Requiem for a Homestead

Gray Court Homestead

It’s the end of an era. Per stipulations of our parents’ will, our family home in Gray Court has been sold. A nice young couple will start their lives in a place I’ve thought of as home for 48 years. I’m not exactly sad. In fact, I’m not sure how I’m feeling. Probably more relief that the place did, in fact, sell quickly, and that there won’t be any lingering issues. We’ve spent the past weeks going through the remaining family items in the house and helping my sister Glynda get moved. As of this weekend, for the first time in nearly five decades, the Gray Court house is no longer occupied by a member of our family. I thought some reflection was in order. Continue reading “Requiem for a Homestead”

Return to Long Branch

Long Branch Pentecostal Holiness Church

Long Branch Pentecostal Holiness Church…

The name is long in our family lore. The church was established by my grandfather in 1911, as were many of the Pentecostal Holiness churches of this area. My father pastored the church for most of the 1960’s, and it is here that I have my earliest memories of church.

The church was small, and our large family made up a sizable bit of the congregation. My father preached and led the singing, and my mother played the piano after Mrs. Annabelle Brown left that position. It was just a tiny, unique country church, but its effect on us was indelible. The place is etched in our memories, and the myths and legends of Long Branch have grown over time, and have been embellished through retelling. So, today, nearly forty years since I last set foot in the church, I decided to see how close those myths were to today’s reality. Continue reading “Return to Long Branch”

Even More Echo Valley

By some strange coincidence Houston and Lynda were working on family photos when I posted my piece about Echo Valley.  The weird thing was, they were processing photos from 1968, and had just come to our great mountain adventure when we visited the park.  These photos were taken by my father. Last night they gave … Continue reading Even More Echo Valley

Memories of Echo Valley

Echo Valley from the Ridge

In the northern part of Greenville County the Middle Saluda River flows across a long flat valley. Where Highways 276 and 11 come together, and where the Saluda crosses this road, one finds the community of Cleveland, South Carolina. The valley now hosts a post office, convenience store, and a couple of other businesses, but at one time an exciting amusement park occupied this same spot.

It was the late 1960’s and I was seven or eight years old. Dad and Mom loaded five of us (my two oldest siblings were in college) into the Chrysler and we headed toward the Great Smokey Mountains. It was a fantastic trip up through the mountains of North Carolina, with stops at Pisgah National Forest, Maggie Valley, and eventually Gatlinburg, Tennessee. That was the trip that we visited Echo Valley, a Western-styled theme park along the banks of the Saluda River in Cleveland, South Carolina.

Echo Valley Ticket

During this time Western theme parks were all the rage in North Carolina. There was Ghost Town in the Sky in Maggie Valley, Frontierland in Cherokee, and Tweetsie Railroad in Boone. Most of these featured a Wild West town with regular shoot-outs and the endless conflicts between cowboys and Indians. There were also carnival rides and can-can dancers to round out the bill. Echo Valley followed this same pattern, and was developed to capture some of that Wild West market for Greenville audiences.

The late Melvin Jarrard was postmaster of the Cleveland post office and a local businessman. In his autobiography The Mountaineer of Cleveland, South Carolina, Jarrad describes how Harry Stuart brought the idea of Echo Valley to the area, and how that idea had originated with Ghost Town in the Sky. Continue reading “Memories of Echo Valley”

2009 Scottish Games at Furman

Piping Competition

This morning I loaded up the photo and recording gear and headed up to Furman for the 2009 Greenville Scottish Games. It was a great day to be outside – finally no rain, and not too terribly hot. I decided to check out the games, and see if I could get a bit more information on family history.

The crowds were gathering, but not too back. Shuttle buses were running from the parking areas, so I boarded one. I should have walked. The bus I was on circled the same route twice until it had enough people to head on up to the games proper. I was beginning to wonder if we were on some perverse infinite loop.

I made it to the games and shelled out the rather pricey $15 for admission. This gained me entrance to a wonderland of Gaelic activity. In one field were the athletic competitions – caber toss, sheaf toss, and hammer throw. In another were the sheep dog trials. A tent was set up for dancing competitions, and pipers were competing on a hill near Cherrydale. There were vendors for food and Gailic stuff set up near the stadium, along with a large tent with a stage for bands. The main field was ringed with the clan tents, and each of the aforementioned competitions were featured on the main field at one point or another. Quite a lot to see. Continue reading “2009 Scottish Games at Furman”

A Question of Ancestry

Over the weekend I signed up for a free two-week trial of Ancestry.com. I guess I fell prey to their recent marketing campaign, which shows users discovering new things about their families as “leaves” appear on their family tree. I had already amassed quite a bit of data on our family, so I was curious to see if I could add to my list.

It has been several years since I’ve done any serious research on our family’s history. Even then I’ve been more of a collector than actual researcher, depending upon the prior research of several cousins and some nice folks that I’ve met online, such as Dan Ellenburg in Pittsburg, with his excellent website on the Ellenberg family. By using several sources I’ve found some conflicting data, and have had to do some verification before merging various data sets. I figured that would also be the case with Ancestry.com, and I was certainly right. Continue reading “A Question of Ancestry”

Bound for the Promised Land

What more could you want?

On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand and cast a wishful eye
to Caanan’s fair and happy land where my possessions lie.

I am bound for the promised land, I’m bound for the promised land.
Oh, who will come and go with me, I am bound for the promised land.

The trip was going to be a ghost-hunting expedition for Eric Rogers and me. Eric and I had finally met offline, and were planning a joint expedition to the haunted Rock House just south of Greenwood. Since we would be down in that area, we had also plotted out some other interesting locations. I had flagged one little town, Promised Land, SC, with the comment, “With a name like that, how could we NOT go there?”

Eric was not able to make the trip, but my brother Houston and sister Glynda were able to go. Houston took on the role of Aaron, the spokesperson, with Glynda as Miriam, and me as Moses, leading and documenting our trip. So early Sunday morning we found a suitable radio evangelist and headed for the Promised Land. We hoped we would make it all the way, further than our biblical counterparts. Continue reading “Bound for the Promised Land”

Great-Great Grandparent Encounters

I spent Sunday afternoon visiting my folks in Gray Court. My parents had just visited my Aunt Ann, who turned 90 this month. Therefore, much of the discussion involved family history, and we even took an excursion to a cemetery in Laurens County to look up some family history. First is the picture above. My … Continue reading Great-Great Grandparent Encounters

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