It started with a trivia contest on Facebook. The Laurens County Museum had posted the following:
TUESDAY TRIVIA CHALLENGE!
Waterloo’s Harris Springs was a popular mineral water resort in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but there was another spring near Clinton that was known for its bottled water. Can you name it?
Having recently visited the area, I knew the answer – Stomp Springs. I submitted my answer, and was pleased to learn I had won. I was told to stop by any Sunday to claim my prize. This Sunday was the perfect opportunity, before the madness of the Christmas season starts in full swing. It was raining and cold, but I decided to head down anyway.
I had wanted to visit the museum, regardless of any trivia answer. Elaine Martin from the Laurens Library had also been active with the museum, and suggested that I visit. The trivia prize was the perfect excuse for a gloomy Sunday get-away.
The museum is located in a colorful string of buildings on Laurens Street, just off of the main square. I entered to find Julius Bolton and Ernie Seagars sitting behind a reception table. I introduced myself, and told them I was there to claim my prize. Mr. Bolt wanted to know if I was from Laurens, so I gave a brief background and my history with the town. At that point, Mr. Seagars asked if I had a brother named Houston. I replied that I did. Turns out he and Houston were classmates at Laurens High School.
Having come this far, I had to see the museum. The entry room is dedicated to military artifacts from the county, including uniforms, recruitment posters, and enlistment rosters.
In the larger back room there were exhibits for Laurens Glass, agriculture, and the mineral springs in the area.
They had a nice collection of bottles from the old SC dispensary and from Harris Springs.
I was fascinated by the display from the old Laurens Glass Factory. That factory was such a vital part of the community, and many people I knew worked there. I almost got a job there myself one summer, until I was introduced to my foreman. He was missing several fingers from his work in the factory. As a young pianist, I didn’t think I should take a job with such risk to limbs. However, many made a livelihood working in the factory.
There were displays of agricultural artifacts and Native American relics…
…however, the room that captured my attention was the exhibit on education in the county. The center of the room had several styles of desks, and there were photographs of diplomas and pictures of some of the old county schools. There was also an extensive collection of old textbooks and readers.
The next room had several displays. One was of the county churches. The artifacts included an old pew, some church rolls, and photographs. However, what really caught my attention was a small oblong hymnal. I’d really like to have learned more about that one.
The other side of the room had two exhibits. In one corner were items from an old grocery store, including cash register, scales, and goods on shelves.
The last corner had been set up as an old fashioned beauty parlor, complete with hair dryers and scary-looking electric curlers.
I had completed my circle through the right side of the museum. I crossed through the entryway to the other side, where I found a room set up with dolls and Christmas items.
The next room was set up as a parlor, and was called the “Rosemont Room.” The room commemorates Ann Pamela Cunningham, a Laurens native who was instrumental in the preservation of George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. Cunningham lived in the Rosemont house near Cold Point.
The last two exhibits were of the textile mills and of the county sheriff’s office. The mills were such an important part of any small South Carolina town that it would be impossible NOT to include them. Many of my family worked at the various mills, starting with my great-grandfather working at Watts Mill. As has happened with so many of these old mills, the mills of Laurens have now been torn down and are nothing but rubble and memories.
As I was walking through the last couple of exhibits I met Mary Ellen Lives. Mary Ellen maintains the museum’s web and Facebook pages, and she had been the one to post the trivia question. We chatted a bit, and I described my current project with ghost towns. I looked at several of the maps on the walls, and asked about a couple of the place names with which I was not familiar, such as Huntersville. We walked back around to the front desk where I had a long conversation with Julius Bolt, who had extensive knowledge of the area. He gave me some new avenues to explore. I also chatted some more with Ernie Seagars. It turns out that we have lots of connections. He even attended First Presbyterian in Laurens when I was music director there. We knew many of the same folks.
It was great meeting Mary Ellen, Julius, and Ernie. They have a great little museum, and it is well worth a visit. The museum has obtained a new building on the square, they are raising funds to renovate it and eventually move to that location.
As for my trivia prize, I was able to select from several items on sale in the museum. I selected a book of historic post cards of Laurens County from Acadia Publishing.
I also purchased two historical maps of the county – the 1883 Kyzer-Hellams map, and a more complete late 1800’s map showing railroads and roadways. All-in-all, a very good haul.