The Greenwood area of South Carolina is home to many Upstate hash traditions. One “origin story” concerns the altercation between Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina and Sen. Summers of Massachusetts in 1856. Sen. Summers’ disparaging remarks about the South prompted Rep. Brooks to attack him on the Senate floor. News of the incident spread fast and large crowds between 6,000 and 10,000 gathered at Star Fort in Ninety-Six, SC, in support of Rep. Brooks when he returned. A food was needed at this event that could feed the multitudes as well as keep in an age without refrigeration. Thus, the famous “Ninety-Six Hash” was born. It is said to be the source recipe for all of the hash made around Greenwood – one of the “hash-hubs” of the state.
In the modern era, hash served at political “stump meetings” provided a backdrop to the speeches and campaigning of candidates around the state. But in Greenwood, the “crown jewel” stump meeting with hash at its center occurred on the family farm of William Jennings Bryan Dorn – one of South Carolina’s most popular of politicians. Here hash served as a “congregational” food that could serve hundreds inexpensively using a popular foodway commonly cooked for special occasions on the farms of an agricultural society.
The textile mills of the 19th and 20th century in upstate South Carolina used hash as a way to attract farmers of their land and into the spinning rooms. Mill owners would build hash houses on the grounds of the mills and hold hash-cookings in them on holidays. Mill-worker’s families were allowed to cook hash for birthday celebrations and special events. In Greenwood there still stands a monument to this millworker’s hash tradition in the form of a tiny historic restaurant called The Hash House. Greenwood area hash is served in many contexts. Networks of local volunteer fire departments cook hash as a fundraising effort, as do churches. Hash is cooked at hunt clubs with a variety of game. Most restaurants use stainless steel pots instead of the iron pots to make their hash. Although limited by the DHEC regulation on use of iron pots, a few restaurants have the black iron pots “grandfathered” in. (This is the case with The Hash House, which opens for holidays and special occasions.) All around Greenwood many individuals still cook their family hash in black pots around holidays such as Fourth of July and Labor Day. At a historic Cannery for the legendary Star Fort hash, Jerry Gantt owns and operates the Ninety-Six Canning Company. It produces “Gantt Bros. Meat Hash”, based on a hash recipe that Gantt’s father cooked during Fourth of July celebrations at the Grendel Mill hash house.