Dr. E. J. Mims Sets up Shop in Lisbon (Lamar)

Tomorrow in Darlington County History, the citizens of Lamar (Lisbon), will celebrate the 159 anniversary of the Dr. E. J. Mims, Son of Captain George Mims, setting up shop as a town Doctor after completing his education. 

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AUGUST 4, 1829 -AUGUST 26, 1861

E. J. Mims was born in Darlington District, S. C., near the present Lamar (known in his time both as Lisbon and Mims Cross Roads), the son of Captain George and Penelope Reynolds Mims.

He graduated from the South Carolina Medical College in the Class of 1857; shortly thereafter, he opened an office at his home in Lisbon and announced publicly that his charges were “Uniform and reasonable.” Dr. Mims practiced medicine for less than five years, dying at the early age of thirty-two He was appointed the first postmaster of the newly created post office of Lisbon in 1859.

It is interesting to note that almost twenty years after the death of Dr. Mims, his widow, then Mrs. James C. Fields, resorted to court action to collect from several ex-patients for medical services rendered during his lifetime.

On December 9, 1857, Dr. Mims married Sarah Witherspoon; their children were George Heberdine; and Judge Baron, who became a physician.

The town of Lamar had its beginnings, according to the best authorities, after the death of William Reynolds in 1836. His son-in-law Capt. George Mims acquired most of his plantation which lay alongside the old road from Darlington Court House to Newman’s Ferry. Mims expanded his holdings and soon owned much land along the west bank of Newman Swamp.

In the 1850s a new road leading from Newman Swamp Church to Cartersville was opened, creating an intersection (on Captain Mims’s plantation) where it crossed the older road. By 1854 this intersection had been named Mimsville and soon there was a store, school, and doctor’s office at the crossroads. The Captain’s son, E. J. Mims, was the first physician in the emerging village, opening an office there shortly after his graduation from the South Carolina Medical College in 1857. In 1859, the crossroads gained its first post office, with Dr. E. J. Mims as postmaster. The office was called “Lisbon, S. C.” This name was given to the little village as well as to the township which was created in the surrounding area in 1868. The Lisbon Post Office was closed in 1870 forcing inhabitants to travel to Cartersville for their mail.

Despite the loss of the post office, by 1872 the citizens of Lisbon moved for incorporation. They petitioned the legislature and on March 13 of that year the town was granted a charter. After operating as a municipality for less than a decade, temperance forces in the village successfully had the charter repealed.

In 1885 George W. Mims, son of the Captain, tried to have the Lisbon Post Office restored but learned that the name had been given to another location in the state. He then suggested the name Lamar. It was accepted and a new office was opened January 8, 1886. About his choice for a name, Mr. Mims commented, “Senator Lamar of Mississippi was in the full flush of his great fame I was greatly impressed with the good work that he was doing for the South, so when the P. O. Department asked for a short name for the office, I sent in the name Lamar and it was accepted…”

The first industry in Lamar—a mainstay of the village for many years—was the turpentine business. The partnership of Mims & Reynolds put up a turpentine still at the crossroads and went into the naval stores business. Law­rence Scarborough and Harmon Parnell were two of the very early merchants of the town. The number of people living within a mile of the crossroads increased from about a dozen in 1870 to almost three hundred by 1890.

Lamar joined the rapidly expanding interstate rail network when the rails of the Charleston, Sumter and Northern Railroad were laid through town—connecting Darlington with Sumter. This was a tremendous boost and growth continued. Lamar was now a market and shipping point. Much of the population growth in the 1890s stemmed from rural families moving into town from surrounding countryside. New homes, stores, churches, and schools were added to the town over the next two decades. The coming of a second railroad in 1913, connecting Hartsville with Bishopville and Timmonsville, was a welcome addition to the economy.

In 1923, the town installed a new waterworks system at great expense and issued bonds to repay the debt. The timing could not have been worse: a post-World War I depression was engulfing the land, the boll-weevil was taking over cotton fields, and the 1929 stock market crash was just ahead. Coupons from the bond issue coming due in the early 1930s amidst the Great Depression, nearly forced the town into bankruptcy. The matter was finally resolved by the skillful manipulations of a Darlington attorney.

