Historical Society publishes new edition of Blarney book
Sale proceeds to benefit Florence County Museum’s historical activities.
The Florence County Historical Society recently announced that a softcover second edition of local author and historian E.N. Zeigler’s “Barnwell Blarney, or Colonel Frank Remembered,” has been published by United Writers Press.
The Historical Society funded and sponsored the publication with permission of Zeigler’s estate. Proceeds of all sales of the book will go to the Historical Society to help fund historical projects at the Florence County Museum.
First published in 1999, Barnwell Blarney tells the story of Frank Barnwell, or Colonel Frank, one of Florence’s most colorful and well-remembered residents. Born in Adams Run in 1893, Barnwell moved to Florence in the early twentieth century where he became a realtor and developer. Barnwell was known locally for his humor and skill as a story teller, but was prominent statewide as a high ranking officer in the National Guard.
His position in the Guard put him in the middle of some of the most important events in South Carolina and nationally in his time, from the textile strikes in the Upstate in 1934, to the “Great Highway Department Insurrection” of 1935, to the contested election for mayor of Charleston in 1936.
Always involved in politics and keenly interested in making money, Barnwell was often a roguish figure in stories told about him as well as stories he told about himself.
“The stories are hilarious, but the larger story of Frank Barnwell’s life tells us a lot about South Carolina history as well as the history of the Florence Community,” said Andrew Stout, executive director of the Florence County Museum.
Barnwell, who died in 1968, also saw active duty in World War I as well as on the Mexican border chasing Poncho Villa under General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing in 1917. He served on Florence City Council in the 1930s, was head of the County Democratic Party, and unsuccessfully ran for Clerk of Court in 1932. But it was the humorous stories about Barnwell that made him such a compelling figure.
“When I was growing up, there was a group of men - including my father, Hugh Wilcox Sr., and Red Maxwell - who would often start telling Col Barnwell stories at parties,” said Ben Zeigler, the author’s son and president of the Florence County Historical Society. “By the end of the evening, everyone at the party would be gathered around them hooting with laughter.”
Barnwell’s stories often involve and illuminate tense moments in the historical narrative.
When confronting striking textile workers in Pelzer in 1934, Barnwell sought to win their confidence by saying they could join the National Guard and serve under him in an absurdly contrived mission to fight the Italians in Ethiopia.
When one worker shouted “I don’t believe I can join your army ‘cause I aint got no teeth,” Barnwell responded, “Hell, man, we aint gonna eat ‘em, we’re gonna fight ‘em.”
Barnwell commanded the 263d Coast artillery at Fort Moultrie during World War II and many of his colorful stories are related to that experience as well as his numerous visits to the famous Sunset Lodge in Georgetown.
Ben Zeigler said the first, hardback edition of Barnwell Blarney has long been out of print and that he has received numerous requests for copies since his father died in 2012.
Copies are $15 and available at the County Museum.
For more information please contact Andrew Stout at the Florence County Museum, (843) 676-1200, or Ben Zeigler, (843) 669-6002.