Darlington Historical Commission
Doris Gandy, Historian
104 Hewitt Street
Darlington, South Carolina 29532
Phone: (843) 398-4710
The Darlington County Historical Commission was created by an Act of Legislature June 18, 1965. There is a board consisting of 8 members appointed by County Council for a period of three years.
We came out of the old Darlington County Historical Society, a private group dating from 1938 and still active as a club. In the late 50's this Society became very active in historical work, and did an in-depth survey of sites over the county that were historic and should be marked, by state-approved historical markers then about $300 each. We had no money and the membership of about 120 with dues at $1.00 per year.
The County Council was approached for a donation of tax dollars to help pay for these markers but were refused on the grounds that if ~ donation was made to this club, it would set a precedent and donations would have to be made to all clubs. But a number of County Council (then called County Comtnissioners) historically minded were intemsted in the proposal and wanted to find a way to aid us in the project.
It was found that a county historical commission could be created as a part of the overall county government and given a small sum of money out of tax revenues; hence this Act was passed in 1965.
It was an unwritten understanding that the money appropriated for our use was to be used to purchase historical markers for sites around the county over a long period until all were marked. Now money is allotted for two historical markers per year.
About this time, one of the County Commissioners, arranged to have the Jacob Kelley House donated to us for preservation and was instrumental in getting a federal grant for us to have the house renovated and made into a house museum. At that time, you may recall, federal dollars were flowing in an apparently unending torrent. This house has been a long-range process, and it has been finished with furniture and fumishings during that time period.
Over the years, we have been able to get a group of ladies living near the house to volunteer to take over responsibility fur furnishing the house (looking for and buying antiques) and staging "open house" at regular intervals. We were given $1000.00 per year in the county budget for misc. plus upkeep and utility payments on this house. Several years ago we put on a new wooden roof about $5000 (I'm not sure) and it has been painted by professionals as well as using (lately) prison farm labor. We try to keep up with the maintenance of the house.
Shortly after the Commission was created in 1965, a small room in the brand new court house was assigned to us, along with a desk and chair; as a member of the Society, and just having helped with the publication of a county History, Mr. Horace Rudisill was
asked by the Historical Commission Board to join them as paid Director. He had a full time job, so they agreed for him to come to the courthouse and keep the office open every Sat\lfday morning from 9 to 1, when he was not working his regular job.
In the early 70's, with federal money still flowing, one of the members of the House of Representatives along with a County Commissioner secured a federal grant to employ a full time "research consultant" to keep our court house office open full time. This position was later taken into the county budget when the federal grant money ran out. This is the position that Mr. Rudisill occupied full time until his death July 15,2003.
From the very first, he began to collect historical facts and statistics on Darlington County. Gifts of historical material were collected and brought by Mr. Rudisill and different people. The materials grew immensely so by 1984 the commission was offered this building, which was the old vacant county jail.
After the jail was renovated, all the pre-1900 records were moved out of the courthouse into the custody of the Darlington County Historical Commission. The plan was approved by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Everything except land records was moved at that time. This acquisition required the creating of a second full time job. Now, it has grown so much that we now have two part time workers so that at all times there will be three workers at the commission.
Over the past years we have found various other organizations to supply funding for roadside historical markers. More markers can be erected at this rate. Gifts are accepted and are given ftequently. The Darlington County Historical Society has watched over us and has come to our aid. on many oecasions in the way of donations.
Through the years, The Darlington County Historical Commission has become more of a county archives and early information center and are now incorporating storage and preservation of all types of written records relating to the county.
We house all the old courthouse records prior to 1900. As space is needed at the courthouse they move records over here for safekeeping. Probate Records from 1900 through 1922 have just been moved and we are in the process of putting them in acid free file folders to help in preserving them.
Staff regularly attends workshops at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History at different times and for different aspects ofhistorical preservation. This helps in maintaining and preserving the records for future use for further generations.