Alan had a list. That’s often a scary thing. This particular list included places he wanted to visit heading down towards Abbeville, McCormick, and Edgefield Counties. Many of these spots were along Highway 10 from Greenwood to McCormick, but I’d added a few points to the map that spread things out a bit. It was an ambitious list that would eventually take us down to the oddly named town of Modoc.
We set out early. The weather report had been iffy, and a light fog was settling in. Even so, it seemed like a perfect day for exploration. We hadn’t gotten anywhere close to any of our targets before we hit our first distraction and a mystery.
Cold Springs School
I’ve downloaded a bunch of possible old schools to my GPS and I have it set to go “bong” whenever we’re within a certain range of one. The GPS went “bong” and I saw that we were approaching a school I had listed as “unknown” on Highway 20 above Abbeville. We pulled over and took just one quick photo from the car.
This does look very much like a one-room schoolhouse. However, I can’t confirm its identity. It was just past the intersection of Cold Spring Community Center Road and Highway 20. Knowing that so many old schools are now used as community centers, I assumed that this was the one.
However, at the other end of Cold Springs Road, a couple of miles away, was the actual community of Cold Springs. In Google Earth I found that GNIS had a school named Cold Springs there. Street View was unavailable, but the overhead view shows a roof like a Rosenwald four-teacher design. A circular drive leads to the building.
When I checked the SC Archives they had a “Cool Springs” school listed for Abbeville County with this same design.
That leaves me really puzzled as to the identity of the school on Highway 20. For now I have to leave it listed as “unknown.”
Bethia Prebyterian Church
Our first actual stop wasn’t even on our list. I had seen a post about the Bethia Presbyterian Church on Facebook. Our route took us right past it, so we had to stop.
According to SCIWAY.net, the church was organized in 1848 by a mixed-race congregation with nine white and four black charter members. Robert Henry Reid was the first minister. Historic records from 1938 also corroborate this information. The church was active until 1998, when membership dropped below 30. The church is now under the care of the Historic Long Cane Association.
The church is a simple meeting house style church. The church was locked, but we could see into the interior through the windows. There were a few old pews and a piano, but not much else.
This church looks like it’s in pretty good shape. Fortunately, it’s also right next door to the community fire station. I think it would be a great place to hold a shape note singing.
Lower Long Cane ARP Church
Next up was one of our primary targets.
Alan and I had visited Upper Long Cane Church and Cemetery on a previous visit. Alan’s great-grandparents are buried there. We had also come very close to this location when we visited the Long Cane Massacre Site on a different visit. It was time to visit Lower Long Cane.
We also have a friend with close ties to this church. Fellow paddler and adventurer Matt Richardson was married in this church, and he even served as its pastor for awhile.
The church sits in an unusual orientation. The road runs behind the church, and the main facade faces the cemetery. I can’t tell that there was ever a road in front of the church, but I don’t know the area that well. When we arrived the church and cemetery were shrouded in fog.
One of the first things we noticed was that many of the headstones had raised lettering, rather than simply carved.
I put lapel mics on both Alan and me with digital recorders attached. I was hoping to get some conversational audio for my upcoming podcast episode. Armed with ways to record both audio and imagery, we set off.
In Upper Long Cane we found lots of signature stones. Here, we only found only one, and it wasn’t one of the usual suspects.
It was at the base of the grave of James Dowtin, a spectacular double-draped monument featuring an urn atop an obelisk.
We had difficulty reading the signature, and it wasn’t until I did a bit of research that I found that the name was “Leavell & Gage, Greenwood, SC.” This company was active in the late 1800s, and advertised regularly in the Abbeville papers.
Robert Leavell was the main person involved in the granite business. His firms included partnerships with a Mr. Speers prior to his involvement with Gage. According to the Genealogy Trails website quoting information from the Newberry Observer, Leavell was also an undertaker…
R. Y. Leavell, manufacturer and dealer in marble and granite monuments, head stones and Cemetery work. Estimates furnished on application. Also, a dealer in Coffins and caskets. Prices moderate. Personal attention day and night. Two nice hearses. Licensed embalmer by the State Board of Health.
As for the other stones, there were some that were quite interesting. We saw several that had a “Gates of Heaven” motif. These were on stone lecterns with a book on top, symbolizing the Book of Life. Interestingly, on one stone the book appeared to show its back cover, as if it were finished.
Others had the book with the front cover, some had the book open, and some had no book.
There was spectacular artistry in some of the stonework. One wreath on an obelisk was particularly stunning.
Sadly, lichens and weathering had taken their toll. Many of the stones were hard to read, most to the point of being illegible.
The shutters were closed on the church and it was locked, but there was a gap wide enough for the GoPro.
I would love to be able to visit the interior. Since this is an active congregation, that might be a possibility someday.
The fog was starting to lift, and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. We still had lots to see and do.
UPDATE: I was doing some last minute research on the stone masons Leavell & Gage. I found a lengthy article in a November 28, 1888 edition of the Abbeville Press and Banner. The article discusses a recent monument they made for none other than D. Wyatt Aiken, Alan’s great-great- grandfather.