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Pendleton Memories 3 - Nell Seawright Reeves
Memories of Old Pendleton SC-1920s to 1930s
Nell Seawright Reeves shared her memories of growing up in Pendleton, South Carolina in the 1920s and 1930's. This page was created in 2010. Nell passed away March 22, 2016 at 100 years of age. She will be greatly missed by her family and friends.
This page is dedicated to the memory of Nell Seawright Reeves.
I had a delightful afternoon visiting with Nell Reeves and her daughter. We sat on the porch and I thought about taking notes but was really too busy listening and enjoying to get much on paper. That is one reason that I am so glad that Nell is a very talented writer. She had her story written down already because she was one of the local residents asked to speak to the Leadership Pendleton Class of 2009.
Nell has agreed to be a part of our Pendleton Memories Series and is allowing me to post her speech here.
Thank you, Nell for sharing your memories.
Photo Credit: Photo of Nell Reeves taken by OhMe and used here with Nell's permission.
Photos on this page are either the personal property of Nell Reeves or someone else and not to be copied. Permission has been granted to use on this page only.
Pendleton SC Links That May Be Of Interest To You
- Town of Pendleton
The Town of Pendleton Website
- Pendleton District Commission
Are you interested in the history of the old Pendleton District - Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties? This is the place for you.
- Pendleton Historic Foundation
Pendleton Historic Foundation maintains the historic Woodburn and Ashtabula Historic Homes.
Nell Seawright Reeves - Pendleton South Carolina
Nell Reeves Shares Her Story
As one of Pendleton's "antiques," I have been asked to tell you about some of my memories of the town. These memories reflect the views of a somewhat sheltered white child long ago, so they give only a partial view of the town and, perhaps, are not entirely accurate.
I was born here in 1915 in a house that stood on a small hill behind Bellamy's Store on Old Greenville Highway. It had been the parsonage for Pendleton Presbyterian Church, and the daughter of the preacher (Rev. McBryde) still lived there. My parents rented an apartment from her. When I was 5, we moved to the house I grew up in on Lebanon Road.
I left Pendleton after graduation from high school in 1931 to go to Winthrop College, and I returned in 1970. I remember watching my father step over the side of his car (the car had no top) to slip under the steering wheel of his Model T Ford to go to work at the depot. His job was to load the boxcars, pushing the heavy gray wagons with huge wheels. The Blue Ridge train passed through town often and made a very loud noise. One time my uncle, who was an undertaker, brought a body to the train to be shipped out of town. He drove a small box-shaped hearse drawn by two beautiful horses. As he drove away from the depot, the train whistle exploded just behind them. The horses bolted straight ahead and down into a deep ravine next to the road, injuring both horses so badly they had to be shot. What a terrible thing for a little girl to see!
Photo credit: Compliments of Nell Reeves
Nell Remembers The Pendleton Town Square
Pendleton SC in the 1920s
The layout of the town around the Square was exactly the same as it is now; only a few extra stores have been added. The Farmers Hall, where 1826 now stands, was always the most prominent building. Then it served as the Post Office with a driveway across the front from Mechanic Street to Exchange Street over what is now the umbrella-covered patio of the restaurant. My father and one of my uncles became rural mail-carriers, so this was the office where they worked. The upstairs is almost the same as I remember it. However, at that time it was used much more for local meetings. The Lion's Club met there once a month for meetings and a meal. The women's organizations from the churches alternated, serving their meals to make money for their church projects. My mother, sister, and I often helped with this. Because the kitchen is downstairs, the food had to be brought up on a dumb-waiter, a box-shaped shelf pulled up by pulleys. I was fascinated by this! My father rented this space for a family reunion one Christmas because our house was not large enough to serve the crowd.
The small building at the other end of the Square, now being used, I believe, to store some materials from the Historical Building while it's being renovated, was the town library. It was small, but very busy.
