Daily Archives: 04/02/2024

Historic school slated for renovation

PICKENS — A more than 100-year-old one-room school building that served as the only education outlet for black children in the Liberia Community of northern Pickens County will soon be renovated as part of a larger plan to establish the once thriving community as an historic stop just off Scenic Highway 11.

The Soapstone Preservation Endowment (the Endowment), a public charity created for the sole purpose of protecting and promoting the history and story of the Liberia Community and Soapstone Baptist Church, has reached a historic agreement with Greenville-based Harper General Contractors to “adopt” the former Soapstone School as its latest community service project, said Carlton Owen, the Endowment’s Chairman.

“When we launched the Endowment in 2022 with the audacious goal of amassing a $500,000 perpetual endowment by December 2025, we envisioned the school as our first project,” Owen said.  “With the generous help of Harper General Contractors and their cadre of partners, we know that this will be a success.”

This is the first step by the nonprofit to formally establish the entire site as a historic stop that will be included on a Black History Trail in the Upstate, he said.  The story of Soapstone has spread throughout the region because of the efforts of Mable Owens Clarke, the sixth-generation steward and matriarch of the church. In 1999, her mother, Lula Mae, made her promise never to let the historically Black church close. As part of her mission, Clarke began holding monthly fish fries for the community for the next 22 years.

The Soapstone School traces its history to children taking classes in the 1870s on the rock that gives the church and school their name. The school then moved inside the church before the school building was erected in the 1920s for students in first through sixth grades.

A one-room building with unpainted walls and double seats for students who carried pails filled with water from a nearby stream every day at 11 a.m. so their teacher could make a “Type B” lunch of pinto beans, turnip greens, black beans and cornbread, it served the community until it was closed as part of consolidation efforts in 1953.

Harper and the Endowment will hold their workday on Saturday, May 4, said Doug Harper, the company’s chairman.  The company is well known for its community efforts over the years. It earned the Community Foundation of Greenville’s 2022 Philanthropic Spirit Award, which recognizes an organization that serves the community through exceptional partnerships with nonprofits and by providing vital programming.

“We have known about the history of the Liberia Community and Soapstone Church for many years and have been inspired by community matriarch Mable Owens Clarke’s efforts to sustain the site via monthly fish fries that she hosted for more than two decades,” he said. “When we learned of the Endowment’s plans to rehab the school, we jumped at the chance to be a part of helping protect and promote this important legacy.”

Once the building is stabilized and rehabilitated, period furnishings will be sought so that area residents, students, and tourists can experience a bit of what the education system was like for Black children until mandatory school consolidation.

The Endowment has already achieved 40% of its financial goal and has established “The Partnership Challenge” seeking at least one hundred businesses, churches, or individuals/families who provide a one-time $3,000 or greater tax-deductible gift or $1,000 per year over three years in support of the Endowment’s mission.

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Easley officials discuss changing government form

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

EASLEY — Easley officials recently learned more about what would be involved in changing the city’s form of government.

During Easley City Council’s March 11 meeting, officials heard from Naomi Reed, a field representative with the Municipal Association of

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Man dies on job at Liberty landfill

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

LIBERTY — A Greenville County man died last week after an accident on the job at a new landfill being constructed in Liberty.

Pickens County chief deputy coroner Andrew Wilson identified the victim as Ronald Lewis

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Easter sunrise service

Brian Hatchett sings a traditional hymnal to the gathered crowd at Dillard-Hillcrest’s annual Easter sunrise service last Sunday at Dillard-Hillcrest Funeral Home and Memorial Park. The Easter sunrise service has been a tradition on Pickens County dating back more that 30 years.

West End principal Garrison to retire

EASLEY — The School District of Pickens County announced the retirement of Dr. Angie Garrison, Principal of West End Elementary School, effective at the end of the 2023–24 school year last week.

Dr. Garrison has been Principal at West End Elementary since January 2007, serving the school and community with

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The need for reliable electricity

If you get nervous when your vehicle’s gas light comes on, you know how the leaders of South Carolina’s electric cooperatives feel amid our state’s looming energy crisis.

If only it were as easy to refuel our supply of electricity as it is to pull into a gas station.

Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of people in the Carolinas felt like they were stranded on

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When are we too old for ladders?

Months ago I’d made my resolutions list for 2024, carefully picking options that I could surely accomplish this year. I chose things like adopting a kitten pal for my cat, selling my father’s coin collection, and hiring my handyman neighbor to paint the bathroom.

Thus far it’s the bathroom painting that is

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A spiritual sign or natural occurrence?

A few readers have asked me lately about my thoughts on the coming eclipse.

I’m sure that almost everyone has heard by now about the total solar eclipse on April 8. It will cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States, and Canada. A total solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, completely blocking the face of the sun. The

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The OIG in our corner

You hate to learn of it, but per a Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, a former veteran who worked at a VA hospital was found guilty of stealing money out of patient accounts. It came about when the sister of a deceased veteran checked her brother’s account

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Courier Obituaries 4-3-24


PICKENS — Betty “Betty Sue” Towe Reece, 89, loving wife to the late Rudolph Edward Reece, went home to be with her Lord and Savior on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, at her home.

Born June 26, 1934, in Anderson County, the daughter of the late Rosco Esco Towe and Irene Childress Towe, Mrs. Reece was a member of Porter’s Chapel Methodist Church in Pickens.

She enjoyed going to yard sales and her strawberry ice cream. She loved cooking and made the best homemade biscuits, and her cornbread was off the charts. She loved her family dearly, especially her grandkids.

Survivors include her two daughters, Linda