Lone Star, the rambling ghost

By Tom Poland

I’ve long felt that two of South Carolina’s prettier community names are Silverstreet and Lone Star. Silverstreet I’ve seen many times. Those names, evocative and atmospheric, charm the ear. One conjures up biblical streets of gold; the other brings to mind the Alamo and that independent Lone Star state, Texas.

At long last I saw the place I’ve mentioned so many times in my back-road talks, Lone Star. It wasn’t what I expected. It’s a spot in the road. Wikipedia has this to say about it. “Lone Star is an unincorporated community in Calhoun County, South Carolina, United States. The community has the ZIP Code of 29030 and lies at approximately 33.63 latitude and -80.59 longitude, with an elevation of 171 feet. It is part of the Columbia, South Carolina Metropolitan Statistical Area. South Carolina Highway 33 runs between Lone Star and Orangeburg.”

Lone Star deserves more than that dry, factual description. It stirs the imagination, feelings, and memories. I noticed the bottle caps pressed faced down in front of O.K. Zeagler’s old store near the base of an old gas pump. That I had seen before at my Granddad Walker’s country store back in Georgia. Best I can figure it was an effort to create a kind of hard surface. Call it Coca Cola pavement. 

Then I saw a brick building whose purpose evaded me. Too big to be a bank, it looked like a store with living quarters above. Those sturdy red bricks were weathering time’s passage quite well. Then I saw the old depot and a rail line I learned was the old Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. What happened here, I wondered? Well, the Atlantic Coast Line went away, later folded in as part of another rail line. As I looked over the forlorn buildings, it occurred to me, surely there had to be more to this place upon a time as fables go? 

Of course, there was. 

My friend and former South Carolina DNR colleague, John Cely, wrote about Lone Star. “The new town was at first called Auburn but later changed to Lone Star after a local store of the same name.” Auburn. Well there’s Auburn, Georgia, and Auburn, Alabama. And there’s Auburn, Texas. Is it somehow connected to that store’s name, Lone Star? 

Lone Star. Its desolate look and long-time absence of the vanished Atlantic Coast Line’s purple-yellow-silver locomotives and their clackety clack wheels and lonesome whistle made me think, “This place could be the setting for a movie.” Well, it was. In 1991 scenes were shot for Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, a movie about a daredevil woman who rides horses off of high dives, at Mr. O.K. Zeagler’s store and other nearby places.

And then like those rambling old homes I wrote about over Washington, Georgia, way I learned something interesting from John Cely. He wrote, too, “Part of Lone Star up and moved south a few years ago when entrepreneur Pat Williams decided to renovate and move some old country stores from around the community. He used these heirloom buildings for the best possible reason—to serve BBQ.” 

Pay William’s rambling buildings a visit. It’s just off Highway 6 before you get to Santee, S.C. See Shuler’s dining Hall and Dantzler’s Social Hall. And trip a few miles down to the original Lone Star and check out the old Coca Cola mural on the right side of Zeagler’s store. See if it doesn’t bring to mind Nikita Khrushchev throwing back the old dope drink of yore. 

Thanks to Williams for relocating those old buildings giving new life to Mr. O.K. Zeagler’s Store and post office. Those old buildings went up in 1893. That’s the year Lone Star came to be, and here we are 130 years later remembering it. Going forward, in my speaking events I’ll have a bit more to say about this back-road museum with its bottle caps and bleached deer skull and antler. 

Lone Star, yet another place that didn’t anticipate how changing farming methods and transportation would render it lonely, but not forgotten. Stranded by progress you could say.

Author: Stephan Drew

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