A Jacob Kelley Christmas  

The Jacob Kelley House – Hartsville, SC

The Jacob Kelley House is located in the Kelleytown community of Hartsville. Kelley, a settler who founded the farming community in the early nineteenth century, built this home in the late 1820s as a one-story log cabin. A second story was added between 1830 and 1840.   
 One interesting architectural feature of this home is that no plaster was used; the walls are all made of hand-planed board. An original mantel still graces the interior, made of heart pine. The architectural style of the Jacob Kelley House is known as an I-house, popular in the mid-nineteenth century. It earned this appellation due to its prominence in states beginning with the letter I – Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. However, the style originally came about in England during the 1600s and, here in America, can be seen in a variety of southern and mid-atlantic states.

















 In 1865 the house was used as headquarters for Union Major General John E. Smith. Remarkably, the home survived the Civil War despite the fact that the US Army was charged with destroying everything in the area as well as taking over the nearby mills. According to legend, Kelley was authorized to guard the community’s valuables during the war. In order to do so, he took all of Kelleytown’s silver and gold and protected it on an island in what is now called Segars Mill Pond.

After being restored in 1970 and again in 1996, the Jacob Kelley House currently operates as a house museum. The rooms are adorned with period furniture, and docents wear clothing from the Civil War era.

Students and other visitors are treated to an authentic farm settlement experience and are told the story of the Union occupation within the walls where it took place.

The Jacob Kelley House is listed in the National Register, which adds the following details:
The Jacob Kelley House is significant as a fine example of architectural evolvement, from a one-story log house typical of early South Carolina upcountry settlement into the simple, functional plantation house that later became typical of the Pee Dee farm area and of much upcountry home building in the 19th century. The original log portion of the house predates 1830. The home was enlarged, weatherboarded, and a second story added circa 1830-1840. Several years later its size was almost doubled when a two-story annex was added on its west side. The walls and ceilings are of wide, hand-planed boards. An original mantel is of hand-carved heart pine.
Home of Jacob Kelley (1780-1874), prominent early settler and founder of the small agricultural community, Kelley Town. Its military significance stems from its use as headquarters for the Union troops of Gen. John E. Smith, Commander of the 3rd Division, 15th Army Corps, in March 1865. From this location the Federal troops commandeered the nearby Kelley Mills, ransacking and laying waste to the surrounding area. Listed in the National Register May 6, 1971.

The Hissing Serpent in the Sky

On April 28, 1987, the NATIONAL ENQUIRER featured an article on page 6 entitled “UFOs Have Been for Centuries.”   The article was written by Franklin R. Ruehl, the article cited many instances of UFO sightings worldwide as far back as 1707;  near the conclusion of the article, was the statement “……. in May 1888 a mammoth, serpent like UFO was again seen in the United States.  The site was Darlington County, South Carolina……. the object glided overhead and emitted a hissing sound …”

Although Mr. Ruehl does not cite his sources of information about the Darlington County UFO, it was obviously gleaned from the book The Complete Books of Charles Fort published in 1941 by the Fortean Society, and reprinted in 1974;  Fort spent much of his life researching and gathering material on phenomena from the “borderline between science and fiction”.   Fort gives the NEW YORK TIMES of May 30, 1888 as his source for the Dar­lington County UFO, which reported the sighting of  “….a huge serpent in the sky, moving without visible means of propulsion…..”

Darlington County had only one weekly newspaper at that time – “The Darlington News.”  The Historical Commission has a complete file for the year 1888, and has searched the months of May and June to see how this event was reported locally.

Apparently during the greater part of the month of May, 1888, most of the south­eastern United States was under the influence of a stationary, turbulent weather system; in the last half of May, “terrible storms” were sweeping over Ohio and Pennsylvania.  The United States Department of Agriculture reported that “the recent cool, wet weather has retarded the growth of cotton in South Carolina”.  In late May, a report from Spartan­burg County reported two drowning in a river “swollen by recent heavy rains”. Marion County reported crop damage from “heavy rain, bad winds and hail”; in Chesterfield County the rains caused a freshet on Thompson’s Creek, causing a detour for travelers en route to Society Hill; and from Dovesville: “we are threatened with a blizzard from the Northeast and have had continuous rains since last Sunday”.

There were no accounts of a UFO—that term had not then been coined—nor was there any account of a “hissing serpent in the sky”. However, the solution may lie in a report from Society Hill;  “…on May 30th a waterspout burst between Mr. John Hill’s place and that of Mr. James Cox in Marlboro County ……..Mr. Reynolds who was riding in his buggy, says that he could not see his horse for a time and that the land in level places was over ankle deep in water ”

Could this waterspout have been the “hissing serpent in the sky” that the NATIONAL ENQUIRER wrote about?