Snow Memories

Because snow in the South is such a big deal, not only do we slow down time to enjoy every minute of it, but a Southern snow day can also have us all reminiscing over the hot cocoa and the piles of wet snow clothes by the fire.   Our Staff Writer Melinda Long is a natural storyteller and this long weekend of winter weather brought back fond memories.  We’re so glad she decided to share some of those memories with us.

The branches are hanging low with sheets of white and my car is now a somewhat car-shaped, white blob. Still, I can see lazy flakes drifting down. Four inches of snow is a lot for this area. I live in Northern Greenville, just inside city limits. When we hear “snow” we race to the store for milk, bread and various forms of comfort food. Usually an inch or so is what we can expect.

From the age of 10, I grew up in Travelers Rest, just north of here, where the snow is always deeper and it’s just a few degrees colder. Before living in Travelers Rest, we lived in various places, but days like this one always take me back to the tiny rental house on Chesnee Highway in Spartanburg, S.C.

The furnace was only a bare reminder of what heat was supposed to feel like. We wrapped up in quilts and sat on top of it to stay warm. Still, I don’t remember being cold.

I’m thinking it was early in 1966. I was nearly six and don’t recall ever playing in the snow before that. Perhaps we didn’t have enough in previous years. The night before, my parents started talking about snow coming up from Atlanta. The rule of thumb was that when it comes from Atlanta, watch out! This year the rule held true.

I woke to a white blanketed world. Mama bundled me up; scarves, hat, a coat big enough to swallow me, and socks on both hands and feet. We didn’t have gloves or mittens because it rarely got that cold. She covered my tennis shoes (no boots either) and the socks on my hands with plastic bags to keep them dry.

Then we went out, braving the cold, my mother, my brother and me; Daddy ran a milk route and was on the road despite the snow. One step off the back porch and my leg sank through the snow up to my knee. I was horrified.  It took about a millisecond for me to jump back up to the porch! It took five or six minutes of Mama’s gentle coaxing to make me understand that I wouldn’t keep sinking until I reached China.

Mama showed me how to roll the snow into a ball. It was amazing! The more you rolled, the bigger the ball! Then came the snowman! I began rolling. One time around the house gave me a good-sized base, but I wasn’t satisfied. My mother and Mark went into the house to drink hot chocolate floating with marshmallows, but I kept on rolling. Two times and then three. There was a grassy racetrack around my house. I couldn’t feel my toes. Finally, my snowman bottom was taller than me. I had to have help getting the head on top and Mama made it real with a scrap of cloth for a scarf and a carrot and raisins for the face. Then I went in to regain the use of my fingers and toes and to drink several cups of cocoa.

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   Author Melinda Long’s children building their own snowman.

My snowman stayed there long after the snow melted, waving to all the traffic. When he finally gave in to the warmer temps and settled into a snow hill and then a snow blob, I wasn’t sad. He’d had a good life. Mama said we’d always have him in our memories. She was right.

A Small Town Christmas with a Very Big Heart

Nothing compares to Christmas in a small town.

Travelers Rest is no exception.

Even though it’s become the place to be in the upstate due to the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail and all the wonderful restaurants and attractions, it’s still a small town where people know each other and spend that extra bit of time it takes to make Christmas special.

Everybody becomes part of the celebration. The memories of time spent with family at Christmas appeal to all, but the small-town feeling is unique.

Long-time resident Joyce McCarrell recalls the Travelers Rest United Methodist Church and the wonderful live pageant they used to present every other year. “Whoever had the newest baby that year would be Mary and Joseph and little baby Jesus.”  Her sister, Nancy McCarrell, remembers The Singing Christmas Tree just down the street at Furman University.

But special to all is the Christmas Parade.

The Travelers Rest Parade began December 9, 1972 by the Travelers Rest Jaycees, and continues to be a crowd pleaser to this day.

For some, the memory is special because they recall marching down the street in the Travelers Rest High School band. Others danced through the street with their dance schools, wearing Christmas regalia and waving to the crowds. Still more love the memory of riding on a float and singing “Joy to the World” or “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.  If you were a spectator, you sat or stood on the side of the road, or maybe in a pickup truck bed, straining to watch the floats and the bands.

“Everyone in the whole community had a float,” says Mayor Wayne McCall. “All the churches had a float. The football teams had a float. If you were in a Church R.A. group, you had a float.” He remembers the music from the bands too; not only from Travelers Rest, but also bands from Berea, Blue Ridge, Sterling and Lincoln High marching down Center Street by the elementary school . They all came to spread Christmas cheer. “When George Coleman was mayor, he always had a brand new convertible for the parade,” says Mayor McCall.

Rebecca Cooper is a native of Travelers Rest. She’s president of The Greater Travelers Rest Chamber of Commerce and has been on the city council for 15 years. She has watched the parade grow over the years. “The Main Street renovation and the addition of the Swamp Rabbit Trail have only enhanced the parade,” she says.

