Bill Kirby began his career with The Augusta Chronicle 40 years ago and has held just about every job in the newsroom. He and his wife Carla spend their spare time doting on their West Highland terriers, Lil' Bow Wow ("Buddy") and Snoop Dog. He writes several local columns each week, as well as YouTube videos on local history called "Kirby's Augusta." From 1998 until 2001 he was editor and publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Over a 40-year newspaper career he has won more than 100 state, regional and national awards for reporting, editing, column writing, editorial writing, sports writing, business writing, investigative reporting, layout and design.
Posted June 11, 2009 09:59 pm - Updated June 11, 2009 10:03 pm

Police in canoes chase nude bathers


I can’t find the whole tale, but I’ll tell you what I know.

For centuries people living along the banks of the Savannah River have no doubt sought its cool waters for relief from summer heat.

Sometimes those people removed their clothing to do so.

Sometimes others, offended by such naked displays, called the law.

Yes, that seems to be the case. In reading an old book on Augusta history  I came across the vaguest of references to a police crackdown on the practice of “skinny dipping” in the Savannah River.

It said the pastime became such a nuisance in the 1800s that the Augusta police department purchased “a fleet” of seven canoes and dugouts to pursue and arrest the culprits.

What an odd circumstance. Can you imagine it being discussed, debated and voted on by our modern city commission?

I almost thought it was made up, but then there is the number – seven –of canoes. That lends an air of veracity to the report.  It also makes you wonder why they needed so many canoes?  One, maybe two should have done the trick.

I thought I could find some old news story to verify the story in the computerized archives of this – the South’s Oldest Newspaper – but kept striking out.

So maybe you can help.

Where did the story of the police canoe fleet and its crackdown on nude river bathers come from?

Feel free to confess the sins of your great, great-grandparents.

The statute of limitations will surely keep their records as clean as a summer dip in the river.