More than 100 members of the Reed family gathered for a reunion July 12 at the Fine Arts Center (FAC) of Kershaw County’s Douglas Reed House. The historic location was the childhood home of several members of the family, descendants of Nero and Nora Reed, immigrants from Lebanon.
The Reeds had 13 children, 11 of whom lived to adulthood. Albert Reed is a grandson of Nero and Nora and said his parents, along with himself, his brother and three sisters moved in with his grandparents after Nero had a leg amputated due to diabetes.
“We were the last of the group that lived in the house. I lived here until I was around 9,” Albert said inside the house. “We’re having a reunion, bringing in relatives -- some from Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio and Maryland.”
Reed said the house was later vacant for some time until it was purchased by Richard Lloyd, who donated it to the FAC.
“Originally, I’m told, Mr. Lloyd bought the house with the idea of moving it to Historic Camden. Someone suggested leaving it here and make it an arts center, so he bought the land and the house,” Albert said. “There were some outbuildings around it, some sheds, and the rest of the land was vacant. It was planted periodically with crops. It evolved into the Fine Arts Center after that.”
Richard Reed came from Conway, Ark., and said the house looks much the same as when he was a child, but has had some modern upgrades.
“I remember one light bulb hanging from the ceiling. We would sit around shelling beans and listening to stories. I remember when we got our first TV,” Richard said. “I went to school here in Camden, graduated in 1965.”
Jacob Stanton is a cousin to the Reeds and came from Princeton., W.Va., for the reunion. His mother was Nero and Nora’s daughter and he spent many summers in Camden as a child.
“My mother was the oldest of 13 children. My father had a department store and a traveling salesman told him there was a family in Camden that had a daughter that was eligible and ready to get married,” Stanton said. “He came down and courted her and they moved to Princeton … in 1924.”
Stanton said one of his earliest memories is the heat of South Carolina summers.
“We came here in about 1935 or ’36 in the middle of summer. West Virginia is cool, we lived in the mountains. We came and it was about a 12-hour drive at that time, now it’s four hours. My dad came in about 3 o’clock in the morning and woke me up and said, ‘get up. We’re going home. I can’t stand this heat,’” he said. “You can imagine being in this house in the middle of July, upstairs with no ventilation and low ceilings. So we went home.”
Brenda O’Donovan is one of Albert Reed’s sisters and now lives in Baltimore, Md. She said their father had a small grocery store on the corner of York and Fair streets.
“We had meat for breakfast, dinner and supper. Nobody worried about cholesterol,” she said. “In this house, the family was amazing. They would get together on Sundays to eat and play cards. Us children would be running around outside, playing. One time, the oil tank came off of where it was sitting because we were climbing on it. I thought we would get beaten to death.”
Another Reed cousin, Johnnie Marie Watson of Easley, said family gatherings were common at the Reed’s house.
“We were all very close. When we were growing up as kids we always came to Camden. They had family get-togethers all the time. There would be 35 or 40 people,” she said.
Stanton said the Douglas Reed House was more rustic and isolated when the family lived there.
“It was very rough. This is very dressed up with the painting and all these fancy drapes and paved parking lot,” he said. “The lot was dirt and there was a pecan tree on the corner and the yard was always overgrown. There was a big garden.”
The family members agreed their grandparents were remarkable people to emigrate from Lebanon with practically nothing and make their own success in Camden.
“When you think, this guy came over from Lebanon with nothing. No education, no money and no English. It truly is amazing that he came here,” O’Donovan said. “He was a merchant. He had a store and then he ended up owning this block.”