My first visit to Chesterfield SC was the result of an email I received from Glenn Gulledge. He told me that while he was home with the flu he saw one of our Life In the Carolinas episodes and just knew that I needed to come to Chesterfield to check out the history and Southern charm that makes the place he lives so special. We went back and forth with a few emails and before I knew it my GPS was programmed for a new journey.
Glenn met me in uptown Chesterfield and gave me the grand tour, which didn’t take very long. We had dinner with several local folks, including Jane and Farris Pigg, the Mayor and others. It was a great night of getting to know new friends. It seemed like everyone was a great storyteller and I could see why Glenn had invited me.
After dinner I was taken to what I thought was the local bed and breakfast, but as it turned out I had the whole house to myself. It was full of great antiques and had the feel of rich history. I enjoyed a few reflective moments as I sat in a chair that I was sure was well over 150 years old and I thought about what life must have been like in this small Southern town over the years.
The next morning I met Glenn at a local breakfast place on Main Street. As our meal and conversation progressed I shared with him that the house was great but I felt the need to be careful because it seemed like I was sleeping in an antique shop. He said, "You were!"
After breakfast we made our way down the road to Cheraw. The town square features a statue of the legendary jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie, who was born in Cheraw. The town now hosts the official South Carolina Jazz Festival every October. I enjoy jazz and I couldn’t believe that this important part of Carolina history remained unknown to me for so many years.
By the end of the day I had learned so much and met so many great people who were open and willing to share their stories and hospitality. I suppose it should be no surprise that the people of Cheraw have a long history of being kind to strangers and folks from afar.
Saint David’s Episcopal Church was used as a hospital during both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Cheraw was one of the few places during the Civil War that Sherman did not burn, even though his troops spent several days in the town. I have heard different stories as to why this was the case, but I tend to believe that it was likely the people.
There is also a bit of logic to the notion that the Maderia wine that the tired Union solders found in Cheraw may have provided a more relaxed environment for everyone.
I am not sure if anyone can provide a definitive answer as to why the town was not destroyed, but it survived mostly unscathed. Because of this, Cheraw has a large number of historic homes that survived the war; many homes in other towns did not.
My discoveries were many. I would return to Chesterfield County SC for many stories, pilgrimages that had their beginnings with an email from someone who loves his home and the people who make it so special.
In the midst of many distractions and busy lives it’s good to know that Southern hospitality and caring people are still part of our society.