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Salters, A Whistle Stop Kind Of Place

By Tom Poland
web posted April 3, 2015

LIFE DOWN SOUTH – Unincorporated, a big word with small implications. If a town is unincorporated, it’s small and Salters, South Carolina is diminutive. Tucked away in forests off a back road, it’s the kind of place you go to for a reason. I went to see a glorious remnant of the past. I write “glorious” because there’s something dignified and magnificent about Salters.

If you, like many beach-bound folk, take some back roads to the coast, you might get a chance to pay Salters a visit. Once you pass through Greeleyville and cross Highway 52, be on the lookout. Don’t be like the many tourists who skirt the village as they speed down Highway 521. If they would turn onto Glad Street they’d be glad they did. Perchance they might see an old timer walking the tracks who’d tell them in a wheezy voice that Salters, once upon a time, was known as Salters Station and Salters Depot. Now it’s cut short: Salters.

If you are a fan of gray, weathered boards, rust-splotched tin, and lonely highways, then you will like Salters and its old depot that dates back to the mid 1800s and patiently sits alongside the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.

Growing cotton once worked pretty well here. Now men in this Williamsburg County region fell trees as forestry is the main vocation, but the tattered old gin still stands not far from the depot. Writing in the Center for a Better South, retired editor, Linda W. Brown, said, “the Salters gin not only provided employment for the adults of the community, but it also was a source of recreation for the young people. One woman who grew up there remembers, ‘Jumping cotton bales which were stacked at the gin “for recreation.”

“Visiting Salters for me,” said Brown, “is like stepping back to an era when people spent the afternoons sitting on their front porches watching the trains go by.” She’s right. It’s a place where sitting provided entertainment. There’s no café here; even so, it brings to mind Fannie Flagg’s Whistle Stop Café. And as for that old gin, well, I stood in front of it not long ago. I tried to conjure up lean-legged women jumping bales for fun in its confines, and I saw a few screaming and laughing as they hit the cotton.

Aside from the gin and depot, another building dominates this whistle stop, the Salters Plantation House, an example of nineteenth century domestic architecture. William Salters built the house around 1830, not long before he died in 1833. Folks have added on to the house where a Greek Revival influence holds sway. Six stuccoed brick columns on squared brick bases once supported the rain porch as it was known, a feature associated with eastern South Carolina and the Pee Dee. Change arrived and the columns look a bit different as you can see.

Come visit this place and its old buildings. You might think time turned its back on Salters, but that’s not true. Time, I believe, just decided to mark time in a place that in a way has become a living museum.

If You Go …
Be sure to visit nearby Cooper’s Country store.

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