legislature came up with a plan to attract white Europeans to settle in the interior of the state, They established Townships and offered free land as an inducement. Two such townships were at the mouth of the Pee Dee. Neither attracted large numbers of settlers, largely because much better lands were available upriver.
In the early 1730s a group of Welsh Baptists who had settled in New Jersy asked for land as well. This was not one of the Townships, but was called the Welsh Tract. This extended up the Pee Dee on either side to nearly the North Carolina border. Johannes Kolb was a German who had emigrated to New Jersey in 1704. He sold his land in 1734, and in 1737 acquired land in the Welsh Tract – at what we call the Kolb site.
He farmed the land and built a water powered mill. He raised a large family at the Kolb site, and survived until the 1760s. The property stayed in family hands until the 1780s, we think. There are gaps in the documentary record that are compounded by the fact that his female descendants were more numerous than the males, so that the Kolb name was only indirectly associated after a couple of generations.
early 19th century, but the documentary record is silent until 1849, when Bright Williamson passed the land along to his son Thomas C. Williamson. Thomas held 62 slaves in 1850, and lived in a house on the high ground a couple of miles from the Kolb site. During this period slaves would have worked the land, growing corn and other grains.
As the 19th century progressed the clearing of the uplands caused more water to run off, leading to increased flooding. Levees were built using slave labor, but after the Civil War many fell into disrepair, leading to increasingly more intense flooding. By the turn of the 20th century few fields in the floodplain were under cultivation. The Williamson family sold the land to the Edwards, who called the place Riverdale. The Edwards were descendants of the Kolbs.
The late 19th century saw wide distribution of new steam technologies that allowed tramways and portable sawmills to be established that could remove the large hardwoods of the river swamps. The Edwards followed this trend, and the site was next the home of one such lumber operation. Afterwards the tress were allowed to regenerate, and the land passed into the hands of a series of timber companies. It was logged again in the 1970s, at which time the Johannes Kolb site was discovered and recorded. Hunters and fishermen have used the site during the 20th and 21st centuries, but no one has lived here full time since the sawmill was in operation.