Gina McLaurin arrived early from McColl to attend the Mill Farm Reunion on Aug. 31.
She wanted to find a nice shaded spot to sit and fellowship.
Born on Bostic Street, she said the Mill Farm has always been a community that stuck together and thought the reunion was nice.
“I have seen a lot of people I haven’t seen in years,” she said. “People have come home from New York and different places.”
The Mill Farm Reunion was created by a group of 8-10 people who grew up in the area and wanted to give everyone a chance to fellowship and reminisce during Labor Day weekend and more than 200 people attended.
One thing that stuck out for McLaurin from her childhood was that if the older people saw you doing wrong, they would punish you.
“Then when you got home, you got another punishment,” she said. “Nowadays, you can’t say anything to people’s kids. Back then, everyone looked out for everybody.”
Asiya Jones, a member of the Mill Farm Committee Reunion, said the goal was to provide the history of the Mill Farm, which is an area in West Bennettsville.
“We are so rich in heritage,” she said. “There are so many who have gone and passed.”
She said it was a day of fun for the kids and family that received numerous donations from individuals and businesses.
Jones’ uncle, Eugene Copeland, was former chief of police in Bennettsville and the first black chief in the state.
“We wanted to get back to our roots and history,” she said. “It was a chance to see people that they hadn’t seen in years and just give something back to the community. We wanted to provide our history to people to understand.”
Jones said Mill Farm had prominent businesses such as Skeeter’s, Henry’s and the pool hall.
Most of them are no longer in operation. The pool hall is now Miss Mattie’s Barbershop.
Jones grew up on Eugene Copeland Street and hosted the reunion on her family’s property. “This is where we are from and where we grew up,” she said. “It is just a good day. Everyone on the committee is from the area.”
During the event, the history of the area was presented along with a slide show of photos. A memorial was done for those who passed with those attending having the opportunity to purchase luminary bags.
Sisters Inga Jackson and Freida Ocean attended the reunion. Both had grown up on the Mill Farm.
“All of our mothers took care of all of our children,” Jackson said.
Ocean added they shared everything.
“We always looked out for each other,” she said.
This meant playing together at the bus stop or playing games.
“Anyone who got mad didn’t stay mad long,” Ocean said. “Our mothers didn’t play that.”
For them, the reunion was a chance to remember those who had died but had their children there representing them.
“We may not live here but we continue to stay in contact with each other,” Ocean said. “Instead of waiting for people to die, we decided to come together for old times sake.”
Marlon Prince, a member of the committee, talked about growing up on the Mill Farm. He was born in New York but his grandmother got him at two months and had been here 54 years. When he thinks of the Mill Farm, the word community comes to mind.
“Being in an impoverished area, we grew up not even knowing that we lived in poverty,” he said. “We were a close-knit community.”
Prince said the core of the community was the St. Luke Church, which is now where Word of Life is located, where the pastor and her husband were educators.
It inspired him and others to go into education. He added a lot of college professors, principals, assistant principals, and teachers came from the Mill Farm.
The area was known for the mill that ground soybeans and wheat. He thought it became damaged.
Farron’s Restaurant was the “crème de la crème,” he said.
“People came from across the country to eat at Farron’s,” he said. “Bennettsville and Marlboro County was known for Farron’s and Dairy Dream.”
Tonya Bradford, a committee member, also grew up on the Mill Farm and still lives there.
“Everybody who lives here knows each other and they are like family here,” she said. “There are no strangers.”
She remembered playing double dutch and hopscotch as a child in the neighborhood. “People who moved away returned to enjoy this day,” Bradford said.