FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) Walking around Browntown outside Lake City is like taking a big step back in time, when cotton was king and life on a farmstead in the Pee Dee was filled with struggle, ingenuity and a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
The modest farmstead of Browntown off Highway 341 traces all the way back to the mid 1700s when Moses Brown received three royal land grants from the King of England.
11 buildings now scatter the property, each one filled with treasures from the past. The pearl is the 3-story ginhouse, one of only two known cotton gins still on its original foundation.
"The cotton gin is the main thing that made cotton the main crop in this area and it caused an economic boom when it was first brought in. All of a sudden everybody was making money," says David Green, President of the Three Rivers Historical Society.
Picking cotton was tedious work, but with the new invention created by Eli Whitney in 1842, the cotton gin could do what a person did in a week, within mere minutes.
"All these teeth are on a shaft. They turn and the teeth catch the cotton lint and pull it through the groove, but the seeds are too big to go through the groove. So the seeds drop down and the lint goes on the other side," Green explains.
As you stroll through Browntown, past the corn crib, outhouse and even the pie safe, this place paints a very vivid picture of what life was like so many years ago. And when you stop to admire the craftsmanship of their work, it's truly amazing what they did with such primitive tools.
"There's no medal in this. It's all wooden pegs to hold this together," says Green.
Browntown now serves as a place to teach students about the difficult, but self sufficient way of life our ancestors lived.
"We hope that as the kids see these artifacts and things and hear the explanations of what they were used for, they'll go home and ask their grandparents and everybody in the older generation about those things and get some conversations started."
For volunteer Carol Cockfield, she has a passion for preserving history, "If somebody does not care about the things of yesteryear, they may never be saved and we may never know a lot of the history that would help us live our lives today."
As you can imagine with a historical project like this, restoration is far from being over. There are currently two different projects they're trying to get underway, but the price tag could be as high as a $150,000.