GAR outpost has thrived in heart of Dixie for 125+ years

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Beaufort County counted some of South Carolina’s most ardent secessionists among its residents as the War Between the States began. Its landscape was dotted with large cotton plantations featuring sizable slave populations until Union troops came ashore at Port Royal in November 1861 and took control, of the area, freeing thousands of enslaved blacks.

While Northern forces weren’t able to venture far inland from their beachhead in the southern part of the state until close to the end of the war, it served as a staging point for the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron and as a destination for escaped slaves looking for sanctuary.

Many of those former slaves would go on to serve in the Union Army, as members of US Colored Troop units.

Years after the war, a number of former USCT members formed one of the few Grand Army of the Republic posts in South Carolina, the David Hunter Post No. 9, organized in 1888.

In 1896, the post constructed the Grand Army Hall, on Beaufort’s Newcastle Street. Today, the structure, located in the Beaufort Historic District, is believed to be the only surviving building in South Carolina associated with the Grand Army of the Republic, or GAR.

The GAR was a fraternal organization made up of men who had served the Union cause. At its peak, it boasted nearly 500,000 members nationwide.

The Beaufort post was named for Hunter (1802-1886), who rose to the rank of major general and was a strong proponent of arming blacks to assist the Union effort.

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Florida pythons getting bigger and bigger

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If it’s true that fear of snakes is among the most common phobias known to humans – and personal experience would indicate this is the case among nearly every adult woman and most men – then the Greater Everglades Chamber of Commerce has some mighty big obstacles to overcome.

Earlier this week, officials in the Sunshine State said they shot and killed a Burmese python in the Everglades that stretched more than 18 feet and weighed 150 pounds.

If confirmed, it would make it the largest snake ever captured in the famed wetlands region of Florida, which is noted for its wildlife, particularly reptiles.

The Burmese python is able to thrive in the Everglades because it’s an invasive species with no natural predators in the area.

“The number of pythons has skyrocketed, with more than 300 pythons being removed from the Everglades every year since 2007,” according to the online publication LiveScience. “Researchers don’t know their true numbers but estimate at least tens of thousands of the giant snakes inhabit the National Everglades Park.”

Tens of thousands?!? Even non-herpetophobes get creeped out by those numbers.

The snakes are wiping out native wildlife like bobcats, foxes and raccoons, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

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Wet weather hurting nation’s pecan crop

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It appears pecan lovers can expect to pay more for their treasured treat.

Record soggy weather in many parts of the Southeastern US has left pecan orchards vulnerable to Cladosporium caryigenum, more commonly known as scab, a fungal disease that scars the husks of pecans, cuts yield and hurts quality.

“We’ve had some wet years before, but not like it has been this summer where it has rained all summer long,” Tom Stevenson, a south Georgia-based pecan orchard manager, told Southeast Farm Press.

The heavy rains which have only abated in the past couple of weeks, hit Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas – among the nation’s main pecan-growing states – particularly hard.

Georgia, the top producer of pecans nationwide, has half of its approximately 150,000 acres of commercial orchards planted in pecan varieties that are susceptible to scab, according to Lenny Wells, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension pecan specialist.

To try to reduce the risk of scab, farmers such as Stevenson have increased spraying of fungicide, according to Southeast Farm Press.

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A recognition that will do you in eventually

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If there’s one honor you don’t want, it’s to be recognized as the world’s oldest person.

Without fail, often within months and sometimes even weeks of being declared as the planet’s senior senior citizen, the individual is dead.

The latest to fall victim to this curse: Japan’s Jiroemon Kimura, 116, who died today less than six months after being recognized by the Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest living person.

Kimura did far better than his immediate predecessor, though. Dina Manfredini lasted just 13 as the world’s oldest person before dying late last year.

And of the 32 previous record holders, only seven survived more than a year after being honored for their longevity. Sounds like a curse if I’ve ever heard of one.

In seriousness, one of the interesting aspects of news stories about the extremely aged is that they are almost never quoted. This is almost always, to put it delicately, because the faculties of the extremely aged aren’t quite what they once were.

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A new species of bass to ignore your lure

Choctaw Bass

The discovery of new animal species is unusual but certainly not earth-shatteringly rare.

Periodically, scientists will announce that a new variety of lemur has been found in Madagascar or a previously unknown spider has been located in a distant part of Sri Lanka or an unclassified frog has been uncovered in remote India.

Less common is finding a new species in a populated, scientifically advanced region such as the United States.

However, scientists in Florida last week announced that they came across a new species of black bass in the southeastern United States during a genetic study of fish in 2007, according to Field & Stream.

Researchers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission christened the species, found in the Chipola River, “Choctaw bass.”

The Chipola is a small tributary of the Apalachicola River that runs north-south along the middle of the Florida Panhandle.

Choctaw bass possess a DNA profile unlike that of any other species, scientists announced.

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Monster python caught in Florida Everglades

In a discovery certain to send shivers down the spine of anyone working in the Everglades tourism bureau, Florida officials Monday announced the capture of the largest Burmese python ever found in the Sunshine State – a leviathan more than 17 feet in length.

Not only was the python of record-setting length – at 17-feet-seven-inches it broke the old state record by nearly a foot – extremely long, it also contained 87 eggs, also thought to be a record.

“This thing is monstrous, it’s about a foot wide,” Kenneth Krysko, the herpetology collection manager at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Scientists at the University of Florida-based museum examined the 164.5-pound snake on Friday as part of a government research project into managing the pervasive effect of Burmese pythons in Florida, according to Agence France-Presse.

The giant snakes are native to Southeast Asia and were first found in the Everglades in 1979. They prey on native birds, deer, bobcats, alligators and other large animals.

Pythons kill their prey by coiling around it and suffocating it. They have been known to swallow animals as large as deer and alligators.

“A 17½-foot snake could eat anything it wants,” Krysko said.

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Civil War-era wreck to become preserve

A ship that survived the famous Battle of Mobile Bay during the War Between the States but sank less than two years later is about to become an underwater archaeological preserve.

The USS Narcissus was a tug involved in the famous Aug. 5, 1864, engagement in the waters off Alabama in which Federal Rear Adm. David G. Farragut is said to have uttered “Damn the torpedoes!” as he led Union forces against Confederate defenders in Mobile Bay.

The Narcissus, built in Albany, N.Y., in 1863, was commissioned as a Navy fighting vessel and armed with a 20-pound Parrott gun and a single smoothbore 12-pounder, according to the Tampa Tribune.

was ordered to return north for sale after the war ended the following year but sank in early 1866 off Florida’s Egmont Key during the journey, killing the entire crew. Egmont Key is just north of Anna Maria Island, in the mouth of Tampa Bay.

The 81-foot-6-inch Narcissus will become Florida’s 12th underwater archaeological preserve.

The ship headed south in January 1864 to support the Union Navy’s blockade of Confederate shipping routes, according to a report compiled by state researchers, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

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