“The Horry County Patriot Tree Project”… A Second Interview With The Senior Planner For Horry County, Adam Emrick

First things first:  I’d like to thank Adam Emrick for agreeing to do a second Q&A with US 17.  In his first interview in July of 2013 (and if you haven’t read it yet, please do!), Adam shared with us an enlightening view of historic preservation in Horry County, South Carolina – a view that I know made me look at the Grand Strand and beyond much differently.  But when I heard about the Horry County Patriot Tree Project that he and his collaborators are just getting off the ground, I knew that I had to get him back here to tell us about the project.  I’ve been a huge admirer of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground folks for some time (and yes, Highway 17 in Virginia runs through a small portion of the spectacular Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area) and so I just love the spirit of Patriot Tree project.  Also, not surprisingly from those who frequent this website, I also love anything that draws attention and honors the spectacular trees you find along the Highway 17 Corridor – and especially the grand Live Oaks of the coastal areas.  So, I’m thinking this project is going to be pretty wonderful.

US 17:  Since I first heard about the Horry County Patriot Tree Project, I’ve thought it was a wonderful idea. Let’s start with what the focus of the project is about – and how and when did you came up with the idea for the project?

Adam Emrick:  In May of 2013,  I was fortunate enough to be invited to present one of our very success preservation projects, the Horry County Cemetery Project, at a conference in Gettysburg.  Conferences can be hit or miss on whether your time is actually well spent in attending them.  This one was a homerun.  The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership represents a successful coordinated effort to preserve and promote Civil War sites from Monticello, Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  They have produced several really impressive, really high quality programs, one of which is the Living Legacy Project.  This project pairs Civil War soldiers killed in battle with new trees, 620,000 new trees!  It was exciting and interesting and incredibly motivating and I knew I had to steal the idea.

I presented their project and an idea to pair our Live Oak trees with Horry County Civil War soldiers at a Board of Architectural Review meeting in June of 2013.  We had a full agenda that day and were really lucky to have a Horry County Historical Society Board Member in attendance who mentioned that there was a recent transplant to the area that was doing research on soldiers from Horry County that might be easily transferrable to our project idea.  When the meeting was over and I returned to my desk, I found a newsletter from the South Carolina Garden Clubs that someone had placed on my desk.  This newsletter stated that the SC Garden Clubs were embarking on a two year project to recognize, in some way, historic trees.  Karma had smiled upon me because it seemed that all of the work that I had expected to have to do on the project was being done by others and all I had to do was stand in the middle and make it come together.

US 17:  I like how the project honors both Civil War soldiers that died in battle and wonderful trees that have been gracing Horry County for many, many years.  Because of this, the project pulls together an interesting group of collaborators.  Who are the different groups that will be involved in the project and what will their contributions be?

Adam Emrick:  How we’ve progressed thus far is each of the many Garden Clubs in Horry County are rushing to claim our supremely majestic Live Oak Trees throughout the County.  Once they’ve found ones that they wish to honor they send those tree locations to me.  If the trees are on private property, I ask that the Garden Clubs make an effort to get permission to recognize the trees first before sending them to me.  It may sound crazy, but sometimes, people don’t like the government showing up in their yards unannounced.  Once we have trees ready for recognition, Ruth Sprowls, researcher for the Horry County Historical Society, finds us soldiers to pair with the trees.  The first batch of trees to be recognized will come from Upper Mill Plantation in Bucksville.  There is a stand of 12 massive live oaks that have been on this plantation site for hundreds of years overlooking the black waters of the Waccamaw River.  One of the most spectacular trees on the plantation will be named for Captain Henry L. Buck who owned the plantation and whose descendents still live in the plantation home.  Ruth is also researching Buck’s family to name other trees after those who also served.  Another tree will be named after Henry McCall, an African American, likely a slave that went to war with Captain Buck and who surrendered at Appomattox and returned to Bucksville with the remainder of the company under which he served.

US 17:   How many soldiers, and subsequently how many trees will ultimately become a part of the project?  How much information about these soldiers is already available – and how much will the project still need to gather?

Adam Emrick:  We estimate that there may be as many as 1,000 soldiers and trees to be honored.  The local Sons of Confederate Veterans Chapter has been researching soldiers buried in Horry County for a number of years.  They have compiled a great deal of research which will be used by the Historical Society to aid Ruth in her efforts.  The final product will include not just the names of the soldiers, but also their dates of birth and death, where they are buried, their date of enlistment for service, their discharge date, their rank, what company and regiment they served in, their parents, wives, children, occupation, and any other interesting facts that we can uncover.  Of course, if we can find it, we will also include a photograph of the soldier.

US 17:   I love the idea of searching a county for the trees to be selected for honoring each soldier – that will be a lot of trees!  Will there be a website that shows where each tree is located, so that interested individuals could find them?  

Adam Emrick:  We will include a map of all trees and where they can be located.  But better than that we plan to QR code each tree.  This way, when you locate a tree, you can scan the QR Code located at the tree and be taken to a website showing all of the information about the soldier mentioned above.  You can also access the full database of soldiers and trees honored through the Historical Society’s webpage, who is hosting the website component. The Horry County Archives Center at Coastal Carolina University is also partnering in the project by adding the researched information to the website portion of the project.

US 17:    How long do you think it will take to complete the project?  Is there a way for the public to become involved?

Adam Emrick:  Initially, I thought this project might be one that goes on forever.  After touring several sites with multiple trees, I feel that this project could be a five year project.  Upper Mill Plantation, as mentioned above, has twelve trees in one area.  Little River has fifteen trees along its waterfront area that are incredible.  We have a future park site in the County that centers around a stand of ten oaks.  This isn’t to say that a single tree can’t and won’t be designated, but the trees that we’ve now begun to notice that are in groups will drastically assist in making sure that all soldiers can be honored.

The public is needed on multiple fronts.  First, both the Historical Society and Garden Clubs are volunteer organizations.  Both would readily accept assistance and new members who are interested in this project.  I know that I have overwhelmed Ruth Sprowls in her researching task and I have a strong hunch that she could use a hand.  Secondly, if there is a big Live Oak or several big Live Oaks in your yard, trees that you’ve always appreciated and thought that someone should do something to recognize their history and enormity, please contact me or your local Garden Club.  There are no strings attached to this project, it is a recognition project only and I would love to see all of the grand trees throughout the County.

US 17:    Of course I’d love to see this spread to other counties along the Highway 17 corridor in South Carolina.  Would you and others involved be willing to collaborate with other counties to fold them into the project?

Adam Emrick:  Anything I can do to share this project with others, I would be thrilled to do so.  I stole it from elsewhere, so it’s only fair that I help in any way that I can.

Adam, thanks for talking with the folks here at US 17 once again about Horry County  – and especially for updating everyone on the Horry County Patriot Tree Project.  It’s a wonderful project, and I hope it catches on not only in Horry County but also beyond.  Please keep us posted.

(All images were provided by Adam Emrick, and were posted here with his permission).