In 2017, several very talented individuals sat down and began reviewing just how to improve Roots and Recall’s homepage. Terms such as evolution, change, updated, and informative were all words used to express our desires for improvement and of course our priority, staying fresh and in-touch with the membership. So, changes such as the monthly Featured Site, contributing authors Feature Article section, and the R&R at a Glimpse sections were implemented a year ago, to enhance the user experience. But the biggest change was that users had to login to access the site, therefore limiting usage by those who were not truly interested in local history and preservation. It seems members like and appreciate all these features, as do those of us who work on the website!
So, enough about updates. What can be done to turn the tide and help struggling small towns across South Carolina, not only preserve their history, but economically prosper? This is a tall order for any community, but recently when I read in the Anderson News, that lovely Belton, S.C., had been named the poorest S.C. city along with Chester, Union and Cheraw……, I was sick. What do most of these have in common, for starters; their historic ties to cotton mill culture and the absence of a higher educational institution. As the textile mills closed these cities, once bastions of Southern hospitality, stable employment, and political influence, began loosing many of their educated young people and failed to attract new vibrant industry. As Chester County can attest to, the location of Interstates also make a difference, either bypassing historic communities or helping enhance their accessibility. But in some cases they also become the new center of economic progress, often sponging off investment in nearby historic down towns. Richburg, in Chester County has become the focus of economic growth due to the long-term aspirations and plans of a Fort Mill, s.C. investment company and the influence of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, both having earmarked the area as having enormous potential for growth decades ago. Richburg is thriving, while Chester’s historic downtown is struggling and faces major hurdles!
Many other towns in S.C. were bypassed by Interstates, leaving them to stagnate or die, in a new economy based on distribution and technology. Cities along the coast seem to thrive without much effort but economic woes continue plaguing dozens of old courthouse towns across S.C. Unfortunately, cities without major transportation corridors, higher educational institutions, and great medical facilities are going to continue struggling to keep their industries or residents. I am afraid, unless the state steps in with an economic plan of revitalization, much of our state’s historic down towns are going to be lost.
This is nothing new, it is happening all over the U.S. as demographics continue changing. Places such as Belton, S.C. however are working hard to insure they remain viable, as are other cities across S.C. A Google article recently stated we should just let these towns die off, somewhat like old mining towns out west. Other articles talked about how it is difficult for individuals in these towns to get ahead and how our society has become reluctant to move, when economic times are difficult. Has our American society really changed so drastically? As one author wrote, and I paraphrase: “Why do American families no longer move, looking for new economic opportunities, as they did during the Great Depression?” So, I would like to ask, why are our political leaders not openly discussing these type economic needs, rather than just focusing on negative advertising? South Carolina has so many wonderful opportunities and as I have preached previously, it seems much of the states’s rural areas are being left behind, to indeed decay. Change is inevitable but seeing handsome cotton mills demolished, gin houses disappearing, tenant houses nearly gone, rural schools disappear, down towns crumbling, and churches becoming redundant are not changes that I for one like witnessing!
Beautiful sites to see in S.C’s poorer communities:
- Belton’s Depot
- Chester’s Opera House
- Union Co’s Robert Mill’s Jail
The economic plight of many of S.C.’s rural courthouse towns and others is real. Our state’s landscape is going to always be changing but much of it is worth investing in and saving. R&R wishes to help in your community – keep us updated on positive ways to make a difference!
R&R NOTE: Be sure to enjoy all the new feature items on the homepage as of June 1st. Contributing author-photographer, the husband and wife team, Chris and Austin Lange, have provided another outstanding article and images related to the historic Craig Farm in Lancaster County, S.C. Enjoy the article and excellent photography provided by Chris’s eye for detail.