Down and around Shoals Junction

Earlier in the week I toured some of the small towns of Greenwood, Abbeville, and Laurens Counties with Tom Taylor, a fine fellow I first met in person at Pinckneyville. Tom has already written about his experiences, and I'm ready to share mine.

Tom had some time off coming up, and he was ready and willing to spend part of a day searching for ghost towns. After some back and forth, we settled on finding Shoals Junction. The name came to our attention from the South Carolina section of the Abandoned Rails website, more specifically the Ware Shoals Railroad section of the site. Several small communities surround Shoals Junction and so we decided to tour as many of these communities as time allowed. Turns out time allowed for quite a nice tour!

Ware Shoals


Ware Shoals was on the way to Shoals Junction so it was a good place to visit first. After a tour of the town, including a drive by the old mill site on Mill St., the Ware Shoals Inn, and the power generation area, we stopped to explore the area around the hydroelectric dam at Irwin Pitts Park.

The recent rains meant plenty of water flow over the dam.


We descended an old stone staircase that led down to the river. The view offered us an up close and personal look at the dam.  This view made Tom a bit uneasy at the idea those floodgates might open any moment while the idea made me speculate to myself how far away we would be tossed.



We explored some of the shoals for a bit longer, and then after another pass through town, we headed down S.C. 420 toward Shoals Junction.

Shoals Junction





Internet searches for the history of Shoals Junction found a website, shoalsjunctiondepot.com, run by resident Ralph Campbell. According to the history section of his website, the area near Shoals Junction was known as Barmore or Barmore's Turnout. When the Ware Shoals Railroad was built in 1903, the junction with the mainline railroad was named Ware Shoals Junction, shortened to Shoals Junction by 1909. The community then developed around this railroad junction.

According to Mr. Campbell's website, the original depot was hit by lightning in the mid-1930s and burned down. Another depot was moved to Shoals Junction from Lockhart. This depot was moved a few hundred feet to his property in 1994.

I had sent a message to Mr. Campbell asking if we could visit the depot and also a caboose he had brought in a few years ago from Ohio. Since I didn't receive a response to my request, we restricted our photo taking to the roadside. However, photographer John Jones was able to get a closer look.



The railroad right-of-way was abandoned in the mid-1980s and the rail taken up. But evidence of the railroad bed is still visible.


On the same property, Tom recognized this old building as a former school.


Tom's research determined this school building was probably the Algary school, and my own research found a deed confirming his suspicion.

Aside from the above, we found a few residences, a lumber mill, some abandoned buildings, and not much else.

Donalds


Donalds is a few miles North on U.S. 178 from Shoals Junction. An abandoned railroad right-of-way also generally follows this same path. Both the P&N and Southern Railroad depots are still here.

P&N depot
Southern Railroad depot
The Donalds section of scdepots.com has more photos of these two depots, and the South Carolina Railroad Photograph Collection contains several more photographs of the Southern Railroad depot. The P&N depot does not appear in any of the black and white photos of the Southern Railroad depot, so I would guess the P&N depot had to be moved away from its original location for some reason and it was moved here to preserve it.

Nearby was Donalds United Methodist Church, organized 1883. I found some information about the church's history in a book excerpt about the history of Abbeville County and in the Inventory of S.C. Church Archives.



On our way out of town, we also stopped by Donalds Grange. For a while, this building served as combination grange, town hall, and public library.


It was here Tom's camera malfunctioned. For a while it looked like tour over, but he soon managed to get his camera working again. We then headed back to U.S. 178 and then headed south toward Hodges. Along the way, we could easily see the railroad right-of-way along the road. I couldn't help but think it would make a good hiking trail, like has been done with the Swamp Rabbit trail.

Hodges


As we reached Hodges, we came across an abandoned warehouse that looked interesting, so we stopped for some photos. Later, I found out this building is a former P&N electrical substation.





We scouted around town until Tom spotted the P&N depot a bit off the road.


This depot appears to be in its original location next to the railroad right-of-way.



SCdepots.com has more photographs of the Hodges P&N depot including a few from the inside. We didn't find the Southern Railroad depot, but SCdepots.com shows it still exists.

Tom also spotted a former school, again recognizing the architecture. The building appeared to be undergoing renovations.


South Carolina's Department of Archives and History includes a photo of the school in its school insurance photo collection.

Then we headed a few miles east to Cokesbury.

Cokesbury


The community of Cokesbury is home to Old Cokesbury College and Mt. Ariel Church. Tom's been here before, but he didn't mind stopping by again. We took pictures of the old college and of the old store close by.




Coronaca


We continued east to the community of Coronaca. We toured the community, but didn't find much of anything left besides a Piggly Wiggly. We took a photo of the old business district, crossed over Lake Greenwood and then headed north to Waterloo.


Waterloo


Tom has also been to Waterloo before, but didn't mind a repeat visit so I could take some photos. We found quite a few houses, a nice school off the highway, but no active businesses.

According to a 2002 survey of Western Laurens County, Waterloo had a small commercial area off of what is now U.S. 221.


This included the Bank of Waterloo and the McNeill General Merchandise store. Both closed during the Great Depression. Next to the brick building is an abandoned cotton gin complex.




We then traveled north to the Cold Point community.

Cold Point


We stopped in Cold Point just stopped long enough so Tom could show me Crenshaw's convienence store. Yes, those really are cattle skulls on the roof.


Then was southeast down S.C. 39 to Mountville.

Mountville


According to a historical and architectural survey of Eastern Laurens County, Mountville flourished as a railroad town but declined as the railroad lost importance. We toured the community, but didn't find much.

According to an unpublished Sanborn fire insurance map, the brick building currently used for grange meetings used to be bank.


The other two buildings were general merchandise stores according to the the Sanborn map, but one seems to be used as a warehouse, and the other seems to be used for storage.



After taking some artistic photos, ...



...we headed back north toward home with a quick side visit to Ora Church in Gray Court.

Ora Church, Gray Court


Tom's family has deep roots in Laurens County, and while we were headed north through the county he pointed out where he grew up, where he hung out, and interesting stories of his family's history.





While we were here at Ora Church, Tom pointed out certain family names in the cemetery, Dorroh, Gray, and Owings, featured in early Gray Court history.

And with that we headed back and declared the trip a success.

We visited too many places to plot individually, so I grouped them together in one map.


View Down and around Shoals Junction in a larger map

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