The lives of those who composed Aiken’s Winter Colony continue to intrigue.


Have you ever wondered about those distinctive and remarkable people, who spent their winter months in Aiken engaging in a variety of sport and festive affairs? David Tavernier’s “Stories of the Rich and Famous: Aiken’s Winter Colony in the Gilded Age,” offers the reader a unique look into the lives of several of those families – names like Vanderbilt, Whitney, McLean, Hoffman, Hitchcock and Kuser. The author shared his in-depth knowledge about their lives on Sunday, as the featured speaker at the Aiken County Historical Society’s monthly meeting at the Aiken County Historical Museum.


And with the exception of the first chapter, Tavernier’s tome is composed in the first person, as he recreates what the winter colonists may have said in some of the incidents that he’s written about. The book is historical fiction, but there are no fictional characters. The book’s first chapter gives the reader a basis of understanding, said Tavernier.


“By having the winter colonists speak to the reader, we’re able to get a sense of who they were,” Tavernier. “Most of the events that I write about in my book actually happened.”


The book does include some events that didn’t happen, but the reason that they’re incorporated is because they’re part of a bigger story, said Tavernier.


There were several factors that set the stage for the coming of the winter colony, said Tavernier.


The migration of low country planters, who would go west to Aiken during the late spring or early summer, some time after 1790, as a way of reducing the risk of being afflicted with malaria. This would, in part, begin Aiken’s ascent as a preferred location, based on its salubrious environment.


The advent of the railroad, development of the textile industry, Kaolin mining and the presence of the Southern Porcelain Company were among the variables that would make Aiken an attractive place to some of the nation’s most powerful and influential families.


Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004.