Question from last week: Question from last week: Who was the first Mayor of Georgetown?
William Doyle Morgan probably loved his adopted city of Georgetown because he was not born here, but chose to live here. He was born Feb. 5, 1853 in New York, the son of immigrant parents from Ireland. His father, John, was attracted to South Carolina because his brother, Arthur, had brought his family to Georgetown. Arthur was a successful businessman and ship owner and a respected member of the community. John arrived with his wife, Mary, his oldest son, William Doyle, and three daughters.
William attended local schools, and when his father died in 1865, he was cast into the role of “Man of the family” at the age of 13. He worked various jobs, but spent every extra moment studying and reading. He taught himself accounting, and soon was hired as a bookkeeper. At the age of 17, he was appointed assistant postmaster, his first official position. For the next 10 years, his reputation as a precise bookkeeper grew. He took on more financial responsibilities. He passed one trial of endurance when on Thanksgiving Day of 1878, his gun accidently discharged, injuring his left hand beyond repair. Amputation resulted, but William continued to pursue an active life with an artificial hand. The family home was at 732 Prince St. He supported his mother and sisters there. He worked for a local drug store, and eventually went to work for Heiman Kaminski at his store. He became a founding member of the Palmetto Club and joined the Winyah Indigo Society. He never married, instead adopting the town and its people as his extended family. He studied the problems of Georgetown, noting that the lack of a rail link and the sandbar at the mouth of Winyah Bay held us back economically. He became Intendant of Georgetown in 1891, and one of his first acts was to charter the town as a city, thus becoming the first mayor. A new railroad sparked a revival of commerce and Walter Hazard informed his readers of the Georgetown Times newspaper, “We await the sound of the iron horse whose scream is to set all her arteries throbbing with the quick pulsations of a new commercial life.” Morgan also secured dredging of Winyah Bay, opening the port to increased maritime business. He continued improving his city by opening the Bank of Georgetown in November 1892, the first institution since the failure of the bank during the War Between the States. Morgan continued as mayor until 1906. Upon his retirement, “a grateful citizenry” presented him with a silver punchbowl, now on display at the Georgetown County Museum.
One interesting story in the March 13, 1914 edition of the Georgetown Times recounted an escape from death by Morgan. March 13, 1914 – by the narrowest margin the Hon. W.D. Morgan, ex-mayor and president of the Bank of Georgetown, escaped death Wednesday. Only his presence of mind and quick action saved him from being smashed by the locomotive of a log train with which his automobile at the Sampit Road crossing. Mr. Morgan was at the wheel of his car. On the same seat was his chauffeur to look in one direction while he looked in the other for the possible approach of a train. The road crosses the track diagonally, so it was necessary to look backward in one direction and forward in the other to see up and down the track. When Mr. Morgan took the backward view, the log train, followed by the Marion Branch passenger train, was almost upon the crossing. The automobile was moving at low speed, but it was just enough to take the machine on the crossing at just the same time the locomotive got there. Morgan called to the chauffeur to jump. But the chauffeur, apparently frozen in fear, did not move. Morgan sprang over the man’s knees and jumped to the ground. So close was he to the track that he had to jump backward to save himself from being hit by the engine. The brake was not set on the automobile and the machine kept on, with the chauffeur in it. The locomotive struck the car and threw it about 25 feet. The chauffeur went out of the machine and landed on his head in a ditch. He was bruised. Morgan sustained no injury.
The Georgetown County Historical Society and Museum is solely supported by memberships, sales in the Rice Truck Gift Shop, donations and fundraisers. By becoming a member, you help maintain the museum. Call to have a membership form mailed to you, go to our website to download one (georgetowncountymuseum.com), or come by the museum, located at 120 Broad St. around the corner from Front Street. Hours are Tuesday -Friday 11- 4 and Saturday 11-3. Admission is free.
Go to our Facebook page: “Georgetown County Museum History Center” to answer the question for next week: What was celebrated in May 1 annually in Georgetown from at least 1939?