A Tour of Sumterville in 1855
An Imaginary Tour of the City of Sumterville in 1850-55

(The following imaginary tour of part of Sumterville was discovered among the papers of the late Mr. Joel E. Brunson after his death. Apparently written for his own amusement some time after 1900, it relates his memories of the city at a very early age. Mr. Brunson, born in 1847, was in the lumber business most of his active life and operated a sash and blind factory aproximately on the present site of Korn Industries from 1890 to 1899. At the time indicated in this imaginary tour, he lived on North Harvin street, just off East Liberty. He died in 1913. The article and a picture were found by his daughter, Miss Margaret Brunson, a former teacher in the Sumter Schools.)

"How beautiful to see thereby, as through a long vista, into the remote Time; to have, as it were, an actual section of almost the earliest past brought safe into the Present, and set before your eyes."   --Thomas Carlyle.

Sumterville! Why do I write of Sumterville? It certainly is not with the hope of worldly gain, for I am old enough to know better. It is not with the hope of pleasing the people and thereby winning their favor, for the present generation cares little about the past and less about the future. They live absorbed with the deceptive "Now" and the almighty Dollar. The most popular creed is "Do your brother before he has time to do you. Every man for himself and the Devil take the hindermost."  But why do I write of Sumterville? It is because I know when you are worn out with bitter struggle and are seeking rest for your weary sprits, you will find much pleasure in reading this little sketch, just as it gives me pleasure to recall the scenes and incidents of long ago.


