Church of the Week: Mont Clare Community Center
by Bill Segars
If you thought this series of article is written about churches, it is- and this building does have religious significance. Other than the religious significance of this building, it also exemplifies what the yield can be when a community works together for a common good. Located at 1632 Mont Clare Road, it had its begin in 1933 by the citizens of the Mont Clare area of Darlington County. Their idea was to have a “community center” for the people to use, so the people banded together to build it.
When the original idea was conceived to build such a building, R. G. Donald built a miniature log building as a model of what this 34’ X 62’ building would look like in the near future. The idea and the model was all this small community needed to leap into action.
The prime movers in this endeavor were E. M. Williamson, Sr. who donated land from his Mont Clara Plantation, and T. C. Cox who donated logs and other timber cut from his Skuffel Plantation. The Donald and Winters families, and many other locals, also contributed countless hours of work for the betterment of their community. The building was completed with some help of the W.P.A. workforce. The sandstone used in the foundation and the fireplace came from Skuffel Plantation between Mont Clare Firetower and Gilmore’s Mill.
The interior contained a large stage for performances on one end of the log structure. A mural of the Darlington County 1905 Court House with commercial advertisement around the perimeter was painted on canvas as a backdrop behind the stage. This rustic structure proudly hosted innumerable family reunions, children’s parties, wedding receptions, a voting precinct, and other events of interest to community citizens. Slim Mims & His Dream Ranch Boys even performed here.
As a part of this community interest, it was a natural for the Mont Clare Mission to hold their weekly Sunday School meetings here. This non-denominational mission had its beginnings in 1913 at the nearby Mont Clare School. The first minister was a Baptist, Rev. F. W. Putney; Rev. W. S. Jones, another Baptist, followed him. Several Presbyterian and Methodist preachers also served this group as leader through the years. The Mission group enjoyed their stay here at the Community Center from 1933 until 1960, when the Mont Clare Baptist Church was formally founded and the present church building was built next door.
In the 1970’s, Mont Clare Baptist Church obtained control and care of the Center, assuring its perpetuation. The closeness of the people in this community continues, centered on this building. For more convenient use, in 2005 community members pulled together again to raise funds and construct restroom facilities in keeping with the rustic style of the original building.
Later on April 26, 2008, Darlington County’s 57th Roadside Historical Marker was unveiled commemorating the life of the Mont Clare Community Center, again by interested citizens.
Bill Segars has a strong love and appreciation for history, having grown up on a farm in Kelleytown on land that has been in the family since 1821 . He uses his 39-year building career to combine with his love of history to develop a passion for historical restoration. Segars was able to find, photograph and research more than 700 religious edifices throughout the state.