Echoes of love and laughter on Orange Street

  • Friday, November 8, 2013

I recently had the opportunity to see the grand old house for sale at 311 Orange St., owned by Elizabeth “Libby” Danner McLeod of Maryland. Realtor Robert Taylor put me in touch with Libby's son, Ben Evan McLeod III. Ben graciously walked me through the 7 bedroom, 5 full bath home that has been in his family for over 100 years.

In The Georgetown Daily Item, dated Nov. 30, 1910, I found this news item: “Mr. Jas. J. Scurry sold his residence recently purchased from Supervisor J.B. Johnson, on Orange Street, to Mr. Ben McLeod, and the estimable family has moved therein.”

Ben Sr. was 30 years old at the time. He came to Georgetown from Alcolu, S.C. and found work at the Atlantic Coast Lumber Company. He brought with him his widowed mother and two sisters and they made up the “estimable” family who moved into the Orange Street house.

Ben was an ace baseball player who played for the old ACL team, as well as other local teams.

Ben's two sisters attended Coker College and when they came home to Georgetown by train one weekend, they brought a pretty, petite roommate with them. Her name was Mamie Parham. It is said that when Ben met their train and Mamie stepped off, it was love at first sight. Despite their fifteen-year age difference, they eventually married, and Mamie became the “Woman of the House” at 311 Orange.

Ben and Mamie had three children: Hasel, born in 1916; Joyce, in 1922; and Ben Jr., in 1928.

After leaving Atlantic Coast Lumber, Ben became Georgetown's Chief of Police, a position he held for more than a decade. He then went to work for International Paper and stayed until retirement. He was a master Mason and both he and Mamie were very active in First Baptist Church.

Hasel became an accomplished pianist and Joyce, a stunning beauty, was a gifted actress. Both graduated from Coker College.

Ben Jr.'s life changed when the Danner family moved from Lake City, S.C. to the Methodist parsonage next door to 311 Orange. Dr. J. Harvey Danner became pastor of Duncan Methodist Church. His daughter, Libby, enrolled as a senior at Winyah High School where she met Ben.

After Ben's graduation from Clemson and 14 months active duty in Korea, Ben and Libby were married in 1951. Ben went to work for Standard Oil Co., moved up the ladder, and retired in 1985 from Exxon's regional office in Baltimore. Ben and Libby had three sons and one daughter.

As Ben III and I walked through 311 Orange St., it was easy to imagine the music, love, and laughter that once filled the house. Architectural remnants remain, including four original fireplaces.

The house is listed as having been built in 1901, but another source tells me that it may have been built as early as 1895. During the early years, some of the rooms were rented to tourists who travelled seasonally from New York to Florida by train, stopping in Georgetown along the way.
There was ample room for guests, as the house measures 4,600 sq. feet under one roof, with 3,600 sq. ft of finished, once heated space.

Ben showed me the bedroom where his father was born and grew up, the gun cabinets in the hallway where his grandfather kept shotguns for his favorite sport – quail hunting, the sleeping porch, and the large, L-shaped yard where his grandfather kenneled his hunting dogs.

I could imagine Joyce and Hasel in front of the old mirrored vanities primping for their dates and their piano recitals and Ben walking through the yard to see his high school sweetheart next door at the parsonage.

I loved the double glass-paned doors leading to the upstairs porch and the glassed-in porch facing the tree-lined street on the first floor.

Ben Sr. died in 1968, Hasel in 1984, and Ben Jr. in 2007.
After living in Columbia for a time, Joyce returned to Georgetown to live with Mamie until Mamie's death in 1991. Unwilling to leave her beloved home, Joyce stayed in the house alone until her death at the age of 90 in 2012.

To Libby and Ben McLeod . . . thanks for the memories.

I may be reached at (843) 446-4777 or email at djsummey@gmail.com.

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