Thomas West Daggett

by Catherine H. Lewis

Horry County has had a continuing New England connection. Men and women from that area have come to this county for a variety of reasons and have left their marks on its history.

One of the most remarkable was Thomas West Daggett, bom in New Bedford, MA, on October 24, 1828. When he was sixteen years old, he left home to seek his fortune.

In Charleston, S. C., he found work in a machine shop as an apprentice. The skills he learned qualified him as an engineer and he followed this line of work most of his life, It led him for a time to Darien, GA, where he ran a large sawmill. He returned to South Carolina when the opportunity came to manage a rice mill in the Waccamaw Neck.

By the time the Civil War began, Daggett had become affluent. On July 4, 1856, he was appointed Captain of Co. 4, 1st Battalion, 33rd Regt., S. C. Militia. He entered Confederate service as an ordnance officer and was eventually made responsible for all the coastal defenses from Little River to Georgetown. Near the end of the war Rear Admiral J. A. Dahlgren entered Winyah Bay to take over the city of Georgetown. Having received acknowledgment of Yankee conquest from the people of the town, Dahlgren turned his flagship, the Harvest Moon, back down the bay. He toured the silenced Battery White and spent the night of February 28 anchored opposite the fort. On the morning of March 1, 1865, his ship hit a crude floating, mine and sank. The wreck may still be seen from the Confederate gun emplacements at Belle Isle.

The bomb was the work of Capt. Daggett, fashioned it is said, on "the second floor of the oldest store in Georgetown, occupied at the time by S. W. Rouquie, and later by H. Kaminski."

His accumulated wealth destroyed by the war, Daggett returned to the mill business, but rice milling was diminishing with the gradual destruction of the rice culture in Waccamaw Neck. In 1875 or thereabouts Daggett became the captain of a government dredge boat responsible for keeping the Waccamaw River navigable for the paddle wheel steamers which carried produce and passengers between Georgetown and Conwayborough.

He is credited with securing appropriations for the snag work on both the Waccamaw and the Little Pee Dee Rivers. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of his work to the commerce of the area in the period that followed his move to Conwayborough.

He may have lived in Conwayborough before this. One of his daughters buried in Kingston Presbyterian churchyard died in 1863. Perhaps, like the Weston family, they were refugees during the Civil War. It is clear that he quickly became an integral part of the local political and social scene after the family made the permanent relocation in 1875.

The gubernatorial campaign of 1876 brought Confederate Gen. Wade Hampton out of retirement to "save" South Carolina from the trailing vestiges of Reconstruction and occupation by Federal troops. He campaigned in every district [county] of the state. Local dignitaries met him on horseback at Galivants Ferry and escorted him into Conwayborough, where he was feted at a public picnic on the grounds of the Thomass W. Beaty home. He spoke under an oak tree which still stands [at the entrance of the Horry County Museum].

Local politicians were determined to see him elected, so determined That they rigged the election. There are at least three accounts in print of how they did it and all of them credit Capt. Daggett as one of the highly respectable men of the town who plotted to bring victory to Hampton.

In 1880 Capt. Daggett was named to the South Carolina Senate, succeeding William L. Buck who died Jan. 4 that year. Daggett qualified on February 14 and served until Thomas W. Beaty was elected later that year. In spite of failing health he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1890-91.

Daggett was married three times, two of his wives having died before he left Charleston. We have no record of children by these early marriages, but several sons and daughters blessed his union with Mary A. Tillman of Waccamaw Neck. Six of them and his widow survived him. His obituary called him "generous, brilliant and influential." He had suffered a long illness, it said, and "he wrestled with death, who could accomplish its victory only by slow degree" on January 10, 1893. Capt. Daggett is buried behind Kingston Presbyterian Church in Conway.

The Independent Republic Quarterly
Vol.27 No.3; Summer 1993, Pg 19

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