The TR parade is one of the largest small town parades with over 100 entries. One longstanding tradition is that proceeds from the parade, after expenses, are split between The Foothills Family Partnership and The North Greenville Crisis Center.

This year the parade, sponsored by the Chamber and directed by Diana Kilgore, will be Saturday, December 10th at 10 A.M. The theme is “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

Afterward you can do some serious local shopping at The Very Merry Local Christmas Market at Trailblazer Park from 1-5 P.M.

This particular tradition, sponsored by the Travelers Rest Farmers Market, was begun a few years ago and continues to grow in popularity.

Join us for a small town Christmas.

Bring your own joy!

A Children’s Cemetery and Other Unusual Things in South Carolina

Dark has fallen, and even with the glow from street lights and businesses nearby, there’s an eerie feel to the place. Weeds grow unchecked around broken gravestones. This is the cemetery of the Duncan Chapel Methodist Church in Greenville, SC.

A small mesh fence has been trampled to the ground. Many of the stones are unreadable, and many are minuscule, giving the feel that a child lies in the untended grave below.

childrens-cemetery-duncan-chapel-1

The church, established in 1847, no longer stands, but the graves remain, dating back to the mid-1700s. The cemetery itself stands on a fenced-in hill inside the Walmart Neighborhood Market parking lot on Old Buncombe Road, less than five miles south of Travelers Rest, SC.

For locals, this place is better known as “the haunted children’s cemetery,” though there are also many adult graves to be found here. While cemeteries naturally lend themselves to ghost stories, what is it about this one that makes our imaginations conjure up spirits?

Maybe it’s this . . .

Besides the broken and neglected gravesites, overgrown with unwanted weeds, there’s also the fact that people have often left toys for the spirits to enjoy. One grave, for example, sports a dilapidated baby doll with a plastic face and cloth body, worn by the elements.

childrens-cemetery-duncan-chapel-4

Many have reported a feeling of unease or disorientation while on-site. One ghost hunter even mentioned feeling that his emotions were overwhelmed, and that he felt a strong sense of anger toward the conditions in the cemetery.

Visitors have reported hearing the laughter of children playing, as well as seeing black mist and glowing red eyes at the Duncan Chapel Methodist Church Cemetery. Others have noted a feeling of being touched or hearing footsteps and feeling sudden drastic changes in temperature.

This haunted cemetery is most certainly on the list of strange and scary places to see in the Upstate South Carolina area, a list that also includes Poinsett Bridge (Our post “The Unexeplainable Happenings of Poinsett Bridge at Night” will definitely change the way you think about this oldest surviving bridge in the state.), Herdklotz Park, and fellow graveyard Springwood Cemetery.

Interested in finding out more about the haunted and spooky places in South Carolina at large? Sherman Carmichael, who lives in Johnsonville, SC, has been writing books about the unusual aspects of our state for years now.

“I was doing research on South Carolina ghosts for a production company that was going to film a series in South Carolina,” Sherman remembers.

After starting the series, however, the production company shut down, leaving Sherman with a repertoire of unneeded material on the tales of spirits and ghouls.

“I had a file cabinet full of research. I was thinking, ‘Trash all of this, or I could write a book,’ Sherman explains. “I decided to write a book. All I had to do now was research the history.”

Out of all of them, what’s his favorite South Carolina ghost story, you might wonder:

“There are so many interesting and unusual things in South Carolina,” Sherman says. “It’s hard to pick a favorite.”

You’d probably say the same thing if you’d written as many books on the subject as he has.

Sherman began learning about haunted places at the age of 18. He has studied mysterious locations all over South Carolina and the United States, including in Roswell, NM. His books focus on the Palmetto State, though, with titles like Strange South Carolina, Legends and Lore of South Carolina, UFOs Over South Carolina, Forgotten Tales of South Carolina, and even Eerie South Carolina.

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If you get up the nerve to be like Sherman and explore Duncan Chapel Methodist Church Cemetery, then you’ll want to wear good, sturdy walking shoes and bring a flashlight. The terrain is quite uneven.

Remember to visit with respect; this is, after all, a place where the dead have been laid to rest.


Writer: Melinda Long
Editor: Celeste Hawkins
Photographer: Melinda Long
Sources:
Children’s Cemetery Paranormal Investigation, Greenville SC” by SCSupernatural.com
Duncan Chapel Cemetery” by William Bates
Haunted Echoes: The Children’s Graveyard” by Haunted Echoes: South Carolina
Interview with Sherman Carmichael
The Children’s Cemetery, Greenville, SC” by GhostPro.org

Can You Guess Which Greenville City Jason Greer’s Family Founded?

Your first guess is probably Greer, right? But, no, in a real-life case of situational irony, Jason Greer’s family didn’t found the city of Greer, S.C.

