“There’s just such a great quality of life in Cayce,” Mayor Elise Partin says of her city, and she has data to support her statement. The city Partin calls “a small town in the middle of a bustling region” is home to approximately 13,000 people, and 60 percent of those have lived in Cayce for more than 20 years.
The modern city of Cayce was born in 1914, named for Billy Cayce, known affectionately to many in the area as “Uncle Billy” and patriarch of one of the area’s most prominent families. The history of the area, however, stretches back much farther, and is helping shape the city’s future.
Archaeologists from the University of South Carolina and elsewhere say the land now known as Cayce has been home to humans for at least 12,000 years. Scientists have found artifacts from near the end of earth’s last ice age near the intersection of Interstates 77 and 26, and a park now in development there will preserve the history while bringing future visitors to Cayce.
“The estimates of tourism numbers there are astounding,” Partin said. “It’s not just Cayce’s story. It’s the story of our region, our state, and our country we have to tell.” The 12,000 Year History Park will guide visitors from those earliest days through early Native American settlements, explorer Hernando de Soto’s visit in 1540, English settlements in the 18th century, the area’s part in the American Revolution and the Civil War, and on to the present.
Visitors can also learn about Cayce at the city’s Historical Museum. “Most cities don’t have their own museum, especially cities our size,” Partin said. The museum’s central building is a replica of a trading post established in 1765 in the town then known as Granby. The post was seized by the British and turned into Fort Granby during the American Revolution. It was near Fort Granby that a young woman named Emily Geiger was captured while carrying a message from American General Nathanael Greene to Thomas Sumter, and became one of our nation’s first heroines for her actions.
George Washington visited Granby in 1791, a time when it was perhaps twice as large as the state’s new capital city just across the Congaree River. “Our city was born out of the face of the Congaree,” Partin said, and the river remains a central part of life in Cayce. “We have some really rich things,” the mayor added.
The trading post which became Fort Granby was purchased by the Cayce family in 1817, 14 years after the founding of Guignard Brick Works, which would be one of the area’s most important businesses throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Confederate soldiers tried in vain to slow down General William Sherman’s troops at the Civil War Battle of Congaree Creek in 1865, and Guignard bricks were used to rebuild Columbia after it burned in 1865. Kilns from Guignard still stand near the Blossom Street Bridge, built in the 1950s.
Cayce’s economy centered on railroads in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It grew to be known as Cayce’s Crossing before formally incorporating as Cayce in 1914. The modern look of the city began to take shape after World War II, when fields near where Brookland-Cayce High School now stands were developed into the neighborhoods residents now call The Avenues.
In 2016, the Cayce Riverwalk keeps the city connected to the Congaree River and provides numerous recreation options for residents and visitors alike. Expanded opportunities for bicyclists and pedestrians are planned for the future, but Partin said drastic changes are not on the horizon for the city.
“We want to keep our small town feel,” Partin said, adding that she and other city leaders are focused on new development in keeping with the city’s established identity and culture. “We have a great team. We have some of the best trained staff in the state. They bring a lot of education to what we do.”
Coming soon at Midlands Anchor, we’ll bring you a closer look at the present Cayce, and what makes so many residents make it their lifelong home.