  When I saw the light, near the little village, my father and mother saw fit to move their abode within the limits of the future city just as people do now, to educate their children, and I was turned loose to meet the oncoming glorious civilization.
  Stand with me, in fact you might take my hand, for I am but a little tot, though as active as a cat, in the Cross Streets, and you must not forget that there is only one place in the village called "Cross Street," and that place is where Main and Liberty Streets now cross. Now turn your face to the rising sun, That house standing on your right, on the corner, is the Fed Myers Inn, quite a large wooden building with a few slats nailed around the piazza for a balustrade. Almost by the time you look for it again, it will have been removed.
  Let us go east and look at the houses on the right hand side. Next to the Fed Myers tavern stands a long, single-story building with a bright blue sign about six feet square over the door, and the gilt letters on that sign read, "William Webb's New York Store." Not quite half way on the block and this low frame building will be occupied in the course of a few years by Friendly Bird, while out back of it stand a lot of old carriage sheds and the old, worn out vehicles, still showing the comfortable way our grandmothers had to get out of a carriage. The door was opened by the footman, the steps - yes, real steps- were let down to the ground and she didn't jump two feet like a modern, but gracefully walked down like a lady.
  Now that square building with the big door and two forges, a lot of charcoal, vises and other blacksmith tools, two strikers and two blacksmiths just a heating and a hammering iron for life making twisters- that's Webb's blacksmith shop. They made plows, put shoes on fine horses, made steel scrapers- none of your "Two for fourpence" yankee-cut, thin scrapers, that would turn back as soon as it struck a root, but good scrapers that would run nicely through the season.
  This is the corner of Liberty and Harvin and this two story house will soon be occupied by Michael Welch. The upper part served as living rooms and downstairs as the store. But cross the street and this is the home of Major Billy Haynsworth. You see the part next to Harvin Street is single story and the eastern part is of two story design so that, coming from the lower part of the piazza, you must go up about six feet to reach the little portico in front of the eastern part.
  It is some distance to the next house. It is a dwelling and, at some time later occupied by the Gilberts, but it is this two-story with its big front door that holds special interest for me. Here, on each side, are work benches with vises and tools of all kinds, while the center of the building is filled with new carriage bodies, spokes, hubs, tongues, etc., and that tall thin man there is Mr. Tom Flowers, the owner of the shop. Jim Flowers, I don't know that he is any kin to the owner, is up stairs painting and trimming a carriage, and those boys messing about in the shop are called, Bill, and Tom, and Sam. Did you ever ride in a true-blue silver mounted carriage with a fine pair of real live horses that had on gold-mounted harness, with a full-blooded, trusty Negro, who knows how to handle the ribbons, to drive? If you have felt it- that's life.
  The next house is the home of D. B. McLaurin and then that little house with about four rooms and a little piazza and standing well back from the road in a modest way, is the home of Mrs. Garden. Hugh and Ally and Miss Fanny live there with their mother.
  Well, go on now down by this big ditch to the last house in the village. Here live Mr. Tim Norton and his wife, Susan, and daughters, and that Negro boy in the yard is named George, and this building here on the road is Mr. Norton's wheelwright shop. Just behind it, on the right side of the ditch is Norton's well, known to every boy and girl in the village as supplying the coolest, sweetest water in the whole world.
  Nothing more now until we get to Turkey Creek bridge, where we can fish and catch warmouth and cats. You see the stream south of the road has never been ditched, and it is fine fishing all the way down to Dingle's Mill.
  This is the village limit, but we must go farther to see some things. It is just about two hundred yards back to the bridge and those rails so nicely adjusted on the top of the fence, mark the place where Judge William Lewis, County Ordinary, gets over the fence. He frequently sits for hours and talks with people who pass along the road. that Negro coming round the path from his house is named Shady. He can make music on a tin horn as long as a rail, that'll bring all the raccoons in the creek out to dance.
  This is the avenue leading to Judge Lewis' house. You see from his house, two stories, four large columns, the roof painted red, the wide flower garden, well kept, and the numerous Negro servants about the place, that he is in easy circumstances.
  We go now about a hundred yards, and that little road, twelve feet wide, leads to the home of William Chancellor Duncan. His sons are named Tom and George.
  The stable, as you see, stands nearer the road and off towards Lewis Avenue. Mr. Duncan had one peculiar passion and that was to own all the blind horses in the state- he bought every blind horse offered for sale, if he could. Whether it was because they were easier to keep, or couldn't run away, or couldn't see how much corn was in the barn, I shouldn't like to say. We've come nearly a quarter of a mile and here just a mile and a half from the village courthouse, begins the race track. That ditch on our side of road furnished the clay to cover it, and there is not enough travel over it to cut it up, so, you see, it is a hard level road for a mile.  Here, Mr. James, a Kentuckian, comes with his horses once a year. None of your shabby, shuffling scrubs, but clean-limbed, pure blooded racers to carry home with him a pocket full of Sumterville coin.
  Let's go back to the village and keep an eye on the right side of the road. This house is Mrs. Baker's and her boys are named George and Bill and Abner. They have a good time eating nuts from those two large hickory trees by the house.
  That is the extension of Lewis Avenue and now we are at the outer edge of O. C. Hulburt's brick yard. Mr. Hulburt came here from the North, where they didn't have any Negroes he could bring with him, so he has to hire some of ours. He's mighty smart and smarts every hand he hires.
  Now that square box has four rows of long hickory pegs inside and the shaft turning in the center has four lines of pegs. It is so arranged that, as it turns around, the pegs lap and must pass between each other to grind the clay. That Negro boy throwing the clay in the box is named Isaac and belongs to Mrs Lansdell. As the horse goes round and turns the shaft, you see the ground clay pushing out of that little hole at the bottom and banking itself on the little platform. That little man with the muddy clothes that you see moving with the regularity of clock-work, taking the ground clay with his hands, putting it in the moulds, striking it with a straight edge, and sliding it to the man with the wheelbarrow to take away, is Mr. Hulburt himself. he hasn't any boys, but he has the only brick house in the vilage to live in. They say he makes a good brick and at the same time makes good money.