But his great, great, great grandfather (That’s a lot of greats!) Peter Simpson did, in fact, found Simpsonville in the 1830s. Simpson owned a general store near where the clock tower now stands.

Yes, Jason’s family goes way back in the Upstate of South Carolina. And he himself has lived in the Greenville area for most of his life, including living right near the locally beloved Paris Mountain with his wife for the last five years.

Before that, Jason recalls passing through Travelers Rest (“TR”) to go to Camp Old Indian or for trips to the mountains.

“On longer trips, I was always glad to see TR coming back, especially seeing Paris Mountain rise to the left, as I traveled from the north to the south,” he says.

Of course, you know Jason as a familiar voice on TravelersRestHere.com as one of our longtime bloggers. But in his other life, he works as a communications professional, with work in technical and marketing writing and political consulting.

“In other words, I like to take complicated things and make them understandable and more useful to clients,” Jason explains.

Fortunately, he also enjoys blogging about the wonderful people and events happening here in Travelers Rest.

“I love that TR is a transition,” he says with obvious appreciation for the area. “It is a transition to the mountains, western North Carolina, the state parks, the camps and it is the transition from the urban areas of Greenville County to the rural northern rolling hills. It is where the long history of southern Appalachia meets a 21st century entrepreneurial experience. It is the transition and the willingness to try new ways of doing business and experiences, with deep rooted life of a people who know where they are from. Yes, Travelers Rest is friendly and it is also determined. People like living here, and they like being rooted here too.”

It’s clear that Jason’s love for the area carries over into his blog posts.

Some years ago, Jason became involved with a church that was meeting in the old Travelers Rest High School building. One winter Sunday morning, they arrived to find that the heat was not working. It was extremely cold but instead of canceling the service, congregants went home to get blankets and hats, returning to share them with everyone else. They went on with their worship service.

“Many people at that service continue to live and work, and have even founded businesses in Travelers Rest now. And to me, it really represents the spirit of, ‘We are in this together, we won’t stop and we will make something new out of a transition time.’”

As to the future of our town, Jason has a powerful vision.

“I would like to see Travelers Rest continue to be a friend to entrepreneurs and people with new ideas of doing business. I would like to see the long-standing people and culture respected and learned from and newcomers welcomed and listened to. And I would like to see growth handled in a way that respects and uses well the natural resources of the area.”

He continues:

“There will be a lot of hard decisions to make in years to come, as growth and population want to be a part of this special land. There will be a need for real cooperation and understanding, and forethought and planning over the next generation.”

Well said, Jason.

It’s Here! Weird New Instrument Gets Made in Travelers Rest

Sarah Jackson just wanted to be able to jam with her nephews — bluegrass musicians who form the band Bedhead Boys. That’s why she started building one-of-a-kind instruments at her home in Travelers Rest, S.C.

You may have seen Bedhead Boys perform around Travelers Rest before. The three-brother band has previously played live at venues like Upcountry Provisions, Trailblazer Park, and The Forest Coffeehouse.

Their toe-tapping tunes were the original inspiration for Sarah to try her hand at making her very own handcrafted washtub bass. She simply looked up some directions online. One thing led to another, and then she decided to build a smaller instrument next.

Sarah Jackson
Travelers Rest-based artist and musician Sarah Jackson

“As it turned out, I made something that sounded decent; so I decided to try and make a better one, and a better one, and a better one,” she recalls.

Thus began Sarah’s beautiful journey into the world of art and music, a journey that gave way to her own small business. Like many other local ventures, sTRum’s name finds inspiration from its hometown of Travelers Rest. (Thus the capital “TR” right there in the middle.)

strum-travelers-rest-farmers-market

Today, Sarah builds easy-to-play, hardwood instruments by hand, often using repurposed wood that would have otherwise been thrown out by local woodworkers.

“I start by selecting various pieces of wood based on color, grain, and how I think they will work for what I am doing. My favorite wood that I’ve worked with is some beautiful Bolivian Rosewood I got from a shop in Asheville,” Sarah says, explaining the process she uses to craft her instruments.

“From there, I fashion the necks and bodies of my instruments using mainly a band saw and sander. I use hand tools to cut and file the frets. I finish the wood with a coat or two of varnish oil to really bring out the natural beauty of the wood.”

Like a true creative spirit, Sarah continues to be inspired by things that “reflect the natural beauty and symmetry of the world around us.”

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Originally from Hendersonville, Sarah grew up around music. She moved to Greenville after high school and eventually to Travelers Rest four years ago.

“I’ve always enjoyed living in South Carolina,” she says. “But I love it even more now that I’m in TR and back closer to the mountains.”

The banjos, guitars, and other instruments she creates fit beautifully into our mountain heritage. Besides that heritage, Sarah says that she loves both the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail and the other outdoor activities available in Travelers Rest.

“I also love the community atmosphere and that everyone is so supportive of local farms and local artists.”

