I have always enjoyed looking at the photos of Scott West (South Carolina’s Northern Kingdom). Scott and I seem to cover some of the same territory in Laurens County, and I’ve always admired his gutsy trespassing to get great shots of the interiors of old abandoned houses and interesting places.
Recently, Scott posted a couple of pictures of the old Poole Homestead in the Long Branch Community of Laurens County. I immediately recognized the place as being in one of the old photos my Dad has. After a couple of message exchanges it turns out that we do have some distant family connections (don’t ALL Southerners?) and that some of his family had attended Long Branch Pentecostal Holiness, where my father had pastored years ago.
That brings us to this Tuesday. My mother had taken a trip to visit her sisters in North Carolina, so my Dad was on his own for the week. Since I was on spring break, I decided to head down and hang out with him, and see if I could find this photo of the Poole Homestead. I did find it, and we decided to take a tour of some of the old family haunts throughout Newberry and Laurens Counties.
We started with breakfast out on the main street of Prosperity, then headed north. We first drove through the community of Bush River. Dad had taught and been principal of Bush River High School when he first got started. He had driven a bus over many of these roads. The high school burned down several years ago, but the old gym is still there.
From Bush River we wound our way through the country over to the Silverstreet community. My mother has a cousin who had a huge spread, so we admired the rolling farm land of the area as we tried to locate the old homestead (photo above). We also looked at some of the other deteriorating farm houses and other items that seem to be frozen in time.
In the Silverstreet community proper we looked at the old abandoned school, and Dad drove around to a place where his father had pastored a church. The church is long gone, now demolished to make way for the highway, but we could find the location.
In the community, and as we drove on out, I started to spot LOTS of houses that have the haint blue paint. Not only did we see this on the porch ceilings, but in some cases all of the window and door frames were painted blue. In one case, any possible entrance, including attic vents, were painted to keep the spirits at bay.
We took a moment to verify that the Silverstreet Lookout Tower on my list no longer exists, then we headed on to the community of Chappels, then from there north through Mountville.
First we looked for the Mountville Lookout Tower, which also no longer exists, then we drove past Beaverdam Baptist Church, which was the last church that my Uncle James had pastored before he passed away. The historic brick structure has a unique architecture. We didn’t stay, though, but kept riding.
Beaverdam Church Road took us to Lisbon Church Road. On the road, Dad wanted to find the old homeplace of N. J. Holmes, founder of Holmes Theological Seminary. Apparently the Holmes Cemetery was also in this area. While we didn’t find these, we did eventually come to the community of Mountville, proper. Here we paused while I took a few photos of the old grange buildings.
We found ourselves back on the Mountville Road, and stopped for a moment to shoot the old cotton gin in the area.
By this time we had been rambling for awhile, and lunch was starting to wear off. We drove north through Cold Point, then on into Laurens where we had a leisurely lunch on the square.
Suitably sated, we continued on our journey. Instead of visiting the heart of Taylor Country around Wattsville and the Rocky Springs area, we drove straight towards the Long Branch Community. Dad pointed out the field where Rev. N. J. Holmes and my grandfather had started holding tent meeting. Right on the other side of I-385 was the old homeplace where my grandparents had lived during this time. While my grandfather was preaching, my grandmother taught at the Long Branch Community School. There was nothing left but a collapsed barn.
We took one turn around Long Branch Pentecostal Holiness Church. I remember when Dad replaced the old coal heater here with oil heat, and when he had the first well dug. What I didn’t know was that he also had electricity run to the church when he started preaching there in the 1960’s. The only light came from carbide lamps, and there was an old carbide generator at the back of the church. He also helped build the two Sunday School rooms and choir loft onto the church.
On Highway 308, about a half-mile from the church heading toward Clinton is the place where Franklin Calloway Todd had his homeplace. This was my great-great grandfather. We paused to mark the location.
It was a bit tricky, but we found Poole Road, and drove to the house that Scott West had photographed. The house was still there, but as I photographed it I became less certain that it was the same house in the reunion photo in my Dad’s collection. While similar, the chimneys and layout looks all wrong. Furthermore, the house in the reunion photo was already beaten and weathered back when the photo was taken in the early 1900’s. I don’t know if it could have survived this long in that condition. It’s an interesting mystery.
We made our way back through Clinton, then down Highway 76. It was a full day, and I enjoyed learning more about our family from Dad.