Play on Manse Jolly’s life planned in Pickens

By Jason Evans

Staff Reporter

PICKENS — When Manson “Manse” Jolly returned home from war, his time on the battlefields was over.

His personal war, however, had just begun.

“He didn’t come back unchanged,” said Olivia Fowler. “None of them did. For four years, he killed people. That’s what he did.”

Fowler’s play “The Reconstruction of Manse Jolly” will be presented this weekend at the newly renovated Hagood Community Center Auditorium, located at 129 Schoolhouse St. in Pickens.

Performances will be at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Fowler says Jolly’s story speaks to the struggles that today’s military men and women have with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“None of them were ever the same,” Fowler said of Civil War veterans. “None of them.”

The play takes place in the Old Anderson District between 1865 and 1867, soon after Jolly returns from the war.

The district — which includes Anderson, Pickens and Oconee counties — is under military rule and occupied by federal troops.

The play sprang from Fowler’s interest in the history of that period.

“Infrastructure throughout the South was destroyed,” Fowler said. “It’s the first time in modern history that war was waged against civilians. Sherman sought vengeance on the South. He wanted to punish and destroy. He wrote in a report that when they left, they left a wasteland behind — and they did. They were instructed to capture or kill every animal that they could eat. They even dug up the sweet potatoes from the field and took them with them when they marched through.

“People just about starved to death.”

Her play includes stirring details about that struggle to survive.

The Jolly family lost five sons to the war.

“It’s a rich man’s war, but a poor man’s fight,” Jolly’s mother, Anne, says.

“The Reconstruction of Manse Jolly” will be presented this weekend at the Hagood Community Center in Pickens.

“One-third of the men of fighting age in South Carolina were killed,” Fowler said. “They left widows, they left children.”

When Jolly returns and finds his homeland occupied by Yankees, he takes action.

“Why was I the one who was spared?” he asks at one point.

Jolly vows to kill five Union soldiers for every Jolly son lost on the battlefields.

His private war begins to take a toll on his family.

All proceeds from the play will benefit the Birchwood Center for Arts and Folklife. Fowler chairs the Birchwood Center board.

“We’re getting to close to finishing the Sutherland-Masters House,” Fowler said. “We will get it done. The focus at the house will be workshops and classes for writers and other related disciplines.”

If the Holly Springs Community Center becomes a reality, Birchwood will work closely with it, Fowler said.

“We will help get teachers for the folklife school,” she said.

This is the second time Fowler’s play has been performed. A performance last year raised $2,400 for the Birchwood Center.

The entire cast from the first performance has returned for this engagement, Fowler said.

Robye Morris appears as Manse Jolly, Tina LaFoy as his mother, Anne, Kay Rentz as his sister, Mary, and Rob Shelton plays the part of John Jolly’s ghost.

Quint Brown plays Lt. Chase, Teresa Owens is Miss Mary Margaret, Fowler is storekeeper Sarah Earle, and Debbie Hendricks, Debbie Teeple and Cyndi Banks are both singers and townspeople. Some cast members appear in dual roles.

The two-act play includes original music. Musicians onstage include Robert Wood, O.D. Hendricks, Carla Padgett and Wesley Bolding. The songs are a mixture of old favorites and songs written by Fowler to help tell Jolly’s story.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Tickets will be available at the door the day of each performance. For additional information, call (864) 414-2465.