In fact, Sarah will participate alongside other local artists at this year’s Art on the Trail, a two-day art and music event that takes over Trailblazer Park.

“Music inspires me! I have always loved music and learning new instruments. I’m not especially good at playing stringed instruments, but I have a lot of fun playing them!” Sarah says.

Sarah played both the trumpet and the cello during school, but she wanted an even easier stringed instrument she could use to play with her nephews.

“It has been very enjoyable to be able to figure out how to make something that is also fun to play!”

She continues to make instruments that she herself can pick up and play with ease.

“I don’t really have a special name for any of the instruments except for the triangular-shaped ones. Those I call ‘hobo dulcimers,'” she says. (See featured image.) “They have three strings tuned to an open chord and are fretted like a dulcimer, but they are very portable and can go anywhere. They are extremely easy to play because you don’t have to worry about lots of sharps and flats like a ukulele or guitar.”

strum-travelers-rest

Her other instruments include more recognizable names like ukuleles; banjoleles (with drum heads for a body); and four-string guitars.

“My favorite piece is one I just finished for myself, which is a fretless electric bass. It’s based on the idea of a ukulele bass, so it is a smaller size than a normal bass,” she explains. “I’m still learning how to play it!”

Unlike many forms of art, Sarah’s creations beg to be held, even to be played and picked. Does it bother her when people handle her unique creations?

“Actually, I have enjoyed sharing my work with people. People have been very good about being respectful of my artwork and being careful in handling my instruments,” she says. “I love hearing people who are accomplished musicians pick up my instruments and make beautiful music on them.”

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Sarah takes great pleasure in crafting her work, but maybe more so in seeing it get used. Or, rather, hearing it:

“I enjoy the creativity and precision involved in creating instruments, but I love it even more when people pick up an instrument and their face lights up as they start playing it! That’s my goal: to light up people’s faces.”

And that’s exactly what she does.

You can find sTRum’s intruments for sale at craft fairs like the upcoming Art on the Trail in Travelers Rest and on Sarah’s aptly named online Etsy store: sTRumstruments.


Writer – Melina Long // Editor – Celeste Hawkins // Sources: Interview with Sarah Jackson and “Carolina Makers: ‘Strum’ Handmade in Travelers Rest” // Photos – Provided by Sarah Jackson

This Award-Winning TR Chef Makes a Delicious BLT

There’s nothing to compare to the taste of a fresh-grown tomato in a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich – especially during those warmer months. But even within the world of BLTs, there’s certainly nothing to compare to the taste of Christina Halstead’s version of this classic summertime sandwich.

The combination of flavors in a BLT makes you wish you could go back and take that first bite all over again. Now, imagine the whole package in a biscuit made with pimento cheese in the dough, and top it off with the zing of red pepper jelly. It’s enough to make you beg for more!

None of that comes as a surprise to Travelers Rest resident Christina Halstead. She created this masterpiece and went straight to the top with it.

But you don’t get to be a prize-winning chef with one recipe. It takes a lot of work, and some pretty strong influences.

Christina, who has lived in Travelers Rest since she was 10, first thought to work in meteorology and communications, attending USC Upstate and Greenville Tech.

“I waited tables all through high school and college,” she says. “And I would talk to, and when possible, train with every chef I met over the years.”

Good thing for us, she decided, instead, to become a chef.

Christina-Halstead-Cafe-at-Williams-chef
Christina Halstead, an award-winning Travelers Rest chef

Today, Christina works as the executive chef at The Cafe at Williams Hardware, right here in Travelers Rest. She loves the “at home” feeling she gets at her workplace, and, like many who live here, she is influenced by our lovely hometown.

“TR has a Southern charm all its own. Our focus on active, all natural, and sustainable living heavily influences my cooking,” she says. “I am very ingredient driven when it comes to my daily specials. Whatever is in season here in TR is my muse, inspiring me to create a dish that represents Southern cuisine and features the best ingredients in town.”

Christina enjoys cooking “comfort food” in the winter and the fresh veggies we get in the spring and summer.

“But my favorite is autumn: the sweet potatoes, apples, and Halloween, of course!” she adds.

Whatever the season, Christina likes to take her time with her cooking creations.

“When you create a recipe for a restaurant, you’re limited by the amount of time you need to prepare and expedite the dish. So if I want to try something new, I start by creating and preparing the dish with no time limit. Then, the process of making the recipe viable for service in the restaurant begins. It’s easy to make something beautiful and delicious at home, but it takes much more to make it relatively quick, beautiful, and delicious,” Christina says.

Quick, beautiful, and delicious it is. Watching Christina in action is like having a front row seat to a tornado!

She mixes the dough, cuts the biscuits, briefs the kitchen assistants, checks on other dishes, and even explains the process while she’s doing it all.

Christina-Halstead-BLT-Sandwich-Winner
Christina’s unique BLT recipe won her the recent Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest.

