Why this fuss about state archives? I confess that I'm guilty of suspecting most government institutions of being tremendous wastes of money, even if they do perform some useful functions. Soon after I took up genealogy, however, I changed my tune when I sent off to the Texas State Archives for copies of the Civil War pension applications of five of my ancestors (I knew which ones to ask for because there is a helpful searchable index on the Texas State Archives' website). A few weeks later I received a thick envelope back with the five copies and a bill ... and a bill for a whopping $8.00. That was some of the best-invested money I ever spent.
The South Carolina Archives also have a wonderful website that lets you search indexes for the relevant documents and even has digital images of some of them (mostly wills) available online. You can send off to the Archives for copies of any of the documents you pull up in the indexes.
Recently I sent off to the Alabama Archives for copies of whatever documents they had available on my great-great grandfather William T. Sisson. The website has a printable form that lets you select up to four categories of documents to request for a fixed fee of $25.00. They found land deeds, his widow's pension application, and the certificate of marriage to his third wife. Again, a pretty good haul for a modest fee.
I have just sent off to the Arkansas Archives for the Civil War pension application of another great-great grandfather, Joseph Madison Carroll Norman. I can't wait for that thick envelope to arrive in the mail....
Although I have not yet done any on-site research at any of these archives, I am definitely looking forward to doing so in the future.