Gurley

by Margaret Suggs Prince


I was born and raised in Loris and did not move to Gurley until 1949, after marrying E. W. Prince, Jr. in 1948. So you see I was a late comer to Gurley. E. W. and I raised our family there. He passed away in 1982 and I have continued to live there. Therefore, I give credit to my late Sister-in-law, Mildred Prince Brown, and to Eugene Sasser for a great deal of the information I bring you today.

The village of Gurley is located about seven miles from Loris. At the stoplight in Loris take Hwy 701 South and travel about 6 3/4 miles. Turn right at the home of James Anderson, who is a member of one of the original families of this area. He has lived here all of hs life. About 1/4 mile from Hwy 701 you come to the railroad which runs right down the middle of the communily. The twenly-five mile segment of the railroad from the state line to Conway was completed on December 15, 1887.

In early years this area was known as Bayboro; however, in August 1887 a map was made by W. H. Chadbourn. This map shows streets laid off and the section around the depot cut into lots. The streets were named, but have never been used because the area did not develop as the surveyor had planned.

A sawmill owner and operator named R. F. Gurley came to this area shortly after the survey was made and since that time the community has been known as Gurley.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s turpentine and lumbering were the main industries. There were sawdust piles evident as late as 1928. Also about this time bricks were made in Gurley. Parts of kilns can be seen today. In the 1920s and 1930s tobacco barn flues were made. Some were bought by local farmers and some were shipped by rail.

In the early 1900s there were about ten families that were original landowners in this area. Except for three of them, some descendants of the original owners live on and till the land today. Some of these families were Bullock, Tyler, Sasser, Prince, Anderson, Dorsey, Lewis, Mishoe and Allen. It was a custom to give land to the children as they married and each would build a house on one side or the other of the railroad. In the Prince family there were five boys and three girls. Six houses were built along the railroad track. Two of the boys chose to make their home in Virginia.

As long as turpentine and lumbering were alive, the village was a very active one. In fact, at one time, I understand, Gurley was larger than Loris. There were four large general stores, all located on the same side of the railroad. These were the Mishoe, Allen, Sasser and Prince stores The Prince and the Mishoe stores were large unpainted two story wooden buildings. The Allen store held the post office until 1925, when it was moved to the Prince store. These country stores were the heart of the community and all the comings and goings of the folks was big news for everyone. These stores carried everything from horse collars to Bateman Drops.

Today the only one of these stores still standing is the Sasser store. The Prince store was torn down in 1925 and a one story buildhag was put in its place. This remained the only store in Gurley until 1965. They were forced to close as a store and an office was built across the road near the railroad track to take care of the grain and fertilizer business that the E. W. Prince family operated. Today the two tenmining stores (Sasser & Prince) are boarded up and a page of history has come to a close.

But before we leave, let's take a look at how these country stores were operated-- quite different from stores today.

John Sasser, Harmon Mishoe, Simms Allen and E. W. Prince, Sr. were the store owners. Most of their business was done on credit from January to September. They ran the farmers from one year to another. They were expected to be competent businessmen and accurate bookkeepers. They were consulted on purchases from clothing to plow hardware, wrote and read correspondence ranging from love letters to wills, and were expected to give sage advice on legal, social, marital and religious matters. These stores were the oral newspapers of the community.

After harvesting and selling their crops in the fall the farmers would buy their supplies: 25 lbs. of lard, flour, rice and other food for the family. You could also see them coming home with a new linoleum rug for the front room, a bolt of white homespun for underwear and bed lines, and maybe a new piece of clothing for the children.

The Mishoe family showed more aggressiveness than some of the others. They kept the store, farmed, and Mr. Mishoe was the depot agent and telegraph operator. Three of his five sons learned to be telegraph operators like their father, and became depot agents in Conway, Wilmington, NC, and Jacksonville, FL.

After the Mishoe family died out and there was no need for a telegraph office, E. W. Prince, Sr. was appointed caretaker for the depot. This entitled him to passes on the passenger train for his family. When the oldest daughter, Mildred, went to Winthrop, she was able to travel from Gurley to Rock Hill without cost to the family. She would board the train at 4:00 o'clock one afternoon, spend the night in Columbia and reach Rock Hill the next afternoon.

The last of the old country stores are the two that are boarded up and used as storage houses. The last thread of their existence in the office of Gurley Trading Co. This office is built quite close to the railroad and was owned and operated by the family of E. W. Prince, Jr.

In the early days of Gurley Trading Co. many items were bought and sold. In order to make ends meet, E. W. Prince, Sr. said, it was necessary to carry on a business differently after the chain stores came to nearby towns and transportation was so easy. He bought and sold fresh produce and shipped it by rail to the north. Potatoes, beans and peppers were some of the main items.

In 1949 his son E. W. Prince, Jr., came home to be a partner with his father. They brought in fertilizer by freight train and later by track which they sold to the farmers. They also sold insecticides and other items needed by the farmers. Gradually this business passed away and the business became primarily the buying and selling of grain. Many large grain bins which store about 340,000 bushels are near the office and they were used to store grain until it was sold. Thousands of bushels of corn, soy beans and wheat were shipped mostly by trucks, which had replaced the railcars of earlier years.

The Gurley Trading Co. was begun by Ranson Mayberry Prince, owner and manager from 1890 to 1913. It was then taken over by his son E. W. Prince, Sr., until 1949. In that year his son, E. W. Prince, Jr., came home and became a partner. E. W. Prince, Sr., passed away in 1958 and E. W. Prince, Jr., continued with the business until 1982. After his death his family continued the business until 1992, when they found it necessary to close the business.