All of these things contribute to that mouth-watering BLT on a pimento cheese buttermilk biscuit, which stole the grand prize in the recent General Mills Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest.

“I was completely shocked to get into the top six, and when I saw the other five recipes, I didn’t know if I had much of a chance,” Christina remembers. “But, when they narrowed it down to the top three, I had an overwhelming feeling that we had it.”

Not only did Christina win the grand prize of $50,000, but she also had the pleasure of donating another $10,000 to the non-profit of her choice.

“We are giving the $10,000 to Foothills Family Resources in Slater. They do amazing work for our community, and I am thrilled to be able to give something back to TR,” Christina says.

Good food and good will. That’s a pretty winning combination.


Notes
Writer: Melinda Long
Editor: Celeste Hawkins
Photography: Cathy Church / From Chapel to Cheers
Source(s): Interview with Christina Halstead

This Beautiful, Historic Home Started as a Simple Log Cabin

When John Walker entered Presbyterian College, his advisor gave him an aptitude test to help him figure out which career to pursue.

“My advisor told me, ‘John, it looks like you ought to be an adventurous farmer,’” he laughs.

Walker’s wife, Patty, is quick to confirm that he’s made it.

And, what’s more, because of the Walkers’ efforts, an old farm home in Travelers Rest, SC, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

including 1784 survey of first parcel acquired by Salmon
A 1784 survey of the first parcel acquired by George Salmon

 

Situated on Highway 414, on the North Saluda River, is the astoundingly beautiful George Salmon House, named for its first owner. It’s truly lovely but, interestingly, began life as a log cabin.

The land is part of a former Cherokee Settlement, but its history goes back even further.

In a recent event with the Travelers Rest Historical Society, John and Patty showed the audience a pipe bowl that was discovered in an archeological dig some 400 yards from the house. The pipe bowl was found in undisturbed soil by Tom Charles, who was working with the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA).

 

Middle Woodland Period pipe
The Middle Woodland Period pipe found at the location of the George Salmon home.

 

Walker notes that, because the Upstate is normally quite eroded, finding anything that old “in situ,” or in its original place, is rare.

“This led to a full-scale archaeological project by SCIAA,” adds Walker. “Charcoal attached to the pipe and pottery were radio carbon dated at about 500 AD. Enough artifacts and other features were discovered to confirm prehistoric occupation by Middle Woodland Period Native Americans.”

John and Patty have dedicated themselves to restoring and maintaining the home and property, which includes a still-functioning farm. They love the area and enjoy the “state-of-the-art” farming practiced by Beachwood Farms and others who lease the property to produce strawberries, tomatoes, sweet corn, and more.

The original log cabin was built in 1784 by George Salmon, a surveyor at the age of nineteen.

“Salmon was an important surveyor, as he worked on the division of the Cherokee land and established the border between North Carolina and South Carolina in the Upstate area,” according to SouthCarolinaPlantations.com. “He would later be elected to serve in the South Carolina House of Representatives.”

The stories involving George and his wife, Elizabeth Young Salmon, are numerous. Some are relayed by their grandson, John Salmon Ford, in his book Rip Ford’s Texas.

Walker points out that he can’t really confirm the truth of the stories, or deny them. Still, they make for great storytelling, as they were passed along to Ford by his grandmother, Elizabeth Salmon.

During the Revolution, George sometimes worked as an express message carrier, a very important job, Walker says, because of the nature of the messages and the fact that carrying the messages through dangerous territories was the only way to communicate.

According to Walker, George Salmon was sent out of his camp in 1780, during the Revolutionary War, because of smallpox. Upon his return, he was captured and sent to Major Ferguson’s camp at Kings Mountain. He was there in the British camp when his own soldiers attacked on Oct. 7, 1780.

When he asked a British officer, “Am I to stand here and be killed by my own people?” the officer replied, “Every man must take care of himself now.”

So George ran down the mountain and soon met an old friend who asked him if he’d become a Tory. Of course, he told him, “No, I am escaping from the British.”

 

Original log cabin construction
The original log cabin construction can still be viewed inside the George Salmon home.

 

Elizabeth Young Salmon told her grandson the following story. When she was only 16, she was visiting an uncle when Major Ferguson encamped on the plantation with his troops. He began to brag to Elizabeth and the other ladies that he often fooled the American troops, disguising himself in a short coat and using his sword in his left hand. Elizabeth quickly relayed this information to an American scouting party, and Major Ferguson was soon killed in battle.

In her lifetime, Elizabeth saw Cherokee attacks, the ratification of the Constitution, The War of 1812, and the great slavery debates. She died just 12 years prior to the Civil War.

George and Elizabeth Salmon lived on the property for 50 years, until his death in 1838. He is buried on the property. Elizabeth moved to Missouri after his death and lived to the age of 90.

The house had several other owners and eventually found its way to John and Patty Walker.

