“inside the academy building bunks had been arranged, constructed of rough lumber, arranged in tiers….the only other furniture in the building was of the roughest kind, made by the soldiers….the bunks or beds were in the center of the building….the two wings were also used by the military, in one wing they had their guns, and in the other end a barber shop….the academy grounds were used for parade grounds, for drilling, and a guard house was constructed thereon….”
Within a few weeks after the surrender of Gen. Lee at Appomattox, victorious Union forces began the systematic military occupation of the prostrate South. Garrisons were established not only in Columbia and Charleston, but in every court house town throughout the State, from which matters attendant to the “reconstruction” of the State were administered.
The village of Darlington, as county seat became the unwilling host first to the 29th
Maine Regiment of the United States Army, then others, sent here to oversee the affairs of Darlington District. The troops arrived in May, 1865, and remained until August 28, 1868; during this period, they encamped on the academy grounds, and converted the old academy building into a hospital.
Very little would have been known of this period in the history of St. John’s, had not the Board of Trustees during the chairmanship of W. C. Coker, initiated a suit for damages against the Federal Government, as a result of the occupation by the United States Army. Captain Coker died in 1907 before the claim was perfected, but it was carried to a successful conclusion by his successor, C. B. Edwards, and by the Board’s Secretary, George E. Dargan, attorney. The case was tried in the United States Court of Claims, and a number of witnesses examined, whose testimony gives intimate glimpses into that far-away era.
The first witness called on behalf of the Claimant was John Floyd; he was a native son, having been born in Darlington January 20, 1836. His father was ante-bellum Sheriff Wiley J. Floyd. He served during the war as Captain of Company “I”, 18th South Carolina Infantry, C.S.A., and was a member of the Legislature representing Darlington County 1898-1900. He testified: “….when the war, broke out I enlisted and remained in service until after the surrender, after which I returned directly to Darlington….it took me some time to get here, but I think I arrived about the 25th of April…shortly afterwards the Federal troops of Gen. Beal’s command arrived and occupied the school here and had tents on the grounds between the academy and the Methodist Church….at that time the academy building was a wooden building in good condition, a one-story structure, about 50 feet wide and 150 feet long; it was covered on one side with weather boarding and on the top with shingles, and was jointed…the main building was very old, with a new addition of about 20 feet to each end, built about fifteen years before the war…there were 6 to 8 acres of ground belonging to the academy, with the academy about in the center…in front of it was open space and to the rear a grove….the main building was filled inside with desks…the additions were used for recitation rooms…there was a partition in each one….the rooms were ceiled on the sides and overhead with dressed pine painted white….I first attended school there as a very small boy….it was a private institution….”
The next witness was Dr: John Lunney, who had come to Darlington as a Surgeon for the military garrison ‘ and remained to practice medicine in the community for the balance of his days. He became very active in the political life of the county, serving as Senator, County Auditor and Judge of Probate, but not in that order. He testified: “….when I came to Darlington in June 1866 the St. John’s Academy property was occupied by Captain Hamilton S. Hawkin’s Company, “G”, 6th U.S. Infantry; I remained with this unit until it left here; after if left, Col. Maynadier and Lt. Col. Frank came here in charge of two companies….I was here as assistant surgeon and also served for a time as surgeon for the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. I had an office in a small building a short distance from the academy….later I had my office in two hospital tents, which I used as a temporary hospital, within about 50 feet of the academy building… inside the academy building bunks had been arranged, constructed of rough lumber, arranged in tiers….the only other furniture in the building was of the roughest kind, made by the soldiers….the bunks or beds were in the center of the building….the two wings were also used by the military, in one wing they had their guns, and in the other end a barber shop….the academy grounds were used for parade grounds, for drilling, and a guard house was constructed thereon….”
