Historical Society celebrates 80th Anniversary

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpress.net

The Darlington County Historical Society celebrated its 80th anniversary on Thursday, October 19 with a supper and program at Trinity United Methodist Church in Darlington.

Historical Society president Bill Segars updated guests on current projects, including a number of repairs at Hartsville’s historic Jacob Kelley House.

“We are putting roofs on two of the outbuildings that were leaking very badly, repairing and repainting the fence, and a good bit of maintenance about the house – rotten boards, rotten floor boards and other things that need to be done. All the windows will be repaired, re-glazed, and repainted,” said Segars.

He offered thanks to Darlington County Council for appropriating funds from Hospitality Tax (H-Tax) monies to pay for repairs to this historic tourism site. Segars added that due to the repairs, the November open house event will not take place, but he hopes that the Kelley House will be in great nick and ready to receive visitors before the usual December open house and Christmas event, which is set for December 3.

Also, Segars reminded the audience that the bicentennial of the Kelley House (as well as a number of other historical sites) is on the horizon, and plans have already begun to make 2020 a big year for celebrations of Darlington County history.

Before closing out his presentation, Segars presented a lifetime Society membership to retiring board member J. Gail Gandy, longtime editor of the Heart Pine newsletter and employee of the Historical Commission.

Darlington County Historical Commission director Brian Gandy talked about the formation of the first Pee Dee Historical Association, which dates back to 1903, and the Darlington County Historical Society, which began officially on October 14 of 1937.

The evening’s program featured a re-printing of the minutes for that October 14 meeting, where a small group of citizens drafted plans to form the Society and dedicate it to the memory of Major James L. Coker and Mr. Bright Williamson as “the primary movers of the now extinct Pee Dee Historical Association.”

Gandy also talked about the treasure trove of materials discovered at the September 26 expedition inside the Coker Rogers Store in Society Hill. Gandy worked with members of Preservation South Carolina to extract salvageable artifacts – including a number of waterlogged letters and records – from the buildings in advance of plans to sell the property to a preservation-minded buyer.

The evening featured a number of historical items on display, including a collection of photographs taken circa 1930 by Society Hill native John Ambler “Jack” Jamison. Gandy invited all present to review the photos and try their best to identify any of the subjects, as many of the photos had no accompanying subject information.

Jamison graduated from St. John’s High School in 1934 and briefly operated a photo finishing business on the Public Square above the DeLuxe Cafe. He closed up shop in 1938 amid the Great Depression and eventually his family left Darlington for Fredericksburg, Virginia. After college, Jamison served in the Navy through WWII and went on to serve as a Circuit Court Judge in Fredericksburg.

To see these photos and try your hand at identifying faces or places, please contact the Darlington County Historical Commission at 843-398-4710 or visit them at 204 Hewitt Street in Darlington.

Author: Duane Childers

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