A Carolina Tale


Photo of Reedy River from S. Main Street bridge, downtown Greenville, SC.

In the category of “You Learn Something New Every Day,” I learned some interesting American lore rooted here in my new hometown of Greenville, SC.

PoinsettJust south of Greenville City Hall in front of the old County Court House (now the M. Judson Bookstore) on S. Main Street sits a bronze statue of Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851). Born in Charleston, SC, son of a wealthy physician, Poinsett was a physician, statesman and diplomat.

He was educated in Connecticut and in Europe, where he traveled extensively including Russia and the Middle East and became fluent in several languages. He returned to the U.S. where President James Madison named him ‘special agent’ to Chile and Argentina (1810-1814, 50+ years before the U.S. had ambassadors). He returned home to be elected to the S. Carolina House of Representative (1816-1819). He was elected for two terms to the U.S. House of Representatives (1821-1825).

Poinsett resigned his seat in Congress when President John Quincy Adams named him the first Minister to Mexico (an appointment turned down by Andrew Jackson).

Poinsett’s interest in science led him to discover La Flor de la Noche Buena (the Christmas Eve flower). He brought specimens back to the U.S. where it became know as the Poinsettia.

In addition to further public service as Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President Andrew Jackson, Poinsett also was a cofounder of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science and the Useful Arts, a group of politicians advocating for the use of the “Smithson bequest” for a national museum that would showcase the most significant items from American history, which eventually became known as the Smithsonian Institution.

Note: A block further south on Main Street leads to a bronze statue of Charles H. Townes , (1915-2015) who was born in Greenville, SC. Widely recognized for his work as an inventor and a physicist, in 1964 Townes was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics with Nikolay Basov and Aleksandr Prokhorov for contributions to fundamental work in quantum electronics leading to the development of the maser and laser.


11 comments on “A Carolina Tale

  1. brickthomas says:

    That was most interesting, Mike. It looks and sounds like a great place to be and explore. Like The North Face logo says, “Never Stop Exploring.”

  2. I love to imagine you and F exploring your new home town, and how lucky for us that you might do a little writing again too! Love your travel updates, Mike. You see the world in such an interesting and invested way; I love following along! Have fun exploring! xo

    • Mike Lince says:

      You’re right, Dawn. It has been some time since I wrote a blog post. I felt at one time that I had something to say about our society and politics after seeing how much of the rest of the world works (and how little the rest of the world cares about America’s obsessions). However, social commentary was a short-lived phase.

      I still perceive of myself as a travel writer, and I have found myself once again living in new and sometimes strange surroundings. Other than language similarities, in many ways living in The South is like living in a different country, perhaps in part because we traveled so far to get here. After driving over 3,000 miles to get here, we were reminded once again that this is a really BIG country!

      Thank you for sharing your encouraging words. -Mike

  3. Hi Mike and Florence, I’m thrilled to hear that you’re in Greenville! James and I loved it the years we lived there. It has such a vibrant downtown – especially with the river flowing through it. I remember the statue of Poinsett … and since you have grandchildren I’m sure they’ll enjoy the “Mice on Main”. Can’t wait to read more. What inspired your move to Greenville? All the best, Terri

    • Mike Lince says:

      A lot of research went into planning the destination for our next move, but a primary factor was Florence’s desire to live at a lower latitude where the weather is warmer. We looked at every southern state, and South Carolina kept coming up.

      I thought I would stand out as a Yankee in Dixie, but so far almost everyone we have met is from somewhere else, so that doesn’t feel weird. The strangest thing so far is seeing political posters of Ted Cruz for President. One would have to drive a long way from any city up North to see that. – Mike

      • reocochran says:

        The bridge is a beautiful sight to behold in this South Carolina new home, Mike! 🙂 I was checking to see if you had any Road Trip photos to view here. Hugs, Robin

  4. reocochran says:

    I am so glad Joel Roberts Poinsett went to Mexico as the first Minister to Mexico and discovered the pretty flower we now call a poinsettia. Mom taught this in her Spanish classes. 🙂 it is a lovely example of how people use their interests and education while traveling, discovering what interests them most and so glad he shared with us. Happy New Year, Mike 🙂 *¤☆¤*

    • Mike Lince says:

      I am pleased to know you already knew the backstory of the poinsettia. I only just learned it was named after a person, and to my surprise, that person is a South Carolina native son. -Mike

      • reocochran says:

        I think you could do a post about Charles H. Townes, Mike. His statue and contributions sound amazing! I still remember some of the story you shared about Tesla. 🙂

  5. I learned something new today. He had the perfect name to turn into a flower. 🙂

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