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Reflections by Sammy Way: Recollections of Sumter's Main Street

By SAMMY WAY
Posted 7/28/19

Reflections revisits Main Street in its formative years and features several of the early businesses that had a profound effect on Sumter's economic success. We have drawn from a number of sources which include the writings of Cassie Nichols, Anne …

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Reflections by Sammy Way: Recollections of Sumter's Main Street

Posted

Reflections revisits Main Street in its formative years and features several of the early businesses that had a profound effect on Sumter's economic success. We have drawn from a number of sources which include the writings of Cassie Nichols, Anne King Gregorie and The Sumter Item archives in preparing this article.

"Before 1855, Sumter was referred to as Sumterville. The early city streets were not paved, and this often led to many problems, especially after the heavy showers which were common during the summer months. Several of the local merchants constructed brick entrances to their businesses to both accommodate themselves and their customers. Research indicates that serious consideration to improve Sumter's streets and sidewalks was begun circa 1908. During the mayoral term of W. B. Boyle between 1908 to 1911, strong consideration was given to paving Main Street from Canal Street to Bartlette.

"Another concern was lighting, as it was necessary for a lamplighter to make his rounds lighting kerosene lamps each evening to ensure people could complete their shopping and locate their vehicles.

"These lamps were mounted 8-foot posts and protected by glass covers and probably erected in 1880; however, they were found only on a few streets. It was not until the late 1800s that electricity provided by the power plant was available.

"Charles Thomas Mason Jr. played an integral role in getting the plant operational.

"In order to protect the fledgling community in the event of fire, large wells were constructed at intervals in the downtown area, especially on Main Street. The wells were usually 8 to 10 feet square, covered over by heavy timbers. Each cover had a manhole in the center where the fire hoses were dropped, and water was then pumped by hand after the hoses were attached to the fire engines.

"Main Street housed many of Sumter's important businesses including the Carriage and Buggy Co. on the corner of Main and Dingle streets. Also, on the southern portion of Main was the Curtis House, which offered lodging to many visitors to Sumter via the railroad. The Shiloh Baptist Church between Oakland and Bartlette was also on South Main.

"The Church of the Holy Comforter (Episcopal) resided on the east side of Main near the Bartlette corner. It was relocated to its current location in 1905 after its members rolled it down Main Street using teams of mules. Also located on the east side of Main, one could find the Hulbert's house, then the only house constructed of brick to be found in Sumter. The Davis and Brunson boarding houses could also be found on the east side of Main Street.

"The W. G. Ellis livery stable was on the corner of Main and Dugan (current location of Kimbrell's). Hauser's steam mill, which ground corn and ginned cotton, was also found in this area. Three prominent homes on the east side of Main Street between Bartlette and Caldwell were owned by a Mrs. Watson, Dr. A. Ja. China and the third by John W. Dargan (later by Dr. George W. Dick) whose present site is occupied by the Federal Building, in front of what is now the Central Carolina Health Sciences Center.

"A house of particular note was on the corner of Main and Dugan and commonly referred to as the Haynsworth house. It was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. George Kellogg in the 1830s. They were teachers at Sumterville Academy and parents of America's first opera star, Clara Louise Kellogg.

"The block covering the area from Dugan to Liberty Street in the early 19th century was comprised of the following enterprises. One was Mr. J. E. Suares' furniture store adjacent to C. T. Mason Sr., renowned inventor and watchmaker. The next building was occupied by Tom Saffes' roofing business; next came Freeman Hoyt's jewelry business, followed by Mr. Pate, who operated a business for which research cannot determine the specific content. Located on the corner of Main and Liberty streets was McLellan's, then known as the Barnett building. The building was often referred to as a Charleston-type structure because the first floor served as the business center while the upstairs was used to house the family.

"On the east side corner of Main and Caldwell streets was the home and gardens of Dr. Witherspoon and the residence of Col. W. A. Colclough. Misses McElhouse operated her millinery shop, as did R. P. Monaghan, who managed a general merchandise store. Located on the southeast corner of Main and Liberty was the dry goods and general merchandise store owned by A.A. Solomons. The store was purchased from Solomons and became Sumter Dry Goods and later Keith's before it was razed in 2002, and the site has become Rotary Plaza.

It was a common belief in Sumter during the 1800s that 'the block between Liberty and Hampton Streets was once the business center of Sumter.'"