  No more houses now, until we reach Rev. Mr. Morgan's, just across the street from Mr. Norton's. Wood on the right and, as we cross the Creek bridge, a small triangle is cleared and said to belong to Judge Lewis. He plants rice here every year and you just ought to see the red-wing rice-birds that come in here to be shot by the village boys.
  All woods now to Mr. Morgan's.  Go right through the house, a single-story with four rooms and a piazza in front. The biggest boy is named Henry, next Alonzo, then Eddy, and that bright-eyed girl is Caroline, but we'll go on down to the tanyard.
  This little branch drains the water from near the Baptist church graveyard. This pool over which a board-way lies, you see, is full of hides with the hair taken off and those two round log-like benches with one end higher than the other, is where Mr. Morgan pulls out his hides and with a currying knife, rubs off all the flesh spots and other things to make them even and smooth.
  Just on up the hill in fromt of us stands Mr. Morgan's leather house where he worked, cut out shoes, and told yarns to the little boys who came to see him. This little footpath leads up to his shoe-shop where old Archie is pegging away making common cowbelly shoes, and singing as he pegs:
 "Cornwallis muster ole and young,
Hosstief and nigger-traders,
Huzzah, huzzah, my jolly brave boys,
Lord Wallace in de morning,
Rit ma rue do dol da dit,
Rit my rue de dol."
  But here on our right is Mr. Morgan's bark mill where he grinds red-oak bark to put in these vats on our left with the hides after cleaning them in the pool behind us. And here under this cottonwood tree is his limevat where he puts the hides to loosen the hair so he can curry it off. Brother William put his bird dog, Bob, in here to cure him of the mange. He did and it did.
  Let's go on by the shoe shop now, so you can hear Archie sing and, as there is no house between Mr. Morgan's and Jim Flowers' we can go straight out to the road. Now, this is the Jim Flowers home and just across the street stands Tom Flowers carriage shop where he trims and paints as I told you.  Here is the house where Bowen Clarkson lives. He is a lively, black haired boy, but I know nothing about his people.
  We cross this little indistinct road, go about sixty yards, and we stand in front of the Baptist Church. They say that little old building with doors on each side and in front, its staircase leading up to the gallery where fifty Negroes could be seated, its twenty odd pews on the lower floor where one hundred of the white villagers could sit and worship is the first house of worship Sumterville ever had, built by Anderson Spears, carpenter, in 1818-20, and now more than thirty years old. That last pew in the north-west corner is the one occupied by William Mitchell Lansdell and his bride, Emily Brumby, soon after it was built, and here, in this open space where all the aisles cross, Major Billy Haynsworth and Miss Maria Morse were united in the holy bonds of matrimony, November, 16, 1825.
  That house on the corner of Liberty and Harvin, with steps running down both ways from the piazza in front, and a semi-circular hole through the brick work, is the home of Montgomery Moses.  Lawyer Moses' wife is named Catherine Ester, and their boys are named Meyers, Minnie, Frank, Claremont, and Altamont. Altamont is a little bit of a boy like me.
  This store on the corner across the street belongs to Mrs. O'Brian, She owns the next store also. She is a very fat lady of 200 pounds or more, about four feet six inches high and has two daughters, Catherine and Johannah. Her brothers Ned, and John Kinney work at Carpenter's work.
  The next building after Mrs. O'Brians is a little 16 by 20 foot single-story store, sometimes without occupants.  And then, nearly half-way to Main street, stands a two-story building some eight or ten feet from the line of the street. Here Abram and Ransom, two Negro carpenters, are making doors under the directions of their master, Bill Hoyt. About twenty feet from the Hoyt building is another little 20 by 30 foot store without an occupant. Two feet from this begins a rough, large store, and you see the sign extending across the pavement reads: "P. Bligh's Cheap Variety Store."  Pat Bligh, his mother, sister Bridget, and John Bligh do business within.  The next, another little 16 by 20 shop is occupied by Mrs. mcGhee, quite an old lady, and now we reach the storeroom of L. B. Hanks, whose store fronts on Main Street. This building has an old appearance even now, and may have been used as a residence by someone in the past.  The piazza, running the whole length of the building, comes out to the street, and the house is about three feet from the ground. That mullato boy in there is named Dave.
  Fifteen or twenty feet from this, and fronting on the street, we have a store about 25 by 40 feet in which Washington Black is merchandising. Between it and the corner house, there is an old well. This last building fronts on Main Street and, while I can't tell you who is doing business in it, you can see that it is just a plain old wooden store. We are at Cross Street and I must rest before we go south on Main Street.
  That large wooden building on the south-west corner of Main and Liberty holds the merchandise of Mr. James Barrett. He, as you see, is of a literary turn of mind and, though he is nearsighted and wears glasses, wherever you meet him, he is reading some select work. Whenever he is out, his wife, with a big motherly heart, waits on the customers.
  And now comes Freeman Hoyt's jewelry store, about twenty feet front on Main and forty feet deep. Mr. Hoyt is a northern man and they say he is an excellent hand with a watch. Next is a building of like size and occupied by John Thompson as a drug store, another northern man, a good druggist, low in stature, shrewd in business without kith or kin in the village.
  The store we are coming to now is owned and the business conducted by Mr. O. T. (page torn). He repairs anything and everything in the line of watches, jewelry, clocks. A workman of fine ability and pleasing address, if he can't fix your watch, throw it in the bushes; and if he can't sell you a new one, go home, for nobody else can.
  That little store there, 18 by 20 feet, three feet off the ground, is the millinery shop of Annette Hulburt. She is the wife of O. C. Hulburt, whom we saw over the creek making brick. While he makes the brick and she makes the hats, that is no evidence that either has a brick in his or her hat; for she is a most lovable woman, helping to trim the sails of her neighbors, so that they (pg torn)drift into seas of peace and prosperity.
  This next store, fifty yards to the side of the home of John F. Haynsworth, is one of those little stores sometimes with and sometimes without a keeper, and I do not know to whom it belongs.  This two-story house here, fronting on Dugan Street and about thirty feet from the street, with the end even on the line of Main Street

(Editor's note: The account ends here. Evidently called away in the middle of a sentence, Mr. Brunson never finished the story of his memories of Sumterville in 1855.)

The above was submitted
Meg Willis.