FLORENCE – Francis Marion University has received a grant from Amelia Wallace Vernon to expand emphasis on local culture, specifically the 1836-1950s period and the history of the hewn timber houses located on the university’s campus.
The two houses, originally located on what is now the center of campus, are situated on the edge of Wallace Woods, on the northeast perimeter of campus. The last family living in the homes moved out of the houses during the 1950s. Vernon, author of African Americans at Mars Bluff, South Carolina (Louisiana State University Press, 1993), has collected artifacts to preserve period pieces which would have been in use in the houses. Both houses have been restored to their original condition.
Vernon has provided scrapbooks and other documents instrumental to the appreciation of the culture the houses supported over the 120 years studied. FMU has initiated a program in which student docents provide narrated tours of the houses to local groups. Currently, a cadre of student docents is being trained to provide the narration and to explain the artifacts, historical periods covered, and the cultural heritage of the rural Mars Bluff area, typical of the South of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The university offers tours of the homes to school groups throughout the Pee Dee.
Docents include freshmen Javan Leach of Florence, Toni Moultrie of Charleston, and sophomore Charlynn Fuller from Kingstree.
While on campus, touring groups are divided into two sections. One section, of up to 15 visitors, tours the houses, while the other section is given an introduction to library resources for the period and the culture being explored, through a class session in FMU’s Rogers Library.
“Together, both segments are designed to enhance awareness of the culture of the period and of the resources to learn more about the times, the people, and the region,” Paul Dove, library dean, said.
Groups interested in taking the tour of the houses and the library resources class are encouraged to call Janet McLeod at 843-661-1300 to schedule a visit. Because the tour spends at least 45 minutes in the houses, the library staff prefers to schedule tours in the fall and spring to avoid winter and summer temperature extremes.