Tommy Thompson and I had set out on a cold Thursday morning with snow still on the ground in order to find concrete airway beacons. That took all of about 20 minutes, and we still had the rest of the day ahead of us. I had several beacon locations marked in my GPS, but they didn’t look promising. Instead, we decided to head out to several spots in Cherokee County.
On my last ramble out this way I found I had missed an opportunity. I was just a half-mile from Mulberry Chapel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. I decided that would be our first target for the morning. First, though, we had to cross Spartanburg County, and there were a couple of interesting spots along the way.
First up, we stopped briefly at Anderson Mill on the Tyger River. The remnants of snow and morning light made for some nice photography.
We continued across Spartanburg, skirting the southern edge of the city. As we headed south we came to the community of Whitestone. Fellow explorer Mark Elbrecht documented his travels in this area recently (Part 1 and Part 2.) We paused for a moment at the old Whitestone school for a couple of photos.
Following the GPS led us through the town of Pacolet. The road winding past the old Victor Hill Hotel and School Hill was shut down due to icy conditions. I was able to find a route around. At the old mill site we saw sledders taking advantage of the closed road, steep hill, and remnants of snow and ice.
We crossed the Pacolet River and continued on into Cherokee County. The GPS pointed us toward the Asbury Community. On the right was the imposing Nuckolls-Jeffries House. The large Greek Revival farm house is on the National Register of Historic Places. The house is a private residence, and we didn’t have a good place to stop for photos, so we continued on our way.
Just a few hundred yards past the Nuckolls-Jeffries House, Mulberry Chapel sits just a bit off the road to the left.
According to information on its National Register listing, the chapel was built in 1880 and is significant as one of the first independent African-American churches established post-Civil War. It’s also noted as “an intact example of a vernacular form of Gothic Revival ecclesiastical architecture.”
The door does feature a Gothic arch, and the windows, while not arched, do mirror the shape and style of the door. One of the most striking features is an intact stained glass window above the door with a beautiful cross motif.
A window pane on the side of the church was missing. While I hate that there was broken glass, I did use it as an opportunity to take photos of the interior. The walls were dark brown, and the ceiling was a brilliant hue of blue. The pews were simple, constructed of slats rather than solid wood. I could also see the light streaming in from the cross stained glass window.
The little church truly is a beautiful structure, but it’s also not in the best of shape. The belfry is listing a bit, although the bell is still there. The entire building seems to be leaning to the right, to the point that it has separated from its chimney on the left side of the building.
The cemetery contains about forty graves – twenty are marked, and twenty are the unmarked graves of former slaves. I didn’t expect to find any signature stones, but there were two that caught my eye. The first was the grave of the Littlejohn Family, who had donated the land for the church, and the other was what seemed to be the latest grave, from 2006. Also buried here was Samuel Knuckles, a former slave who served as a state representative from 1868 to 1872.
There was a also school nearby that is no longer extant. Services in the chapel were discontinued in the 1940s, but the Littlejohn family does hold regular reunions at the chapel.
Having recently visited Strawberry Chapel, I wonder how many other “berry” chapels are in the state. I have to check that out. In the meantime, we had more of the county to explore.