The next witness called was Mrs. Elizabeth H. Sanders, her home (now removed) stood in the center of the present St. John’s campus, which in 1865 was a tract adjacent to the
original school lot. She was the daughter of James S. McCall, early Darlington merchant and plantation owner. She was first married to Thomas Baker Haynsworth, attorney of Sumter District, who removed to Darlington about 1839 after having served in Sumter as junior partner in the law firm “Moses & Haynsworth”. He died at a relatively early age, and she remarried to Henry E. P Sanders, a distant cousin. Mrs. Sanders testified: “I lived in 1865 on the eastern side of the academy grounds within sight of the academy….United States troops occupied it right after the war, volunteers first, then regulars….several of the officers in command of the troops here boarded at my house….Capt. Hawkins boarded with me for nearly two years….of the two wings built onto the academy budding, one was used as a music room by the pupils and the other used to study chemistry….these wings were totally destroyed to get boards for flooring the tents of the troops….in the main building all desks were removed and the window glass all broken, and left an empty building when the soldiers left….I saw into their tents as I passed in and out constantly, over the academy grounds….their tents were all over the grounds….my children went to St. John’s Academy before the war….it was considered a select, private school, the best in town….I paid tuition to the teacher, John Harrington….” The final witness was Walter D. Woods; when questioned, he gave his occupation as “Forester” tho’ he is best remembered as a Nurseryman, son of Samuel A. Woods, prosperous merchant of mid-nineteenth century Darlington. Despite his youth, W. D. Woods entered the military service in 1861. In the closing months of the war, he served as hand-picked adjutant to
Maj. F. F. Warley on detail to construct a prisoner of war camp in Florence, S.C. He testified: “….immediately after the war the federal troops arrived, and took possession of the academy grounds…. they erected shanties, stables, and necessary out-buildings….during their occupancy of the academy a very fine school bell that had been the property of the academy for a great many years disappeared; it was a fine bell but not a large one, and was very valuable on account of historical value….for a good many years after its establishment the school was called “Darlington Academy”….it commenced to be called St. John’s Academy about 1851, when I was just a little fellow and had just commenced school….” Mr. Woods, ex-Confederate Soldier, epitome of the Southern Gentleman, must surely have been overwhelmed with emotion during the cross-examination, when counsel for the United States Government asked him: “Did the Trustees of St. John’s Academy render any aid or comfort to the Confederacy during the Civil War?” He replied simply: “They were strong supporters of the South, but as a Board of Trustees, had no aid they could give.”
Mr. Woods’ testimony on behalf of St. John’s is interesting and is represented below, verbatim:
Q. Where did you live and where were you at the time of the Civil War?
A. Here, except the time I was in the Army. I entered the Con- federate Army in 1881 and did not return to Darlington until after the surrender of Johnston’s Army except for a few short intervals. I think I reached Darlington, after the surrender about the 20th or 25th of April, 1865. I remained at Darlington from that time until January 1868.
Q. State what, if anything, you know of any military occupation of the property of the institution known as St. John’s Academy at Darlington?
A. They came here immediately after the close of the war. Just after the war a garrison was sent here, a whole regiment, the 29th Maine Regiment, they took possession of the academy, and the grounds. They took possession immediately upon their arrival here. They occupied the academy building and their tents occupied the grounds. They erected necessary stables, out buildings, etc, shanties. How many I can’t say, but they destroyed a good many fine trees on the grounds, and during their occupancy a very fine school bell that had been the property of the academy for a great many years disappeared. It was a fine bell but not a large one and was very valuable on account of historical value. They occupied the building and grounds too. The only doubt in my mind in regard to the occupancy is to the exact time it was occupied. I am not cure how long. Of course I can’t be positive that the entire 29th Regiment occupied it. But that has no bearing on it, but my impression was that the whole regiment was there. That was head quarters for this Pee Dee section. All orders emanated from there. This Maine regiment did not occupy the whole of the time. They were succeeded by some troops from Massachusetts. It may be well to give you some idea of the size of the Garrison. They had a brigadier General here, Gen. Beal.
Q. State whether or not you have knowledge of the occupation of this academy property by any troops besides the 29th Maine?
