I’d spent a nice morning in Chester, and had a great lunch in the little time. However, it was time to move on. I hadn’t mentioned the original reason for this trip. A couple of weeks ago I got an e-mail from my friend Robin down at Sciway.net. Someone had submitted a photo of White Oak ARP Church as part of their SC Picture Project. Robin thought that the community might qualify as one of my ghost towns, and suggested that I check it out. I wanted to do that on our previous Fairfield County trek, but we never made it that far north. It wasn’t going to escape me today. Amazingly, though, it wasn’t the only potential ghost town I found along Highway 321.
From Chester I headed straight on down 321 toward Winnsboro. The first community I encountered was Cornwell. There was a historic church that I should have explored, and a historic inn on the National Register. However, what caught my eye was the old school. As with so many, this was now a community center. The two-story, wood frame building stands next to a modern fire station.
When I was looking at the maps for White Oak I spotted another community of interest just north of there. As I headed south on 321 I spotted a sign for the community, Blackstock, and decided to check it out. I turned onto State 130. About a mile on down I could see houses and commercial buildings on the other side of the railroad tracks.
First, however, I had another distraction. A loop road to the west, away from the town, was called School Road, immediately grabbing my attention. Turns out there was, indeed, a school there. This was a brick building, once again used as a community building. Small signs proclaimed Bluegrass concerts every Friday night.
The architecture matches the School Insurance Photo for the Blackstock High School Gym, so this was the gym and not the school, proper.
Here’s what the high school really looked like. I didn’t see any sign of it.
The community of Blackstock straddles the Chester-Fairfield County Line. The school above is in Fairfield County, and was listed on that county’s listing on the SC Archives site. However, most of the town is just north in Chester County. That includes several neat houses and commercial buildings. There was this old store/service station:
This house with gingerbread trim work caught my eye.
As far as commercial buildings, there was one modern quick shop, but there were a couple other cool buildings. The Durham Mercantile Company was the most impressive building.
I would have explored the building more closely, but a man on the side of the building started toward me in a very aggressive manner. I chose not to stick around. I was, however, able to find some information about the store. It seemed to have been an early adopter of customer loyalty cards. After a consumer recorded $10.00 of purchases, this card could be redeemed for “a beautiful Oil Painting and Handsome Frame on payment of $1.25.”
As far as news of the store, All I could find on Chronicling America was from the Yorkville Enquirer in 1902, which told of a burglary in which the thieves took no money, but “200 pounds of flour and some bacon.” Priorities, I guess.
Next to Durham Mercantile was another store. This one simply labeled “Community Grocery.” I think it was a later building than Durham’s, but it was hard to tell.
Just beyond this was an old building that had been the old Blackstock Hotel, operated by J. D. Mobley. Some recent photographs identify this as the Kennedy House. Regardless, it looked like it was in sad shape when I came by.
An unpublished 1934 Sanborn Map shows that there were more stores further south along Main Street, as well as a depot. However, these were long gone.
There did seem to be one other interesting business in the town. Where 130 comes back into 321 was the Dynasty Nite Life Bar and Lounge. It didn’t seem to be very active when I came by.
Hardly two miles southwest of Blackstock I came to the community of Woodward. The old Brice Country Store sat on the west side of 321.
On a hill up above and just south of Brice was another building that could have been an old store, but with the fencing and position, looked more like a large farm utility building.
If I had been paying attention to my GPS I would have known that there was another old school about a mile and a half to the west. Google Earth showed that the school is extant as the Woodward School. The SC Equalization Schools website has this one listed, and it has that low flat architectural design. The school was built in 1952. The image below is from the Equalization Schools website.
The real gem of Woodward, however, is Concord Presbyterian Church. It sits on the other side of the highway, across the railroad tracks. It’s a simple meeting house styled church, made of brick rather than white frame wood. There was an old cemetery surrounding the church. I had to check it out.
The church was founded in 1796, and this building was constructed in around 1818. Concord is on the National Register of Historic Places.
