I’m still playing catch-up with my blogging. I’m about a week behind, but maybe over the next couple of days I can get caught up.
When Glynda first got married she lived in Savannah and our family would make the occasional trip down there for a visit. This was 40+ years ago, so I-95 was non-existent. The only way to get there was a series of two-lane roads that went through lots of tiny towns in South Carolina.
Now for the present – last weekend my paddling buddy, Matt Richardson, turned 40, and his wife, Cris, planned a surprise party for him. Since I’m now retired with nothing better to do, I decided to drive down and join in the surprise. I had the time, so I decided to replicate the trips from long ago, avoiding the interstates, and driving through all of the little towns, taking photos along the way. I also planned to hit a couple of ghost towns.
For the downward trip to Bluffton I took I-26 down to Columbia, then took Highway 321 south. It seems that Columbia keeps extending its reach. The new Farmers Market is now several miles down this road, far outside of the city. The first towns I encountered were Gaston and Swansea. I didn’t pause for these two, but kept going.
I drove through the community of Woodward and kept going, eventually stopping in the community of North, South Carolina. Yeah, that’s right. I had to wonder if there was also a South, North Carolina, but there isn’t. The town is named for one James North, who owned most of the property in the area. The largest industry in town now seems to the North Auxiliary Air Field, an Air Force facility.
I noticed that many of these little towns received stimulus funds for revitalization. Lots of them have new parks and have really made an attempt to spruce things up. North was no exception. However, sprucing up only goes so far – you have to have the businesses come in to complete the revitalization. That still hadn’t quite happened for this town.
Livingston and Neeses are up next, then the road jumps halfway around the world to Scandinavia. Right in a row one drives through Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.
Norway was up first. There is an oddly placed miniature bell tower in town known as the “Bicentennial Bell,” but the most interesting building is the Norway Skyscraper, a thin three-story building that kind of sticks out from the main drag.
The highway crossed a branch of the Edisto River then entered the next country, Sweden. This was no more than a crossroads with a now-defunct agricultural business. Now only ruins of some of those buildings remain. This looks like a prime candidate for one of my ghost towns, if I can find more information about the location. There was a private club just beyond the crossroad that was closed up this time of day.
Denmark is just beyond Sweden, and is a much more substantial town. Vorhees College and Denmark Technical College are in town. Even so, the main street suffers the plight of so many small towns with boarded businesses. Denmark does seem to have fared better than most, with a good bit of activity downtown, with a large hardware store and a couple of prominent antique stores.
It was getting to be near lunch time, so I started scouting out options. There were a few fast food places, but I wasn’t really in the mood for those, and I wasn’t quite ready to stop and eat. I should have, though. It seemed that I couldn’t find anything else beyond Denmark.
The town of Govan was next, and looked like another ghost town candidate. There was one old closed up store, and a tiny post office. At least they did have a fire department and a very nice town sign. I didn’t stop for photos.
Olar was another matter, though. Most of the town was boarded up and closed, but it made for some interesting photos.
Ulmer and Sycamore went by unnoted, not for lack of anything interesting to photograph, but because I’d never make it to Bluffton in time for the party if I stopped to photograph every town. Before too long I was entering the town of Fairfax. I took a couple of quick photos, one of an interesting old abandoned church.
Dukes and Gifford slipped past quickly, and I realized I still hadn’t found any lunch. In the town of Luray I spotted a general store, and thought that surely I could find something to tie me over until I reached my hotel. Before entering the store I took a moment to take some photos of a fascinating old house with an unusual cupola on top and a couple of weather-worn buildings.
I pulled into the Cornerstone General Store and went inside. They had a deli counter, but it was unclear what was available and how I might order a sandwich. There was lots of memorabilia on the walls, and I wish I had my camera taking shots of the interior. I was able to find a cold drink and a candy bar, and figure that would have to do. This seemed to be a place more for socializing than for actually making purchases.
I’m always fascinated by church signs on this tiny roads. All of these churches seem to be independent, and the names are often elaborate and creative. Somewhere between Estill and Scotia I spotted unusual names for three Baptist Churches and decided to check them out. In very close proximity I found the Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church, First Thankful Baptist Church, and Steep Bottom Baptist Church.
Continuing on my side road took me to the town of Furman. Of course, I had to check it out, not realizing that I’d be driving back through the next day.
Scotia and Garnett looking like they had photographic potential, but I kept going. I did pause at the community of Robertville, though. Robertville Baptist Church is a picturesque building that caught my eye, so I stopped to take a couple of photos. If I’d had the time, I would have checked out the old cemetery, too.
A historical marker at the location says that the town was named for a Huguenot minister named Pierre Robert. It was the birthplace of Henry Martyn Robert, author of Robert’s Rules of Order. The town was burned by Sherman’s troops, and it sounds like a prime candidate for my ghost town collection.
The towns were clicking by, and I was getting closer to my destination. I breezed through Tarboro (not to be confused by the town of the same name in North Carolina) and paused in Tillman to take a quick shot of the old school, now used as an antiques store.
When I reached Hardeeville I turned west toward the Savannah River to check out a ghost town on my list. I had driven past and paddled past Purrysburgh, but had not visited the town location. Purrysburgh was located on the banks of the river, and was one of several Huguenot settlements in the state. A stone marker similar to the one at New Bordeaux marked the location of the town.
Back to Hardeeville, I continued on to Okatie and to my eventual destination of Bluffton. We had a great evening surprising Matt Richardson for his 40th birthday, and it was great to see so many of my paddling/adventuring friends there. I stayed the night in Bluffton, with plans for more towns on the return trip. Here’s a rundown of the towns on the southward trip from Columbia…