Living on the West End: Houses

By Bill Shepard

Houses can be an interesting subject to explore.

There are big houses, little houses, some with upstairs, some with downstairs and some without stairs!

There are houses of almost any color one can think of and some with no color at all. There are houses made of wood, brick, stone and other materials. My article is about the houses I know best, those on the Mill Village where I lived a big part of my life.

Sammy Howell, my nephew, and I were reminiscing about some of our Good Ol’

Days and we found ourselves visiting a special house on Alexander Street. Alexander Street is located on that part of the Village that was referred to as Across the Creek, meaning Swift Creek!

Sammy is a retired professor at Presbyterian College in Clinton. Sammy has fond memories of visiting with his grandmother and grandfather Shepard who once lived on the Mill Village. Sammy’s mother, Virginia (Jenny) Shepard Howell, was born and raised on that section of the Mill Village. Virginia, called Jenny by most, has lived on Spring Street for many years.

The old house on Alexander Street, nigh a hundred years old or even older, was the place that the Shepards called home for many years and the very spot holds precious memories of the years spent at the place.

On a recent visit to Darlington, Sammy and this writer found ourselves having one of our rare visits. It was only natural that we found ourselves at 108 Alexander St. Sammy recalled visiting with his grandfather and following him, as he gathered the feed, table scraps from the nearby houses, to feed his pigs.

Ah, the memories Sammy and I shared! As I spoke of the houses on the Village, Sammy seemed to have an interest in the various designs of those over the Village. I shared with him that all the houses were built in one of two sizes; they consisted of three rooms or four rooms.

One room was designed to be used for a kitchen. That room had a chimney, leading to the outside. The other rooms could be used as the occupants needed. All stoves were wood or coal-burning, in the times of which I write, thus the chimney in the kitchen room. As a boy, it was my duty to see that the box behind the stove was always filled with dry wood for burning.

Sammy seemed interested, so I continued my story about the houses. I told how it seemed that only families that had more than one person employed at the mill could live in a four-room house. All the others occupied a three-room house or shared a four-room house with another family. The Shepards lived in one of the three-room houses until an older brother reached the age when he could be employed at the mill.

There was another story often told about the houses. The late Horace Rudisill, historian of Darlington County, once asked me if I could verify a story that he had heard about the houses on the Village. He said that one of the funeral directors in Hartsville had told him the story.

In the days when most bodies were returned to their homes for the viewing, the casket could not be carried into the house, except through an open window! “Is that true?” Rudisill asked. “Yes, it is,” I assured him.
I then told him that I had watched it happen more than once when I was a boy.

Some men would go inside and stand at the open window. As the casket was passed through from the outside, the men on the inside would take hold and put it in place.

It seemed that the funeral director did not like having a funeral that involved that process. The four-room houses were of a different design, so all of the above did not apply to them.

Rudisill asked if I would draw a simple floor plan for the houses on the Village. I told him I would but it did not happen before he left.

Nearing the end of our conversation about the houses on the Village, Sammy said, “Uncle Bill, ‘Houses’ would be a good title for you to use for one of your newspaper articles!”

I said, “Yes, it would,” and I just have!

Author: Rachel Howell

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