Roaming the Midlands

With John Bigham

After being warmed by both conversation of coffee in Mrs. Clara Martin’s eating place at Blythewood the other Saturday morning, we headed due east from that village. The trek which followed was to cover various portions of Richland, Kershaw, and Fairfield Counties and result in several contacts worthy of mention in this column. In the time the journey would bring us back to Blythewood but only after a great circular tour had been made through unheralded and relatively unknown bits of Midland’s real estate.

At a point about four country miles east of Blythewood we made a sharp turn to the north and took off through a section known from earliest times as Bear Creek. The goal ahead was state highway 34, an east-west thoroughfare carrying traffic between Camden and Winnsboro. This prominent pike was reached in a short time, mainly because we kept the nose of the car continually pointed north. Inadvertently the map of Fairfield County had been left at home, and it was more or less on dead reckoning that after threading a number of paved rural roads we suddenly came over the brow of a hill and joined up with highway 34. Here a right turn was made, and in a couple of miles we were pulled p in the yard of Sawneys Creek Baptist Church.

Sawneys Creek Church

A local citizen named John Preston Cooper was driving through the yard on his way somewhere or other, and we halted him under the impression that he was the church’s pastor. Brother Cooper turned out to be an insurance agent rather than a preacher. He was born and raised in the neighborhood, and was able to shed some light on this corner of Fairfield. A little later he invited us into the church where his sister, Mrs. Clyde Murphy, was industriously dusting the pews in preparation for the Sabbath.

We found that the pastor at Sawneys Creek is the Rev. Winfred Bagwell, but he spends Saturdays barbering in Columbia. Although he is thus not able to use the day for sharpening up his Sunday message, the good minister, according to Mrs. Murphy, “prepares his sermons real good.”

Lending moral support to this lady in her work the other morning was a small dog named “Rounchie.” It was learned that this canine is quite fond of chewing gum, has strong Baptist leanings, and attends church every Sunday although he sits the service out in the confines of the family car.


Immediately east of Sawneys Creek is the Centerville community, a stronghold through the years of many Mormon families. We believe that Fairfield history records that these people were once relentlessly persecuted as they sought to establish a church. Such harassment, of course, is a thing of the past and today the Mormon church at Centerville is vigorous and prosperous.

Continuing down the highway toward Camden we soon passed over into Kershaw County and made a brief halt at the first crossroads encountered. It is a spot designated as being 15 miles west of Camden and nine miles north of Blaney. The Rabon family name predominates here, and we conversed for a brief period with storekeeper George Rabon. This citizen runs The Economy Store and advertises boldly that it is air-conditioned. However; on the occasion of our visit it was rather cold and George had a friendly stove well fired up. There is little doubt that this gentleman is prepared for what ever weather may strike his Western-Kershaw frontier settlement.

Smyrna Church

Directly behind George Rabon’s store at the crossroads is Smyrna Methodist Church, a rather unusual house of worship since adjacent to it are some four or five separate and distinct cemeteries. This seemed a little puzzling, and we hazard a guess that one finds his final resting place according to his religious affiliation in life. We know one of the areas is for Methodist, and were told that another has been reserved thorough the years for Mormon dead from Centerville.

From this interesting rural spot we struck out for Longtown, traveling ever northward on faith in George Rabon’s word that this village would be reached if “you turn left a couple of miles above here and just keep going straight.” Sure enough, after much wandering in strange country, we came to a respectable highway and shortly there after reached the Longtown community. Time was now a problem as the good wife had reminded us to be home at 1 o’clock for lunch.

Under full steam we therefore headed for Ridgeway, pausing there only long enough to refuel at Baxter Jones’ service station. Here one can always find much conversation as well as gasoline and other commodities for the car. In a matter of minutes a return had been made to Blythewood, thus completing a circuit of 45 miles and an hour-and-a-half of Saturday morning well spent.

January 1, 1962  State (published as THE COLUMBIA RECORD)  Columbia, South Carolina
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