How A Mule Kick Killed Eight People
You can drive by a place 1,000 times and be unaware of its history. Such was the case for a small country store on Highway 378 in Edgefield County. Over the years I’ve passed the little store you see with this column 1,000 times and not once did I stop. That changed Sunday, October 13. I did pass it but I turned around, curious to see what the price of gas was on the old rusty pump, leaning like an old man with a cane.
I got out with my camera and the classic RC Cola sign immediately distracted me. Behind it was another vintage sign advertising Camel Cigarettes. American Pickers would like this place I thought. I moved closer to get the shot you see here. That’s when a man slipped up behind me.
“If you think I’m selling those signs you’re wrong.”
Startled, I said, “No, I just wanted to photograph the old gas pump and the signs caught my attention.”
“People try to buy them all the time,” he said.
“It’s a wonder someone hasn’t stolen them,” I replied.
“Maybe I’ll file off the nail heads,” he said and then he paused. “My granddad got killed in that store.”
“Robbed and shot?”
“No a woman had him killed for $500.”
And then the most incredible story unfolded, a story made for TV, a story that goes back to 1941. The little store at the intersection of Highway 378 and Highway 430, a road that leads to Edgefield, a road known as Meeting Street, holds deep, dark secrets.
In 1941 Roads were unpaved and in many areas electrification had yet to arrive. Men still farmed with mules. Times were tough and people were rough. Back then it must have been an upsetting thing to lose say, a calf. Yes to lose a calf was to lose an investment. When a mule wandered from one Edgefield County farm into the pasture of an adjacent farm it kicked a calf, killing it.
Someone had to pay for it.
That someone was the granddad of the fellow standing beside me. “Yep, my granddad was shot in the back for $500. Right in there,” he said pointing at the store’s old wooden siding.
Murderpedia, an online encyclopedia devoted to those who kill others documents this tale of dead livestock and lives gone wrong. It quotes a report that appeared in EdgefieldDaily.com, which I provide here as the facts have been vetted.
“The story began in September of 1940 when Davis Timmerman’s mule got into Wallace Logue’s field and the mule kicked and killed Logue’s calf. Logue demanded that Timmerman pay him $20 for the calf and Timmerman agreed. Logue later went to Timmerman’s rural store and decided he wanted $40 in restitution instead of $20 and Timmerman refused to pay.
Logue became infuriated, grabbed an ax handle, and began beating Timmerman. Timmerman pulled a gun he kept hidden in a drawer, shot twice, and killed Logue. Timmerman was said to have locked the body in store and, despite being seriously injured, drove to Edgefield to report the shooting to then Sheriff L.H. Harling.
Sheriff Harling, Coroner John Hollingsworth, and Solicitor Jeff Griffith drove back to the store. Based on their interpretation of the evidence, Timmerman was held over for trial. After the trial the jury ruled Timmerman acted in self-defense and he was acquitted.
Logue’s widow, Sue, and his brother, George, didn’t agree with the jury’s verdict. They hired Joe Frank Logue, George and Wallace’s nephew, giving him $500 to find somebody to kill Timmerman. Joe Frank was an officer with the Spartanburg Police Department and he hired Clarence Bagwell to do the job.
A year after Wallace died; Joe Frank and Bagwell went to Timmerman’s store. Joe Frank waited in the car while Bagwell went in and asked for a pack of cigarettes (some say it was a pack of gum). When Timmerman turned to get the item Bagwell fired five shots at point-blank range with a .38 caliber revolver, killing him instantly.
Joe Frank and Bagwell returned back to Spartanburg and carried on as if nothing happened. Unfortunately for the pair, Bagwell was a heavy drinker and during one of his binges bragged to a young woman that he had made $500 for killing a man.
The woman went to police. When Bagwell was questioned, he learned that he had been seen at Timmerman’s store on the day of the murder. Other reports say he was spotted casing the store prior to the murder as well. Either way, feeling trapped, Bagwell confessed and fingered Joe Frank as well.
It turned out Joe Frank wasn’t a dutiful nephew after all. He admitted hiring Bagwell, and also told the authorities that the money had come from his aunt and uncle, Sue and George Logue.
On Sunday, Nov. 16, 1941, newly elected Sheriff Wad Allen and Deputy W.L. “Doc” Clark picked up the warrants from magistrate A.L. Kemp and headed for Sue Logue’s home.
