Ole Town and Mill Memories

They’re probably not still 5 cents, but they are still cold.

Make the pleasant 117-mile drive to Central, S.C. and you’ll find a country community of the 1930s, the brainchild of Roy and Pat Collins. While many remember the 1930s as the era of the Great Depression, it was also a time when life was pragmatic and picturesque, a rare combination these days. At Collins Ole Towne you can step back in time and see a vintage barn, old school, barbershop, mill and general store.

The Collinses built their community onsite. Much of the material used came from old homes marked for demolition or renovation. What’s truly fascinating is the old general store. Back in olden times, folks needed liniment, castor oil and seeds. You’ll find those as well as memorabilia from life in a small community. Country store paraphernalia from the 1820s into the mid 1950s gives visitors an Americana feeling; and yes, the store has a vintage Coca Cola box.

Check out the Issaqueena Mill, a three-legged mill with a wooden hopper, once used on large farms and small plantations. Now old plows, telephone conductors, old bottles and relics rest in it. When you’re there, note the old upside down horseshoe above the center post leaking away its good luck.

The Depression-era barbershop features a reconstructed motorized barber pole, coat rack and several other items used in an old barbershop in Central. The Collinses purchased the barber chair, pedestal lavatory and many other items of interest during their travels.

The latest addition to Ole Towne is the schoolhouse, which has a bell tower. Pull on the rope and it’s school time again. Sit in an old desk dating back to the early 20th century. See old school books and other memorabilia. Note, too, the wood-burning heater that kept winter’s frigid days at bay.

Once Collins Ole Towne gets you in a “good old days mood” make the 13-mile drive up to Pickens and visit Hagood Mill. Before refrigerators came along, corn meal had a shelf life of about two weeks. This gristmill near Pickens churned out fresh meal from 1845 until the mid 1960s. You’ll find the mill on Hagood Creek. The water wheel, 20-feet in diameter by 4-feet wide, is South Carolina’s only wooden waterwheel. The wheel and mechanical components were rebuilt in the mid-1970s using as many original parts as possible. Restoration continued in the mid 1980s and mid 1990s. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

Pay attention to the millstones. A revolving upper millstone, the “runner,” and a stationary bottom stone, the “bed,” gave old mills their heart. The stones weigh more than a ton and as they rubbed against each other grooves cut into them created a scissor-like action that grinds grain. To this day a lot of folks believe stone-ground grain tastes better than grain ground by modern roller milling methods.

A quaint village much like a Hollywood set, a picturesque gristmill, and a drive through beautiful countryside: if those aren’t reasons enough to head to the cooler climes of the mountains, then what is?

If You Go …

• Collins Ole Towne

228 Lawton Road

Central, S.C.


Call for an appointment to tour the village:


Admission Fee.

 Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at www.tompoland.net. Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected]

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