Long ago in Campobello

Published 10:00 pm Monday, January 26, 2015

Jeaneen Coburn stands in front of the Country Peddler on Depot Street in Campobello. (Photo by Linda List)

Jeaneen Coburn stands in front of the Country Peddler on Depot Street in Campobello. (Photo by Linda List)

By Linda List

Today I’m on a quest to discover Campobello. Driving thru this little hamlet has raised my curiosity about its past. And I know who can reveal some history of this once thriving little town. Jeaneen Coburn at Country Peddler on Depot Street will be able to tell me the stories that I’m anxious to hear. Jeaneen and her business partner, Debbie Denton, opened Country Peddler in 1995. Over the years Jeaneen has discovered the storied past of Campobello.

An article in one of Jeaneen’s files tells of a letter written in 1947 from Mrs. Lenna Maybry to Mrs. William Jesse Johnson. Mrs. Maybry relates how the town received its name.

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“Many years before the War Between the States,” she wrote, “Mrs. Hosea Dean owned a plantation here including a large portion of South Pacolet River’s bottom land, which in those days was a beautiful sight, all in corn. Upon one occasion as Mrs. Dean was riding horseback from Spartanburg to her plantation, the beautiful sight struck her with such force that she exclaimed two Italian words ‘Campo Bella!’ which means beautiful field. So her plantation was christened and the name became the name of our town.”

I peruse Jeaneen’s files to learn all I can about the old days. Campobello was chartered in 1882.  At that time it catered to the farmers. Corn and cotton were the major crops. There were two heavily used cotton gins in town and a cottonseed oil mill. Trains were coming and going, carrying goods out and people in. World War I brought prosperity to the town. Soldiers from Camp Wadsworth in Fairforest camped outside the town while taking firearms practice at Glassy Mountain. Before the war and up until 1929 when the depression hit, you could buy anything you wanted in Campobello, even a new car. But after the depression, the town never recovered from the hard-times. Today there are empty, forsaken buildings along the main street, showing the wear and tear of time and weather, but a symbol of Campobello’s booming past.

I ask Jeaneen about the beautiful brick home on Depot St. “It was originally a boarding school established by the Reverend I.W. Wingo around 1894. The top floor was a dormitory for boys,” she tells me. “The other two floors were classrooms. The girls lived in an adjacent building just down from the road from the main building.  From 40 to 50 boys and girls attended the school learning music, art, and commerce.” Over the years the building has been a family residence and a B&B.

The same Rev. Wingo built the 40-room Oak Knob Hotel east of Campbello, located on a sulphur spring known as the Chalybeate Sulphur Spring. It was said to contain iron, sulphur, magnesia, lime, soda, potash, chlorine, ammonia, carbonic acid gas, and sulphureted hygiene, and touted to be “an invaluable tonic for a run down system, and nervous prostration” according to a brochure published by Rev. Wingo. Unfortunately the old hotel, built at the turn of the century, is no longer standing.

I also found an article on Ingleside Plantation, the home built by Dr. J.B.O. Landrum, north of Campbello. It too is no longer there, having burned down. An interesting story tells about an open house held in the home, sometime in the 1960s. The tour was a benefit for orphanages in Viet Nam during the war. The house was described as a two-story classic revival structure with nine fireplaces with ornately carved mantles, done by a German woodcarver who remained at the house for a year working on the project. How sad that so many of these old structures no longer exist.

I realize that I have just scratched the surface of my history lesson.  I am more determined than ever to learn about this interesting place. As I depart Country Peddler, I thank Jeaneen for all her assistance. I’m looking forward to sharing some future interviews with you and revealing more of Campbello’s intriguing past.