Across the street, the present Pendleton Historical District Commission Building was called Hunter's Store, and it was probably the busiest place in town. It was a general store, selling almost everything-food, meats, cloth and clothing, hats, etc. Later they built a new, larger store next door to the old one. It is now occupied by what used to be the Mexican restaurant next door. The Hunters were very influential people who lived in a very large white house on the corner of East Main and Broad Street. It burned about 1924 and was replaced by the large brick house there now. This was the largest fire I have ever seen.
The Old Jail
Nell Remembers The Old Jail
Just from the outside!
Behind Hunter's Store was the old jail. It was no longer used when I saw it, but I was quite shocked to think that it had ever been used! It was a cave cut back into a hill on the side of a road. It was covered by a wall and a door. We couldn't see inside, but it certainly did not look like a comfortable place to stay! Back on East Queen Street, across from the oldest house in town where Inez Barrett lives now, was the old Benson house. It was moved to a spot behind Hunter's Store on the Clemson Highway when the bank came to town.Photo: Old jail from Pendleton Old Photos
Evans Drug Store and Esso Filling Station
Two popular locations
I remember only a few of the stores on Exchange Street, but Whitten's Meat Market was about where the Pub is now. Then Mr. Foster's Barber Shop came next. It had been for men only, but by the time I remember, he had opened a little back room where he cut women's hair too. He gave me a permanent using curlers hanging down from a metal frame which was above my head. I wouldn't even touch that thing today!
Then Dr. Horton's office was upstairs over Evans Drug Store (now Mountain Made) on the corner. He delivered most of the babies of my generation, including me. I imagine people were really sick after they climbed those steps! The drug store was a busy place, selling prescriptions and other drugs, bandages, etc. Coca-Cola was the new drink, and people dropped in for a break to sit at the dainty white metal table and chairs.
The only thing I remember from Mechanic Street is the Esso Filling Station run by Mr. Dawson Smith. The Fords were brought in for full service. Someone came out to fill the tank, check the tires, wipe the windshield, check the oil, or even to fix a flat tire.Photo:
Main Street in Pendleton SC
Nell remembers the old Cotton Gin - now Pendleton Oil Mill and The Old Ford Motor Company
I remember very little about Main Street. Mr. James Terrie ran a store, Mr. Martin Crenshaw had a hardware store, and there was a shoe shop where shoes were resoled, heels were rebuilt, and shoes were polished to look like new! Mr. J.V. Bostic ran the Ford Motor Company with both an active sales department and repair shop. Practically everyone used Fords, especially after the A-Model came out. The empty store vaguely displays the name even now. The Bee House across Main Street was occupied by the Sloan family. On down Main Street below where PlezU now stands was the ice house. They sent out trucks to refill our ice boxes; we could also buy ice there. On past the railroad tracks was the Cotton Gin, now called the Oil Mill. The gin was a very busy and important place. In the fall long lines of wagons filled with cotton waited in line to drive under the big suction tubes that took the cotton into the machinery to be seeded and packed into huge bales and dumped back into the wagons. The seeds were then crushed to extract cottonseed oil. This created such a good aroma that everyone who drove by the gin felt very hungry! The farmers then sold the bales to be taken to the factories and woven into cloth. This was the time when King Cotton reigned as the chief crop all over the South until the boll weevils ate so much of the crops that there was no profit left. This helped to cause the terrible depression of 1929.The people in town may have had electricity, running water, and paved roads before those on the edge of town did. We lived just inside the town limits on Lebanon Road. To the best of my memory, our house was wired for electric lights in 1927; we received running water about 1932; and the road was paved near the end of the 30's.photo: Old Ford Motor Company
Nell Reeves Remembers The Pendleton School In The 1920's
I started school in 1923 in a white wooden building up the hill behind what is now Pendleton Town Hall. This school was torn down about 1924. About three or four years later, a larger two-story stucco building was erected farther up the hill. It had a lunchroom in the basement where we sat on wooden benches. Outside on each side of the front steps were pipes with holes along them for water to bubble out as drinking fountains. On the playground we had an open field to play ball and a slide for smaller children. Some high school students from out of town boarded in town during the week until they graduated. The school was the center of the community. The stage in the auditorium was used every day for Chapel services where the Bible was read and hymns were sung. On weekends it had other uses. Two or three times a year the New Era Club, a civic organization organized by young couples in town, would present a play to raise money for local improvements. They used local talent, so several times my sister and I took children's parts in the plays they presented. They also sponsored local oratorical contests held at the school auditorium. After much practice and memory work, many of the high school students would present what I thought were long, elaborate speeches. These were free and were well attended.
