As I am prone to do anytime I am around books for sale, I look for historical works concerning Greenville and/or the Upstate of South Carolina. It was for this reason I was standing in Sam’s Club one morning thumbing through a copy of “Hidden History of Greenville County” by Alexia Jones Helsley. My habit is to thumb through to check out old, interesting photos. And what do I find on page 61 but an old stereograph (viewed with a stereoscope) showing a waterfall with what appeared to be a lady and 2 children on a large flat rock at the base pool.
The description was “Silver Steps near Caesar’s Head.” I was puzzled since Caesar’s Head State Park and Jones Gap State Park are pretty much the “home court” of my hiking group, The Grandfather Mountaineers (4 of us over 70).
Having never heard of Silver Steps Falls, I quickly did some research and only found a single reference, oddly enough from the Jones Gap State Park web site. There, on their “Unique Features” page, was a listing of waterfalls “…Jones Gap Falls, Rainbow Falls, Dargans Cascades and Silver Steps Falls.” Like I said, Jones Gap is my home hiking territory and I knew of no such waterfall.
I next contacted Tom King, author of “Waterfall Hikes in Upstate South Carolina,” to see if he was familiar with Silver Steps. But no, it was unknown to him also.
Given it was listed on the Jones Gap web site, my last chance was to get some clarification from the park staff, so I sent off an email with a copy of the photo from the book. Later that day came a response from Ranger Elliott Wilkes.
Here is his explanation: I have seen this photo before and I believe that Silver Steps Falls and Dargans Cascade are the same. If you compare photos of the two and pay close attention to the rock features, they are almost identical. The only difference I see is there is a higher flow of water in the old photo compared to most present day photos. I am not sure why the name Silver Step Falls was forgotten and changed to Dargans Cascade. He also noted the inclusion of Silver Steps in the Park’s waterfall listing on the web site was inaccurate.
Accompanying this article is a comparison of 2 photographs, the old Silver Steps photo and a current one of Dargans Cascade. Two key identifiers can clearly be seen: a “triangular” rock on the left and, on the right, the large flat rock at the base pool where the 3 figures are in the old photo.
Ranger Tim Lee, Jones Gap’s park naturalist also noted that the Cascade could possibly be named for the Dargan family, a local family that still has descendents in the area.
Perchance the lady and girls shown in the old photo are members of the Dargan family?
NOTE: Research has located this reference to a Dargan and well explains the connection of Dargan to the park: In the early 1950s, Henry Ware, who had in his youth traveled through the Gap in a wagon, encouraged his cousin, businessman E. Ervin Dargan to buy 2,000 acres of Jones Gap land from the Saluda Land and Lumber Company. In 1976, fearing the destructive potential of real estate development and the increase of motorized vehicles traveling the old road, the men both sold and donated their land to the state for use as a park.