This was a hard decision, since it was the end of a business that had existed for four generations of Princes. It is indeed very sad; however, the family home is still occupied by the Prince family and they continue to operate the farm which has been owned and operated by the family since 1890.

In the early 1900s there were several mail routes going out from Gurley. Mr. Allen was postmaster. After Mr. Allen's death the post office was moved to the Prince store. There were about 20 boxes and coming for the mail was an important event of the day for most of the familles of the village. The last account I had of the boxes was that Carlisle Shelley had used them in his home in Conway.

The Sears Roebuck catalog was one of the most important pieces of mail that came in. Many of the families ordered most of the clothes they had from this wish book. As the years went by, the amount of mail became less and the government decided GurIcy post office had to be closed. This was a sad day for us who lived there. We felt we kind of lost our identity at this time. Gurley then became Rt. 3, Loris, until last year (1991) when addresses were again changed. When the 911 service was activated, new addresses were assigned according to the road you live on.

The first school in the village was a one room schoolhouse beside the railroad tack. This was replaced by a two room building across the tracks about 1910. About 1925 buses began to lake the high school students to Loris. There were no paved roads. Children left home at 7:00 a.m. and returned at 5:00 p.m. There were no lunchrooms, so they had to carry their lunches.

In the late 1800s five families pooled their resources and built New Light Baptist Church. The membership was not able to afford a full time pastor, but Sunday School was held every Sunday. Four classrooms were curtained off in the four corners of the building. The church had a large iron bell that tolled each Sunday morning. It also rang out if there was a disaster, such as a fire, or if there was a death. Today the old wooden church structure is gone and a larger brick building with separate Sunday School classrooms has taken its place. The new building has cushioned seats and stained glass windows. They still do not have a full time pastor. Many years ago the name was changed to GurIey Baptist Church.

Eugene Sasser was born in Gurley in 1913. I imagine he is the oldest person that was born, raised, and has continued to live here all of his life. He believes his father, John William Sasser, came to the area about 1888 from Columbus County, NC, to buy and sell turpentine. He stayed and ran a general store, a cotton gin and a farm. He died at the age of 57.

Prior to 1902 the Sasser family lived in the rear of the Sasser store building and in two rooms attached to the rear. That building no longer exists. John Sasser's first wife died in the Sasser home, probably the oldest house in the area, which was built in 1902. Eugene's mother, John Sasser's second wife, came there in 1905.

The South Carolina Historical Magazine, published by the S.C. Historical Society, states that Bayboro Presbyterian Church, Bayboro, SC, was founded in 1901, that the preaching point had existed from 1888, and that the church was dissolved in 1929. Eugene Sasser remembers that.

The Sasser family were the only Presbyterians in the community, so Mr. Sasser built a church for his own family. It was located in the lot next door to the Sasser home. It was a small, square, white building with a lovely spire, which made it clear to every passerby that it was a church. A minister came by train once a month and preached on Sunday afternoon. Other people, including Mr. Levi Anderson, attended there until a Baptist church was established. Eugene's half-sister Ruth played the organ. Eugene, the last member of this Sasser family, has been organist and an active member of the Loris Presbyterian Church for many years. He continues to serve in this position.

Recreation in the village from the late 1800s to about 1925 was quite different from today. There was little time for play because it took all members of the family almost every hour of the day to make a living. Mildred Prince Brown remembers that there were parties at night sometimes, held in various homes. Often in the winter there were candy pulls. A candy made from syrup was pulled by two people and the longer it was pulled, the lighter it became. It was fun to do and the candy was also good to eat. There were box suppers held. Mildred said she would spend many hours decorating a shoe box with crepe paper or whatever else she could find and fill it with goodies, hoping it would bring a big price at the auction. A girl also hoped the right fellow would buy it. Cake walks were also part of an evening's activities.

Medicine shows were common during these early years and were very fascinating. About twice each year a show would come and park by one of the country stores. There was a show every night for about a week. They were held at night so all the working people could come. After the company had sung and danced for the spectators, they were shown a bottle with a preserved tapeworm in it and then the medicine man would sell his wares. These medicine men sold lots of concoctions, which were probably only colored and flavored water, as cures for many ailments.

During this time, especially after tobacco season, when the farmer had some money, the community would be plagued with peddlers. Typically, a big car from the north would come, packed with bedspreads and other household goods to sell. Everybody stopped work and went to the porch where the peddler could spread his goods out for viewing. He always sold at least one bedspread before moving on.

In the summer the young folks looked forward to going to Myrtle Beach on a picnic. They packed lunches, boarded the noon train, got off at the beach near the pavilion, had a swim, ate lunch near an artesian well and boarded the train to reach home about 4:00 p.m.

Everyone looked forward to the arrival of a five gallon churn of vanilla ice cream on the noon train on Saturdays. One of the stores sold it for 5 cents a cone. It was a treat for everyone.

Life was simple in this village of Gurley, but life was full and rewarding. In summer everyone had gardens filled with all types of fresh vegetables. A walk in the woods or a walk down the railroad tracks, a beautiful sunrise or sunset, were within the reach of anyone. Everyone worked hard but also enjoyed the simple pleasures that made life more enjoyable.

Gurley was typical of communities which made up our great country during this period of our history. From villages such as these many great Americans have come and today our country is richer in many ways for the contributions that then simple Americans have made.

The Independent Republic Quarterly
Vol.26; Fall 1992; No.4; pp 19-22

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