Pendleton High School Class of 1931 - Nell Reeves Graduating Class
Note from Nancy: Nell told me that this building was the same as the one I went to in the late 50's and early 60's before the new school was built (now Pendleton Elementary School) I knew it looked different from this picture because it is brick here and she said that it was later stuccoed over. You can see a picture of the stucco building on Pendleton Old Photos
Methodist Church on Fire
Nell talks about the churches and Pendleton Manufacturing Co
During the summers the three main churches in town also used the school auditorium for week-long revivals. There was a good spirit of cooperation among these churches. Often one or another of them might go for awhile without a local preacher. When this occurred, the members of that church attended one or another of the worship services of other denominations, so revivals were something like a family reunion. One of my fondest memories is the chiming of the church bells from all three churches every Sunday morning. It was such a happy sound!
One of the tragedies of the town was the fire which destroyed the white wooden Methodist Church building, but God brought good from it by providing the lovely new church there now. The Baptist Church outgrew their small white wooden building and also have a wonderful new one. The Presbyterian Church, a large Gothic structure, was built around 1895 and its picturesque old interior has been used for many weddings. The Episcopal Church was the oldest church in town, but I knew very little about it.
Out South Depot Street is the old Pendleton Manufacturing Co. built in 1910 for manufacturing cotton cloth. Many people worked here and lived in homes provided by the mill, forming a small village within a village. The children attended Pendleton schools, but most of their church, social, and recreational activities occurred near their homes, so I knew little about them. Mr. Cordes Seabrook, Sr., the mill superintendent, and his family lived in a big two-story wooden house where Maxwell Street joins Elm Street. This house gave Pendleton another huge fire.Pendleton is an old town, but it is growing so fast!
I think the spirit of cooperation shown by the churches has made it a happy town, and I hope this attitude can be maintained. I hope the town will remain a safe and happy place that respects and welcomes everyone.
Nell Seawright Reeves submitted this Old Photo of the Pendleton Cotton Mill in 1920
Nell Reeves Favorite Books on Amazon - I asked Nell what her 5 most favorite books were and this was what she said
Nell is an avid reader. Nell Reeves List of Her 5 Most Favorite Books:
1. The Holy Bible - New Living Translation
2. Halley's Bible Handbook by Henry H. Halley
3, Why I Believe by Dr. James Kennedy
4. The Great House of God by Max Lucado
5. Somebody Loves You by Helen Steiner Rice (Nell says that she loves anything written by Helen Steiner Rice)
Thank you, Nell for sharing your story
ON BEING NINETY
by Nell Seawright Reeves
September 25, 2005
Oh, my bones are getting creaky
And my eyes and ears are weak
And the words I want to say
Sometimes aren't the words I speak:
But the sun is shining brightly
And the flowers are in bloom.
And I know the Lord is with me
And that Heaven's coming soon!
Oh, my body's getting weaker
And I'm looking old and gray
And my mind is getting scrambled
And I want to sit all day:
But I know this life is fleeting
And that Heaven's round the bend
And I soon will be with Jesus
For He is my Guide and Friend!
So, I hope that you will listen
To the words I want to say,
"Keep your eyes upon the Savior
For there is no other way
To reach that home in Glory.
I'll be waiting there for you,
And when you come to join me,
All my prayers will then come true!