My Trip to South Carolina
March 2001

The Old Raysor Place- Bamberg County

Determined to find my great-grandparent's graves, the first leg of my journey was to  Bamberg so I would be close to Branchville the next morning.  Warning about Bamberg:  there are three crummy motels there and they all look about the same to me.  I chose one with peeling paint, cracked grout, and a mangled door lock, and I slept all night with a chair propped in front of the door, waiting to be murdered in my bed.

The next morning I ate breakfast at Hardees in Bamberg, where lots of locals meet  every morning.  I started talking to one group of older men who introduced me to another group.  What a serendipitous encounter!  As I described my long search for the graves of William Moss Raysor and Anna Murray Gavin Raysor- believed to be in a church cemetery near Branchville where the church is no longer in existence - one of the men spoke up and said that he knew of such a cemetery.   He gave me the directions, but I decided to check out the funeral home in Branchville first.

As "luck" would have it, the funeral home in Branchville burned in 1960, so, two hours later,  I took a circuitous route through Williams and back up Highway 362 to what he described as the Hunters Chapel community.  As I was heading north on 362, a van passed me and then stopped in front of me.  It was the man from Hardees!  He and his wife had me follow them to the Old Zion Cemetery on Howells Mill Road, and there they were - buried right next to his wife's Rhoad ancestors!  The biggest revelation of the entire trip was learning that this branch of the Thomas Raysor family lived in this area of what is now Bamberg County, but until the late 1800's was Barnwell District and Barnwell County!  And it is no closer to Branchville than it is to Bamberg!

In Walterboro, I stayed at the Old Academy Bed and Breakfast, which is a wonderful old house on Hampton Street owned by Don and Jean Sterling.   The first rainy afternoon was spent in the Walterboro library where I found the staff available to help with the microfilm, etc.  I ran out of time to check out the 1860 census records, but I easily found our Raysors and David and Rebecca Raysor Walker's family in the 1850 census.  Didn't find any of the genealogy books I expected to see of the Raysor and Stokes families.

The next day was heavenly - sunny and warm, with Spring busting out like crazy.  What a pallet of colors!
I enjoyed poking around Round O and looking up the Rishers at the Providence Church Cemetery, although I was a little nervous about those dirt roads after the heavy rains.  Ya know, they just drop off into swamps on both sides of the road!

After that I headed in the opposite direction to Allendale, going through Fairfax.    When I stopped by Swallow Savannah Methodist Church, a bunch of little ladies were just finishing up a luncheon, and one graciously volunteered to lead me to the Swallow Savannah Cemetery about 1 1/2 miles away.  She immediately recognized the names of Raysor and Hiers and led me right there!  One of the ladies gave me a camelia blossom for the grave, so I left it on Henry Chalmers Raysor's grave (you can see it in the photograph).  I was running low on film at that point, so the only stone I actually photographed was his.  Rebecca and Charles M. Hiers' grave is marked by a single, tall monument and it was a little difficult to read, but they are all in the same plot.  It is a beautiful cemetery and well maintained.

I think it was the same day that I visited the Live Oak Cemetery in Walterboro.  It is huge, and the best I could do was drive through and try to recognize names.  I photographed a few Stokes family members, one of whom is James Raysor Stokes, whom I assume to be the son of Ann Raysor and Joseph Kinsey Stokes.

I had one good day at the Isle of Palms off the coast of Charleston, and one day of torrential rain, thunder storms, and tornado warnings.  I really wanted good weather, but I was reading a real page turner that I'd bought when I was there in October, Sullivan's Island by Dorothea Frank.  Great read!!!  After the tornado watch was lifted, I visited Barnes and Noble at Mt. Pleasant and found a great book on South Carolinians in the Civil War, and Col. Thomas E. Raysor (son of George Raysor and Ann Sisson Stokes) has a full page spread with a photograph.  Unfortunately, the book is $75.00...  I did buy a book of vintage postcards of lowcountry South Carolina.

On my way back to Atlanta at the end of my trip with a hand drawn map by my cousin, David Sabin, I located the old Raysor farm which is on a dirt road called Turkey Cut Road,  at the junction of SC Hwy 521 (Ehrhardt Road) and Hwy 362 (Hunters Chapel Road).    According to the current owner, this was once the Walterboro- Bamberg Road.  There is an old Carter family graveyard on the road, so I assume the Carter homeplace was there.  Up the road is what we believe is the old Raysor place, with the brick chimney in rubble and the old well still there (can't be seen from the dirt road).  Turkey Cut Road crosses Hurricane Branch and circles back to Hwy 362, where the chimneys from the old Smoak home are still in existence on the right.

Until I can research the deeds, I won't know whether or nor this is the Thomas Raysor farm, or if it is just the farm where William Moss Raysor and Annie Raysor raised their children.  I do know that at one time Rev. Dr. Thomas Raysor, Jr. owned a farm in Barnwell County, and this was Barnwell County until the 1880s.  The land was inherited by my grandmother, Maud Raysor, and sold to her brother-in-law, Guy Sabin, probably in the 1940s (he died in 1952).

I met the current owner as I was wandering up the dirt road.  He stopped and invited me into his truck for a tour of the Raysor farm, where only the rubble of the brick chimney and the old brick well are left, and the Carter graveyard, tucked away in the woods, and the old Smoak homestead, now just two brick chimneys.  I brought back a brick from the Raysor chimney!   He said that the land was clear of underbrush when they kept cows, but it doesn't take long for the underbrush to become six feet tall.

All in all, a great trip!!!   I'll never stay in Bamberg again, but there is a neat looking bed and breakfast in Ehrhardt that I think I'll check out.  I'd like to plant something that will bloom near my great grandparents' graves and need to be nearby.  I sure learned my way around, and can easily find these places again (I think!).   I'd like to think our ancestors are smiling right now.

Pat Sabin
March 19, 2001