Sunday, December 16, 2007

Calhoun Falls school closings show that old mill towns are going the way of railroad stop towns

There is quite a measure of controversy in Abbeville County today. The Abbeville County school board voted to close Calhoun Falls High School and Calhoun Falls Middle School this week. The vote was so controversial that the two members of the Abbeville County School Board from the Calhoun Falls area promptly resigned their seats.

Everything from educrat envy to a Louis Farrakhan group buying land in the region has been cited as a reason for the move by those who know Abbeville County politics. I personally wonder how the logistical nightmare of busing students from the Calhoun Falls area to Abbeville and Due West schools will play out. There will be kids next year who will be on a school bus for hours before and after school.

That said, I see something else at work other than the cries of jealousy and racism. I see the situation in Abbeville as a prime example of an upstate mill town going the way of the old railroad stop towns.

Not only in the upstate, but throughout South Carolina, little towns were created because they were fueling stops for railroads. You can note which towns fit in that category now by seeing that the towns are one sided, so to speak, with all old town buildings on one side of street facing the old railroad. One can also note that in the vast majority of those old railroad stop towns, the economic engine is dead.

An example of such a railroad town can be found in Abbeville County in Donalds. Donalds was once a rather thriving little area. There was a town built facing the railroad stop. When the train had to stop to refuel with water, coal, wood, whatever, the little town thrived. When the trains no longer had to stop, Donalds began to shrink away. Though it even kept a policeman on duty until the 1980s, the little town is now a shell town. There is a gas station, and branch of bank that prides itself on rural services, an antique shop and a small collection of houses. Donalds still has a post office, but it is not what can be considered a real town.

On the other side of Abbeville County sits Calhoun Falls. Calhoun Falls saw its heyday during the textile mill era. As the mills needed workers, the workers moved to the town, lived there and spent money there. As textiles moved out, the town’s population and money dwindled.

Now, Calhoun Falls is dealt the ultimate death blow to any small town’s identification: the loss of its public schools. In South Carolina, small towns rally around their local high schools especially. They take pride in their sports teams and the like. Losing that sense of pride is often the beginning of the end of any small town.

Thus, Calhoun Falls’s loss of its schools is a stark example of the textile town now going the way of the railroad stop town. Other former textile towns such as Ware Shoals, Belton, and my home Honea Path had better take note. Either such towns should take immediate action to bring in economic development and keep its people and money, or lose itself forever.

If you doubt that, not only note Donalds, but think of the town of Chappells, South Carolina. This little dot on the road map was once a full blown town. The essence of the town is now in ruins, off of Highway 39, rotting in the woods. While there is a little post office still, the old town itself fades away in the leaves of each autumn.

The question that should concern us in South Carolina about the Calhoun Falls school situation is not who did what when in Abbeville County local politics. We should instead ask ourselves what can be done to the old textile towns to keep them from rotting away in the leaves of future autumns.


  1. Columbia OutsiderDecember 16, 2007

    Ever since you starting thinking about public office, your blog has got a little too serious.

    Besides you are the idiot that moved to a small town.

  2. You know black people are going to be screwed, by not say it cracker?

  3. Speaker's mafiaDecember 17, 2007

    The Speaker of the House will gladly help you if you pledge your undying support for him.

    If you don't, better be careful when it comes to cranking up your car.

  4. Due West MamaDecember 18, 2007

    If a bunch of black kids from Calhoun Falls come to Dixie High, my daughter will be doing to private school.

  5. OMG! Thats racist. And plus it doesn't say anything about mill towns and plus Calhoun Falls used to be a railroad stop town.