SC hunter finds boy’s 1976 message in bottle and tracks him down with Facebook tips

The message was stuffed into the 7-Up bottle with chewing gum and beads.
The message was stuffed into the 7-Up bottle with chewing gum and beads. Facebook

A message in a bottle tossed into Spartanburg’s Tyger River has turned up 42 years later, near the South Carolina coast.

That’s roughly 160 miles, via the shortest route.

Erik Richardson, a Clemson University horticulture student, posted the find on Facebook on Wednesday, noting he discovered the 7-Up bottle on the banks of Lake Marion while scouting for ducks in Santee. However, it took him weeks to get the “virtually welded shut” bottle open and carefully fish out the fragile paper.

“Best we could tell, it just had some old gum wrappers and some metal beads or something rolling around in it, but it had us curious,” wrote Richardson, who works at the S.C. Botanical Garden. “I got a screw driver and was able to pull out, much to my surprise, a mostly legible letter! It’s dated April 19, 1976.”

It says: “To the finder, I am in the 6th grade. I am twelve years old. I let this bottle go where the tiger rivers meet. I was fishing. I have 1 sister - 3 dogs - and plenty of friends. When you have finished reading this write another and let it go downstream. Your pal, Mark.”

Richardson posted photos of the bottle on Facebook page, asking for help finding Mark, who would now be in his early 50s.

“This bottle had quite the adventure,” Richardson wrote. “It started out near Spartanburg, traveled down the Tyger River, onto the Broad River, through Parr Reservoir, down the Congaree, and through Columbia and Congaree National Park to end up at its final resting place on Lake Marion. Who knew one little bottle could go so far in 42 years!”

His message drew nearly 4,000 reactions and was shared 2,887 times, and apparently one of them hit the jackpot.

In an update to the post, Richardson says he found Mark.

“I just got off the phone with Mark and he was overjoyed to hear that his bottle survived so many years!” said Richardson’s Facebook update. “It’s amazing that in such a short amount of time Mark was found!”

Richardson didn’t share details of the conversation, but said the experience inspired him.

“Maybe I’ll take his advice and let a letter of my own go downstream sometime,” he wrote on Facebook.