After retiring from the hectic careers and lifestyle of the Washington, DC, area and tired of winter ice storms, Steve and Louise Lowe decided to relocate. Bennettsville offered them the chance to buy a 100-year-old farm house to renovate and a community to get involved in. “The people here have made us feel very welcome and are as warm as the climate. They are very proud of their heritage and enjoy sharing it with others moving to their town,” Louise Lowe said.
“Bennettsville has so many things to do, including a beautiful lake for fishing or for peaceful long walks. There are some wonderful museums of local history downtown and many restored antebellum homes. The Marlboro Civic Center and Bennettsville Community Center offer plays and concerts and there are several great local places to eat. At the Farmers Market we have discovered local specialties such as tomato pie and boiled peanuts. Learning to dance the Carolina shag and the fun of beach music during the summer is another special treat,” Mr. Lowe added.
The earliest explorers found the region inhabited by the Pee Dee Indians who fished in its rivers and hunted in the forests. Early Welsh settlers planted cotton, which thrived in the sandy soil and warm climate. (Today, cotton remains a major crop, as well as soybeans and corn.)
The old cotton farms often grew to become bona fide plantations, and for a time, Marlboro County was known as one of the richest agricultural communities in the state. Legend says that the land was so rich it once sold by the pound instead of the acre.
In Bennettsville, the lifestyle and affluence of those days are reflected in the Victorian and Greek revival homes and public buildings. One, the Breeden Inn, is a Circa 1886 bed and breakfast that brings the warmth and elegance of those days into the 21st Century.
There are some 30-plus historic buildings in Bennettsville, offering the casual visitor or potential homeowner the sense that important events occurred behind these carefully restored walls.
To say, however, that this community lives in the past is to do it grave injustice, because this town brings the best of the past to blend into its ongoing transformation. A shining example is the Marlboro Civic Center, an historic opera house/motion picture theatre, once a thriving cultural and entertainment center and a major stop for vaudeville and musical shows on the New York-to-Miami circuit. It has been restored to again serve as the cultural heart of the community.
A great asset is nearby Lake Wallace, a manmade lake that has a 1.5-mile walking trail running across the diversion dam. The lake draws water sports enthusiasts as well as fishermen in search of the big catch.
Bennettsville and Marlboro County feature several unique destinations including Stanton's BBQ, the only private fly-in restaurant in the Carolinas. It features a 2300-foot grass landing strip for pilot guests. Breeden's Grocery has been a mainstay in Bennettsville for more than 85 years. It sells certified SC products including Blenheim Ginger Ale, which was created in Marlboro County from Blenheim Springs, and other local specialties.
Recreation opportunities, the arts and good food are important but the final cog in Marlboro County’s revitalization efforts can be found in its determination to rebuild itself economically. Slightly more than an hour’s drive from the beach, and within an easy drive of larger metropolitan areas, Bennettsville and Marlboro County continue to improve life for new residents, as well as old families.
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