Mill Village Heritage – Keep It Alive!

We have a heritage, those who grew up on the mill village in Darlington during the early years of the past century. Ours is a story unlike any other! It is a story of hardships, sufferings, and sacrifice that has not been known since those early times. Let’s keep it alive! Already it is getting late! Many opportunities have been missed, too many stories have gone untold, voices that could have been spoken are now forever silent; it is left to the few who remain to make certain that our heritage remains.

Bill Shepard

Bill Shepard

As we all know, the old mill that stood at the west end of the town has long disappeared. For nigh three quarters of a century it stood as a great giant, pumping life blood into the town of Darlington during one of the hardest periods of American history. This writer’s childhood years were lived during that period. Historians have labeled it as the years of “The Great Depression”. I remember them well!

For long years, after the mill ceased to function as a cotton mill, (textile) the old giant stood where it was first born, struggling for its existence. The time came when its doors were closed forever, and voices heard from the inside were heard no more. The old giant had taken its last breath and died. It stood for years, as a faithful sentinel guarding time. Then came the decision to tear the old mill down! Questions remain in the minds of some as to the why? Now all that is left to see is an empty space where the old giant once stood. It remains to the few that are left to make certain that our heritage is preserved for future generations to know. Our last opportunity to do so may be lying before us.

There is a committee at work in Darlington, headed by Peggy Sheffield, to erect a memorial, in honor of the old mill and the people who worked there in a time long ago. This is a project in process, help is needed, and time is of the essence! Through their effort, a lot has been purchased at the west end of town, within sight of where the old mill, known as “The Darlington Manufacturing Company” once stood. Across the street from the site, the building that once housed the Company Store, known to many as “The Grab All” still stands. Adjoining it is the old YMCA building where the village folk went for their mail- no house delivery in those early times. Also, there was a barbershop where mill workers liked to gather to share talk of happenings at the mill. The kind barber, Clifford Nance, would cut your hair for a quarter, and for a dime he would add a tonic. For a nickel one could get a towel, a small bar of soap, and have access to a shower at the YMCA. Anyone remember? All of this and more, and just yards away from the site of the proposed memorial!

Help is needed to bring this project to completion. In years to come, when future generations pass by and see and wonder, and ask what it all means, this memorial will speak. IT will speak of a Time, a Place, a People, and a way of life that once was! It is our heritage, we must keep it alive!

Note: For information concerning this project, contact Peggy Sheffield at 108 Columbian Street, Darlington, S.C. 29532.

Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. and author of “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised”. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week.
His mailing address for cards and letters is: Bill Shepard 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C., 29673

Author: Duane Childers

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