I am going to start my column today by posthumously citing and commending Carley Wiggins, our great historian, who wrote more inclusively about the people and history of Dillon County, more than anyone else – barring none.
In my opinion, it would be an injustice to write about the history of our county and not mention the name of the person who was our most inclusive and prolific historical writer.
With that being said, I will commence to present to you part one of a two-part article entitled, “Watershed Events in the History of Dillon County.”
To the best of my historical recollection, I will endeavor to present them to you in the chronological order that they occurred.
Simply because before there could be any events that would have an effect on a city or town, it stands to reason that there must first be such a municipality.
The foundational watershed event that preceded and thereby, stimulated others that would follow was the founding of the city of Dillon in 1888.
This historical effort was led by James W. Dillon, who was both a pioneer and visionary, who saw what the little community could become that was located a little over five miles south of the community of Little Rock.
Had it not been for James W. Dillon’s aggressive and discreet leadership, the city that we now know as Dillon would perhaps have been located five miles to the north and named Little Rock.
Therefore, we are citizens of both the city and county named for the man who spearheaded its founding. I have always loved the people and community of Little Rock; however, it would take some getting used to if we were referred to as Little Rockites.
The Establishment of the Dillon Herald
In the opinion of many (me included), the second most significant watershed event in the history and development of both the city and county of Dillon, respectively, was the establishment of The Dillon Herald newspaper in 1894.
When Mr. A. B. Jordan, the founder and publisher of The Dillon Herald, came up with the idea to start a local newspaper in the city of Dillon, it put our maiden municipality in a distinct and good position to prosper and attract new citizens as well as businesses. Most up start and small towns often fail to experience progressive change and growth.
The establishment of The Dillon Herald gave the citizens of Dillon two things that are very necessary for a city or community to possess, if it is to be progressive and productive.
Firstly, a local newspaper gives its citizens a means to receive local news or events that are going to occur in their city. It highlights achievements of local people as well as crimes that were perpetrated in the area.
Finally, it is a great source of advertising of business establishments and products. One of the things that corporations look for when they are contemplating coming to an area is whether or not there is a local newspaper in that city. The presence of a newspaper adds to the prestige, productivity, and progression of the city and community.
The Establishment of
South of the Border
Our third choice as a watershed event that helped to shape and develop Dillon city and county to the state that it has progressed to since it was founded was the establishment of the tourist attraction South of the Border.
Mr. Alan Schafer, the founder of South of the Border, had the brainchild and vision to start a store on the state line between North and South Carolina, respectively.
Given he was a visionary and brilliant entrepreneur, it is doubtful that he could have foreseen that it would grow to be, at one time, the number one tourist attraction in South Carolina.
What certified Mr. Schafer’s flagship business to be so important to our locale was the fact that it offered jobs to many who otherwise would have been unemployed or restricted to do only seasonal work in the fields and on the farms.
This was especially true for many African Americans and young people who it afforded summer jobs to who were attending college.
Nevertheless, what many have overlooked about Mr. Schafer is that it was primarily due to his entrepreneurial maneuvering and persuasion that I-95 was routed close to both South of the Border and to the City of Dillon itself.
Without this, Dillon would never be “Coming Alive on I-95”, as our motto states.
The Dismantling of Jim Crow and Segregation
My final topic of consideration in this initial installment of a two-part series on watershed events in the history of Dillon County has to do with the dismantling of Jim Crow and the institution of segregation. Having been born in the Jim Crow and segregated South as well as raised up until the legal walls of this racist system was determined unconstitutional, I am very familiar with the limitations, restrictions, and prohibitions that were imposed and rigorously enforced upon blacks during that time. I was born on the segregated floor of Saint Eugene Community Hospital that was designated for blacks only. I waited in doctor’s offices as a boy with my mother and waiting areas that were substandard to that of white patients. I could not go into the main area of restaurants through the front door, but had to enter the back or side door to be waited on. I received used textbooks in school that were hand-me-downs from white students that were often antiquated and obsolete. I could, of course, go on and on why I deem the dismantling of Jim Crow and segregation as watershed events in the history of Dillon County. No other event had the emancipating and empowering effect on the African American community as the legal abolishment of Jim Crow and segregation. Though the attitudinal and invisible wall was still standing, we now had a weapon we never had before called the Constitution and we were hell-bent to use it.