The Darlington County Historical Commission receives $4 million donation

1965 Wedding photo of Bet Norment Phillips
Brian Gandy, Historian & Director holds $4,000,000 check issued by the Estate.

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpress.net

After Carolyn “Bet” Norment Phillips of Darlington passed away last March, the reading of her last will and testament revealed a big surprise – a $4 million bequest that will secure the history of her beloved Darlington County for decades to come.

Many people knew that Phillips loved collecting and sharing stories of local history. Her home contained a veritable treasure trove of documents, photographs and objects that represented many highlight moments of the past two centuries. These included everything from chronicles of Darlington life during wartime to game balls from local sporting champions.

What no one seemed to understand was just how deep her commitment ran. Brian Gandy, director of the Darlington County Historical Commission, admits that hearing about his friend’s generous gift gave him a great shock.

“Bet was a consummate historian. She saved, preserved, and some might say hoarded, all sorts of wonderful stuff. So when she would call and say she had something for me, I would make a beeline over there to see her. I’d spend half a day or more hearing stories and getting the material, which was awesome,” says Gandy.

He recalls that once in a while, Phillips would ask him – hypothetically, of course – what he would do if she gave the Commission some money. Usually, she would set this sum at $5,000 or so, but never more than about $25,000. Gandy says that even those modest gifts would ignite his imagination and he had little trouble conjuring ideas for how he would utilize the extra money. Evidently, Phillips liked his responses.

“I thought she might give us about $10,000,” Gandy says. “I never envisioned it would be $4 million. … She sort of vetted us herself to see what we valued and what out priorities were, where we saw ourselves going. Obviously, she was very comfortable with what she heard, because she put her money and her faith in us.”

Gandy says the money will be used to do several things, including constructing a new two-story building beside the commission’s current three-story facility. This new construction will include a new reading room and library, and a dedicated display area which will feature art, artifacts, and interactive displays. The commission will be converted to archive storage, with an elevator added for convenience and safety.

“Basically, we’d gain a full floor (for storage). Plus, with some new file systems upstairs, we’d gain a good bit of space that could carry us 50 more years,” says Gandy. “We’re looking to build something that will blend architecturally with this building.”

Not all of the money will be spent on construction, says Gandy, noting that much of the bequest will be safely invested to provide for the future of the Commission. To that end, Darlington County Council’s Feb. 4 meeting agenda included a resolution accepting Phillips’ gift and restricting its use in perpetuity.

Gandy says the resolution includes protections for both the principal and all interest income generated by the bequest, ensuring that the money will never be misdirected away from its intended purpose.

“It restricts the principal and the interest back to the commission, so it’s a blessing,” said Gandy.

With the money tucked away in the bank and plans developing for a bright future, Gandy says he can’t help smiling when he thinks of Phillips and her not-so-hypothetical financial quizzes.

“I think sometimes that she must have doubled over laughing after I left, knowing what she had planned,” says Gandy.

Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 , Darlington News & Press – Additional photos and hashtag were added by Brian Gandy.

Where is Santa Claus?

The Christmas greetings letter is a special way of touching the heart of friends and families, and the aim behind writing it is to reach out to them on this special occasion. The letter is a way to wish them all the best and good luck for rest of year.

Christmas is a festival of great joy and sharing for people all over the world.  Many people who aren’t Christians also enjoy celebrating Christmas. A Christmas greeting letter, also called an Xmas letter, is a letter written to convey the season’s greetings to somebody.

In the course of processing material acquired by the Historical Commission we came across this Christmas letter and thought you might find it as interesting as we did.   The letter is addressed to the C. W. Coker Company of Society Hill, SC.  It was written by W. T. Wright, general sales manager for the F. S. Royster Guano Company of Norfolk, Virginia.  It is dated Christmas 1927, Just 2 years before the Great Depression.

From the collections at the Darlington County Historical Commission

First to Strike a Match in Darlington County!

Matches, LuciferIn 1826, John Walker, an English chemist and druggist from Stockton on Tees, discovered through lucky accident that a stick coated with chemicals burst into flame when scraped across his hearth at home. He went on to invent the first friction match. Until the first half of the nineteenth century, the process by which fire was created was slow and laborious. Walker’s friction match revolutionized the production, application and the portability of fire. Walker sold his first “Friction Light” on the 12th April 1827 from his pharmacy in Stockton on Tees. Walker’s first friction matches were made of cardboard, but he soon began to use wooden splints cut by hand. Later he packaged the matches in a cardboard box equipped with a piece of sandpaper for striking. He was advised to patent his matches but chose not to and, as a result, Samuel Jones of London copied his idea and launched his own “Lucifer’s” in 1829, an exact copy of Walkers “Friction Lights”.

From the Darlington News & Press, December 27, 1923 we read where Elihu Muldrow, 93 years old, gives an interesting reminiscence of life in Darlington.  In the article he discusses the Ebenezer Community (now Florence County) and mentions that just across Jefferies Creek lived Elias Windham.  Windham, a prosperous farmer that today exist in an almost forgotten past.  He had a “Yankee” visitor that called on his home with an idea that changed the old and primitive way of starting a fire.  Elias, took hold of this knowledge and began “making and selling the first friction matches in Darlington County.  As a large quantity of Sulfur was used in making them, they were called Lucifer Matches.  Possibly the fumes of Sulfur from a lighting match suggested the idea of naming them for his Satanic Majesty.”

Windham, Elias

Elias Windham


When Elias Windham was born on March 16, 1795, in Darlington, South Carolina, his father, Daniel, was 26 and his mother, Sarah, was 28. He married Sophia Stewart on July 3, 1816. They had five children in 10 years. He died in 1845.

Hartsville Graded School / Mt. Pisgah Nursery School

Hartsville History First Black School.jpg

This photograph, circa 1902, shows Hartsville’s first Black School at the corner of Sixth Street and Marion Avenue.  The photo is courtesy of T.B. & Lovis Thomas.  It was printed in the Hartsville Messenger on January 29, 1999 and was a part of a Black History Month Special.

Darlington County Historical Marker

Marker ID: SCHM 16-70
Location: 630 S. 6th St (Downtown)
City: Hartsville
County & State: Darlington County, South Carolina
Coordinates: N 34° 21′ 58.78″   W 80° 04′ 19.55″




Erected by: Private or Site Owner in 2012.



The first public school for the black children of Hartsville and vicinity operated on this site from about 1900 to 1921. It was renamed Darlington County Training School in 1918. A new school was built on 6th St. south of this site in 1921. Rev. Henry H. Butler (1887-1948) was principal at both sites for a combined 37 years. The 1921 school was renamed Butler School in Butler’s honor in 1939.


Mt. Pisgah Presbyterian Church grew out of a Sunday school started on this site by Rev. T.J. James in 1922. The church was organized that same year, and a new church building was erected nearby in 1926. Rev. James also founded Mt. Pisgah Nursery School, which operated in the old graded school here for many years. Rev. James’s family later donated this property to the city for Pride Park, established in 1986.