But someone had warned George Logue that the law was on the way. Logue and a sharecropper, Fred Dorn, ambushed the two officers. Sheriff Allen died after being shot in the head and Deputy Clark was shot in the stomach and arm. Clark was able to wound both men before staggering from the house and making his way to Highway 378 where he was picked up by a passing motorist.
Gov. R.M Jeffries later ordered state patrolmen and deputies from Saluda County to arrest Logue and Dorn.
With dozens of officers surrounding the house, and officials wanting to avert further bloodshed, they appealed to then local Circuit Court Judge Strom Thurmond, a Logue family friend, to try to reason with the Logues. Thurmond walked alone across the yard and into the house. The Logues followed his advice and surrendered a short time later.
Two days later, Deputy Clark died. Logue’s friend, Fred Dorn, died the day before.
Four months later, George, Sue, and Bagwell were tried for Timmerman’s murder. The three-day trial was held in Lexington County with Solicitor Griffith serving as prosecutor.
The jury took only two hours to convict the trio.
On Jan. 15, 1943, Sue Logue was electrocuted. One book reports that Strom Thurmond accompanied Sue on the trip to the “death house” and had relations with her during the trip, according to Thurmond’s driver interviewed for the book. (TP: She had been a teacher in the school system when Strom was superintendent. A tale goes that Sue and Strom were caught in the act, flagrante delicto.)
Sue Logue was the first and only woman to die in the electric chair in South Carolina.
Less than an hour after Sue was executed, George and Bagwell took their place in the electric chair.
Joe Frank Logue received the death penalty for his participation in the killing and his execution date was set for Jan. 23, 1944. He ate his last meal and was prepped for the electric chair. Shortly before midnight, Gov. Olin D. Johnston visited Joe Frank and as a result of that visit, Johnston commuted Joe Frank Logue’s sentence to life.
Within 10 years, Joe Frank Logue was given a job with SLED as a bloodhound handler and trainer. In 1960, 37 of the state’s 40 sheriffs supported Joe Frank’s bid for parole.
When it was all over, nine lives were destroyed.”
Felder Dorn wrote a book about this tale of revenge, of murder for hire, The Guns Of Meeting Street. Bound to be a riveting read.
All those times I passed the store I had no idea such a story of mule-mad-mayhem had taken place there. I’ll never pass that way again that I don’t think of the murders and Sue Logue who was quite concerned about her appearance. On the evening before her execution she cried softly as her long black hair was shaven off.
Oh! I almost forgot. The price of gas on the old pump was sixty cents a gallon. That pump must have last dispensed gas circa 1974, about the time I first passed this store where a mule’s kick set a series of tragedies in motion.
One usually arrives early and sits patiently. Others file in slowly, leaning on walkers. Some carry oxygen tanks. Many come in wheelchairs, a rolling procession that looks like a car race just as the caution flag comes out. Some amble in using canes and the newer style walking sticks, the kind you can stand on its own. One or two, perhaps, walk in unaided as they have done all their life. What is their secret?
They live in homes that generally lean on nature for their names. Words like leaf, forest, oak, pine, woods, laurel, spring, and morning. Let me approximate one such name. Let’s call a place Magnolia Glen. I suppose such names hope to convey a sense of peace, of tranquility, and I pray that they do.
By now you understand that I am writing about assisted living centers, what we used to call in antique parlance “old folks” homes. Or rest homes. These centers can be large places. To me, they seem to be a mix of apartments, hotels, cafeterias, and activity areas all rolled up into one campus-like place where older folks live out their last days. I’ve been to six recently to share stories from my books, Georgialina, A Southland As We Knew It and Classic Carolina Road Trips. I take these stately ladies and a few good men on trips across the South and I take them back in time.
Always the group is by far mostly women. It’s true, men. You do die earlier. In a group of 16 women, there may be one man. The women’s men have died, and here they live in an assisted living center where people try to make life enjoyable for them. They get regular meals, medical care, exercise and activities, occasionally take road trips, and attend programs where people like me, it’s hoped, will provide a bit of entertainment and enlightenment. In the last few months I have been to six such places and I have another three scheduled at this writing. It makes me feel good to go to these places.