Shortly after the end of World War II, both railroads removed their lines leading into Lamar. But, undaunted, the town moved ahead during the 1950s at an amazing pace, inspired largely by the annual “Finer Carolina” competitions held during that decade. Successful efforts (though short-lived) to make Lamar a tobacco market led to three warehouses opening in town, a new high school was built, Railroad Avenue was made into a broad boulevard and paved, new street lights were installed, more sidewalks were paved, and a new fire truck (the town’s first) was purchased. The 1960 population had increased 20 percent over the 1950 figures. In the early 1960s, a new brick Masonic Temple was built on Main Street, in addition to a new Post Office and Police Station. The waterworks system was updated in 1967, and during the same year a Country Club was built just outside the town.

Early in 1970 the town was thrust into the world spotlight when national news covered racial violence at the local school attempting to implement the federal desegregation mandate. The perpetrators were later found to be outsiders, neither natives nor residents of Lamar. Subsequently, a private academy was organized near town, but it did not have a very long life. In the fall of 1975, an ultra-modern high school costing almost three-quarters of a million dollars was built. This did much to restore confidence in public education.

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Dr. S. L. Parnell (1881-1927) posed in his new Ford Runabout, which he acquired in June of 1911. This photo was made on Main Street in Lamar in front of O. B. Jordan s store. The doctor was a native of Lamar Township and a 1905 graduate of the University of Nash­ville. His entire professional career was spent in Lamar.

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The Bank of Lamar, seen here as it appeared about 1908, was chartered February 20, 1904, with a capital stock of $10,000. Dr. James A. Cole of Timmonsville was president and 0. B. Jordan of Lamar, the cashier. The bank failed in April 1911, when, according to a newspaper of the day, “it was found that no money could be obtained to continue operations ”

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This photograph, taken around 1914, shows a locomotive stopped in Lamar on the Darlington-Sumter main line, at a point alongside of the old hotel (background). By 1932, passenger service into Lamar had been discontinued; some time later freight service ended. Finally, the tracks of both railroads were removed after World War II.

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This is Main Street in Lamar; looking north around 1911. The tent (left center) was pitched there temporarily by a traveling photographer.

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This is a circa 1914 view of the Cash Grocery Company, on the south end of Main Street, which was owned and operated fora number of years by I. W. Reynolds. Many years later, his son, J. Perry Reynolds, began his mercantile career here. The earliest known merchant in this building was Miss Gillie Mims, a milliner.

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This circa 1915 view of the warehouse district in Lamar shows Calhoun Street, looking northward toward the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad freight station. McSween Mercantile Company’s ware­house is visible on the right (later used for cotton storage). A cotton seed storage warehouse appears on the left.

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Mrs. John S. Stewart (the former Sue Reynolds) stands in front of Dr. Gary Boykin s Hotel on Main Street around 1918. “Dr. Gary ” was the first of two brothers, both medical doctors, to settle in Lamar. With his brother, Dr. Theo J. Boykin, they served the medical needs of the Lamar community for a combined total of nearly one hundred years.

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This is the Lamar Methodist Episcopal Church, South, as it appeared around 1918. Construction of this first brick building began in September 1905 on South Main Street, adjacent to the store of George W. Mims. Less than thirty years later, with structural defects appearing in the walls, the building was abandoned. A new lot was acquired on Darlington Avenue just a short distance away, where the present church was built. Founded in 1883, it first appears in old records as “Lisbon Church. ”

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This is the interior of the Lamar National Bank about 1918. It was chartered on October 25, 1912, with a capital stock of $20,000. Several Darlington businessmen
were the largest stockholders. The bank failed, closing its doors forever, on November 8, 1928. Standing on the left is Bookkeeper R. B. Scarborough, who was just
starting his career in banking. In 1932he became one of the founders of the Pee Dee State Bank in Timmonsville, South Carolina. On the right (inside his cage), is
Cashier Frank C. Huff (1885-1975), who joined Lamar National Bank in 1916. Later associated with the Peoples Bank of Hartsville, South Carolina, Huff was one
of the organizers of Mutual Savings and Loan of Hartsville in 1936.

