The Peedee Nation
(Infobox to come]
Centered in Florence, SC, the survivors between the Banks of the Great Pee Dee River and the Black River adopted the almost extinct local Native American tribe as their post-DD identity. Living simple lives, with little attempt to re-establish power or running water, the mostly white population began to rebuild their lives.
However, at the end of six years, their lives were once again disrupted by the leading edge of a category five hurricane in late 1989. The survivors mostly moved to the coast after that to rebuild Georgetown, rationalizing that only there would they be able to notice an approaching storm and prepare for it or escape to the interior.
This following account of this "lost colony" which is drawn largely from the journals of David Beasley, Darlington resident and second "governor" of the short-lived Peedee Nation.
The "Pee Dee region" of South Carolina was less developed than the western and northern parts of the state. In pre-colonial times the coast was inhabited by the Waccamaw tribe and the interior by the Pee Dee tribe. The Pee Dee tribe had struggled through two wars with and against other tribes of the region ( see the Tuscarora and Yamasee wars of the early 18th century). By the time colonists wished to utilize the land, the Pee Dee tribe had either retreated to small family groups along the Pee Dee River, or joined the Wacamaw on the coast. The coast had proven to be unsuitable for most crops, leaving the area mostly free of European and American settlement even into the nineteenth century. The interior, meanwhile, had become a thriving commercial center even before the advent of the railroads. The Pee Dee River had proven navigable for commerce in the meantime. Once Florence had become the hub for three railroads, the area became even more prosperous.
The area tribes of native peoples, though, were resettled by the new government of the United States. Since Pee Dee tribe had been settled with other tribes, they proved difficult to contain on reservations. Perhaps seeing the coming mass resettlement to less hospitable lands in the American west, the Pee Dee began assimilating into the white communities, losing most of its identity it the meantime. However, by the 1980's they had begun a fight to be recognized as a tribe by the federal government. The state of South Carolina had already acknowledged their existence, but that had not brought the benefits that come from "official" recognition by the larger government.
The white population of the area, meanwhile, had grown prosperous and comfortable. Numerous national companies, and some international ones, had begun putting headquarters and manufacturing facilities in the area. The standard of living was good, and the cost of living was comparatively low. Having thrived during the Revolutionary and Civil wars, the area between the rivers saw nothing but progress in the twentieth century.
The Simple Life
Life was good for David M. Beasley, 27, of Darlington. As a student at Clemson University he had won a seat in the SC House of Representatives. As most young people in 1979, he was a Democrat, though a conservative one. As such, he had been able to rise quickly in his first two terms representing Darlington. Home from church on September 25, 1983, he and his wife had settled down to watch the Emmy Awards on TV. The emergency broadcast surprised them as much as anyone - perhaps more, since they were aware of President Reagan's speech to the Russian people the week before. Beasley had been looking forward to hearing the speech Reagan was scheduled to give at the UN the next evening. Something had gone terribly wrong.
At about 9:00 pm, the power went out as some had warned it would if there was a high altitude explosion of a nuclear bomb. Two such explosions had occurred minutes apart over the Rockie Mountains and near the Great Lakes, effectively cutting power to the United States due to electromagnetic pulses traveling along a straight path through the atmosphere. Those who had been outside that night reported having seen a flash of light just above the horizon in the northwestern sky. Soon after this much larger flashes lit up the western, southern and northern skies around Darlington. Nearby, an explosion shook the earth for miles around the H.B. Robinson Nuclear Station as tons of conventional explosions tore through its buildings.
In the days following the attacks, life was hectic as small numbers of refugees from Charlotte, Columbia and even the coast, made their way into Darlington and surrounding towns. With no electricity apart from emergency batteries and an occasional old generator, life took on a lot slower pace. The American Indians of the area, on the brink of extinction as a tribe, offered some aid in living the simple, pre-modern lifestyle. This would serve the area well in those first trying days.
more to come ...
The Great Hurricane of 1989
On September 17, 1989, the RTA (République des Terres Australes) paradise of Guadeloupe experienced hell from heaven -- what informed meteorologists in Mexico and South America would class as a Class Five hurricane ripped the island with 140 mile per hour winds. There had been little warning. Over fifty people would die. Though radio distress calls went out to Cuba, Mexico and Columbia, they faced the monster storm alone. Authorities in the East Caribbean Federation had tracked two previous storms that had come near that season, but each storm had come "unannounced" due to lack of access to weather satellites.
The next "port of call" would be the island of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. The largest of the chain, St. Croix was the pride of the ECF. An American territory before Doomsday, the Virgin Islands were a less expensive alternative to a vacation in Hawai'i. Like their French cousins earlier, though, that paradise was drowned in torrential rains and punishing winds for hours as the storm slowed down -- it had crossed the 230 mile gap between the hours in less than 24 hours. Having heard the warnings, St. Croix lost only six of its citizens. Again, radio warnings went out. In the Bahamas, which were spared a direct hit, they battened down, sending radio signals toward the American Southeast, hoping anyone there would hear and get out of the way. Later that day, Puerto Rico would experience devastating flooding. Again radio warnings went out.
