Dillon County museum depicts community's storied past

DILLON COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - When you really want to know something about a community you're visiting, your first stop might be the local museum. When you want to know what made Dillon County such a destination point for loggers, farmers and merchants, head to the Dillon County Museum.

You just might come away with a few things you weren't expecting from this rural community.

The next time you're in Latta, the Dillon County Historical Society would like you to make a special stop: one that will take you back in time to the people and professions that put this small South Carolina town on the map.

In what was the former office of one of county's first family doctors, Henry Edwards, the Dillon County Museum is certainly one way to get a better understanding of why this mostly rural community is so proud of where it's been and where it's heading.

Restoring this little brick building into the county's museum took perseverance, beginning with the effort to get the grant money to pay for it.

"I would call and complain but we never did get a grant," says Betty Barclay of the Historical Society. "And I finally told them and I said, that's okay, we're like the little red hen. We'll restore it ourselves."

And they did, into a seven-exhibit facility that takes you from Dillion County's beginnings to its hopes for the future, and it's been a rather storied past.

Corky Lane is a museum guide. "At one time we had two professional ball players from the town of Latta: Mr. Bub McMillen, and he was a farmer also, and Mr. Frank Elerby," Lane says.

In fact, Latta's Bub McMillan played on the World Series New York Yankees with Babe Ruth. Neither man got rich off that series.

"That was his, that's what he got for playing in the World Series: $2,800. And Babe Ruth, he didn't get any more. He got the same amount."

Also hidden in these rooms are the memories still held dear by the folks who live in Dillon County. After doctor Edwards retired, his son Luther took over the office as a dentist. Operators have done the best they can to recreate the rooms where hundreds were examined, treated and cured, including Lane himself.

"This is the doctor's son, followed his father here, and he was a dentist," says Lane. "In fact, I sat in that chair one time. I'm not that old but I sat in that chair as he was still open when I was in high school."

Next door to the museum is Dr. Edwards' home, the first two-story house in the region. There's an old train caboose on the property, as well. Across the street is the Latta Memorial Park, with the original general store and post office and the old Vadalia school house, Latta's original one-room school. The town has created nothing shy of a historic square in town.

But the greatest struggle for the historical society is getting the locals to stop by.

"We learn from our past history and when we see the dedication and the perseverance of our forefathers and what all they did," says Betty Barclay. "We want to make the public knowledgeable of it and proud of what's going on."

Lane adds: "There are very few people in our community, in Latta who have even been here. And they need to come. They really do."

It won't take you long to get through the Dillon County Museum, but don't let that fool you. This small brick building just off the downtown core in Latta will take you through more than a century of important history.

The Dillon County Museum is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 4 pm, but you can call the museum anytime to get a special tour scheduled.

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