The women (and occasional man) come to hear me speak about my books, the places I go, and the things I see. It’s not always an easy audience. Some fall asleep. Others try to ask questions but can’t. Some repeat themselves, but let me tell you one thing. They do not sit there and scroll through their smart phones or tablets and pads as I talk like the younger crowd does. They listen. Last month I was talking about the days when people churned butter, used outhouses, and swept their yards with a dogwood “bresh” broom. With great difficulty a lady slowly raised her hand.
“Yes ma’am,” I asked.
“I’ve lived the life you are describing. I–lived–it,” she said with emphasis and her face lit up as if she had won a new lease on life.
Now, I do a lot of talks. I speak at museums, libraries, schools, bookstores, and civic group gatherings. I speak at banquets and annual meetings, but I had never spoken to the people who live in assisted living centers. I came to this audience thanks to a friend who works with a company that provides assisted living centers services. It seemed like a good idea to have me make the rounds and speak to residents. From the start, this good idea proved to be a great idea. A lot of times I give illustrated talks, projecting photographs of rural scenes, covered bridges, country stores, the Goat Man, and more. My goal is to spirit these people far from their wheelchairs, canes, and walkers into the countryside where things grow, where the breezes carry the fragrance of flowers, summer wheat, rocky shoals spider lilies, and the brackish waters of swamps. I want them to feel the wind and rain on their face and to smell a dirt road just after a cloud has come up. My goal is to take them back into youth.
I consider myself a tour guide, and I always describe myself as a Georgian who grew up with one foot in Georgia and the other in South Carolina. Thus, I explain, that’s how “Georgialina” found its way into my book’s title. Always there is a woman in the audience who grew up in Georgia. One day a woman from Athens and I talked about them Dawgs. Rapport was instantaneous.
I’d be lying if I said all this is a bother to me. It is not. I always leave these centers feeling better than when I walked in. I leave with the feeling that these elders love hearing about their days of youth when they were green and supple and filled with all the passions life gives us. The days before air conditioning locked us inside. The days when you knew to get to town Wednesdays well before noon. The days when the arrival of the Sears Roebuck catalog was Christmas come early. The days when many men had an able-bodied mule about. The days when you could go into a country store, buy a week’s worth of groceries, and sign an old ledger for credit and walk out. The days when you made biscuits from scratch with fresh flour milled maybe a mile away down by a river or creek. And nights when you rocked on the front porch and watched heat lightning turn the horizon into an incandescent jack-o’-lantern. Nights when the fragrance of gardenias sweetened a glittery bit of pageantry put on by fireflies. And nights, perchance, when romance blossomed beneath the roof of a covered bridge.
When my allotted time is done, several ladies linger to share their memories from the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and other years. I detect a small gleam in eyes that are aged, tired, and not always able to see clearly. An undeniable sadness permeates the air. A lot of women now live far from their true home, the home where they maintained a house, rocked babies, raised a family, and gave their soul to. Their children have gently, I hope, uprooted them and moved them nearby. They come from all over … Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, South Carolina, and as we used to say in my bus station days “points beyond.”
I study their faces. I see traces of beauty that linger. I try to imagine them as women in their 20s when life’s dreams were magnificent and sure to come true. Of course, we all know better than that for life has a way of beating us into submission. If only we could age as Angel Oak has aged. If only, we too, could rack up 500, maybe even 1,500 years and retain our greenness. But that’s not in the cards for us. So, I see these women in these places with names that refer to forests, lawns, seasons, woods, and flowers as falling leaves. They have lived through a beautiful spring, a blazing summer, and arrived at autumn whose winds pull on them hard. Winter’s coldness surely is next but for now life goes on and today they’re in for a bit of nostalgia and longing for days long gone. Memories live anew and all is well.
Grits & Groceries’ Rudy Cox, the Palmetto Pecker
Comfort Food In A Small Town Southern Dive
Real Food, Done Real Good
I went down to the crossroads, got down on my knees, and prayed. Gave thanks for such great food, that is. Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers, went down to the crossroads to deal with the devil who shot up from the ground to confront him. Me? I went down to the crossroads where wicked chickens lay deviled eggs.
The crossroads? SC Highways 185 and 284, respectively known as the Due West Highway and Trail Road. Locals refer to it as Saylors Crossroads. That’s where you’ll find Grits & Groceries, Joe and Heidi Trull’s fine restaurant. You won’t see the devil but you will see a huge chicken that looks Foghorn J. Leghorn. His name is Rudy Cox, the Palmetto Pecker, and he proudly stands in front of this former country store, post office, and radio station turned restaurant.
