ON THE ROAD: Bishopville boasts museums and more hidden gems
BISHOPVILLE, SC (WOLO) — With it already feeling like summer, you may be thinking of vacation spots.
If you don’t want to go too far, there’s plenty to do here in the Midlands.
“There’s a lot to do around here in a little small town,” said Ronnie Williams, Bishopville resident.
“It’s always been a very family oriented community. I think that’s very important,” said Eddie Grant, director of the South Carolina Cotton Museum. “Bishopville is a good place. It really is.”
“You know everybody. You know what they’re doing.,” Williams said. “The disadvantage is everybody knows you and what you’re doing, so it has it’s ups and downs.”
People that know a lot about ups and downs, farmers. Bishopville has historically been and remains an agricultural community.
“Here in Bishopville, cotton is still big,” Grant said. “Our rotation here is primarily corn, cotton, peanuts and soybeans.”
The South Carolina Cotton Museum shows how the crop goes from a seed into textiles.
“People primarily think of cotton as just the fiber that goes into our clothes, but you have cottonseed oil and cottonseed meal. Everything about the cotton is used,” the museum’s director said.
The cotton museum and the Lee County Veterans Museum next door bring in thousands of visitors from the interstate. Local resident Ronnie Williams believes that tourism could become the town’s biggest industry.
“Ten thousand thousand people going through the Smithsonian doesn’t mean a lot,” Williams said. “Ten thousand people coming through this museum is a big boost to our economy. People love small towns. They love the surprises they find when they visit a small community.”
Surprises are plenty in Bishopville, from Pearl Fryer’s Topiary Gardens to the unique shops downtown.
“If you go down to the Swamp Log for example. Alec Blaylock started a little business down there about five years ago,” Williams said. “He dives into old swamps, creeks and rivers. He pulls out old lumber and logs and has artisans make furniture and things from it. It’s a remarkable business here in downtown Bishopville.”
Also in downtown Bishopville is a boxcar, a gift from France given to the 48 states at the time for war-time aid in World War Two. It was recently moved from Columbia to Lee County.
Speaking of military history, Bishopville is also the birthplace of Doc Blanchard.
“He played football for West Point. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1945 and was also an Air Force fighter pilot in two wars,” Grant said. “Doc is still the only resident of South Carolina to win the Heisman Trophy.”
Of course a lot has changed since Blanchard was born in 1924.
“One thing that hasn’t changed is the attitude of the people,” Williams said. “They still see a viable Bishopville. I still see a viable downtown.”
Bishopville is also home to ‘The Lizard Man’, an alleged reptile-like creature that residents have reported seeing. The Lizard Man Stomp held on June 25th is named in his honor.