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This view, looking northwest, shows Main Street in Lamar, at the intersection of Railroad Avenue about 1919. The town trash cart is in the foreground. The Post

Office is visible in the Spears Building on the corner, in the left center. Over forty years later (see inset) the Post Office is still in the same location, virtually unchanged.

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This is the interior of the Stokes Grocery Store taken around 1920. The business was founded in 1899 by Burdine S. Stokes (1878-1921), seen standingon the far left beside his teenage son, Haywood.

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McSween Mercantile Company, Lamar’s largest department store, is seen here as it appeared around 1920. G. G. Harris of Nashville, Tennessee, moved to Lamar in 1911 to become bookkeeper for this firm, and by 1931 was co-owner with Lewis J. Beasley. In 1945, he became sole owner. This McSween store originally was a branch of the main store in Timmonsville, South Carolina, which had been founded in 1877 by John McSween, a native of Scotland. The building was destroyed by fire in March 1970.

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This is the interior of the Lamar Wholesale Grocery Company in November 1920. It was not at all unusual for grocers to stock automobile tires at that period. James R. Jowers is standing on the left with S. L. Watford on the right.

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This photograph, taken around 1945, shows the old brick Lamar High School built in 1922. During the thirties identical wings were added on each side, partially seen in this view. Although a new High School was built adjacent to this building in 1953 this 1922 building was used in a limited way until it was torn down in 1971.

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Here WPA workers labor on the grounds behind the Lamar Elementary School, around 1938.

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Janaury 4,1953, was a day that will long be remembered in Lamar. On that cold Sunday morning twenty-five small aircraft flew into Lamar and landed on Railroad Avenue in the heart of town fora meeting of the South Carolina Breakfast Club. The entire length of Railroad Avenue was converted into an airstrip for the occasion. In earlier years it had been the old roadbed of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. The roadbed had just recently been acquired by E. H. Segars, and a remote section west of town had previously been made into a landing strip to accommodate two locally- owned planes, those of Harold Segars and Marvin White.

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This 1941 view shows the store owned by J. Perry Reynolds on the south end of Main Street. It was adjacent to the old building where his father did business decades earlier. Standing left to right, are Charlie Lee Marcus, delivery boy; Jimmy Ray Windham; Brazil Truett; Mrs. Louise H. Reynolds; J. Perry Reynolds; Louise Truett; Dovie Mae Taylor; and Kitty, the dog.

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Here, in these 1962 ceremonies, former Mayor Dr. T. J. Boykin is presented a plaque citing him for thirty-one years of service as Mayor of Lamar. Boykin was a native of the Newman Swamp section of the county and a graduate of Birmingham and Memphis Medical Colleges, and the University of Nashville where he obtained his degree in 1911. Left to right are Mrs. Greer Harris, Mayor Greer Harris, Dr. J. Boykin, and Mrs. T. J. Boykin.

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The town of Lamar acquired their first fire truck early in 1954, and when it arrived in town, the Mayor and other municipal dignitaries posed for this photograph. Barely visible at the far left, is the old hose cart that had previously constituted the towns fire-fighting equipment.

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This is Lamars Volunteer Fire Department in action shortly after receiving their new fire truck in 1954.

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In 1963, Lamars Mayor, Council, and Police Department posed in front of the newly erected Police Station. This small building was built on Main Street at Railroad Avenue, a site selected for its commanding view in four directions. After using the building for less than twenty years, the police were transferred to their own quarters in a new City Hall-Jail-Fire Department complex. Left to right are Gary Parnell, Baxter Windham, Wayne King, Pike Reynolds, F. C. Humphries, Greer Harris, Tom W. Hill, and Barney E. Hardin.

5 Responses

  1. Thanks, to the one responsible for posting this, Enjoyed reading. I did see a few familiar faces!

  2. Through my this article. Thanks to whoever worked and pulled all of this history together. Although I don’t live in Lamar now, it will always be home to me.

  3. Thanks for sharing the fascinating history of Lamar….I sincerely enjoyed reading it!!

  4. Photo captioned : “Dr. S. L. Parnell (1881-1927) posed in his new Ford Runabout” is a 1908 REO Gentleman’s Roadster

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