But the people of the Peedee Nation had few working radios. The small battery powered transistor radios had been "fried" by the EMP six years earlier. The larger antique radios, with tubes and wires, required power that the young nation had not bothered to restore. Tiny "crystal radios" - popular mostly as "science projects" in an electronic age, had caught some short wave warnings, but those who had heard them did not have the means to reach many people in authority. Consequently, only those on the coast, in Georgetown, had any warning at all -- and that by direct observation of the growing storm. As they battened down their shutters to ride out the storm, no one knew about the havoc their neighbors in the south had experienced.
Though the storm came ashore at the ruins of Charleston, the leading edge -- the eastern part with winds up to 150 miles per hour traveling counter-clockwise around the eye -- clobbered Georgetown as well as small survivor villages in Charleston county to the southwest. Months later two villagers would find their way to what was left of Georgetown to tell of the utter devastation. Georgetown, having grown to almost pre-Doomsday in population, was decimated, losing half its population to the destructive winds, the rains, and the a record storm surge. More than a thousand people died on that fateful day -- September 22, 1989. Further inland, with no warning except the foreboding clouds to the south, people took shelter in their homes - most of which were wood frame structures. Basements were practically unknown in the flat sandy forests, leaving almost the entire population of the nation vulnerable to the pounding of the wind and rain. Countless tornadoes touched down as well, tearing up old growth forests as if pulling up weeds. As the sun rose on Saturday, September 23rd, not a structure within the young nation was undamaged. The southern pine forest that had once graced the state was scattered like so many toothpicks, crushing what the winds had spared. Within the structures lay the bodies of over 100,000 people of all ages who had sought protection from the wrath of the storm.
Though the storm would be felt as far north as the Virginia Republic, the fate of the now dead Peedee Nation was unknown to the rest of the world. As the survivors crawled out of the rubble, most sought other survivors to comfort and to assist in the rebuilding of their lives. None had escaped the loss of loved ones. Towns and cities were abandoned after being foraged for whatever was of practical value. Migrating west, some found villages north of Columbia to begin anew. Others disappeared into what little remained of the forests along the rivers, establishing primitive villages of no more than a hundred people each. The winter of 1989 and 1990 took its toll as a virulent virus -- probably a strain of influenza -- moved without mercy through the survivor towns. Soviet missiles may have brought "Doomsday" to the cities in 1983, but it was the unavoidable "acts of God" that brought the "Armageddon" to the once valiant Peedee. The death toll of the combined disasters may never be known, for few of the survivors ever tell of its horror. In 2010, only 1,329 out of a population believed to have approached 200,000, are known to have survived. Expeditions from the Republic of Piedmont and the League of Nations have begun to excavate the ruins. Someday, the people of the Peedee Nation may have closure.
No family was spared the loss of life after the hurricane and "plague" that overcame the young nation. In many of the towns and villages, no one emerged alive from the rubble after the storm. In others, the survival camps were quickly over-run with disease, and only the strongest, or the "immune," survived. These tiny groups would usually disband and disperse into the interior of the state. None of those that reached the Republic of Piedmont spoke of the horrors.
On the coast, where they had been more prepared, rebuilding began immediately. Upriver, though, it would be years before an organized settlement would arise.
On the coast, one town survived better than others. Colonial Georgetown, its houses shielded somewhat by live oaks and other broad leaf trees, held together during the wind and the rain. There were no tornadoes reported within the city. Within hours after the storm, the dead had been accounted for and the injured were being treated. Martial law was declared, and a decision was made to burn the bodies of all the unclaimed bodies along with as many of the identified ones whose families would allow it. This decision prevented any major outbreak of disease inherent in the decay of hurriedly buried bodies. In the mild winter of 1990 that followed, the townspeople began the work of rebuilding, in hopes of returning to "normal" within a generation.
more to come
Florence was flattened. What the hurricane had spared, one of a score of tornadoes had destroyed. The basements of city hall, along with the interiors of some of the areas factories, had sheltered only 1,235 of the total population of an estimated 50,000 who had lived in the city and outlying areas. When they emerged from the shelters, the survivors knew that Florence would never rise to its former glory. Some even doubted if it would rise at all.
However, among the survivors was the governor, David Beasley, and his family. He suggested a search and rescue of any survivors in the rubble and a decent burial for all the dead. Others objected, pointing to the obvious logistical problems this entailed. Unable to enforce his suggestion, he resigned as governor and began a campaign to gather volunteers to find survivors. A small band of 34 men and 6 women began the search on October 1, 1989, just a week after the hurricane had ended. Among the hundreds of structures they searched, only 17 survivors were found.
Beasley had to leave the bodies of the dead behind, for without public support the burial of so many victims was impossible. When the search teams, of two or three each, met in a park near downtown, they discovered that the rest of the survivors had organized according to family and begun rummaging the destroyed homes for food and supplies, most without regard to the dead or the accompanying health risks. Once a scavenger left a structure, it would be set afire, as much as to destroy the "evidence" as for public safety. By October 15, Florence was a pile of ashes. The buildings that stood were husks of smoldering ashes.
Beasley's band of 57 people, fled the city, ending up in a riverside park near what remained of the town of Society Hill, about thirteen miles north of town. They found no life in Society Hill, and very few supplies, but they survived. In the years that followed, they would form a close knit community, never leaving the park for longer than a day or two. In all they represented eleven families, and would not see anyone from the "outside" world until found by an expedition of the WCRB some twenty years later.
more to come