When I arrived I noticed the front door slightly ajar. Thinking someone might be inside (although there were no cars nearby), I knocked on the door. It simply opened a bit more. I took a tentative step inside. It was a simple neat sanctuary with red carpet, a piano, a modern organ, pulpit, and an old pump organ behind the pulpit. Interesting chandeliers hung above. The feeling I got was that the church is still in use, if not regularly.
Looking back at my photos I see that there were live plants on either side of the pulpit and on the communion table. They must still be holding regular services here.
As I left I pulled the door to until it caught and locked. I’m guessing that the last person to leave just didn’t pull the door tight enough, and it slipped open. Regardless, I’m happy to have been given a glimpse inside without having to resort to my GoPro on a stick.
The cemetery is surrounded by an elaborate cast iron fence. The cast iron gate posts have elaborately embossed designs.
As you might imagine, there were quite a few historic headstones in the church. And, as with typical of congregations still in use, there were modern ones mixed in, reflecting the life of the church over the years.
The cemetery was a treasure trove of signature stones. Many of these were found on the flat tablets, and had the usual suspect – W. T. White, etc. However, there were quite a few new ones. There was Boyne and Sprawl from Charleston, and L. M. Speer from Winnsboro. I’d seen Speer in Laurens and on our last Fairfield trip, but there was no location given – just the name. It makes sense that a stone mason would be located at the site of some of the best granite in the state.
There was also a stone by R. McNinch, and one marked simply “Chester.” There were a couple of others that were almost illegible, but could have been from Boyne and Sprawl as well. I had seen these names on our previous Fairfield trek. Apparently Boyne and Sprawl operated out of Columbia, which would make more sense that importing stones all the way from Charleston, especially with such a good source of granite nearby.
I left Concord Presbyterian and continued southward on 321.
About five miles southeast of Woodward I finally reached my target community, White Oak. The road to the community is a very sharp turn to the north. At the intersection of Patrick Road and 321 is Weeping Mary Baptist Church. It was a modern church building, and I didn’t stop for photos. However, the name was what caught my attention.
There are, apparently several Weeping Mary churches in the area. In the community of Shelton just a bit southwest of here in Fairfield County is another Weeping Mary. Given the historical antipathy between Baptists and Catholics, the name “Weeping Mary Baptist” seemed out of place. However, the reference isn’t to the Virgin Mary, but to Mary Madgeline weeping at the tomb of Jesus in John 20:9-13.
I did stop to take a picture of the old store just past the church.
Most of the community itself was built in post-Civil War days, and consists of two old white frame store buildings and a row of agriculture sheds across the road. The T. G. Patrick Store, for whom the road is named, is the most impressive of these stores. There is a porch overhang and several steps leading up to the store. There is a locked wooden chest on the front, reminiscent of one of the old soda drink chests.
Next door to the Patrick Store is a much more modest building. This is known as McDowell’s Store.
Across the street are the sheds. It looks like this building is still in use, and has undergone modifications over the years. It looks like there are some modern replacements for siding, roof, etc., but there are some remaining clapboard walls and supporting walls made of rough hewn stone. This originally served as a cotton warehouse.
There are several historic homes in the area, including the home of T. G. Patrick. The standout, though was White Oak ARP Church. This was the church featured on Sciway.net, and was built in 1877. The white church has a small steeple and is set back from the road. The historic manse, next door, had a For Sale sign out front. A large beagle barked at my arrival, and came out to greet me.
There was a cemetery out back, but I didn’t explore or photograph it.
The map shows a couple of additional buildings that are no longer standing, including a grist mill. However, for the most part the town has not changed since that time.
One thing that has changed, though, is the White Oak Conference Center. This was a modern brick complex just beyond White Oak on the Mobley Highway. The complex is operated by the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
So, just within a short space south of Chester I had encountered four potential ghost towns. Robin’s lead had really panned out, more than either she nor I had expected. I still had a bit of daylight left, and there was still more to explore. I had seen a sign pointing showing that Great Falls was only twelve miles further on. That area, and that distance would figure prominently in the next post.
Here’s a map of those communities.