Frog Level


One does not expect a pond filled with frogs to tell a drunk man how to name the pond. Yet, it happened in South Carolina.

Frog Level

A pre-1827 settler built a combination homestead and general store near a wilderness pond northwest of Columbia, which is now the capital of the state, but was then merely a fort. Of course, the settler manufactured and sold home-brewed alcohol. Nobody lived near him, so his customers were the occasional traveler. One traveler got so drunk on the settler’s home-brew that he passed out near the pond. It was this traveler who heard the frogs speak to him over and over again. He relayed to the settler that the frogs endlessly repeated, “Frog Level!” After the traveler departed, the settler began to refer to the pond as “Frog Level.” Years later, a steam locomotive railroad was put into service between the South Carolina towns of Greenville, Newberry, and Columbia. Newberry was the county seat where Frog Level was located. The large pond was a natural whistle-stop location for the locomotives, which required water for their boilers (to use to make steam).


Since locomotives stopped at Frog Level to get water, the general store owner was able to use that time to negotiate a wider selection of salable goods for his store. Since his store acquired a greater variety of goods and since it was possible to hitch a ride on passing trains, other settlers moved nearby. In 1873, those combined settlers petitioned to give their settlement a name soon after the railroad was acquired by the Southern Railway Company. The area had been referred to as Frog Level for some time, but many of the settlers objected to that name. However, everyone could not agree on a new name, so a decision was made based on a majority count. The settlers were very independent people, yet most of them did affiliate with one organized religion or another. The Presbyterians were in the majority. They chose to name the town after their church, which they called Prosperity. .

Still Frog Level

My Grandfather lived in this town all of his life. He was not a Presbyterian. He was a Methodist. He still called the town Frog Level. He had a large house on a hill within the town limits. He was fortunate in that his uncle had worked in the land tax assessor’s office. Uncle Dove was in the position to see when folks could not or would not pay taxes on their land. If he could scrape together the money to do it, he paid the taxes and the land became his. The area around Frog Level became his honeycomb of tiny parcels of land, some of which could be only gotten to by pig path trails, sometimes through someone else’s property. These parcels became his gift to succeeding generations of his family. My Grandfather’s gift was himself. He stopped what he was doing to say hello, to have a pleasant chat, to see if that person needed his help, and he did help, every time, all of the time. Between my ages as a toddler and ten, I only knew my Grandfather Roy as fun. We played games: board games, card games, chase games, hiding games, and games that he or my cousins and I made up. He discovered the game of croquet and turned it into a form of modern golf. He convinced other local men to build elaborate croquet courses on the flat areas of their lawns. Then, they would visit each other on the weekends to have a “shootout croquet match” – while each one of them had a Grand-kid as a partner! My God that was fun! Mostly, I watched my Grandfather artfully knock my croquet ball where it needed to be by his skillful shooting of his croquet ball. My Grandfather passed on soon after I was ten. I have never seen so many people come to a funeral they way folks did to his. He had thousands of attendees from all walks of life, some of whom told me and my cousins stories of things that our Grandfather had done for them. I have spent the rest of my life correcting my behavior to be like him. I am getting closer now that I am nearing the age that he was when he passed. But, I won’t get it completely right. That is OK. He will marvel that I have tried. The town continues to grow, and I have heard that it is now a trendy place to live. But, do you know what? It is still Frog Level!


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