A twist on Aiken’s history

  • Posted: Saturday, November 17, 2012 9:10 a.m.

David M. Tavernier has taken a look at Aiken’s history from a slightly different angle in his new book, “Stories of the Rich and Famous: Aiken’s Winter Colony in the Gilded Age.”

The book hit shelves in late September, and has garnered positive response from readers, according to Tavernier.

“They say they’ve enjoyed a new approach to Aiken history,” he said.

Tavernier worked on the book for two years. The project grew out of his entry in the Aiken Standard’s historical essay contest in conjunction with Aiken’s 175th anniversary.

“I’ve been writing throughout my career in the course of my work, but I’d never written a book. But I wrote an essay for that contest, and I enjoyed the research and writing so much I just kept going,” he said.

The first chapter of the book goes back to the area’s original residents, the Cofitachiqui nation, and their displacement by explorer Hernando de Soto; the town’s glory days as a railroad town; and into the Winter Colony’s migration South for the warm weather. Other chapters focus on individual characters from local history.

“I write about Evelyn Walsh McLean, some stories from her memoir ‘The Queen of Diamonds’ which are not commonly known; she was involved in trying to recover the Lindbergh baby who was kidnapped in 1932. She actually met with the go-between to the kidnappers here in the cottage she rented every year on Hayne Avenue,” said Tavernier.

“Likewise, with William Whitney from Joye Cottage, whose wife suffered a riding accident in Hitchcock Woods which ultimately ended her life. We know all the people who were there that day, we know what happened; we don’t know what conversations took place. What I do is, I re-create the accident based on what we know, with all the same people on that fateful day who are there again, and the conjecture comes in where I use Whitney’s daughter to tell the story of what happened.”

Tavernier and his wife came to Aiken from Florida, where he had lived since college. His wife is a third-generation Aikenite, and the couple frequently visited Aiken over the years, even at one point owning a second home in Woodside; they settled permanently in Aiken in 2008.

Published in paperback by Outskirts Press with a cover price of $9.95, “Secrets of the Rich and Famous” is available at Equine Divine, Aiken Office Supply, Boots Bridles & Britches, and the Aiken County Historical Museum.

On the web, the book is available at www.outskirtspress.com/storiesoftherichandfamous, and at www.DavidMTavernierAuthor.com, and at the “Stories of the Rich and Famous” Facebook page, as well as major online retailers such as amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Tavernier said he is already working on a second volume of history, starting off with the Aiken area’s connections to the sinking of the Titanic. He hopes to have the second book on shelves within a year and a half.

Tavernier has book signings scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, at Boots Bridles & Britches; for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, at the Aiken County Historical Museum; and from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, at Equine Divine.

Suzanne Stone is a general assignment reporter at the Aiken Standard. She is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art & Design and studied communications at Augusta State University.

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