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?

A look back: Darlington’s grand hotel

To remember the tragic loss of life, and a piece of Darlington County history, we post this article from the News and Press, 2014.  It was on this day in 1968 that the Park Terrace Hotel burned.  

This article appeared in the Darlington News and Press on April 23, 2014 and was written by Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer.  Photo’s supplied by the  Darlington County Historical Commission.

Anyone who sees and enjoys the new Wes Anderson film “The Grand Budapest Hotel” could leave the theater with mixed emotions – amused and entertained by the story, but feeling a bit melancholy that the titular hotel’s classic edifice and snappy service are relics of the past. That feeling might be even more intense for locals who recall that Darlington once had its own grand hotel, a beloved downtown touchstone lost to the ravages of fire.

The hotel moved from dream to reality in 1912, when a group of trustees (Bright Williamson, W.M. Haynesworth, and C.B. Edwards) ponied up the funds to build a noble inn for their hometown. The classic design came from Savannah architect and former Darlington resident Hyman Witcover, who, despite his stellar work, later took the trustees to court for non-payment of his fee. Haynsworth & Lawton, the same firm that built the Arcade Hotel in Hartsville, erected the building in 1915.

Initially dubbed “The Hotel Melrose,” the structure itself was elegantly simple: four stories of concrete covered in pale pressed brick, accented with bright red Spanish tile over porticos and balconies, crowned with twin lookout towers on the roof. At the front entrance, two iron columns topped with globe lights lit the neatly manicured walkway, bordered by neat hedges and flowerbeds.

The hotel went by various names in its six decades of life. From 1913 to 1914 it was called The Melrose; it then survived five years of benign neglect as The Park from 1915 to 1920, when drugstore owner and hotelier W.H. McFall purchased and totally overhauled the building from attic to basement.

McFall and his managers were reputedly sticklers for cleanliness, and they held the staff to very high standards of service and conduct. The Hotel McFall went on to achieve distinctions of excellence from commercial hotel reviewers who hailed it as the cleanest hotel in South Carolina, and from government officials who gave it 980 out of a possible 1000 points in a 1922 state hotel inspection.

During those early heydays, the hotel had all the modem conveniences that were still so novel to country folk. There were separate guest and freight elevators, and a state of the art (for the era) fire suppression system. A central steam plant in the basement heated all of the forty guest rooms, each of which had a telephone, and a private bathroom with hot and cold running water. The McFall also served as a terminal for Greyhound and Queen City Trailway buses, making it a convenient meeting spot or stopover for business travelers and tourists.

In the lobby, sunlight streamed through glass doors topped with fanlight windows, and the leather club chairs of the whitewashed room looked ideal for relaxing to read the morning paper Overhead, a tall, coffered ceiling and cooling fans kept the summer heat at bay, while low and discreet radiators along the walls maintained warmth in winter. Period photos show a glass case next to the lobby desk sold tobacco supplies and Fatima cigarettes.

For twenty-four years, the Hotel McFall thrived as an accommodation, an event host, and a dining center for casual to semi-formal meals. Many old clippings tell of social gatherings at the hotel, and crowds often packed the balconies and towers to watch political speeches on the Public Square.

In 1944, after H.W. McFall passed away, the hotel transferred to Thomas J. DuBose, who ran it as The DuBose Hotel for only a year before selling out to restaurateur and Darlington native Vance Butler. Renamed The Park Terrace in 1945, the hotel would bear that marque for the rest of its life.

Butler, owner of local eatery The DeLuxe Cafe, played up the friendly atmosphere of the hotel dining room and broadened its appeal as a dinner destination. In 1947, he installed hospitality guru Joe Saleeby as manager of the cafe, and increased traffic by advertising specialties like steaks, chops, chicken, and spaghetti. “Our motto: Courtesy and Service,” read one cafe ad. Unfortunately, time bore down hard on the rest of the hotel. Equipment that once was considered modem had fallen out of date, and employee standards began to slip. One 1947 fire inspection report lambasted the Park Terrace for numerous laxities, including bare live electrical wires, oil stored at the top of an elevator shaft, trash piled in comers and stairwells, and no exit lights or signs on any floor. The report concluded, with tragic prescience, that the hotel was “a first-class fire trap and death trap.”

Adequate repairs were made, and the hotel continued to operate without major incident for another twenty-one years. Some accounts note that it was a slow and steady slide downhill for the once great business, as it struggled to fill rooms that were increasingly out of date. The lion’s share of building traffic went not to the hotel or cafe, but to James “Spot” Mozingo’s law offices, located on the ground floor’s Orange Street side. Vacancy rates went up and booking rates went down; by the late 1960s, rooms at the Park Terrace could be had for as little as $2 per night. The day before Thanksgiving in 1968, the Park Terrace’s luck completely ran out.

Early that morning, a fire of undetermined origin broke out on the fourth floor and was confirmed just after 4 a.m. by three Darlington policemen. Fire and rescue personnel worked quickly to evacuate the hotel’s twenty-one guests, but some were trapped on the engulfed upper floors and could not be found in time. Darlington Fire Chief Leon Beckham described the third and fourth floors as “a blast furnace.” Those floors were so gutted they eventually collapsed, taking part of the second floor down with them. Firefighters battled the blaze for a full day, and then began the grave task of recovering bodies. Marion Butler, brother of owner Vance Butler, was among the dead. Also killed were guests Keith Windham and Buck Shaw of Darlington, and Mike Jamerson of New Orleans.

The bumed-out husk, a blackened and ghostly reminder of tragedy and loss, stood nine more months before demolition began. The lot at the comer of Main and Orange remained vacant until 1972, when a Hardee’s restaurant came to town and ushered in the fast food era. Now, the lot is again vacant – a simple patch of green grass, carefully maintained by Carolina Bank – and for those who never saw The Park Terrace or The Hotel McFall, it’s hard to imagine that a majestic building once stood on that spot. The proof exists only in grainy photographs and painted postcards, and in the memories of those who witnessed the grandeur of Darlington’s first class hotel.