by Dan Harmon
A smart, friendly hunting dog panting on a front porch. The pleasurable mustiness of corn as it's water-ground into grits and meal. A steaming southern breakfast taken in the cozy back quarters of a country store. The timeless, steady rhythm of brooms being hand-fashioned with century-old machinery. A sturdy, wood-frame church where hymns of old rise up to stir the tall emptiness. Breastworks still standing from a Civil War battle. As evening falls, supper overlooking a vast wildlife pond that teems with wading birds of countless species.
This is what many people perceive to be the "old South." Remarkably, it's what today constitutes Boykin. The tiny Kershaw County community, eight miles south of Camden on SC 261, is a place of old-fashioned work and pleasure, prize hunting dogs, wonderful cuisine ranging from home-style to gourmet fare, and bountiful wildlife.
Like many rural hamlets, Boykin over the decades was fading quietly into oblivion. Then Hurricane Hugo in 1989 ironically blew into it a rebirth. Historic buildings, several of them now on the National Register, were damaged and left in danger of irreparable decay. Alice Boykin, owner of the property, faced a plain choice: Reestablish the structures or abandon them to a quick demise. She committed to restoring the entire site, even bringing additional old buildings onto the premises for both preservation and practical use.
Already at the site was The Broom Place, where master crafter Susan Simpson produces old-fashioned house, hearth and whisk brooms, using period equipment in a 250-year-old slave cabin. With the help of the SC Department of Archives and History, Alice had the 1827 Swift Creek Baptist Church moved onto the property and renovated. She persuaded Rae and Allan Horne, their daughter Lynne and Rae's brother Matt Williams to open the Mill Pond Restaurant (see the Mid-year 1992 issue of Sandlapper) for fine dining beside the wildlife pond. And she restored what is now the Boykin Mill General Store building, where her daughter Alice Belger sells tempting farm goodies and other nostalgic gifts and serves country breakfast and lunch six days a week.
More is in the works. An outbuilding near the mill will be opened as a garden shop. An antique and crafts barn will be built behind the general store. A top priority is to clear nature trails linking points of interest around the battlefield site.
Alice Boykin's objective is to keep Boykin "the way it was." Visitors, including tour groups who are bused in regularly, find it just that way - with a healthy dose of "preservatives" added.
For general information about Boykin, call the Boykin Mill General Store at (803) 424-4731. The Mill Pond Restaurant serves dinner Tuesday-Saturday, 5-10 p.m.; phone (803) 424-0261 for reserva-tions. The Broom Place, which sells a variety of brooms and other craft items, is open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; phone (803) 425-0933.
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