Blackville, SC is a small town in rural Barnwell County in the part of SC called the “back country.” It was something of a tourist destination even before there were white settlers in the area. Native Americans were attracted to the Healing Springs and its secret restorative powers. This power was shared with European settlers nearby prior to the Revolutionary War. The battle of Slaughter Field was fought north of Blackville near the Mennonite church. Four mortally wounded British soldiers were left here, where they were expected to die soon. Two able bodied men remained to attend to and bury them when the time came. Six months later, all six returned to their garrison in Charleston, further perpetuating the Healing Springs’ legend for healing.
When the railroad passed this way on its journey between Charleston and Hamburg, John Black chose this area as an overnight stop for the train. As with other trading routes, several hotels and other services sprang up creating a bustling railroad town. Blackville was established in 1833 and chartered in 1837. As a marketing and transportation center the town thrived until the Civil War. By February of 1865, sixty thousand Union troops had passed through the town. General Sherman met with his generals here, burned much of the town, looted, demolished the railroad, and continued on his march.
After the civil war, most of the former slaves of the region either chose or through necessity settled there and became sharecroppers. In 1944, L.P. Boylston deeded the one acre of land containing the Healing springs to “God.” In more recent years, starting in the early 1960s, a group of Mennonites have settled the area, making it their home.
Blackville is close to equidistant from three Interstate highways in South Carolina, I20, I26 and I95. It is at the crossroads of highways 78 and 3. Start your day at the SC National Heritage Corridor Region 3 Discovery Center, located 2 miles west of Blackville at the Clemson University Edisto Research and Education Center. This train inspired museum includes interactive displays, videos and many kiosks to share the history of Aiken, Bamberg, Barnwell and Orangeburg counties. While you are there, visit the Agricultural Heritage Museum which shares the campus and take a stroll along the half mile Edisto Nature Trail.
Next, head into town to discover the place that attracts many people off the main thoroughfares to visit Blackville, the Mennonite restaurant, Miller's Bread Basket. People drive from Augusta, Columbia, Charleston and points farther away for the delicious food served here. If you can't decide, I highly recommend the meatloaf with stewed tomatoes. When asked for your bread preference, try the butternut sweet bread. While many people love their shoofly pie, I enjoyed the lemon meringue more. Miller's Bread Basket is open Monday through Saturday for lunch from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and on Thursday and Friday for dinner from 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm.
After stuffing, walk off some of the pounds by visiting the attached shop, featuring some antiques as well as some interesting gift items. Don't leave without buying some bread to take home with you. Then, stroll next door to Parrot's Antiques and the Parrott's Old Country Store connected through a small courtyard. The store dates from 1859 and is like a small museum by itself.
Head over to the Old Depot-Library to start the self-guided Blackville SC Heritage Trail. You can grab a brochure in front of the library and follow along or visit the website (see below). The tour starts here at Court House Square where you'll find the old Depot Building which now houses the Blackville Branch Library. Follow the tour to the Healing Springs Baptist Church, Farrell-O'Gorman House, Market Hall, The Simon Brown House, Tabernacle Baptist Church, Hagood house, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Blackville United Methodist Church and the Mathis House. Some of these facilities can be toured by appointment. For information on guided tours of these and other places of interest check the website.
Spend a little of the afternoon exploring some of the shops in the area. Be sure to check out the amazing handiwork of some of the locals at either Amish Country Craftworks or The Little Red Barn Pottery and Art gallery.
Now, it's time to visit the attraction which interested the Native Americans centuries ago as well as other people down through the years. The Healing Springs are located on private property, but don't worry, the owner is god Almighty and he doesn't mind visitors. Take a stroll around the property or rest at one of the nearby picnic tables. Be sure to take some water with you.
If you forgot to bring your own jug for water, the folks at the Healing Springs Country Store will be happy to sell you one. While you're there, you can grab a bite to eat in their sandwich shop. Just be sure to save room for their homemade soft serve ice cream.
Now, it's time to head home with your purchases. Travel safely and I hope you enjoyed your visit to Blackville. Enjoy the bread and water. Trust me; no sailor in the brig ever had it so good.
Places Referenced Above
SC National Heritage Corridor Region 3 Discovery Center
Agricultural Heritage Museum
Both are located at:
Clemson University Edisto Research and Education Center
87 Heritage Road
Miller's Bread Basket
483 Main Street
Telephone: (803) 2843117
5775 L'Artigue Street
Blackville SC Heritage Trail
1420 Solomon Blatt Avenue
Amish Country Craftworks
499 Main Street
The Little Red Barn Pottery and Art Gallery
Highway 278 and Highway 37
SC S-6-538 (Located next to Healing Springs Country Store)
Healing Springs Country Store
2563 Healing Springs Road
Telephone: (803) 284-3377