Ninety Six and Ninety Six National Historic Site

One of the more unique town names in either of the Carolinas is the town of Ninety Six, South Carolina.  How did this town of 2,000 residents get its name?  Why is it significant? And did a major league baseball player come from here, and did he wear '96' in honor of his hometown?

Downtown Ninety Six

The town of Ninety Six was a South Carolina backcountry frontier outpost during the Colonial period.  The origin of the naming of Ninety Six has a variety of different stories.  It is believed that Ninety Six is named after the distance between the town and the Cherokee Indian town of Keowee.  It is told that a maiden named Issaqueena rode her horse the distance between outposts to warn of an impending attack.  The Town of Ninety Six recognizes the 96-mile distance to Keowee as the most likely origin.

The town fountain sits on a base that resembles the Star Fort.

Another possible origin is that the name comes from the counting of tributaries of two creeks - the ninth of the Marion and Henly - and the sixth of Thompsons Creek.  Another possibility is that it comes from the Welch pronunciation nant-sych, which means 'dry gulch.'

Though not formally agreed on how the town was named, "Ninety Six" began appearing on Colonial maps in 1730, during the same period when the village was settled.  The town served as the capital of the Ninety-Six District within South Carolina from 1769 to 1799.  Districts were the forerunners to counties in South Carolina.  

During the American Revolution, Ninety Six was a stronghold for British and Loyalist supporters.  In 1780, the British constructed an eight-pointed fort in a shape that resembled a star.  The 'Star Fort' would see significant action the following Spring.

Earthen remains of the Star Fort at Ninety Six National Historic Site.

During the Spring of 1781, American General Nathanial Greene began a siege of the fort and the town.  The siege lasted 28 days - and although the Patriots outnumbered the Loyalist/British forces, they were unable to capture the town.  After the Revolution, loyalists that lived in and near Ninety Six would relocate to Nova Scotia.

A view of the Star Fort and the grounds where the Patriots under Nathaniel Greene laid siege for 28 days.

The battle at Ninety Six occurred a few miles south of the modern-day town.  Ninety Six National Historic Site preserves the battlefield.  The earthen remains of the Star Fort are considered one of the best-preserved examples of land fortifications from the period.

The former Southern Railways Ninety Six train depot.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The arrival of the Greenville-Columbia Railroad in 1852 revived the community of Ninety Six - with the construction of a freight station, a new town formed along the railroad.  The village received its charter in 1869 and was incorporated as a town in 1905.

Bill Voiselle
Ninety Six received some notoriety in the late 1940s.  Major League Baseball player Bill Voiselle, while pitching for the Boston Braves and Chicago Cubs, wore the number '96' in honor of his hometown.

In the 21st Century, Ninety Six is known for its summer festival, the South Carolina Festival of Stars.  The festival - annually held since 2008 - attracts visitors from throughout the state and is headlined by well-known country music acts.

Ninety Six National Historic Site is located about two miles east of Downtown Ninety Six.  It is where the Colonial village of Ninety Six was located.  

Within the grounds of Ninety Six National Historic Site are markers of the original Ninety Six Village.

The 1,000-plus-acre park was added to the National Park Service in 1976.  The park's visitor center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00-4:30.  However, the park grounds are open year-round from dawn to dusk.

A parking area before the entrance gates allows easy access to the grounds after hours.  There are numerous trails throughout the park.  A paved one-mile loop trail takes you to and through key parts of the siege and former town.  It took me just over a half-hour to walk the loop.  On a June evening, there were more than a handful of visitors walking, exploring, or out for a run. 

All photos taken by post author - June 2023.

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