Waterloo, SC – The restoration and repair this month of a toppled tombstone near Waterloo finally gave the honor due to a Laurens County man who had been reported to be killed by a mob of klansmen in the early 20th century.
Gray Court resident Robert Whitmore and Simpsonville resident Robin Coon are friends who appreciate history and discovering old cemeteries.
“We’re both passionate about restoring forgotten cemeteries, especially African American or slave cemeteries,” Coon said, explaining that they are often the most neglected. Records are difficult to find, she said, and they can be in heavily wooded areas and completely undocumented.
It was while researching cemeteries near Waterloo that Coon became interested in the Abe and Katie McDaniel family. This past Sunday afternoon, Coon, Whitmore and his grandson, joined Walter Patton, owner of Palmetto Cemetary Conservators, and they worked together to clean and restore Abe McDaniel’s tombstone within Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church cemetery.
Last year Coon had first discovered Katie McDaniel’s large marble tombstone from 1899 on its side quite a distance behind Union Baptist Church on Old Quaker Road, and since it listed Abe McDaniel as her husband, Coon began researching both of them. Abe McDaniel’s grave was located down the road within the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church cemetery and articles about his murder prompted Coon and Whitmore to plan to repair his fallen tombstone and make sure his story was told.
According to the news reports and editorials in The Laurens Advertiser, The Greenville News, The State and other South Carolina papers, in late April of 1905 a mob of white neighbors who planned to whip McDaniel’s daughters had entered his home and shot and killed McDaniel when he tried to defend his home. The mob then took the two daughters out behind the home and “whipped them soundly,” according to one of the articles.
One editorial in The Greenville News had suggested the mob be dealt with harshly, while others esteemed the defendant as a well respected man.
Then a September, 1905 issue of the Laurens Advertiser explained that within 15 minutes, the jury returned with a “verdict of not guilty, thus ending a rather celebrated case.”
“It’s really not a surprise considering the time,” Coon said. do anything wrong, but they killed him. I was trying to make something right out of a huge wrong.”
Several members of Hopewell church came out and said a prayer before the restoration work began Sunday. Tree roots were removed from underneath the base, the surfaces were cleaned and Whitmore and his grandson helped Patton restore the tombstone to it’s paper place.
Discovering old cemeteries is just a part of Whitmore’s appreciation for antiques and history, but in this case, the project was more important for Whitmore.
“This man deserved to be honored,” Whitmore said. “These white gentlemen known to be klansman wanted to whip his daughters and he was just trying to protect his family, but was shot and killed in the process.”
Now that Abe’s grave has been restored, Coon and Whitmore said they will work to make repairs on Katie McDaniel’s grave.
This story originally appeared on the Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023 issue of The Laurens County Advertiser