Jeanne McDaniel, well-known North Augusta historian, dies
Aiken County has one fewer student of local history, with the passing of Jeanne McDaniel, 79, known to some as a driving force behind the establishment of the Arts and Heritage Center of North Augusta.
A native of north London, she died April 15, having been slowed by Parkinson’s disease over the past couple of years. Her recent notable activities included working to help establish a driving tour of North Augusta, with accurate information about local buildings and other landmarks.
Among her high-profile roles was writing “North Augusta: James U. Jackson’s Dream,” a book that explored the town’s history, beginning in the childhood of the town’s founder, where he “first dreamed of a community on the hill above the Savannah River.”
She dedicated the book “to the citizens of North Augusta, who have the vision to perpetuate the dream, and to the Heritage Council of North Augusta and its efforts to preserve our history and heritage.” It was published in 2005.
Lauren Virgo, executive director of the arts and heritage facility, described McDaniel as “witty, funny, loving and caring,” with a passion about North Augusta’s history and preservation.
McDaniel came to America in 1963, “slightly ahead of The Beatles,” as she once noted. “They came in ’64. I came in ’63. I was the advance wave of the British invasion.”
Recalling McDaniel’s generosity, Virgo said, “Every time I went to see her, she always had some type of treat or goody or present or something. She always wanted me to leave with something.”
Virgo said McDaniel loved to travel, and one of her last major outings was to Michigan to see the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
“She felt like she was reliving the Hampton Terrace,” Virgo said, recalling the palatial hotel that ruled North Augusta’s landscape in the early 20th century.
“She felt like that was the closest she would ever get to see what it was like to stay at the Hampton Terrace, and that meant a lot to her.”
She was “a fine English lady,” in the words of Judy Whaley, a member of the Heritage Council of North Augusta. “She will be sorely missed.”
Susan Pendlebury, a caregiver with Comfort Keepers, spent the past couple of years with McDaniel. “She was certainly a go-getter and very much a historian,” she said, recalling that McDaniel had “a lot of great friends” in North Augusta.
Brenda Baratto described McDaniel as “a true team’ player” who “dedicated her time and efforts (and then her royalties) to the Heritage Council of North Augusta,” a group that Baratto has helped lead.
“She would remind me that a marker was needed for the remaining bricks of the Hampton Terrace, that it was time for Mr. Jackson’s statue to be polished, that we needed to do this, and that ... and then another,” Baratto wrote.
McDaniel also had an unusually strong interest in local government, as shown by her presence at North Augusta City Council and North Augusta Planning Commission meetings until recent years, when health problems kept her mostly homebound. She would occasionally be the only person, aside from the groups’ members, municipal employees, and a reporter or two, to attend a meeting.
“She would express her opinion,” said Mayor Lark Jones. “I wouldn’t call her a watchdog, but she was just a civic-minded, concerned citizen who really adopted North Augusta as her home, and she really did this city a great service in chronicling the life of James U. Jackson.”
Charles Martin, one of North Augusta’s former city administrators, announced McDaniel’s selection as the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce’s Person of the Year for 2009. Introducing her, Martin noted that local residents, in getting to know her, saw “a woman singularly dedicated to making North Augusta great and making sure the citizens of North Augusta never forgot how great it really was.”