Each year I try to do a photo expedition on the MLK holiday. This tradition got started years ago when I was still working in the schools. MLK was an unexpected Monday off and I hated to waste it. I’ve been retired for quite a long time now, but I still try to do an MLK ramble.
Last year we visited the Benjamin Mays Museum in Greenwood and the site of the Phoenix Riots. This year I hoped to visit the birthplace of Mary McLeod Bethune, in keeping with the theme of Civil Rights. Along the way I hoped to visit a couple of spots I’d wanted to see for quite awhile, as well as get some more stamps in my SC State Parks. I accomplished at least part of that list.
I got an early start with a spectacular morning sky. The phrase “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning” ran through my head. Rain and clouds were in the forecast and I hoped to outrun those with my explorations.
My route took me to Columbia, then east on I-20. From there I headed south along country roads. I paused briefly at Manville to photograph Bethany Baptist Church. It has classical Greek architecture and appears to have had a slave gallery. I didn’t linger too long, but got one good shot.
I arrived at the Mary McLeod Bethune birthplace to find that it was closed for MLK Day. Gates were locked and I couldn’t even get a good photograph. I decided to continue on down to my next target.
I’ve been wanting to visit Mayesville for a long time. I had seen social media posts about all of the abandoned buildings in the downtown area. What I didn’t expect were the beautiful, large homes on the way into the town. The downtown may have been a ghost town, but the community certainly wasn’t.
As for the downtown itself, it certainly lived up the the term “ghost town.” There was a town hall that was closed for the holiday. There was a museum, but it was also closed. Every other building looked like it was falling down.
The old Keenan Hotel, once a darling of lovers of the abandoned, was just a mere shadow of itself.
The buildings on the perpendicular street hadn’t fared much better.
Through the middle of the town were the remnants of an old railroad that never had rails.
A 1915 Sanborn Map of the town shows these buildings, and more. There was an empty lot where there apparently had been a general merchandise store and other buildings. In the middle of the town the railroad split into sidings next to a depot.
Behind one row of buildings there was activity. It looked like a front loader was loading cotton onto a truck. Other trucks were bringing in rolls of cotton.
There appeared to be a clear delineation between black and white populations. The white population was in the stately homes to the north and west. The black populations to the east and south. The Sanborn map also revealed the location of the Mayesville Institute, listed here as a graded school
The Mayesville Institute was an industrial school for African American students. In 1910 it had quite the campus at the location shown in the Sanborn map.
I found the location, but it was mostly an empty field with an Equalization era school building.
Highway 76 is the main thoroughfare, and of course, it bypassed the downtown area. There was a nice post office, but only one active store in the town as far as I could tell.
Continued on the next page…