Author brings book home to Winnsboro

Members of Winnsboro’s Cultus Club gather around the table at Fairfield County Museum waiting for Winnsboro native Nelle Smith to autograph her newly released book, Paradise: Memories of Hilton Head in the Early Days. From left, Margaret DuBard of Blythewood, Museum Director Pelham Lyles, Trev Sherrod and club president Mary Lynne Zeno.

WINNSBORO – Nelle and John Gettys Smith and their children Gettys, Spenser, and Ora, moved to Hilton Head Island in 1963 to take over the work of Charles Frazier who was developing the Sea Pines community.

These many years later, Nelle, 86, and now a widow, and her daughter Ora have collected their memories of life on the island into a book titled Paradise: Memories of Hilton Head in the Early Days. And since it was published by the Chapel Hill Press last March, the book has been selling briskly as the two women promote it across the low country and the state.

Their tour most recently brought the pair to Winnsboro where Nelle grew up. She spoke about her book to a gathering at Christ Central on Sunday, then signed autographs at a reception at the Fairfield County Museum.

“What was Hilton Head like in the early days?” Nelle writes in her book, “It was a quiet, simpler time with mostly dirt roads, surrounded by incredible natural beauty.

“Being a part of the growing Island was a chance of a lifetime…witnessing the first Heritage Golf Tournament…feeling the joy as people began to discover this oceanfront treasure nestled in the tall pines. Our family was there to help plant the seeds that have grown Hilton Head into the beloved destination it is today.”

Friends and members of the Cultus Club munch on appetizers and fruit punch at book signing. From left: Barbara Martin, Sarah McMaster, Michelle Taylor, organizer Phyllis Gutierrz (chairwoman of the Fairfield Arts Council) and Janet Brakefield. | Photos: Barbara ball

Growing up on Bratton Street in Winnsboro, the daughter of the beloved town physician, Dr. Charles Spencer McCants and Isabelle Gooding McCants, Nelle left home in the early 1950’s to attend two years at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, VA., before returning home to finish her schooling at The University of South Carolina.


“At that time,” Smith said, “people, at least in Winnsboro, thought Carolina was so wild that the girls should go to another school first so we would not be so wild right away.”

In the book, Nelle recounts how she met her husband-to-be, from York County, on a blind date. After they were married, they moved their young family to Hilton Head where they immersed themselves into the Island community. Besides his work with Sea Pines, John Smith was one of the founders of the Heritage Golf Tournament. Nelle spent her years on the Island managing Nell’s Harbor Shop and working on community projects.

Today Nelle Smith lives in Beaufort with Ora and is basking in the limelight of her new book which, she proudly announced, has almost sold out the first printing. The paperback sells for $19.95.

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]