As you can see, the store possesses a fine lineage and so does Grits & Groceries. Not that long ago, Heidi owned and operated the well-loved New Orleans restaurant, Elizabeth’s, and Joe spent a decade as the pastry chef at Emeril Lagasse’s preeminent French Quarter restaurant, Nola. As soon as they realized they were having a baby, Tom, they started planning a return home to the countryside to raise their son. Grits & Groceries resulted and it enjoys no small degree of fame. It is widely known.
If We Cook It, They Will Come
So, how did a restaurant in such a bucolic, if sequestered, locale achieve fame? By serving up good Southern comfort food. The Trulls serve “real food done real good.” That pulled the magazines and media in. NBC’s “Today Show” featured it. Southern Living featured Grits & Groceries in “Off The Eaten Path” where it’s described as “nine miles from everywhere” and the “center of the universe.” Garden & Gun covered Grits & Groceries’ fried pies back in 2012 and I quote: “These days, if you want one of Trull’s fried pies, you have to head deep into South Carolina’s Upcountry, where Joe and his wife, Heidi, now run their own restaurant, Grits and Groceries, in Belton. Heidi handles the savory side of the menu. Joe bakes. Fried apple pies are a staple, but when it’s strawberry season, he takes advantage. Lately, he’s also been stirring in a little legal white lightning. Although the pies can be made in a skillet, Trull likes his deep-fried.”
I’d long wanted to come to this restaurant. Alas, a funeral gave me my chance. Cousin Judy and I went Saturday, May 28, following our aunt’s funeral and I can tell you the friendly place brightened our spirits. We enjoyed a tomato pie appetizer and shrimp and grits in ham gravy, complete with a biscuit as big as a moonpie.
Somehow, we resisted the urge to commit dessert overdose. (Fried apple pies, pecan pie, chocolate Coca-Cola cake, fig jam cake, bourbon bread pudding, peach cobbler … We deserve medals don’t we.)
Besides the regular menu of heaping servings of “real food, done real good,” Heidi and Joe’s daily specials combine Cajun, Creole, and Southern cooking traditions. The world-class homemade dessert menu changes daily and the Saturday Brunch offers an extravaganza of special dishes that make you glad you went down to the crossroads.
Southern As Honeysuckle
As we say down South, “You git down to the crossroads” where whenever possible Heidi and Joe use locally grown organic produce and dairy goods like the Happy Cow Creamery products in their homemade ice creams. They also plant an extensive garden to provide seasonal vegetables to the restaurant (and a sunflower patch for Tom.) A recent monthly special hints at just how creative yet Southern the Trulls’s menu items are: honeysuckle ice cream that tastes like an early summer walk through the woods. (See the recipe at the end of this feature.)
So, how did a restaurant that’s been covered by Southern Living and Garden & Gun end up in the Belton neck of the woods? Read what the owners have to say.
“With the help of far-flung cousins throughout the Carolinas, we found the perfect spot in an old country store at Saylors Crossroads, a cozy historic building at the junction of highways 185 and 284. The property came bundled with a house and acreage for keeping horses, a prerequisite for country living and raising Tom. We completely renovated the restaurant to combine its original well-crafted details with state-of-the-art culinary facilities.”
So, there you have it. Grits and Groceries is again a great country place to meet and eat and is listed on the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor.
Want to go? Just plug 2440 Due West Highway, Belton, South Carolina into your GPS device. Latitude 34.398913, Longitude 82.507008, phone 864-296-3316. You’ll know you’re getting close when four-way stops keep delaying you. Even closer when you see a pasture full of goats, and slap-dab there when you see the Palmetto Pecker wearing his garland of sunflowers. Git out, sit down, and eat.
Before you go, check the hours. They are a bit different as restaurants go. Get all the info you need here: http://www.gritsandgroceries.com/index.php/home. Now go churn up some honeysuckle ice cream.
Honey Suckle Ice Cream
(An excellent companion to Blueberry Crisp or Blackberry Apple Crumb Pie.)
