History

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"Though not rich, the Willington area was elevated in its morality, refined in its manners, and cultivated in its preference for education more than other and similar frontier towns.  The French influence softened the Scotch-Irish Presbyterianism of the Willington area. Huguenots, with a heritage and temperament quite different from that of the Scotch-Irish, bought to this grim faith some grace and charm." -- Pierre Moragne, an early settler


Willington is a small village (pop. 142) located 11 miles north of McCormick on Highway 81, the Savannah River Scenic Highway, and on the Nature Route of the SC National Heritage Corridor.  The village was named for the famous Willington Academy, founded in 1804 by Dr. Moses Waddel, later President of the University of Georgia.  Willington was a cotton boom town, whose growth was sparked by the coming of the railroad in 1886.  By 1916, it boasted thirteen stores, a livery stable, doctor’s office and post office.  Its decline began in the thirties, the years of the boll weevil and the depression.

The brick buildings built around 1912 fell into disrepair over the years and ceased to function as stores.  In 1995 and again in 1997, these commercial buildings were listed as one of the “Eleven Most Endangered Historic Sites in SC” by a jury representing the National Trust, the SC Department of Archives and History, the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation, the SC Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the SC Downtown Development Association.

Spurred on by this listing, the McCormick County Historical Commission undertook the restoration of these historic buildings. In 2001, the state legislature made an appropriation of $250,000 in the bond bill for the Willington project.    In 2002, “Willington on the Way,” an independent not for profit corporation, was formed and purchased the buildings from the Commission. In 2005,  the restoration project was included in the state budget in the amount of $350,000 as a heritage tourism venture. In 2012, a grant of $99.950 was received from the USDA’s Rural Economic Development program. Nine other grants have been received from various sources including four from The National Heritage Corridor. As a result, the exterior brickwork has been totally re-pointed,  new roofs and floors added,  new doors and windows fashioned, and seven buildings equipped with electricity, heating and air conditioning.  

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One building has become the Willington History Center that houses archival material, including family genealogies, oral histories, historical artifacts and information about McCormick County’s historical sites. An addition to this building opened in October 2014  thanks to the USDA grant. Two other buildings contain a non profit Bookshop of 30,000 books whose proceeds support the restoration project.
 
The old town post office built in 1915 has been rehabilitated and  is now The Daniel P. Juengst Railroad and Post Office Center.  It boasts a model train layout of Willington circa 1915, and a collection of Post Office memorabilia.  An  African American one room schoolhouse built in 1920 has been refurbished as an African American Cultural Center .
 
For further information, or if you would like to make a donation to this restoration project, contact Sara Covin Juengst at 864-391-2218 or sarandan@wctel.net. The number for the Bookshop is 864-391-BOOK and for the History Center is 864-391-HIST.  The Bookshop and History Center are open Wednesday-Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  Access to the other buildings is by appointment.


2015