Tuesday, January 7, 2014
I was fortunate enough last month to be a docent for the Georgetown County Library Friends’ annual fundraiser, “Yuletide Tour of Homes”. My assignment was the Matthews Home at 417 Front St.
To make sure I knew the exact location, I drove past the home prior to the tour. “Oh, my gosh,” I thought. “It’s Miss Brightman’s house!” I had always wanted to see the inside of Miss Lillian Brightman’s home and I finally had the chance.
Miss Brightman was an elementary school teacher in Georgetown for many years. At the now defunct Bynum Elementary School, everyone, including me, wanted to be in Miss Brightman’s class. Born in 1905, she was only in her fifties when I was there, but she seemed like a sweet, old, grandmotherly-type teacher.
Another wonderful surprise was that I had already met the present owner, Nathalie Matthews. When she moved here, she told me that she had bought a house on Front Street, but I didn’t put two and two together until the tour.
Nathalie, a beautiful young woman inside and out, is the perfect owner for the house. It’s not just a house to her. She wants to know everything about the people who lived there, and I promised I would help.
There’s not much information on the origin of the house. It’s listed in “A Guide To City of Georgetown Historic District” as The Leighton House, estimated to have been built around 1820. “A transaction of 1885 shows Mr. T.B. Leighton selling the property to Mr. T.W. Brightman but little can be found about earlier owners.”
According to his obituary, Mr. Brightman was the oldest native of Georgetown and the second oldest citizen of Georgetown when he died at home at the age of 94 in 1950. Born in 1856, he was forced to quit school at the age of 11 due to his father’s ill health following the Civil War.
Mr. Brightman’s accomplishments are too numerous to mention here. Among other things, he was superintendent of the Georgetown and Lane Railroad, a saw mill operator, a mate on the steamship Planter, a building contractor, and owner of extensive rental property.
He first married Margaret McDonald, who died in 1882. She may have died in childbirth, as their only child, Margaret (Maggie) was born that year.
In 1896 he married Ida Lillian Smith. She died at home in 1948, several months after celebrating their 51st wedding anniversary. Besides Maggie, Mr. and Mrs. Brightman had two daughters: Iona Carolyn (Carrie), and Lillian.
Maggie married Mr. Bryan Kornegay in 1907 and the write-up of their wedding made front page news in the local paper, The Sunday Outlook. The article describes Duncan Methodist Church as being beautifully decorated for the wedding. The article also states that electric lights were used in the decorations for the wedding and the reception – a rare thing in those days.
Carrie, born in 1899, married Mr. Robert Mayes, who died in 1975. Carrie’s obituary in 1966 mentions her years as a music teacher, but she was well-known in Georgetown as a seamstress. “A whole generation of small Georgetonians have worn sacques, gowns, and christening dresses fashioned by ‘Carrie Mayes’.”
Lillian died in 1996 at the age of 90. She was a life-long teacher who was remembered by students in Hartsville and Georgetown.
There are many articles in the local paper about the Brightman family.
In 1909, the (Duncan) Methodist Sewing Circle held a fundraiser at the Brightman home. For 10 cents, guests were entertained by vocal and instrumental music and fed cake, ice cream, sherbet and homemade candy.
On Aug. 14, 1912, the paper reported, “Mr. and Mrs. T.W. Brightman and daughters have gone to the mountains.”
Nathalie, I hope this information helps in your quest to know the history of your home and the people who lived there.
To the Georgetown County Library . . . thanks for the memories.
I may be reached at (843) 446-4777 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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