Yield: ½ gallon
4 cups Milk
2 cups Heavy Cream
2 cups Sugar
1 cup of Egg Yolks (about 12)
3 cups of picked Honeysuckle Flowers (about 1 ½ oz.)
In a large, heavy bottom saucepot, combine the milk, cream and sugar. Heat milk mixture over medium heat stirring until sugar is dissolved and milk is hot to the touch. Put eggs in a bowl and slowly whisk milk mixture into egg yolks a little at a time. Return milk and egg yolk mixture to pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of spoon. Remove custard from heat and strain into a large bowl. While the custard is still hot, add the honeysuckle flowers and steep for one hour. Strain flowers from custard. Freeze ice cream in Ice Cream Machine according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Tip: After picking honeysuckle flowers, keep them in a Ziploc bag in refrigerator until ready to use.
Down In Camellia Land, Part I
DATELINE I-20 WEST, FEB. 11: I’m making my way to Edgefield to attend Edgefield Camellia Club’s annual Camellia Tea. As soon as I take Exit 18 onto Highway 19, everything changes. I-20’s bland corridor of cars, trucks, and tedium gives way to thick, green cedar groves, sprawling pine-edged fields, stately avenues of oaks, an abandoned home or two, historic plantations, horses, and a curious collection of what appears to be forsaken 18-wheelers in a powerline right-of-way.
My goal is a leisurely one. Saunter around Edgefield a bit and take photos and make mental notes. I will arrange my day to end at Magnolia Dale, circa 1843, site of the first residence in Edgefield and home to the Edgefield County Historical Society. That’s where the Camellia Tea will take place.
It’s one of those days when it’s good to be out and about. Cirrus clouds etch scrimshaw feathers into a deep blue sky. Golden daffodils shine at ground level with backdrops of green fields of rye. Explosions of camellia blooms, I’m told, will add their voices to the chromatic chorus.
My first stop is in Trenton at Darby Plantation, home to Miss Clarice Wise and a camellia garden some eight decades old. I ring the doorbell to no avail. That’s cause Miss Clarice is outside. Spying me, she motions me over to the entrance of her walled camellia garden. “Daddy started it in the early 1950s,” she tells me, adding that the “cold snap” got her camellias, and it’s true. As you can see, freezing temperatures burned a lot of them. Still, pristine blooms live among the beautiful losers. In the blue light of winter, camellia blooms seem a bit subdued but glorious nonetheless. Their colors range from cherry red, lipstick pink, velvety cream, to blood red, all framed by glossy, green leaves.
Out front by Darby’s long driveway stands a marker, as it should. A deep history lives here. Nathan Lipscomb Griffin built Darby in 1842. In 1858 son-in-law, Milledge Luke Bonham, acquired it. Bonham served as a congressman, governor, and Confederate general and lived at Darby before the War and during Reconstruction.
Darby Plantation. It’s here where a Gone With The Wind aside takes center stage. In 1863 Bonham sold Darby to George Trenholm who had a dashing career: blockade-runner. Frankly my dear, it’s believed Margaret Mitchell based Rhett Butler on Trenholm, who went on to become the Confederate treasurer. In the late 19th century, Walter S. Miller purchased Darby whose widow left the property to her nephew, Douglas L. Wise who owned the house until his death whereupon Miss Clarice came into the picture. I photograph the historical marker and leave, catching a glimpse of one lonely daffodil, an early riser, a premature harbinger of the spring that will bring us all such joy.
Into Edgefield Proper
You wayfarers, sojourners, tourists, and nomads heading into Edgefield on Highway 19, the Augusta Highway, as I did, take note. On the left, you’ll pass the National Wild Turkey Federation, a campus of grey buildings. Its mission is to help save wildlife habitat, conserve the wild turkey, and preserve a heritage of hunting.
