Our plans for the weekend changed. Friday Houston and I had planned to head down to Sparkleberry Swamp for an early spring paddling trip, but that didn’t work out. Houston had already taken Friday off, so we went with Plan B. We met up with our brother, Stephen, and headed out for a short afternoon ramble through that corner where Anderson, Pickens, and Greenville Counties come together. We made several stops, and found some interesting history along the way.
We started from Stephen’s house in Easley and headed south, generally toward the town of Piedmont. Driving along Highway 86, Steve announced that we were approaching the community of Newell.
Newell has been on my list of ghost towns for awhile, and I was surprised to see that we were so close. I had seen photos taken by Sean Green and read his blog post about it. His information was also included on a listing of ghost towns for the state.
When we arrived we spotted an elderly gentleman heading into a shop across the road from the town buildings. We pulled in to see if we could get permission to photograph the buildings. He introduced himself as Elihu Wigington, and was skeptical, at first. Stephen kicked into full-on preacher mode, and introduced himself as a local Methodist minister. That broke the ice, and a few moments were spent playing “Who do you know?” Mr. Wigington kindly gave us permission to photograph the buildings, so we headed that way.
The buildings are located right across from Wigington Road. The larger of the two was the Wigington Variety Store, and the smaller served as the post office for the community of Newell. A large white house across the street is the Wigington home place.
The buildings appeared to be in good order. We didn’t try to enter, as everything was locked up. We did see that honey bees had built quite a hive in the walls of the old store. Behind the store were a couple of other old buildings, one of which had been a bicycle repair shop.
We walked back across to the road to the shop area. There were lots of old army surplus vehicles on the grounds. It turns out that Mr. Wigington used to buy these and repair them. We took a few photos.
We stepped inside to express our thanks to Mr. Wigington. He told us stories of folks coming up and wanting to make off with materials and things around the farm. I can understand his hesitance in letting us visit. His shop was well outfitted with drill presses and lots of other very sturdy equipment.
We thanked Mr. Wigington and continued on our way. Next stop…Piedmont.
I’m more accustomed to entering Piedmont from the Greenville side of the river. This time we came from the Anderson side. The Anderson side seems to have more modern shops, etc., while the Greenville side contains the old demolished mill and declining downtown area. The mill village can be found on both sides of the river. We crossed the river and paused to take some shots of the old mill area.
There really wasn’t that much to see. There was a beauty shop and a small cafe, neither of which were open. One of the largest buildings, a storefront church, had been damaged by fire and was closed. A bank branch was doing brisk business across the street.
Next to the bank on a hill we spotted three large monuments and went to check them out. These were monuments to former presidents and officers of the old mill.
We loaded back up into the car and drove around Piedmont. We confirmed that the old depot that Houston and I had photographed several years ago was now torn down. Back out on highway 20 we drove up to Grove Station, then headed back toward Piedmont. We spotted a couple of interesting things.
Back in Piedmont we crossed the river, then took River Road toward Powdersville. Our destination was Stephen’s church, Bethesda Methodist. We arrived and Steve gave us a tour of the church.
We had one more stop, though. Nearby is Siloam Baptist Church. The original Bethesda Church and Siloam sat side-by-side across from the present day Siloam, behind Siloam’s cemetery. We pulled into the cemetery and began exploring. There were modern graves bedecked with flowers…
…be toward the back of the cemetery were much older graves, including two signed by W. T. White. One had a hand-carved coffin emblem.
Steve led us further back along a marked path. We eventually came to the “Pool of Siloam“. This was the old baptismal pool for the church. There were benches set up, and concrete stairs leading into the pool. A small creek ran beside the pool. We also found the old brick spring house. We didn’t stick around to see if the waters were troubled, though.
Stephen pointed out an overgrown section between the cemetery and the pool, and said that he had been told that it was a former “slave cemetery.” There were several headstones completely overgrown and untended, although one that Houston found looked fairly modern. There was no telling how many graves were actually there.
Stephen said he had also heard that an open field across from the church had also contained graves, but these were just bulldozed under during some clearing many, many years ago. If true, I would certainly not want to be in any building built on that land!
By this time it was getting late in the afternoon. We headed on back to Stephen’s house and enjoy a libation before going our separate ways. It’s always great to get out and explore with my brothers. Here’s a map of those locations:
View Piedmont-Powdersville Ramble in a larger map
Here are all of my photos from the trip…
…and here are some of Stephen’s photographs…