Chester County Historical Society Museum – Chester, South Carolina - Atlas Obscura
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Chester County Historical Society Museum

Chester, South Carolina

This historic museum is home to a rare Confederate Chester Gun. 

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The Chester County Historical Society Museum is located in the heart of the historic downtown area of Chester, South Carolina. The museum is housed in the former Chester County city jail, which was built in 1914. When a new jail was built in the 1960s, the building was used by the county, and then given to the Chester County Historical Society for use as a museum.

The museum houses an extensive collection of military memorabilia and guns from every major U.S. war beginning with the American Revolution, right up to modern-day. It has one of the finest Native American collections (specifically Catawba pottery) in the Southeastern United States. It also has a bench that Vice-President Aaron Burr slept on in 1807, but the most intriguing artifact they have is their Chester Gun.

In 1986, a crew working on an addition to the Calvary Baptist Church in Chester discovered four cannon barrels buried just beneath the surface. Upon further research, it was determined that they were four of only 77 cannons made by Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, Virginia between November 1861 and February 1865. The cannons are Confederate-made 10-pound Parrot rifles. During the American Civil War, Chesterville (modern-day Chester, South Carolina) was the southernmost point in the Confederacy that could be reached by train, therefore it served as an arsenal. In 1864, when William Tecumseh Sherman made his infamous march through the South, Parrot rifles, like the ones that were found, were spiked and buried in the ground, so that the Union could not use them nor find them.

The Chester County Historical Society owns three of the cannons, while the South Carolina State Museum owns the fourth cannon. Two of the cannons are displayed in historic downtown Chester and the third cannon, which is now known as the Chester Gun was made safe to fire and is now loaned out to various Civil War battle re-enactments and events. The Chester Gun’s claim to fame is that it is the only firing 10pound, Confederate-made, cast-iron gun in the world.

Above the Museum building is the old Chester County Jail built in 1914, now abandoned. If you visit on a slow day, the tour guide will allow admittance. The cells remain as they were, now musty and eerie. You will find strange sites on your tour including old county records stored in some cells and even an abandoned mannequin starring out the window of the jail. 

 

Know Before You Go

It's located in the historic downtown of Chester, South Carolina and is easy to find.

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