Spiriting beneath a railroad overpass and approaching downtown, I look straight out the windshield and over the square looms the handsome courthouse, a red brick beauty. When you get to Edgefield’s square you can’t miss the large artsy turkeys standing at street corners. The NTWF and turkeys are a big deal not just in Edgefield but in the South. You’ll see two large turkeys on the porch of the Joanne T. Rainsford Discovery Center a short walk from the square. What was once an 1840 farmhouse now houses a theater, interpretative exhibits, and a room dedicated to Strom Thurmond who served in Congress until the tender age of 100. The late Joanne T. Rainsford succumbed to cancer tragically at an early age. She endeared herself to Edgefield for her civic work. For many years, she served as president of the Historical Society,
I strolled the square a bit, dropping into the near 100-year-old building that houses the Billiard Parlor, a pool hall since about 1938. “The Pool Room,” as it’s called reputedly serves the best hamburger you’ll ever eat, reason enough to drive to Edgefield lest you be a vegetarian. Make the drive anyway. There’s the Edgefield General Store with its old wagon now rendered into a mega wine rack and Tompkins Memorial Library, home of the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society. While there, I met a lady from McDuffie County, Georgia. She, as were others, was sorting out her past. Edgefield and genealogy are synonymous.
The Edgefield Courthouse, unlike so many others, never burned, and that scalawag Sherman never passed through here. The records down here sure do stack deep. If you have family connections to Edgefield as others and I do, the Courthouse and archives next door are where you can research your family’s genealogy. You readers unsure of your roots. Here’s the place to begin sorting them out.
Edgefield, going way back in time, seems to be a point of westward dispersion for many, and Edgefield, thanks to its vast records, gets a lot of tourism based on researching ancestors. Edgefield County Archivist Tricia Price Glenn will tell you there may be millions of records here. They have been growing and growing since 1785. People who know that flock to Edgefield to unravel their past. You’ve heard of eco-tourism. Well, add ancestry-tourism to the lexicon.
As you’ll see in Part Two of “Down In Camellia Land,” Edgefield is a happening place. So happening, in fact, that two fellows ambled into the Edgefield General Store with a freshly found intact pot made by Dave the Slave. “We got a pot for sale,” they say. I knew enough to keep my mouth shut. “It’s one his pots, all right,” said one fellow. “But he didn’t sign it,” said the other.
And it was at the Old Edgefield Grill where I met Janice and Harriett. What a conversation we had. “Now don’t put that in a book,” they admonished me more than once.
And, earlier I walked into Carolina Moon Distillery where Martha and I cooked up a little prank on the lady at Discovery Center and then, too, there’s the reason for my journey, the Camellia Tea.
Down In Camellia Land, Part II
Part One left us in the Edgefield General Store, a place with something for everyone, an old fashioned soda fountain, gourmet items, and the talented services of Maine the florist. It was there, near the front door, where two fellows out of Barnwell ambled in claiming they had found a pot made by Dave the Slave. Nancy Gilliam referred them to Old Edgefield Pottery around the corner. Off they went, would-be art peddlers, seeking fame and fortune.
I stepped into the sunshine and took stock of the square. My kinfolk walked this square. It’s taken me most of my life to learn I have ancestral roots in Edgefield. For many years I drove through Edgefield County paying it no mind. It was just a place between here and there. All that began to change when a long-lost relative read my work online and contacted me. We met in Edgefield one November Sunday a few years back. As he showed my cousin and me around town a feeling of odd familiarity took hold. As I walk out the Edgefield General Store, that feeling returns. I wonder just how many times long-deceased relatives stood on the very spot I stand.
A few strides to the left land me at the Tompkins Memorial Library. That’s where I talk with the lady from McDuffie County who is sorting out her family ties. Who knows? Maybe she and I are related. I make a mental note to return to this library, which serves as the official visitors center of Edgefield. It’s said that the library averages 2,000 visitors a year from 40 states and several countries. You could say it carries a load, serving as the headquarters of the Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society and South Carolina Genealogical Society. It also plays a pivotal role in the annual Southern Studies Showcase each September with a variety of speakers and events focused on historic and genealogical research. Check it out at 104 Courthouse Square.
As I leave the Tompkins Library I see the two fellows who found the alleged Dave the Slave pot. I can’t tell if they are jubilant or disappointed. They remind me of characters from “The Andy Griffith Show.” They get into a pick’em up truck and head out of town. (Back in Columbia I made a phone call and learned that their pot was not one of David Drake’s pots.) “Dave the Slave,” as he’s referred to, could read and write, quite unusual for the times, and his 25- to 40-gallon jugs often featured verses and couplets … “Put every bit all between / surely this jar will hold 14.” Edgefield’s Leonard Todd has chronicled Dave the Slave’s life. Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter, Dave W.W. Norton, fall 2008. Check it out.
