North Charleston, S.C. (WCBD) – As a Charleston resident, you’re probably familiar with Ashley Phosphate Road—but do you know how the North Charleston road got its name?
According to the South Carolina Encyclopedia, Ashley Phosphate Road is named after an industry which used to be prominent throughout the Ashley River region.
Phosphate didn’t attract much interest until the 1860’s when two scientists, Francis S. Holmes and St. Julien Ravenel, discovered that the black rock nodules and pebbles found on shorelines were concentrated phosphate.
This was described as a massive discovery when scientists realized that phosphate was perfect for fertilizer. Large phosphate mining companies, including the Ashley Phosphate company, sprang from this discovery and started to collect as much of the valuable rock, by any means necessary.
Dr. Robert Boessenecker with the College of Charleston’s Paleontology Department explains, “Phosphate mining was a critical industry in the aftermath of the Civil War in Charleston.”
He says rivers were dredged for river phosphate a.k.a. “river-rock” and land phosphate was strip-mined on former plantations. The bank of the Ashley River is still rich in phosphate today.
South Carolina’s phosphate industry was the world leader until the 1890’s when according to researchers, bad politics, bad luck, and bad weather brought on a rapid decline.
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