I’m trying to catch up with my blogging, so I’m about a week behind. Last week was a busy one.
October 8, 2013
Tuesday evening Glynda and I made a trek up to Landrum for a showing of a film entitled “Merrittsville: The Lost Village of the Dark Corner.” Merrittsville is one of the towns on my ghost town list, so I was very interested to hear what they had to say about it.
I had a little bit of information about Merrittsville. I knew it was once on the North Saluda River on land now inundated by the Greenville Watershed Reservoir. That meant that it was completely off limits – we couldn’t even venture along the banks to see if something remained of the town. Merritsville School was once located just below the reservoir dam, but is now long gone, demolished to make way for the water utility. North Fork Baptist still stands, and Laura and I have attended a wedding for one of her students there.
Glynda and I headed up early on a spectacular fall day. Along the way she mentioned that her friend Sarah Hart’s family was from Merrittsville. The Ward and Davis families lived in the area, and Sarah’s great-grandfather operated a boarding house in the village called “The Poinsett.” According to Glynda, there was a statue in front of the house which now rests in from of The Poinsett Westin downtown. I’ll have to check that out at at some point.
First we stopped in downtown Landrum at one of my favorite establishments, The Hare and Hound. We had a good meal, then headed over to the Landrum Library for the viewing. When we walked in there was a table set up with books for sale. There were several books on the history of the Dark Corner by Mann Batson, and a novel by the evening’s host, Anne Blythe. A good group of about 30 people gathered to view the film.
As Glynda and I took our seats, the librarians fumbled with the laptop and projector used to display the film. For some reason they couldn’t get things to work. Glynda punched me and said, “You should go help them.” I politely refused, stating that I don’t do that anymore, and they probably didn’t want an interloper messing with their equipment. Eventually they did get it going, and we were ready to begin.
Anne Blythe introduced the video, describing its production by videographer Ron Long, then the video began. At first Glynda and I thought we were watching raw footage rather than a completed project. The video started with narration by Anne Blythe, then cut to interviews with Mann Batson. The interviews jumped abruptly, without any smooth transitions. It was a bit unsettling.
Production values aside, there was some very good information about the town. There were a couple of old photos of Merritt’s Mill and some other historic photos of the area that I’d love to find somewhere. Batson described the development of the State Road through the area. Under the direction of Joel Poinsett, Abram Blanding laid out the road through Saluda Gap, following a winding path that would minimize strain on a wagon pulled by oxen. The route over the mountain was called “The Winds” (with a long “i”) because of the twists and turns.
Poinsett Bridge was one of three stone bridges build along the State Road, and is the only one to survive. While Poinsett Bridge has a Gothic arch, the others had barrel-vaulted stone arches. One of the bridges was at the village of Merrittsville, where there was a toll booth for those wishing to continue up the mountain. Various houses in the village had large pens where drovers would drive their animals while taking them to various markets. Most likely, the boarding house operated by Sarah’s family was one of these drover lodges.
One of the most amazing discoveries for me was that there is a large water fall, called “Big Falls”, that plummets straight into the reservoir. It can only be viewed from the reservoir, and is now completely inaccessible. There was some nice video footage of the falls in the video.
The video itself was only 15 minutes, but there was lots of raw video of Batson just talking about history in general. Blythe let the video run through the unedited interviews. Batson is a wealth of information about the area, and rambled on about the families in the area, and the Dark Corner in general.
After the video there was a question and answer period. Most questions were about the Dark Corner in general, and not about the town. Glynda and I both had lost of questions – What was the town actually like? How many people lived there? How many were displaced with the Greenville Watershed was constructed? There was quite a bit that was not covered in the short video.
Even so, it was a good evening out with some interesting history of the area. It’s frustrating not to be able to visit Big Falls and some of the locations because of watershed property, but I did enjoy hearing the tales of the area.