TODAY IN DARLINGTON COUNTY HISTORY: Johnny Mantz won first Southern 500

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Historical marker for Darlington International Raceway

TODAY IN DARLINGTON COUNTY HISTORY: On September 4, 1950, Johnny Mantz of Long Beach, California, won the first Southern 500 in Darlington, S.C. He drove a 1950 Plymouth Coupe, and his First Place Prize was $11,500. The track had been built under the leadership of Harold Brasington.

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Arcade Hotel opens for business

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On September 1, 1913, Hartsville’s Arcade Hotel officially opened for business. Here is a brief sketch of the hotel from Darlington County: A Pictorial History by Horace Rudisill:

The Hartsville Arcade Hotel Company was chartered on August 7, 1912, by J.J. Lawton and Associates. He awarded the building contract to his kinsman, J. Maner Lawton, and to Lawton’s colleague, A.E. Abbott of Abbeville, South Carolina, for $51,000.  They commenced working on the project on January 1, 1913, and eight months later the hotel opened its doors. The first manager was W. H. McFall who later moved to Darlington and bought his own hotel. The Arcade opened with forty-two rooms on the second and third floors. The first floor contained the lobby, dining room, kitchen, barber shop, and a sample room for traveling salesmen. The era of small-town hotels began to fade with the coming of motels after World War II.

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Spotlight On: Long Bluff

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One of the first settlements within the boundary of present day Darlington County was that at Long Bluff in 1748. It also was the site of the historical Long Bluff Courthouse established by the Circuit Court Act of the Legislature of 1769, making it one of six operating Courthouses established at that time outside Charleston.

On November 15, 1774, Circuit Judge William Henry Drayton delivered in this Courthouse his famous charge to the Grand Jury: (From History of Old Cheraws)

. . .”I know no master but the law, and I am a servant, not to the King, but to the Constitution; and, in my estimation, I shall best discharge my duty as a good subject to the King, and a trusty officer under the Constitution when I boldly declare the law to the people, and instruct them in their civil rights.”

This charge helped fan the patriotic flames in the back-country against the English crown.

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Spotlight On: Society Hill Library

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Old Society Hill Library is now located on the grounds of St. David’s Academy. The oldest lending library in South Carolina (exclusive of those in Charleston and Georgetown), it was built by the Society Hill Library Society, which was organized in 1822. The library has not functioned as such for many years, and is opened only on special occasions.

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Spotlight On: Williamson’s Bridge

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Site of a Revolutionary War skirmish between Tories and a band of Whig forces, led by Col. Lamuel Benton.

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Spotlight On: Kalmia Gardens

Located in Hartsville, the gardens, now owned by Coker College, were developed into an arboretum prior to World War II by Mrs. David R. Coker. The old home was built by Capt. Thomas E. Hart (1796-1842) shortly after he purchased the surrounding lands in 1817. The city of Hartsville derives its name from him–he was its first postmaster; a merchant, planter, officer in the South Carolina Militia, member of the Board of Free School Commissioners, and Magistrate for the area.

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Spotlight On: Grave of Augustin Wilson

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Located in Lake Swamp Baptist Church Cemetery, Timmonsville vicinity. Wilson’s grave is marked by a partially embedded cannon barrel. During the American Revolution, he served with NC troops and as an Ensign at the 1779 Battle of Brier Creek, GA. He moved to South Carolina before 1820, where he died in 1848.

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Spotlight On: Yankee Hill

This hilly area was once used as burial ground for Union soldiers who died while garrisoned here at the end of the Civil War.

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Spotlight On: Darlington Methodist Church

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Now a private home, this first Methodist Church was built in 1834. During the Civil War, occupying troops were invited to attend the services as women sat on one side of the church and the men sat on the other. The carpenter who built the church later became a Baptist minister. This building served as the Methodist church until 1901. It is believed that the second floor door once led out to a large veranda. The building once boasted a beautiful steeple and stately front columns. The only know picture is on display at the Historical Commission.

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Spotlight On: St. John’s Elementary School

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This site has been the home of a Darlington School since 1818. Originally built as the Darlington Academy, it is now occupied by the St. John’s Elementary School. According to local tradition, an early teacher who was also an ardent Mason named the school for the Apostle St. John who was believed to have belonged to the Masonic Order. It is the oldest elementary school in the state. Near the close of the Civil War, Federal Occupation troops turned the school into a hospital for their wounded, using the grounds for their tents. They lined their tents with boards taken from the school and the school was paid war reparations. The beautiful brick building that you see today replaced the old wooden one in the fall of 1902.

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Brief History of Darlington County Historical Commission

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Original blueprints of Darlington County Jail, now home of the Darlington County Historical Commission

History of DCHC

The DCHC was created in 1967 by the South Carolina Legislature to procure historical records relating to the county; to have care and custody of the archives of the county; and to mark historical cites. The Commission’s holdings of historical material had grown to such an extent by 1984 that its quarters were placed in the old County Jail building, renovated for its use. This building is located in downtown Darlington, just off the Court House Square at 204 Hewitt Street.

Archives

The Commission’s holdings include official county and municipal records; church and school records and histories; business and industrial records; records of clubs and societies; compiled land records (deeds, maps, plats); family records (correspondence, journals, diaries, etc); and newspapers. The Commission solicits the donation of historical material relating to Darlington County. Such gifts are tax deductible.

Fun Facts

  • There have been a total of three County historians at the DCHC: Horace Rudisill (1968-2003); Doris Gandy (2003-2015); and Brian Gandy (2015-present). Doris served as the Assistant Director for many years alongside Mr. Rudisill, and Brian, Doris’s only son, has been coming to and working in the Commission since he was twelve.
  • At the Commission, there are roughly 750,000 photographs, 50,000 negatives, 1 mile of flat stock documents, and one Bible that is over 373 years old.
  • The Commission has been featured on a TV show that focuses on supernatural activity in buildings.

So come visit us at 204 Hewitt Street in Darlington. We are open Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm.

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Spotlight On: Darlington Memorial Cemetery

Located on Avenue D and Friendship Street in Darlington, the Darlington Memorial Cemetery was the first cemetery created for African-Americans in the community. The cemetery began in 1890 as a five-acre cemetery established by Macedonia Baptist Church and African-American citizens in Darlington. In 1946, Bethel A.M.E. Church and St. James Methodist Church established cemeteries across from Macedonia Baptist Church Cemetery. The three cemeteries are collectively known as the Darlington Memorial Cemetery. The cemetery includes graves dating back to the late 19th century and includes graves of many prominent and well-known African-American residents of the town. Notable citizens such as Rev. Isaac P. Brockenton, D.D. (1828-1908), minister and public servant; Lawrence Cain (1871-1944), principle of Mayo Grade School and Mayo High School; Edmund H. Deas (1855-1915), a prominent politician; Lawrence Reese (1864-1915), a merchant and self-taught designer and master craftsman; and Dr. Mable K. Howard (1876-death unknown), an educator.

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