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August 19, 2018

Last Week our grandson found a prized sea shell at low tide on Pawleys Island. Rolling in the ebb tide he spotted a lettered olive. A few days later he proudly showed me his treasure. I commented that he had found a prime example of the state shell of South Carolina.

“Why does South Carolina have a state shell?” he asked.

A quick internet search revealed that our state shell, the lettered olive (Oliva sayana) was named by a South Carolinian, Dr. Edmund Ravenel of Charleston. It was designated the official state shell by a vote of the South Carolina legislature in 1984.

In that same internet search, we found other designations of state symbols adopted by the state house and senate.

This is a brief, partial listing of some of our more interesting symbols followed by the date of adoption.

  • State amphibian: spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) – The spotted salamander is the only amphibian indigenous to the whole state and was nominated by a third grade class from Woodlands Heights Elementary School, Spartanburg, as the state amphibian. (1999)
  • State animal: white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) – Every county in South Carolina features an open season on deer. (1972)
  • State beverage: milk – Milk was selected as the official beverage of the state because of its dietary value and since dairy farms are found in many counties in the state. (1984)
  • State hospitality beverage: tea (Camellia sinensis) – The first place that tea was grown in the United States was in South Carolina in 1799. Tea is still grown on Wadmalaw Island. (1995)
  • State bird: Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) The wren was chosen as the state bird because its song can be heard all year long. (1948)
  • State wild game bird: wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) – Hunted during a spring season, wild turkeys are found throughout the state. (1976)
  • State duck: wood duck (Aix sponsa) – The wood duck is also known as the summer duck and the Carolina duck. (2009)
  • State butterfly: eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) – English artist Mark Catesby painted the first picture of this butterfly in South Carolina in 1725. (1994)
  • State spider: Carolina wolf spider (Hogna carolinensis) – The state spider was the idea of a third-grade student at Sheridan Elementary School in Orangeburg, SC. (2000)
  • State fish: striped bass or rockfish (Morone saxatilis) – Striped bass can be caught in several of the large lakes throughout the state. (1972)
  • State flower: yellow jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens) – The return of yellow jasmine each spring is seen throughout South Carolina.
  • State wildflower: goldenrod (Solidago altissima) – With a long bloom time and long-lasting flowers, goldenrod was selected as the “official state wildflower”.
  • State fruit: peach (Prunus persica) – South Carolina is the second largest producer of peaches, behind California and ahead of (1984)
  • State snack: boiled peanuts – Boiled peanuts are a popular snack food in the Southern U.S.
  • State gemstone: amethyst – South Carolina is one of a few U.S. states where good quality amethyst gems can be found. (1969)
  • State stone: blue granite – Many buildings throughout the state have been constructed with blue granite mined here. (1969)
  • State heritage work animal: mule (2010)
  • State insect: Carolina mantid (Stagmomantis carolina) –The praying mantis. (1988)
  • State beetle: seven-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata) – Both the lady bird beetle and the praying mantis are beneficial insects to the home garden and the farm. (1988)
  • State marine mammal: bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) – Both the state marine mammal and state migratory marine mammal were designated by Act Number 58 of 2009 (2009)
  • State migratory marine mammal: northern right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) – The right whale can be found off the South Carolina coast during the breeding and calving season. (2009)
  • State reptile: loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) – The loggerhead is a threatened species that nests on the shores of South Carolina. (1988)
  • State color: indigo blue – The color indigo blue comes from the uniforms of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment, led by Colonel William Moultrie. The state flag is indigo blue in remembrance of this regiment. The palmetto tree on the flag recalls their successful defense of Charleston during the American Revolutionary War at a fort built of palmetto logs. (2008)
  • State tree: Sabal palmetto (Sabal palmetto) – The palmetto has been a symbol for South Carolina since the American Revolutionary War when it was used to build a fort on Sullivan’s Island that withstood British attack. The palmetto tree appears on the first symbol of the state, the seal created in 1777. It was officially named the state tree in 1939.
  • State motto: Dum spiro spero (While I breathe, I hope).It appears on the state seal and on some of the state’s license plates.
  • State craft: sweetgrass basket weaving – Sweetgrass (Muhlenbergia filipes), is native to the coastal dunes of the Carolinas. It was the perfect material for African slaves to utilize their traditional skills to produce a tightly-woven coiled basket.
  • State dance: shag – The shag was selected as the state dance because it originated in South Carolina. (1984)
  • State popular music: beach music – Beach music is closely associated with the state dance, the shag, and is also considered to have originated in Myrtle Beach. (2001)

All of these South Carolina state symbols were somewhat overwhelming to our grandson and to me. He was particularly interested in our state dog: the Boykin Spaniel. It is a small dog with a brown, curly coat and golden eyes. It was bred primarily for waterfowl hunting. The dog is known for its jovial personality and energy. Also known as the “swamp poodle,” the little dog has its origins in Spartanburg and in Camden, South Carolina.

