“Part of the Blackjacks, south of Rock Hill, an area avoided and misunderstood by many.”
400 West Chappell Road
City Directories and History: The historic community of Smith’s Turnout, established on Nov. 15, 1852, at the Chester-York County line was once a busy agricultural and business center for the rural community. The community sprang up due to the coming of the Augusta and Charlotte railroad which further connected Rock Hill and Chester by rail for the first time. Initially, Rock Hill was simply another whistle stop on the tracks just as was Smith’s Turnout. The community prospered and there were several stores, a school, homes, two cotton gins, a grist mill, cotton warehouses, and two churches. By the early 20th century a handful of large farmers controlled a
majority of the farmland upon which African American tenant farmers worked their livestock to bring in a productive cotton crop. With the demise of cotton in the 1920’s primarily due to the boll weevil, the community declined rapidly. It was during this period that cotton brokers-factors in Rock Hill and Chester foreclosed on significant amounts of rural farmland.
In 2012, there is little to remind one of the days when farmers took their crops to this location for ginning, market and visiting doctors from Rock Hill or Chester stepped off the train to help the sick. Frank Strait, Jr., M.D. from Rock Hill would often make visits to the area because it was from this section of the region that his family had originally settled. Curwood Chappell has often stated, “ it was Dr. Frank Strait who he met at the train to drive around the farms of his father to look after their farm hands.” This could have been in part, due to the strong connection of the Strait family to the rural Blackjack area, in which they had owned property for decades – it was home territory. One of the old Strait family holdings was adjacent that of the Chappell’s Homeplace.
Smith’s was also a place of education and a post office was located here. Though the school has long disappeared, the Chappell children, and many others from the area, attended a one room school house which was located on the east side of Chappell Road on what is today the Miller farm. Most of the dwellings were frame one story houses or storage facilities for cotton built from the late 19th century to the 1920’s. These buildings were nestled around the railroad crossing that offered transportation for both commerce and passengers.
Besides the Chappell family who’s children attended the school, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Wooten who lived here, was also a very prominent members of the community who owned extensive land as did the Millers, Neelys, and Reid families.
The 1860 census also list Mr. John B. Reid of Smith’s Turnout as a professional cabinet maker. Click on the More Information / MAPS > link found below the picture column for a larger map of the Smith’s Turnout area via Walker’s 1910 Postal Map of the town.
The Rock Hill Herald reported on Jan. 24, 1889 – “We are informed that J. E. Lowry and Robert Witherspoon are erecting a spoke and handle factory at Smith’s Turnout. Also, a drugstore was established there last week by John A. Graham of Chester.”
The Rock Hill Herald also reported on March 7, 1889 – “Ms. Ammie Pride will be principal of a school near Smith’s Turnout.”
The Rock Hill Record reported on March 25, 1904 – “Mrs. M.C. Matthews of Smith’s Turnout entered the Rock Hill private hospital, where she had a successful operation.”
The Rock Hill Record reported on Oct. 28, 1907 – “Mr. James F. Reid had a very serious loose at his plantation near Smith’s Turnout. His gin house, engine, two gins, press, four bales of cotton and other goods were lost in a fire.”
The Rock Hill Record reported on July 16, 1908 – “Ms. Idelle Duncan left yesterday to teach the Wilson School near Smith’s. She is boarding with Mrs. James Fincher.”
LEILA A. RUSSELL, RURAL SCHOOL SUPERVISOR by Louise Pettus Leila A. Russell, an 1889 Winthrop College graduate, was destined to become one of the college’s most
distinguished graduates. Her potential was evident as an undergraduate when she organized the campus YWCA and became its first president. Leila spent several years teaching in Anderson County and then was hired as York County’s first supervisor of rural schools. Soon she was also teaching at Winthrop. She combined the two jobs neatly. Leila Russell was resourceful, creative and very persuasive. Problems abounded but she thrived on the challenge. No student teacher had an automobile (students weren’t even allowed to have cars on campus until 1953). How would they get to the rural schools? Miss Russell arranged for the girls to be placed in country schools on, or near, train depots. Among others, York County schools that fitted the bill were at Blairsville, Catawba Junction, Lesslie, Friendship, Oak Ridge, Hickory Grove, Ebenezer, Ogden, Glendale, Oakley, Smith’s Turnout, Tirzah and Smyrna. Riverside elementary school in Lancaster county was also used. How would the student teachers be housed? Miss Russell found parents who were willing to give the Winthrop students room and board. Many of the regular teachers had never been to college. Miss Russell diplomatically dealt with that problem and saw to it that the regular teacher’s skills were upgraded.
Most of the schools were in terrible condition. How could the money be raised to make needed improvements? Miss Russell had a plan. She organized the parents into clubs and persuaded diem to hold benefits of any kind that would raise money. By 1912 she had persuaded 8 school districts to levy school taxes for improvement of existing facilities and in other cases persuaded communities to build larger and better schools.
She started a newspaper column which was printed weekly in the Yorkville Enquirer. After a paragraph or two of suggestions for improving the schools she added letters from students (having asked the students in each school she visited to send her letters that told what their school was doing). A typical Leila Russell item in the Yorkville Enquirer. “Are you boys and girls making use of the libraries in your schools? And if you have no library in your school can you not manage in some way to raise ten dollars to secure one? Having done this, ask your trustees and Mr. Carroll for ten dollars from the school fund, and Mr. Carroll will see that the state gives you ten, so that you will have thirty dollars to put into good books.”
She promised all the boys and girls who read at least six books to have their name read on County School Day and to have the name published in the Enquirer. She formed the boys into Com. Clubs and the girls into Tomato Clubs and saw that the best ears of com and finest jars of tomatoes were displayed at the county fair. Walter Kerr, an 8th grade student, wrote that before Miss Russell came and talked to the Oak Ridge students that his school was unpainted except for a place that was painted black for a blackboard. There was only one classroom and the little stove could not heat it. Water had to be brought a long distance from a house in the community. Writing in November 1912, Walter said that now that his school was new and built according to one of the Clemson plans. The school was painted white; the windows were screened. A large Old Dominion stove heated the room and they now had a bell, a large maps and a piano…… (Information courtesy of and from: YCGHS – The Quarterly Magazine)
R&R NOTE: As Mrs. Jefferson Davis, Varina traveled south through the Carolinas by train, she would have passed directly through the village of Smith’s Turnout on her way to Chester, S.C. where she disembarked and began a muddy trek across upcountry S.C. to meet her husband in Abbeville, S.C.
Open the MORE INFORMATION / MAPS link (found under the primary picture), to view an enlargeable, 1896 Postal Map of York County, S.C.
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