PICKENS COUNTY — 2015 was an eventful year in Pickens County and selecting the Top 10 stories was a difficult task but the staff of The Easley Progress has selected the following as the top stories of the year.
An accidental find — Sept. 11, 2015
Sometimes the best stories are those stumbled upon and the discovery of Happy Cow Creamery was one of those rare gems. With thoughts the stop would produce a photo spread for readers’ viewing pleasure, what was found was a South Carolina dairy farmer who had revolutionized the dairy industry beginning with the concept of free grazing for livestock, an idea never used before, which helped double production.
The initial innovation was brought about by a 17-year-old cow named Tarzan who repeatedly busted down a gate during the state’s worst drought on record in the mid-1980’s. Tom “Farmer Tom” Trantham took note of the success and has since been the state’s Farmer of the Year.
His methods and results have been studied the nation over by universities and dairy farmers alike. “Farmer Tom” and his folks are always welcoming guests and visitors and the farm fresh offerings inside the dairy are a perfect reason to visit as well.
Flag vote coming — July 3, 2015
Following the tragic shooting spree that claimed nine lives at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston during a prayer service, the nation’s eyes remained on South Carolina as debate turned to the issue on whether to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the State House grounds. Local lawmakers weighed in on an issue that quickly became a hot topic in the Palmetto State. Ultimately, the decision was made to remove the flag.
Top of the world — Sept. 4, 2015
With nothing but the raising of funds and awareness of mental health, Josh Baab of Piedmont completed a hike up the Pacific Crest Trail from the border of Mexico into Canada, a distance of some 2,650 miles. Baab began the hike as a way to honor his older brother John who was struck by a vehicle as a child and has suffered mental health issues since.
Following the announcement of his plans, Baab was contacted by Hike for Mental Health, an organization able to assist in Baab’s efforts. By phone from Portland, Ore., Baab talked of snow, mountains, wildlife, and the outreach of strangers during his journey. The trek began April 8 and Baab completed the trail April 21 following his cross into Canadian territory and his victorious trip back to the Palmetto State.
Gail Black is back — Oct. 23, 2015
March 13, 2010, is a date Gail Black of Easley will never forget because it is the day she lost her sight to Diabetic Retinopathy, blood filling the retinas and causing untold damage. The Ocutech Sport is a device Black will never forget because it gave her back her sight.
The 66-year-old Pickens County resident had four surgeries and an additional cataract surgery before being introduced to a futuristic device that has restored her eyesight.
Using telescopic and periscopic technology, the Ocutech Sport attaches to the frame of Black’s glasses and improves her vision to the degree she can now see the color of her grandchildren’s eyes, something she sorely missed. Black is also hopeful to return to driving and is determined to begin making jewelry once again.
Overnight crime spree — July 8, 2015
The town of Central was struck by an overnight auto break-in spree committed by a Georgia man with 21 vehicles targeted July 3, 2015. Andre Jaquez Warren, 19, was arrested by the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and charged with 44 counts in the case and held on $121,000 bond. The windows of 18 vehicles were broken to gain access and in all nine handguns, cash, sunglasses, wallets, and electronics were stolen. PCSO officials went on to stress the importance of securing valuables and locking car doors to discourage thieves.
The Century Mark — Sept. 25, 2015
Pickens County’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity began its mission in May 1981 and during September began construction on its 100th home for needy families in the community. Unlike the remainder of the homes built by Habitat in Pickens County, the milestone home in this case was being constructed almost exclusively by students from the School District of Pickens County. Three classes of students from SDPC schools in masonry, electrical and construction technology played a major role in the home’s construction, which is located at 226 Hoyt Drive in Pickens. It may be the 100th home but with the generosity of residents of Pickens County it will not be the last. See you at #200.
Graham announces GOP bid — June 3, 2015
The tiny town of Central was thrust into the national spotlight when native son Sen. Lindsay Graham held a rally in downtown to announce his candidacy for president. Graham was born and raised in Central and attended D.W. Daniel High School before going on to the University of South Carolina and law school. His parents died within 15 months of each other, leaving Graham to care for his then 13-year-old sister, whom he later adopted. At the time, his announcement marked him as the ninth Republican to throw his hat into the field.
2 dead in Pickens shooting — Sept. 16, 2015
The city of Pickens banded together following the shocking murder of William “Bill” Carson Isaacs Jr. and Dickie Ray Stewart at the hands of their neighbor, Albert Leon Bowen. PCSO deputies responded after a chilling 911 call placed by Stewart. Both men were found dead in a grassy area on the side of the North Homestead Road in Pickens with multiple gunshot wounds.
Stewart was a man dedicated to his church and a mentor to children. The leader of student ministries at Secona Baptist Church in Seneca referred to Stewart as “the epitome of definition of servant” and that “he always had our best at heart.” A memorial service for Isaacs, a former Pickens High School football coach, was held at Bruce field and attended by hundreds of mourners, all dressed in “Blue Flame” blue.
Rally to help Belle — Aug. 19, 2015
A heartless act of animal abuse rallied the Upstate community into action as people from all over the area banded together to come to the aid of a little dog named “Belle.” Belle was found staggering down Pearson Road in Easley after being shot, hit by a car at least twice and dragged to the point her paws had been ground to the bone.
Donations flooded in from all over the Upstate to help cover the costs needed for the chihuahua mix’s continued care and recovery. Thanks to her rescuers, veterinarians and the many, many people who volunteered their time and money, Belle received a much deserved happy ending and was adopted.
Doodle Trail officially opens — May 27, 2015
Hundreds turned out for the ceremonial ribbon cutting to open the much anticipated Doodle Trail connecting the cities of Easley and Pickens. The 7.4-mile “Rails to Trails” project cost the cities $2 million and was completed by King Asphalt just in time for Labor Day weekend. Trail head projects are currently in the works for both cities and the trail itself is enjoyed by countless walkers, cyclists and joggers from all over Upstate South Carolina.
D. C. Moody and Kasie Strickland can be reached at 864-855-0355.