Our grandson’s maternal grandfather is Carl Bostick, who is also a good friend of mine. He is surveyor from Irmo, South Carolina, and an Admiral in the Lake Murray Navy. Whenever we get together, swapping stories is our favorite pastime.  Carl related a story about our state dog that bears repeating.

Near the beginning of the twentieth  century, a hunt club in Boykin, South Carolina, had a serious problem. Duck hunters plied the tributaries of the Wateree Basin in small skiffs. The boats were fine for duck hunting, but they were not big enough to accommodate a large dog such as a Labrador retriever. Frequent mishaps occurred when large dogs leaped from the small boats, tumbling unsteady hunters overboard into the cold, cold water.   Allen Jones Boykin, Carl’s great-grandfather, and L. Whitaker Boykin, Carl’s, great-uncle, determined that a smaller retriever would be far more suitable. They set about the task of developing a smaller breed.

Alexander L. White, a Spartanburg banker and avid sportsman, frequently traveled to Kershaw County to hunt with the Boykin family. He had been the victim of several unfortunate spills into the Wateree River, the unwelcome result of a large retriever rocking the boat. In 1911, as he departed Sunday morning worship, Mr. White, a member of a local congregation, found a stray dog begging for food near the church door. He took the bedraggled brown pup home with him and named him Dumpy. He soon discovered that Dumpy was intelligent and had quite an aptitude for hunting.

Alexander White was eager to correspond with Whit Boykin to tell him about Dumpy. Arrangements were made for White to travel with the little brown dog to Kershaw County. Mr. White and Dumpy boarded the train at Magnolia Station in Spartanburg and were met in Camden by Boykin. Alexander gave the dog to Boykin. Dumpy, a male was penned with a female Water Spaniel named Singo. The result of that breeding was the first litter of Boykin Spaniels.

The Boykin Spaniel has a typical spaniel face with smaller, higher set ears and a straighter muzzle. He sports a brown coat with generally wavy hair, natural camouflage for a hunting dog. The tail is docked to prevent the typical enthusiastic wagging from alarming game birds during the hunt. The yellow amber eyes are a trademark of the Boykin Spaniel. Though each dog has his or her own personality, the breed is known as pleasant and obedient, loyal and intelligent.

The Boykin Spaniel excels as a hunting dog. His keen nose and eagerness in the field make him an exceptional retriever of upland birds as well as waterfowl. He loves water and is an excellent swimmer. His versatile hunting ability has made the Boykin Spaniel a popular companion among sportsmen in the southern states. Originally bred to be a small retriever, the Boykin Spaniel stands about sixteen inches tall and weighs about thirty pounds. He is known as the dog that does not rock the boat.

Sixty-five years after Alexander White and Whit Boykin brought Dumpy and Singo together, the Boykin Spaniel Society was formed. In July 2005, the American Kennel Club named the Boykin Spaniel Society as the Official Parent Club of the Boykin Spaniel.

In 1985, Act No. 31 of the State Legislator designated the Boykin Spaniel as the official dog of the State of South Carolina because it is the only dog that was originally bred for South Carolina hunters by South Carolinians.

Years ago, three Presbyterian ministers from the Upstate planned to duck hunt in the Wateree Basin. Because they were unfamiliar with the area, they decided to hire a suitable guide. A fellow pastor from Kershaw County suggested a member of his church. The pastors arrived and spoke with the guide. When they learned his fee, the ministers were hesitant. The guide said that he could reduce the fee if they were willing to hunt with an inexperienced dog, a newly trained Boykin Spaniel. Agreed.

After several days of hunting in which they bagged their limit of ducks, the ministers complimented the guide on his retriever. The spaniel had performed beautifully. The guide offered to let the Presbyterian clergymen name the dog. They dubbed him Elder.

Each year at the same time the ministers scheduled a hunt with the guide. They always requested Elder as their retriever.

Then one year, the Presbyterian Church scheduled a required conference that conflicted with the planned hunt. Because the three Presbyterians did not want to relinquish their annual hunting slot, they offered their reservation to three Baptist pastors. The Baptists accepted.

The following year, the Presbyterians returned for their regular week of hunting. When they arrived, they immediately noticed that Elder was not with the guide. The clergymen insisted, “We want Elder as our retriever.”

“No,” said the guide, “You don’t ever want to use that dog again!”

“Why not?” the ministers asked in dismay.

“Well, you fellows sent those Baptists down here last year, and they messed up that spaniel.”

“But how?” they asked.

“Those Baptists didn’t like the name Elder so they changed his name to Deacon. Now all he’ll do is sit on his tail and holler.”

Even a fine Boykin Spaniel can be ruined if he runs with the wrong crowd.

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