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Kendall Mill Village tour, concert Sunday

Posted: October 16, 2017 5:13 p.m.
Updated: October 17, 2017 1:00 a.m.
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Spirited music characterized the pride of community presented by the Wateree Mill Band of Kendall employees in Camden, here c.1923. (Courtesy of the Camden Archives)

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A fresh look at a resilient old section of Camden is to be offered Sunday when the Kershaw County Historical Society, with the Camden Community Concert Band, will welcome members and the public to the program “With Pride of Community” at Kendall Mill Historic District.

The two-part event begins with a no-fee tour from 1 to 2:45 p.m. that starts with parking at Wateree Baptist Church, 2024 Haile St. At an exhibit in the church’s fellowship center, visitors will receive a historical background flyer and a walking-tour map for open house visits to five renovated Kendall Village homes. 

The five homes are in short walking distance of the church and of each other, as well as lovely lakeside views on Lakeshore Drive.

The second-part of the event takes place not far distant in Kendall Park on Haile Street and Park Circle. Parking may remain at the church or be found in open lots in the vicinity of Kendall Park, familiar to many for its popular walking trail.

At a 2:45 a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Camden Mayor Alfred Mae Drakeford will recognize the culminating of extensive infrastructure and beautification projects the city of Camden has carried out in the Kendall district, and Earl Bryant for the society will offer greetings. This will take place at the site in the park visibly designated for the musical feature to follow.

From 3 to 4 p.m. the Camden Community Concert Band will present a spirited hour-long outdoor concert at the upper end of the park with the background view of the historic Wateree Mill of the Kendall Company. Blankets or folding chairs are suggested for concert-goers.

Almost a century ago, the Wateree Mill Band of Kendall employees was the community band, appearing throughout Camden and elsewhere at parades, holidays, and public events. The Camden Community Concert Band in public performances shares their spirit and commitment.

The Historical Society has multiple purposes in the unique format of Sunday’s program. First, it hopes to show positive value in restoring and renovating old structures with historical compatibility in neighborhood sections, rather than abandoning or tearing down places of potential renewal. Meeting the homeowners and home-dwellers on the tour can be helpful to individuals considering a small or large renewal of their own.

Always interested in preservation of factual records, the society also hopes the sights and sounds in the Kendall district will awaken memories and awareness of rich historical vibrancy, as previous programs or tours have done in other areas of the city and county, such as Hobkirk Hill, Mather Academy, Liberty Hill, Boykin, West Wateree, Tiller’s Ferry and Bethune. 

Specifically, the society hopes the attention of the Kendall tour and the community band’s concert will encourage interest in and support for an upcoming exhibit at the Camden Archives. From Jan. 30 to Aug. 11, 2018, the archives will feature the history and people of Camden’s early textile mills -- DeKalb, Hermitage and Kendall. At a date to be announced, the archives will begin scanning photos and memorabilia citizens bring in to share in archival records. The society’s work also depends on information gathering.

In days gone by, the front porches of village homes were the Facebook of the times, and many elder’s memories recall stories shared of old times and people. The society and archives look forward to hearing from persons with oral knowledge as well. 

Early workers came to the mills in times that mingled despair and opportunity, working with determination for education and a better way of life for their families. Giving cooperation to those who accepted them and nose-thumbing to those who did not, they survived with grit, spirit, and individualism. Wateree Church and Pine Tree School (relocated as Pine Tree Hill) grew from the Kendall tradition, along with the beautiful millpond which long preceded it.

The village, long just outside the city limits of Camden and home only to mill employees, had not only its own church, school, recreation areas and band, but also a mill store, health clinic, athletic teams and a self-elected government. All properties are privately owned now and in the city of Camden, with the Kendall Mill Village, including its mill complex, on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The historic building that was the Wateree Plant of the Kendall Company and subsequent companies has lately changed hands, but continues operations as Medtronic, a modern manufacturing mill.

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