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Bull Durham Center History
On June 9, 1909 a 6,000 square foot parcel of land was purchased by “The Estill Warehouse Company” from Mr. Thomas L. Cave of Estill, South Carolina. The price give was $2,000.00. The land was bounded on the North by Lawtonville Public Road; on the East( later Nixville Road )by Seaboard Air Lines Railroad; on the South by a sixty foot lot of George Bender Clarke and on the West one hundred feet by Railroad Street. The said lot being 100 feet x 60 feet.
Construction was completed in 1910. An article in the “State” newspaper dated November 22, 1909 tells us about a splendid and commodious building 200 feet X 60 feet for the storage of cotton. The warehouse company was owned by S.M. (Sumpton Mills) Clarke, President, W.E. (William Edward) Peeples, Secretary, Charles Laughlin Peeples, Sr. and Benjamim J. Peeples. By June 1918, S.M. Clarke and W.E. Peeples sold out their share of stock to C.L. Peeples and Ben J. Peeples.
By 1929, the building was heavily mortgaged. The property was bought by C.L. Peeples, Sr., he being the only bidder, for $125.00 on February 5, 1929. Mr. C.L. Peeples died in 1939; leaving a widow and seven children. The heirs sold the property to J.F. (John Frampton) Wyman for $500.00 cash and assumption of the mortgage indebtedness of $2,500.00. After Mr. Wyman’s death, the property was inherited by J.F. Wyman, Jr. On September 30, 1982, Mr Wyman Jr. sold the property to Thomas Lawton Harper or Sumter Grain Company. No price was mentioned or determined later. Sometime between 1982 and 1994 in a family trade, the property was owned by Southern Soya Corporation; later becoming the property of Andrew Barnard Harper. On September 28, 1994, Andrew Harper, for the sum of $5.00 deeded the property to the Town of Estill.
The building lay dormant for the period between 1994 and 2005 until the Town of Estill began to put in place construction and financial plans for renovating the old warehouse. On August 27, 2009, the Town of Estill held a re-dedication ceremony to present the “Bull Durham Center” to the public. The Bull Durham Center operates as two independent halls, the Live Exhibit Hall and the Palmetto Reception Hall. The Town uses the building for meetings and training. Both Halls can be rented for corporate affairs, conventions, wedding receptions and other functions of commercial, community or social importance.
At some point in the very early years of the warehouse, the Bull Durham Tobacco Company bought advertising rights and painted the warehouse with their “Bull Durham” logo. That is how the old cotton warehouse became what is now known as the Bull Durham Center.
The renovation of the Bull Durham Center would not have been possible without the financial support of the South Carolina Department of Commerce, the South Carolina Department of Transportation and the Estill Town Council; along with other support and goodwill by CSX Railroad, SCE & G/Scana, Mr. Andrew Harper, Mr. Ben Hadwin, grant administration by the LowCountry Council of Government, Architects J. Stephen Smith, AIA, Gary Watkins, AIA, Construction by L.H. Busby Construction and Atlantic Design & Construction, and project administration by Town Administrators J.J. Orr and Danny Lucas. History research was provided by Mary Eleanor Bowers.
The Bull Durham Tobacco Company History
Union and Confederate armies regularly traded tobacco for coffee and other goods throughout the Civil War. In Durham Station, North Carolina, near the end of the war, soldiers from both sides raided a farmer’s tobacco crop as they waited for a surrender to be completed. After returning home, these same soldiers wrote back to request more of this tobacco. The farmer, Mr. John Green, was happily obliged to send containers of “brightleaf” tobacco which reportedly had a much milder taste than the tobacco usually found. W.T. Blackwell partnered with Mr. Green and formed the “Bull Durham Tobacco Company”. The name “Bull Durham” is said to have been taken from the bull on the British Coleman Mustard, which Mr. Blackwell mistakenly believed was manufactured in Durham England. From 1874 – 1957, Bull Durham Tobacco, the first truly national tobacco brand, was manufactured in Durham, NC. By the turn of the Century, Bull Durham Tobacco was reportedly the largest tobacco company in the world. The U.S. government is said to have bought every ounce of Bull Durham Tobacco during the World War I years to send to the war effort. W.T. Blackwell and Company introduced production, packaging, and marketing techniques that made Bull Durham a part of American industrial history and folklore. Their advertising and marketing was second to none. It was common for their salesmen to ride the countryside looking for places to advertise. They would find the most prominent building in town and then pay to install “ghost” advertising on the side of the structure. Many of the print ads were offensive and depicted Blacks as happy-go-lucky simpletons; a representation common of the Jim Crow era.
Some baseball experts have cited a connection to the Bull Durham Tobacco Company. In the early part of the 20th century, Bull Durham advertising signs were featured on the outfield fences of most major and minor league ballparks. Since the Bull Durham signs were generally located near the area where relief pitchers warmed up prior to entering games, the word “bullpen” could have resulted from this association. In those days, all games were day games and the Bull Durham advertising signs provided much needed shade. In 1910, the “Bull Durham” name was so closely associated with baseball; that signs were in almost every ballpark in the Country. These signs typically stood 25 feet high by 40 feet long. The company offered a $50 reward to any hitter who could hit a ball off the sign. In addition, any player hitting a home run in a park with a bull on the fence got a carton of tobacco. In 1909, there 50 sign in place and 14 players won rewards. The next year, with nearly 150 Bull Durham signs being hit 85 times, $4,520 in cash more than 10,000 pounds of tobacco was awarded.
Sources: Duke University Library, Wikipedia, Heckle Depot
Edited by Danny Lucas
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