TODAY IN DARLINGTON COUNTY HISTORY: Coker College opens

Hartsville, Coker College Liberal Arts Bldg.
Present day Coker College

The trustees of Welsh Neck High School converted their institution into a non-sectarian Baptist college. It opened September 30, 1908, as “Coker College for Women,” founded by James L. Coker. Baptist control ended in 1944, and in 1969, the college became co-educational. The Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics opened on the campus in 1988. Throughout its history, Coker has emphasized liberal arts.

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Aerial view of Coker College circa 1909.

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Spotlight On: William Cain, educator

Bill Cain, St. John's HS
Letter to Cain from 1972 graduating class at St. John’s HS.

Born in Pinopolis, South Carolina, William “Bill” Cain graduated from the University of South Carolina, where he later received a master’s degree in education. He came to Darlington in 1934 when he began his teaching career at St. John’s High School, where, later, he served as principal from 1947 until his retirement in 1972.  After retiring from St. John’s, he also taught English at James F. Byrnes Academy for more than a decade.

In addition to being a topnotch educator, Cain was an avid tennis player. He coached the tennis at St. John’s for a number of years, and he was the chairman of the S.C. Closed Tennis Tournament, which was held, for a time, in Darlington. He actually won the State Men’s Doubles Championship, and in 1984, he was inducted into the S.C. Tennis Hall of Fame.

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Spotlight On: Stephen Presley

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Father Stephen Presley was born a slave in 1820. He was owned by Boykin Witherspoon, a prominent planter from Society Hill. Presley was a carpenter by trade. He married another slave by the name of Phyllis McIver Presley. Welsh Neck Baptist Church records indicate that the couple fellowshipped there as slaves but were dismissed in October 1854.

Witherspoon, like many other Darlington District residents, migrated west in search of fertile ground ideal for planting. They settled in a then virtually unoccupied area of Desoto Parish, Louisiana, which was previously inhabited by the Caddo Indians, bringing with them over 200 slaves.

As a carpenter, Presley along with other slaves helped with the building of Witherspoon’s “Buena Vista Plantation,” which was designed by Architect, M. Robbins in 1859 and was used a Confederate Hospital during the Civil War.

After slavery, Presley founded, built, and served as pastor for 3 churches in Desoto Parish, including Bethel Baptist Church in Frierson, Morningstar Baptist Church in Gloster, and Mechanicsville Baptist in Caspiana.  The latter was named for the church and town in his native Darlington District, South Carolina.

All of the churches he founded in Louisiana are still serving the community over 100 years after his death in 1904. His many descendants gather every other year for a reunion to celebrate his legacy and their Louisiana/South Carolina roots. His great-great-great grand-daughter, Karen Burney, a genealogist from California has made visits to Society Hill to research and honor her ancestors.

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Spotlight On: Colonel Lamuel Benton

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Col. Benton (1754-1818) served as Colonel of the Cheraw Militia during the Revolutionary War, was a member of the South Carolina Legislature, Sheriff of Cheraws District, and a member of Congress (1793-1799). He is said to be buried in an unmarked grave on the premises at Stoney Hill.

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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.

Johnny_Mantz_IV CARRERA_PANAMERICAN_51CarLincolnCapri

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