Free lecture Oct. 19 at museum to cover mysteries of the State House grounds

COLUMBIA, S.C. – It all started with a search for his own family heritage. It led to uncovering long-hidden secrets that lie at the heart of Columbia’s early history.

David Brinkman, a computer software designer who does pioneering historical and archaeological work for the love of it, will share his findings regarding a number of little-known facts about the state capital. The free lecture at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum will occur at noon on Friday, Oct. 19, and will cover a wide array of fascinating topics.

Brinkman’s researches into his own family tree discovered a link to a man named Timothy Rives who lived in the late 18th century. Rives lived in the Granby community in Lexington County, which was originally considered for South Carolina’s capital in the early days of the state’s history.


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But it was decided instead to build an entirely new city, called Columbia, across the river. Wade Hampton and Thomas Taylor (after whom Taylor Street is named) had bought up much of the high ground ahead of time and made a killing when the state bought the land for the center of the new capital.

But Rives didn’t miss out on the boom, because Thomas Taylor was not only his friend, but also his brother-in-law. And through that connection he managed to build Rives Tavern across the street from the new capitol building – which we know as the old State House, the one burned by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops at the end of the Civil War.

His efforts to locate the precise spot where Rives Tavern stood led Brinkman to make a number of startling discoveries about Columbia’s early days, such as:

  • The location of the original State House, which he says was not where the historical marker supposedly marking the spot now sits.
  • The site of the tavern, which he ascertained after the flood of 2015 unearthed key artifacts.
  • Proof that what he calls the “myth” of the system of tunnels under Columbia – which have long been believed an escape plan for the state’s political leaders in time of war – is completely wrongheaded. They weren’t escape tunnels at all, Brinkman is convinced.

And while he hasn’t solved this particular mystery, he has a fascinating story to tell about the disappearance of an iconic, fabled statue of John C. Calhoun.

The free lecture is open to the public, and is part of the museum’s regular Lunch and Learn series. The program will be followed by a book signing for Brinkman’s recent published autobiography. Lemonade and cookies will be served.

About the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum

Founded in 1896, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is an accredited museum focusing on South Carolina’s distinguished martial tradition through the Revolutionary War, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the War on Terror, and other American conflicts. It serves as the state’s military history museum by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting South Carolina’s military heritage from the colonial era to the present, and by providing superior educational experiences and programming. It is located at 301 Gervais St. in Columbia, sharing the Columbia Mills building with the State Museum. For more information, go to https://crr.sc.gov/.


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