It is always interesting when legend and lore strike close to home. Sumter, South Carolina has been my home now for six years. I believe that a person should embrace their new home and learn about the culture, lifestyle or just to know the local history; being a fan of ghost stories, mysteries and cryptozoology I naturally looked up these topics when researching Sumter (both the county and the city). I remember then reading about some giant lizard that walks upright and haunts the swamps of this southern state. Oral reports go as far back as 1972 but written documentation does not take place until 1988. This creature, if he does indeed exist, is a fairly young monster as far as legendary beasts go.
Eventually, life took over in the form of family and jobs and I had forgotten about the legendary Lizard Man. But apparently the Lizard Man had not forgotten about us. In 2008, after an apparent hiatus of twenty years, the Lizard Man has returned and caused havoc to cars and livestock.
The Lizard Man is reported to be approximately 7-8 feet tall, bipedal, covered in green scaly skin and nocturnal. His eyes glow red at night and his head and face are like a cross between human and snake. He has a center ridge that comes from the top of his head to his snout. He is described as well-built and has only 3 digits on each of his hands or feet. His claws are reported to be black and ranging anywhere from 2-4 inches long. No odors or sounds have been reported in connection with the Lizard Man but, when you have 4 inch long talons, who really needs add an offensive odor? He seems to reside in the Scape Ore Swamp of the Pee Dee River region including Sumter, Florence, Darlington and Lee Counties. Predominantly he hangs about Lee County nearest to the town of Bishopville, which has approximately a population of 4000.
There is a road in Anderson, SC that I pass each time I go to work and again when I return home. This got me started thinking about roads named for people and what that person meant to the community for a road to be named for them. This road, Manse Jolly Rd, was named for a Confederate soldier from Anderson.
Manse was known to be a brave soldier and he survived until the end of the war. What got him into legendary status was his actions after the war when he returned to Anderson. At the end of the war, the Union set up a garrison in Anderson. Manse was upset about losing his five brothers during the war and seeing these soldiers occupy his town irritated him further.
Manse made it his mission to take the life of five Union soldiers for each of his brothers lives.
The stories I have read say that his legend has grown over time. He isn't viewed as a criminal or murderer. He is sometimes described as a Robin Hood for the way he defended all the local people against the soldiers. One story describes him killing two Union soldiers that were guarding some stolen cotton and then Manse returned the cotton to the owner. The soldiers of the garrison were known to loot and pillage the area and Jolly went after each one.
The story says that the soldiers became terrified of Manse Jolly and back up was brought into the area. Knowing that he was a wanted man, Manse fled to Texas, taking more Union lives as he left. On his way out of Anderson, he rode his horse straight through the Union camp firing his rifle into the air and making a bunch of noise. The troops became so scared they scattered and ran as if they were attacked by an army.
I can't find an exact number of people he killed, but all accounts say that he revenged his brothers deaths times five (25) and then some before leaving.
His life ended a few years later in Texas. He was crossing a flooded river on horse back and one story said that his horse became tangled in some vines, killing horse and rider.