“Patty and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.” John says. “The beauty of the surroundings, protecting that natural beauty, and managing for wildlife and game top the list of what we enjoy.”

Who can argue with that?

 

The George Salmon House
The modern-day George Salmon home in Travelers Rest, SC.

Notes
Writer: Melinda Long
Editor: Celeste Hawkins
Photography: Featured image – Bill Fitzpatrick; All other images provided courtesy John Walker
Sources:
SouthCarolinaPlantations.com
Rip Ford’s Texas by John Salmon Ford
Interview with John Walker

Open Mic on the Trail: A Genuine Community of Music

The lights are low, and guitar strums fill the air, followed by the lilting but powerful voice of Christiana Davis Mayfield, singing a song she wrote for her husband.

 

Oh to learn
that anywhere I go
I can find a home
(Dear, you are my home)

 

Christiana Davis Mayfield
Christiana Davis Mayfield sings out at Open Mic on the Trail, with a song she wrote herself.

 

It’s Open Mic on the Trail in Travelers Rest, a real joy for music-lovers young and old. Some artists sing acapella, their only instrument a well-tuned voice. Others sing to recorded tracks. Many bring along a guitar.

But while the show feels in the moment, almost impromptu, none of this happens without the prep work.

At 6 p.m. every Tuesday evening, recording artist Jacob Johnson arrives at My Sister’s Store, located at the corner of Main Street and Poinsett Highway in Travelers Rest, to set up sound equipment on a cozy stage in front of a handful of tables, chairs, books, and drawings of George Jones and Kenny Rogers.

At 6:30, Jacob’s cohost, Gray Lee, puts out a sign-up sheet. Some 10 to 12 performers usually sign up. Later, he’ll run sound for the event. He’s also responsible for the Internet graphic ads.

Jacob and Gray cohost the event beginning at 7 p.m., giving those of us lucky enough to attend a chance to hear some pretty amazing music from some extremely talented local people. Some are accompanied by the masterful Rick Singer on pedal steel.

 

Then around 9 p.m., they usually close out the evening with a song performed by Gray and Jacob themselves.

They’ve been doing this for years. In fact, they’ve just celebrated 11 years total.

It started out in May 2005 at what was then Leopard Forest Coffee. Then, just over a year ago, when The Forest underwent some changes, they moved to My Sister’s Store across the street, with the blessings of owner Pam Campbell.

 

My-Sister's-Store-Travelers-Rest
My Sister’s Store in Travelers Rest, home of Open Mic on the Trail

 

Jacob, a guitarist and singer-songwriter, can usually be found touring the Southeast and playing addictive melodies like “Treat Her Right,” “The Goodnight Chorus,” and “The Ferryboat Waltz.” But at open mic night, it’s all about promoting the music of the artists in the area.

How does he feel about being both an artist and a co-host?

“I think every artist should in some way be a presenter, be on both sides,” says Jacob. “It’s inspiring to see people get out of their comfort zone and try something.”

 

 

Gray, a lover of pirates and the macabre, is also a musician himself. He classifies his music as Southern Gothic. He’s currently working on a new album called Merely Departed.

About Open Mic on the Trail and his partnership with Jacob, he says, “Working as a team has allowed us take the time to enjoy the performances and have a real communication and fellowship with the folks that show up. There really is a sense of community there.”

 

 

One of the regulars at Open Mic on the Trail is the above-mentioned Christiana. She’s been performing Christian folk music in various venues like Smiley’s, Mojo’s, and Open Mic on the Trail for about five years.

So what does she love the most about Open Mic?

“The community environment. The way people encourage each other,” she says.

That seems to be a consistent theme.

Shane Ericks — who just won Global Pinoy Singing Idol, the Filipino version of American Idol — talks about affirmation, encouragement, and transformation. She sees music as her way of spreading God’s word, and she’s just recently released her latest single, called “Your Love is Enough.”

 

Shane-Ericks
Singer-songwriter Shane Ericks frequents Open Mic at My Sister’s Store.

 

J. Hames May, who can surely belt out a tune, says it’s the people that make this worthwhile, with their love and support. He points out Mona Hustek, a self-taught musician who says the same about him, Jacob, and Gray.

To quote one audience member, “I could listen to her all night.”

It seems the feeling extends to the entire group, this community brought together by music.

And you can join in anytime. The music begins every Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. at My Sister’s Store in Travelers Rest. The show is family friendly and free, but participants are encouraged to bring a donation to help keep this community of music alive.

 

Mona Hustek
Mona Hustek plays alongside Rick Singer at Open Mic on the Trail.

Notes

Writer: Melinda Long
Editor: Celeste Hawkins
Photography: David Church / From Chapel to Cheers

You can find out more about the artists mentioned in this post by following the links below:
Christiana Davis
Shane Ericks
Mona Hustek
Jacob Johnson
Gray Lee

Penny Forrester Finds Her History Among the Graves

“Be prepared to discover some things that could shock you — and not in a good way. Face the fact that you have skeletons in your closet.”