As Fine As Any In Charleston
I drop in at John Kemp Antiques. John has walked up town but Virginia graciously shows me around, pointing out gorgeous old desks (one has had a top “added on”) and an ancient handgun cased in glass. She shows me a clock from London that seems as ancient as time itself. “It still runs,” she says. You’ll hear about hallmarking English silver and words like “Chippendale” here. Great pieces to be found here as the Kemps have been in the antique business for 40 years and make frequent trips abroad to buy inventory. You’ll find antiques here as fine as any in Charleston. They specialize in Early American/Federal/Empire furniture and silver. Virginia prides herself on their policy that if you purchase a piece of furniture from them, you can trade it back in any time as they stand behind the provenance of their fine pieces. Before I leave I say, “Maybe I’ll bump into John around the square.”
She smiles and knowing I have never met the man, says, “John has a ponytail, and he’ll be sorry he missed you.”
Driving away I look at the fine house, Willow Hill, post 1822, they live and work in. That’s how things used to be. The Kemps, having restored the home to its original Adam style façade, found the perfect place for their antique business.
At Carolina Moon Distillery Martha MacDonald asks if I plan to visit the Discovery Center. I already have it on my agenda but then she says, “My friend, Ellie, a spirited redhead works there.” Okay, I muse, Ellie has no idea who I am or that I am about to pay her a visit. Time for some tomfoolery.
At the Discovery Center, I walk onto the porch between two large artsy turkeys and open the door. The Discovery Center is quiet. Ellie, sitting at her desk, looks up.
“Well it’s good to see you after all these years,” I tell her. I get a confused look. “Can you believe it’s me? I know my hair is different now but it’s me at last.”
I get nothing but a stare …
“I mean, the way we parted wasn’t the best, you know, but here I am.”
More bewilderment. She says nothing. A long pause settles in.
“Ellie Glaze,” I say, “now you know you remember me. How could you forget all the times we spent together?”
“I know you?”
“Sure. Of course that was a long time ago … a long time ago.”
Now I have a tendency to hit the nail one time too many and dent the wood. Ellie squirms a bit and I detect a degree of vexation. She’s onto me. Time to come clean. “My name is Tom and your friend Martha sent me here. I’m here to write a story on Edgefield. I’m just messing with you.”
We share a laugh or two and a relieved Ellie shows me around the Discovery Center, which now has a fine theater as part of its offerings. The Center began life as the Captain James Miller House, circa 1840. Located near Trenton, it was moved to Edgefield in 1992 by the Edgefield Historical Society as part of the Joanne T. Rainsford Heritage Center of the South Carolina Heritage Corridor. You’ll see some fine examples of Edgefield pottery here, a room devoted to Strom Thurmond, and more, including a relieved Ellie.
Down In Camellia Land, Conclusion
Part Two ended as Ellie Glaze showed me around the Discovery Center after my attempt to flummox and amuse her fizzled. With time to kill I drop into the Billiard Parlor and look around. My kind of place. I’ll be back. I head downhill and to the right to The Old Edgefield Grill for shrimp and grits (the restaurant’s recipe featured in Southern Living.) Lunch proved scrumptious, but the conversation with Harriett and Janice at the table next to me was even better. Much of it centered on Strom Thurmond’s, shall we say, colorful past. Some whispering commenced … “Now don’t put that in a book!” We talked about the infamous “mule kick that killed eight people” too.
This Victorian style brick home built in 1906 provides great ambience and Strom, come to think of it, was just four years old when the home went up. I wonder … As a boy, was he here?
On To The Tea
The raison d’être, of course, for my variegated journey to Edgefield is the Camellia Tea. Now I’m social but not a socialite, so I’m venturing into uncharted waters. But, here I go. The tea takes place at Magnolia Dale on 320 Norris Street. This home sits on venerated ground, the 1762 site of Edgefield’s first residence. Magnolia Dale itself, circa 1843, possesses a degree of notoriety. Alfred J. Norris, a distinguished Edgefield lawyer and businessman, purchased the property in 1873. Two years later, his daughter, Mamie Norris, came into the world here. She would go on to marry James Hammond Tillman who would go on to become lieutenant governor of South Carolina and a player in South Carolina’s “Crime of the Century.”
