South Carolina’s western counties are home to a significant community of Mennonites. This branch of Christianity is often compared with the Amish so prevalent in western Pennsylvania and Ohio.
There are many differences in the faith and the practitioners, most notably the Mennonites do not eschew modern conveniences like electricity and the Internet. They do live a simple life with a strong sense of community, but they also are very welcoming to outsiders.
A wonderful way to experience a little slice of this life is by visiting Barnwell County
in Thoroughbred Country
on the western side of the state.
A little town called Blackville
is home to a number of Mennonites, who run farms, roadside produce stands, groceries and even places to stay.
We discovered one such place on a recent visit: Wisteria Cottage
The four-room cabin is on a farm owned by Alvin and Lill Stoltzfus. It’s just a little off the road, but it feels a world away tucked between the cows, chickens, vegetable garden and woods.
Wisteria vines intertwine with the front porch to make the cabin feel like it truly is part of its surroundings. There are two bedrooms on the front of the cabin, with the kitchen and bath on the back.
It is rustic. There is no TV or Internet (cell phone service is pretty good) and tall folks might find the shower a little awkward, but it will force you to turn off the fast-paced world of your everyday life a little bit and enjoy the great outdoors.
Wags the dog is your protector and constant companion while a small field holds young cattle being raised for beef. The roosters will wake you with the sun and the evening crickets will tell you it’s time for bed.
The cabin is centrally located for a visit to the area. Less than a mile down the road is a wonderful produce stand run by another Mennonite family and just a few miles around the corner is Healing Springs
, an underground water source that has a reputation for healing those who drink it.
Further up the road is a country store with a sandwich shop. In the town proper are antique shops and restaurants, most famously Miller’s Bread-Basket
, which will serve you a meat and three vegetables, sort of a blend of Southern and Mennonite cuisines.
Wisteria Cottage is quite the bargain at $60 a night (a little more if you want Lill to fix you her famous breakfast, a little less if you happen to be a pastor passing through). It is wonderful for families with smaller children, there is even a trampoline outside. Lill can even set up a crib if need be.
On our stay, we spent the morning admiring Lill’s garden with beautiful flowers surrounding a veggie patch. We said hello to the roosters and cows and looked out for deer along the treeline. After a day of touring in Thoroughbred Country and dinner at Miller’s Bread-Basket
, where Lill frequently works, we were happy to get back to our little cabin in the woods for peaceful slumber.
If you are there on a Sunday morning, the Stoltzfus family invites you to join them at the Mennonite Church just down the road for Sunday services. On the evening of the fourth Sunday of each month, there is a Hymn Sing at the church.
: Wisteria Cottage (803) 284-2422; blackvillewisteriacottage.com
; 2136 Jones Bridge Road, Blackville, S.C. 29817.