Many visitors to Historic Blackville
in Barnwell County
bring along empty gallon jugs to fill with the cool, clear water from God’s Acre Healing Springs
just north of downtown. Town lore has it that the water from the springs has special properties to heal wounds and promote good health.
Locals talk reverently of the water’s purity and clean taste.
“It’s just better,” one longtime resident said with a smile as she and her mother loaded a dozen or so gallon bottles into the truck of their car.
Blackville residents and town leaders are working to heal and promote the town’s other attractions, as well.
A project to restore the once stately Shamrock Hotel is underway. Funds from the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation and private contributors have been used to install footers and steel-stabilizers, but much more work is needed, said Ray Miller, owner of Miller’s Bread-Basket
, a Blackville institution .
Miller (“I’m called Uncle Ray”) has been coordinating the town’s efforts to secure the needed funds so that the grand hotel can be put to use to generate needed revenue for the town.
“I can see a Bed & Breakfast there,” Miller said, with dining facility on the first floor. In the mornings, locals and visitors would mingle over coffee, he said.
This sounds familiar.
The Shamrock Hotel, which was built in 1912, was a regular port for railroad passengers during the early years of the 20th century.
Myrtle Quattlebaum of the Blackville Area Historical Society wrote in her history of the hotel
“During it’s heyday, the lobby of the Shamrock was a gathering place for some of the locals as well as guests of the hotel. There were several tables for writing or playing games, and a pool table in the back of the lobby. A lively game of poker was often enjoyed after dinner in the convivial atmosphere. The built-in registration desk was near the front. The floor was of white ceramic tile with ‘The Shamrock’ spelled out in green tiles near the lobby entrance, and the ceiling was of white embossed metal. …
“The hotel was often filled to capacity during the late spring and summer. The rooms were occupied by vacationers, salesmen, buyers, and truck drivers from all over the United States. Fall and winter months were not as busy, but brought enough repeat guests to keep the hotel marginally profitable until the later years.
Salesmen traveled mostly by train until the early 1940's, and many of those passing through the area regularly stayed overnight at the Shamrock. Some continued this routine even after cars became more accessible and larger towns within easy driving distance. As use of the train declined, so did business for the Shamrock.”
Miller describes the hotel’s decline much more dramatically, almost biblically.
“The walls fell in ’95,” he said.
Miller, a member of Blackville’s Mennonite community, uses prophetic references when he shares his vision for the Shamrock.
“I like to describe it as ‘Up From the Rubble,’ ” he said, which, suitably, is the name given to the campaign to raise the Shamrock.
Interestingly, Blackville, which suffered four major fires in the 1800s, is nicknamed “The Town of the Phoenix” in honor of its ability to rise again and again from ashes and rebuild.
If You’re Going:
Miller’s Bread-Basket is located at 483 Main St. in Blackville, one block north of the intersection of S.C. 3 and S.C. 78. It is open Monday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The Shamrock Hotel is a block up Main Street from Miller’s Bread-Basket.
God’s Acre Healing Springs is on Springs Court, about three miles north of Blackville. The springs are open to the public at no charge.