A. They were succeeded here by troops from Massachusetts. The number of the regiment I can’t recall now.
Q. Where was the Massachusetts Regiment quartered?
A. They were quartered at the same place, one garrison succeeding the other.
Q. For what purpose did the troops occupy or use the academy building?
A. Simply as quarters, the place being centrally and conveniently located and well adapted for a thing of that kind.
Q. For what purpose or in what way did the troops occupy the lands of the academy?
A. For any military maneuvers, guard mounting, tents, play grounds, and just for usual purposes for a garrison.
Q. If you are able to state approximately how long or up to what date the property was occupied by the Federal military, please do so?
A. I am rather slow to make any estimate, for the reason that I left Darlington in Jan. 1868, and for that reason I can’t make any estimate definitely, but for the whole time they had their garrison here, it was so occupied.
Q. At what date after you returned to Darlington after the surrender did the Federal Military first occupy this property.
A. When they first came here it was the last of April or first of May, I think about the first of May. They came here very soon after the surrender.
Q. What was the size of the academy building in 1865?
A. I never measured it, but I suppose the width was about 30 feet and the entire length about 125 or 130 feet. That is what I would suppose from going to school there a number of years.
Q. How much land then belonged to the property?
A. Between five and 6 acres, something under 6 acres.
Q. State whether or not you were familiar with rental values of property at Darlington about 1865?
A. I would say to some extent I was.
Q. What do you estimate the rental value of this property, including the building and grounds, to have been at that time?
A. Under the circumstances and everything of the kind, I should think it ought to be about $125.00 to $150.00 per month. I should say that would be a very low estimate. I would like to state too in that connection, that owing to the war that there were no buildings erected during the war, and owing to this fact that rents were considerably higher than they would otherwise have been, buildings were scarce.
Q. When and under what circumstances was the name “St. John’s Academy” first adopted by this institution or applied to it?
A. The general impression and to the best of my knowledge and belief that the academy for a good many years after its establishment went just by the name the Darlington Academy. Just a few years previous to my earliest recollection there was a teacher employed here by the name of Ambrose Spencer, and he being a very enthusiastic Mason and standing very high in Masonry, he gave the academy the name of St. John’s.
Q. How early, to your personal knowledge, was it known as St. John’s Academy?
A. Just at the time I was a little fellow, first commenced going to school, say about 1851 or 1852. Of course I qualify that by saying my recollection may be a few years amiss, but I think not.
Q. State, if you can, who were the trustees of St. John’s Academy early 1835?
A. The only three that I can recall positively, my father was one, S.A. Woods, E.A. Law, S. H. Wilds, S. DuBose was one I think. Those are all I positively remember. They are all dead.
Q. For whom did those parties hold this property as trustees?
A. For the public. That doesn’t mean that it was a free school in the sense it is now.
Q. What position on the Board of Trustees did your father hold?
A. I think for a number of years he was chairman. I can’t say positively about that.
Q. State whether or not this academy was at any time conducted or operated for private gain?
A. Never, at any time. In case the tuition fees happened not to meet the salary of the teacher or teachers as the case might be, the trustees simply had to make up the difference out of their own pockets, which was very often the case.
Q. To what pupils were the privileges of the academy open?
A. All, open to everybody.
Q. State whether the trustees of the St. John’s Academy, acting as a hoard of Trustees of said academy, rendered any aid or comfort to the Confederacy, during the Civil War.
A. Nothing whatever, they had no means of doing it. They were all, of course, strong supporters of the South, but as Board of Trustees they had no aid they could give.
GENERAL QUESTION: Do you know of any other matter relative to the claim in question, that you desire to state about, if so, please state it?
A. I don’t know that I can recall anything further.
Don’t miss the chance to participate in some really fun and educational events.
I enjoyed everything about this history. I being born and raised here in Darlington would very much want to read more. At what point did the name go from St. John’s Academy to St. John’s school?
I also throughly enjoyed reading about the history of the timber / logging as my family was a part of this with Mr. TC Coxe.
Thank you for posting this.
Randy, you are correct that the name went from St. John’s Academy to St. John’s school.