Tillman was elected lieutenant governor in 1900 and ran for governor in 1902. (Strom’s birth year.) After a grueling campaign in which Narciso Gener Gonzales, the editor of The State newspaper repeatedly attacked him, Tillman ascended to notoriety for shooting Gonzales at point blank range in Columbia. South Carolina’s most celebrated newspaper editor was dead. Why? Because of the unflattering things Gonzalez published about him in the newspaper. (Tillman would sure have a hard time in today’s social media world.) The story’s political and it’s complex but the upshot is that Tillman got away with it. The general consensus is that the jury was rigged and highly partisan. Although Tillman shot Gonzales in broad daylight before lots of eyewitnesses, he was acquitted on a weak, at best, self-defense theory. The jury believed Tillman was right in taking justice into his own hands for Gonzales had waged a newspaper crusade against Tillman. That campaign helped defeat Tillman in the 1902 South Carolina governor’s race.
Political feuds aside, Magnolia Dale was given to the Edgefield County Historical Society in 1960 for use as its headquarters. Adored Edgefieldian Broadus M. Turner, upon his 2006 passing, left a significant bequest to the Historical Society for restoring Magnolia Dale.
The portraits of Arthur and Margaret Simkins hang in it. Simkins is referred to as “the father of Edgefield” because he donated land for the first courthouse and public square. Other family portraits and notable things distinguish this grand home. As I walk up to it, I sense the history that oozes from the grounds and seeps from the fine old oaks here. If only aged brick walkways could talk. I check my watch, 2:59 p.m. Ladies and a few gentlemen walk toward the entrance where a black-clad Jayne Rainsford greets people.
The Edgefield Camellia Club Tea, part of the Great Gardens of America Preservation Alliance, puts on a fine tea. The tea—three o’clock to five o’clock—makes for a great way to spend the afternoon. Finery and elegance refine two hours otherwise devoted to a chilled winter afternoon. It’s free, elegant, open to the public, colorful, and festive. Tea from the Charleston Tea Plantation and beautiful blooms, properly annotated, bring the Classic South alive. Sandwiches, sweets, and punch are in abundance. Polished silver tea sets gleam as window light strikes them. Faces from the past preserved in oil on canvas gaze at participants. The women are beautiful. The men appreciative. As Miz Clarice pours tea, medleys and trickles of conversation blend into a pleasant river of talk. It is, quite simply, an occasion. As the Edgefield Camellia Club so rightly puts it, “The lovely mid-winter afternoon will be completed amidst a backdrop of chamber music, provided by local musicians,” and indeed it is.
It’s crowded, shoulder-to-shoulder, but I manage to shoot what I deem reference photographs. I get enough decent shots to illustrate my three-part feature. I photograph residents, hostesses with very Southern names, Lady and Henrietta, visitors, camellia authorities, and the curious. All in all, it makes for an intriguing mélange. As I leave, I hear my name called out and am surprised to see a few ladies from Columbia whom I know. This tea has pull. Recent teas have attracted visitors from throughout the state. Georgia, too.
The tea traces its origin to 1949, a fine year I must say, when Edgefield was well known as a premier camellia growing area. Back then, blooms beautified the home of Joe and Chrissie Holland at their “Camellia Tea.” Edgefield, you see, has long grown some of the oldest gardens in South Carolina, and the camellia’s been a favorite here since the early 1800s when the first specimens came to Edgefield. Next winter/spring, do yourself a favor. Drive around Edgefield and enjoy the results of a century of plantings.
I enjoyed my time in “Miz” Clarice’s camellia garden, though she and I talked only briefly. A retired schoolteacher, by the way, she’s very active in the Historical Society. Her father’s camellias make for a great attraction at Darby but much more than camellias grow in Edgefield County. My fondness for the town and county grows as well. People here are friendly and gracious and, besides, my father’s folks, Busseys and Searles, came from the Red Oak Grove community, and my paternal grandmother’s folks, the Blanchards, came from Edgefield as well.
Recently I returned to give a talk to the Camellia Club. What fun we had in this town where my day at the Camellia Tea proved so memorable. I plan to return for an extended stay, an overnight visit, and I hear the Pleasant Lane Acres Bed & Breakfast is a fine place to stay.
As I close, permit me a bit of camellia lingo. Let’s say that my February day in Edgefield made for a good cutting, about six leaf nodes back at a slant. From this cutting, other beautiful days are sure to grow Down in Camellia Land.