On This Day In History

-Something interesting happened, surely.

But what I'm more excited about telling you has to do with the Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel, in Oconee County, SC.

I just found out today -- by way of writing an article for The Nature Conservancy, who is trying to preserve the area around the mountain -- that a thousand feet of granite was once all that stood between the port town of Charleston and the mighty markets of the Midwest.

They wanted a railway, you see, in the mid-1800s... one that didn't have to go clear around the Blue Ridge Mountains and up through middle Tennessee. So they made one, from Charleston up through South Carolina, and it was working great until, well, Stumphouse Mountain. Which is presumably stumpy, and very hard.

Months of digging, sledgehammering and powder blasting, mostly by imported Irish immigrants, netted forward progress of only a few feet per day. And that was in 12-hour shifts. The effort was abandoned in 1859, 1,600 feet into the 5,863-foot thick mountain.

So then you basically had a big granite mountain with a hole poked in it.

Not for nothing, though, and this is my favorite part. Inside the tunnel it's always 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 90 percent humidity. Realizing this, in the 1950s Clemson University bought the tunnel and gave it to their Agricultural Department to use for *aging cheese.*

They made blue cheese in the mountain.

They don't anymore, unfortunately, because in the 70s they decided to move the operation to the Clemson campus in specially air-conditioned cheese ripening rooms.

It still makes me really happy, though, because:

A. The idea of mountain cheese is awesome
B. I don't have to work in these cheese ripening rooms.

Oh, and it looks like Stumphouse Mountain is safe from development for another 150 years at least -- The Nature Conservancy plans to purchase the land themselves and ensure that it's kept in its natural, cheese-friendly condition.


Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

cheese friendly!!!

you rock, CD!


xo wee