So says Penny Forrester, genealogist extraordinaire. That’s Penny’s first piece of advice for those of us who want to explore our family history. And there’s plenty more to follow.

Penny is passionate and extremely knowledgeable about her research.

“The best compliment I’ve ever had was from my dear friend, writer James Lee Burke, who once told me, ‘Penny, I think you could find Chaucer’s shoe size.’ This was after I tracked down a childhood friend for him whose surname he couldn’t remember,” says Penny.

 

Penny Forester 5

 

It’s no wonder that Penny has a love for genealogy and for Upstate South Carolina. Her personal history in the area goes way back.

“My family has been here since the very first days after the Revolution,” says Penny. “In point of fact, my ancestor William Henry Benson was a surveyor who platted a great area of Greenville County as it opened for non-Native American settlement after the American Revolution.”

Penny moved to the Travelers Rest area in 2003, but she was raised in the Welcome community. She graduated from Carolina High and Lander University and received her master’s in library and information science from USC.

Penny worked as a reporter for The Greenville Piedmont after college but found her true love as a library assistant at the Greenville County Library. Penny also worked as assistant director of the Florence County Library System and director of the Pickens County System.

“But my first love was and is reference and the South Carolina Room at Greenville County Library.”

Penny has expanded her love for information by doing research and editing for others, including the late congressman Butler Derrick and writer James “Jim” Lee Burke, author of books like Black Cherry Blues  and Wayfaring Stranger. For the latter book, Penny researched James Lee Burke’s cousin, Weldon Mallette, on whom the book is based.

Mallette was a Silver Star WWII hero. He was much older than Jim and died in 2002. Jim wanted to know more about Weldon’s activities in the war and the circumstances of his Silver Star.

“I was able to track him through some rather obscure, though available, records,” says Penny. “Many do not realize that most of the WWII Army records were destroyed in a National Archives fire in 1973, but the medical records and the morning reports remain.”

Genealogy — or “family history,” as Penny calls it — comes naturally for her. She recalls going with her grandparents to “clear the family cemetery in early spring each year

“We cleared the detritus of winter and picnicked on the slab tombstones of our ancestors.”

 

Penny Forester 6

 

She became enthralled with family history at the age of 11, when she read a letter from General Wade Hampton to the family of her ancestor, William Henry Benson, telling them of his death in Charleston in 1796.

A comment from her Great-grandmother McWhite added to Penny’s enthusiasm: “If you ever meet a McWhite, you’re kin.”

“McWhite is a made-up name, or, rather, a contraction of the very English surname Musslewhite, and [it] originated in S.C.,” Penny discovered.

It eventually became M’white and then McWhite.

Penny gives several sources for helpful family research. She suggests listening to older relatives who have family traditions to share, as well as looking at tombstones for dates, etc.

Penny also recommends using the South Carolina Room at the library. She’s proud to say that she has helped “expand the collection to center on migration routes into and out of upper South Carolina.

“For that reason, you will find a terrific collection of records from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, stops on the Great Wagon Road, the primary route of immigration into upper S.C.”

 

Penny Forester 1
Penny Forrester examines gravestones at Reedy River Baptist Church. Gravestones are often a good source of genealogical information.

 

In addition to birth and death records, the South Carolina Room has subscriptions to Ancestry.com, Fold3, and other databases of importance to researchers.

She recommends the Internet but cautions against many who may have posted records that aren’t completely accurate. One of the sites she often uses is findagrave.com. There’s a lot of good historical information there, as well as on the actual graves found in graveyards and cemeteries.

 

Penny Forester 2

 

Gravestones frequently show more than birth and death dates. They may include information like where the party lived or attended college, how many children they had, and so on.

If you’re getting started with your own family history, besides preparing yourself for skeletons in the closet, remember the following:

  • “Very, very few of us have ancestors who left castles in England and Europe to eke out an existence while living in a log cabin in the wilderness.”
  • Document your research. Penny stresses the importance of this step. “It’s also great to use online resources such as Ancestry.com and other databases, but always verify the information you get there.”
  • Use a genealogy program like Roots Magic or Family Tree Maker. Forester uses the first one. They both allow you “to share online through Ancestry, Family Search, and other genealogy sites. I do not share my research online because I consider it private for my family, but many do like to share.”

 


Notes
Writer: Melinda Long
Editor: Celeste Hawkins
Photography: Cathy L. Church / From Chapel to Cheers
Sources: Interview with Penny Forrester; findagrave.com

Jones Gap and the (Literal) Trailblazer It’s Named After

What do a hatchet, a pig, and a toll road have in common? Jones Gap State Park, of course.

