Our group from the Laurens County and Clinton Museums had already spent considerable time exploring the little town of Cross Hill. The day was early, and we still had more to see.
Cross Hill School
Just off of Main Street, northeast of the town center, is the old Cross Hill School. The two-story school building is located behind the fire department and a small park, where it sits abandoned with broken windows and locked, boarded doors. We pulled in to take a look around.
The back part of the building had collapsed completely and there was yellow caution tape marking off the area. In addition to broken windows, the whole building was covered in vines.
Mary Ellen and I wandered around to the front of the building. I was able to get some interior shots by holding my camera up and photographing through broken window panes. The inside was “school house green” and “Dutch ivory”, colors I remember well from my summers spent painting school buildings as a student. Apart from that, the interior spaces were cluttered with what appeared to be shelving and other junk. I was also not sure about the integrity of the floor.
On the opposite end of the building we could see the hallways more clearly. It looked like this building was on a similar design as the Gray Court-Owings school. There were stairways at either end of the building, and thought they were a bit narrower, seeing them brought back a flood of memories as both a student and teacher at Gray Court.
I wondered if the stairs leading downward went to a cafeteria, as they did at Gray Court. An open passageway at the rear of the building only showed a crawlspace. The downward stairs must have going to a boiler room or other small utility area.
The rear extension of the building looked more intact on this side. A side door was open so we peeked in. The collapsed annex had been the school’s auditorium, and probably did double-duty as cafeteria and gymnasium. The interior of the annex was jam-packed with fiberglas barrels of some type, most likely to hold textile machine parts. There was a stage at one end of the annex, and stairs led down to dressing room/rest room areas underneath the stage.
It was a bit heartbreaking to see the school in such a state of decay. At this point I don’t know that it’s salvageable. The auditorium annex is completely gone, but I don’t know how much of the main building can be saved.
When I checked this place out in Google Earth I could clearly see the school building. However, GNIS data doesn’t seem to have a listing for this school. I was also able to find a photograph of the school in the SC Archives School Insurance Photographs Collection. Happier times for the old building, I’m sure.
I would love to find yearbooks or other artifacts with photographs showing the school in session.
Liberty Springs Presbyterian
On the same road, but on the other side of Main Street, we found Liberty Springs Presbyterian Church. Julius Bolt wanted to stop by here because of the historic cemetery and the church’s connection with Pamela Cunningham.
Ann Pamela Cunningham was a native of Laurens County who led the charge to restore Mount Vernon in Virginia. She founded the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, which raised funds to restore Washington’s homeplace. Her parents were members of Liberty Springs, and the church gave some of the first donations for the restoration.
The church was organized in 1787. According to the church’s website, the area got its name from the springs behind the church.
Behind the church, although it is now rather hard to find, down in the woods, Liberty Spring still bubbles forth. During the Revolutionary War there was an encampment of soldiers on both sides of the spring. One group was American and the other British. Smallpox broke out among the troops and both sides had to remain there several weeks. When a soldier needed water from the spring, he would lay down his gun and proceed unharmed. Hence, the spring was “Liberty Spring.” History also tells us that the “Sons of Liberty” used the spring as a meeting place to discuss and make plans how best to win their freedom and liberty from British rule.
The existing sanctuary was built in 1857, the steeple and bell added in 1892, and the building was bricked and extensively remodeled in 1948.
When we drove up we found another vehicle in the driveway. Mary Ellen and Elaine set off to explore the cemetery, and Julius stepped inside. Sean and I started taking photos outside until Julius motioned us inside.
Pastor Matt Stevens was in the church, and invited us in for a tour. He first started by showing us the silver communion set donated by the Cunningham family.
The interior was a straightforward affair. There were pews, stained glass windows, a pulpit with an antique Bible, and choir loft with an antique Hammond organ.
I noticed that they also used the old 1955 red Presbyterian hymnals, with which I’m very well familiar.
Pastor Stevens showed us another antique. In the back he had a communion cup filling system. This consisted of a jar with a multi-tap system. It would fill ten communion cups at a time.
There was one last stop inside. One Sunday School classroom had a quilt that listed the names of prominent members of the church throughout the church’s 225 year history.
Sean and I wandered on out to the cemetery. The back corner held the oldest graves, some dating back to the late 1700s and early 1800s. There were lots of Confederate crosses and flags adorning the graves of soldiers from the Civil War.
Some of the older headstones had the characteristic hipped shoulder shape, and a couple were simple hand-carved stones.
There were several vaults with flat tablets. Among these I found one signature stone by John White.
Here are a couple more photos from that part of the cemetery…
We walked back toward the front of the church. Just to the left was a prominent family plot for the Leaman family. This must have been the family that owned the old abandoned store in the town center. I had noticed that one of the stained glass windows had been given in memory of a James Leaman.
It seems that the Masons were quite active in this area. I saw several headstones with Masonic emblems. There were also several Woodmen of the World headstones.
I also spotted some artwork for children’s headstones that I had not seen before. There was a dove, which I had seen, but there was also a pair of booties and socks.
There was also one creepy-looking cherub that must be causing mischief we aren’t looking.
The day was getting away from us, and we had more to explore. We thanked Pastor Stevens for his hospitality, and moved on to our next stop.
6 thoughts on “Visiting Cross Hill and Mountville – Part 2”
My husband and I have lived in Cross Hill for two years now, and today for the first time explored the park and the area around the old Cross Hill school. We also peeked into broken windows and open doors and lamented at the fact that the building had just been let go. I suppose in a city such as this one, there are not funds to keep an old building like that up and running. A search into the history of the school led me to your blog today. Have you since found out any information about the school? The year it was built or the dates it was in operation? I would love to learn more about it.
Aimee, I was able to find some more information in a State Historic Preservation Office survey of Eastern Laurens County. It had this to say about the high school…
I grew up beside the old school house from 1980 until 1995. If you have any questions about it I’d be glad to answer them if I can
Do you know who owns it, or if there are any plans for it in the future? It would make a great reception hall for weddings and events if restored. The windows and doors are now boarded up and it doesn’t look like anything will be done to it.
my partner recently inherited a piece of property not far from the school house. do you know any of the history of the open fields and creek near there? his family from there have all but vanished and trying to piece together some history. Thanks!
This description of the school and church are great. The steps going into the basement went to the girl’s bathroom on one end and the boy’s on the other end. When we students needed to use the bathroom, we referred to going to the basement. My last year at Cross Hill was 1957 when I graduated from the seventh grade. We had a great time at this school.