By Terri Burgin
Long Cane, South Carolina, as Abbeville was known in 1760, was established by mostly Scotch-Irish settlers from colonies further north. These were, on the whole, a God-fearing people, eager to work hard and settle on land that they could work and own. By the time of the Revolutionary War, most of the families were veterans of almost constant Indian wars. One of these persons was the young, newly married, Becky Calhoun Pickens. Becky’s family was amongst those whose lives were cut short in the infamous Long Cane Massacre of few years earlier. Becky only survived by hiding in the forest while she watched her mother and other relatives brutally butchered.
The home that Becky and her husband Andrew lived in was a blockhouse near a fort, very likely near where the Court House stands today. Her husband built the home in such a way that a trap door could be opened and water could be obtained from the spring below it. There was a walled walkway the led from the fort to the Magazine. (A Magazine was the place where ammunition was stored. Likely near what today is called “Magazine Street”.) They were frequently under attack by Indians and Tories alike.
On December 11 - 12, 1780, a desperate struggle took place at Long Cane. Becky was home with her children. Many other Whig women and children across what is now Abbeville County were also at home, most without their husbands. Local Tories, led by Lt Col. John H. Kruger, raided the Fort and proceeded to loot and burn the homes of their Patriot neighbors. Becky and the children hid in the forest. Georgia Militia commander Elijah Clark got word of the attack and quickly set off to their aid. However, by the time they arrived all they could do was assist in putting out a few fires and bury the dead. There is no record of how many were killed.
This was not the last time the Patriot families of Long Cane were attacked while the men were away. One summer of unusually wet, heavy rains, Becky was caring for her sick children. (Some say they had smallpox, some say malaria.) She again watched as her home was set on fire with her and the children in it. A faithful slave, Dick (more about him another time), smuggled she and the children out into the swamp. When morning came, the baby was dead.