If you’ve ever visited Jones Gap in Marietta, SC, then you’ve seen first-hand that the park’s known for its lovely plants and wildlife. Interestingly, many of the spring plants there complete their entire life cycle in a matter of weeks. They may be terribly short-lived, but they’re beautiful.

Jones Gap is not only beautiful, but it’s also a great place for walk-in camping, picnicking, fishing, hiking, and just being. The park even features a hands-on ecology learning center for students run through Discover Carolina.

The Middle Saluda River runs right through the park, and so does the Eastern Continental Divide. Another bit of trivia: Jones Gap is even home to South Carolina’s first state-owned and -operated fish hatchery: the Cleveland Fish Hatchery.

You want waterfalls? Jones Gap has them. There’s Rainbow Falls, Jones Gap Falls, and Silver Steps Falls, just to name a few.

And the whole thing is right here in our backyard. It makes you wish for spring weather just to be able to enjoy the beauty of it!

 

Jones-Gap-State-Park-waterfall

 

You can thank Henry Ware and his cousin E. Ervin Dargan for purchasing the beautiful land in the 1950s and then selling it and donating it to the state of South Carolina for a park in 1976. They were afraid of the effect real estate development might have on the amazing natural area and believed this move would keep that land safe. Which it did.

Greenville attorney Thomas Wyche also played a major role in protecting the land when he established the Naturaland Trust in 1973. The trust was designed to secure 10,000 acres in the northern Greenville area and nearby, including Jones Gap.

 

Jones-Gap-State-Park

 

So where did the name come from? Jones is a common name. But in this case, it belonged to a very uncommon man.

Solomon Jones was a road builder who was born in Buncombe County, NC, on March 7, 1802.  Though he was self-taught and used no instruments, he was incredibly talented at his work.

According to local lore, he set his razor-back sow free at the top of what would later become a road called Jones Gap Toll Road and followed her down, holding onto the pig’s tail. He knew that she’d take the shortest route. Thus the Jones Gap Toll Road was created along that same path.

Jones had a businessman’s mind. Once the road was opened, he charged a toll to access it. It was the only direct road between Transylvania County and Greenville until US 276 opened in the 1930s.

Jones was also responsible for several other roads in the area. According to The Woodville Republican paper published on Jan. 20, 1927, “Solomon Jones [possessed] the distinction of being the first American scenic road builder whose pursuit was so recognized.”

 

Jones-Gap-State-Park-bridge

 

That same small town newspaper from Woodville, Mississippi, recalls a ghost story about the great “pioneer” of his day. It seems that a group of children in Hendersonville were returning from a party one night when they saw a ghostly, towering figure with “long, flowing hair.” He was beating the brush in the area of Mount Hebron and following a large razor-back sow, whose tail he held in his left hand. In his right hand, he was swinging an axe.

The parents didn’t take this ghost story too seriously.  They attributed the children’s tale to stories told at the party (and to big imaginations).

No one can say whether the legend of the sow and the hatchet used to carve the toll road is actually true, but there’s no doubt that Jones was good at building roads. He was also much revered.

“Solomon Jones was one of the most remarkable engineers of his age,” reads Findagrave.com. “His ingenious mind was never exceeded in the location of thoroughfares across the most difficult barriers of the Appalachian system. He was the most noted road builder this section has ever known. Perhaps his most wonderful piece of engineering was the Jones Gap Turnpike.”

When he died at the age of 97, the road builder Solomon Jones was buried on top of Mount Hebron peak, a mountain peak near Laurel Park in Henderson County, NC, that he’d purchased and named as a young man.

BlueRidgeNow.com says that Jones commissioned this epitaph five years prior to his death: “Here lies Solomon Jones, The Road Maker. A True Patriot. He labored fifty years to leave the world a better place than he found it. Born 7 March 1802. Died 23 April 1899.”

Jones was the father of twelve children and married twice, the second time at the age of 80. The home he built on Mount Hebron is still in use today.

And now, we have the amazing Jones Gap State Park — which eventually sprang up along his namesake toll road. The park officially opened to the public in January 1989. Today, it boasts nearly 4,000 acres of land all total, and it’s home to more than 600 kinds of wildflowers, as well as more than 60 types of mammals.

Next time you visit, say thanks to a very uncommon man.

For more information about Jones Gap State Park, check into our official TRH listing for the park.

 


Notes
Writer: Melinda Long
Editor: Celeste Hawkins
Photography: Featured image — miknx; creek and bridge — Matthew Blouir; and trees — Lucid Nightmare
Sources:
“Etched in Stone: Local Memories of Note” on BlueRidgeNow.com
Interviews — Rosemary Bomar, Dean Campbell, and Penny Forrester
“January 15, 1927” in The Woodville Republican
“Jones Gap State Park” on SouthCarolinaParks.com
“Jones Gap State Park” on Wikipedia.com
“Solomon Jones” on FindaGrave.com
“Walk in the Woods: Jones Gap State Park” on Connections.Greenvillesc.gov