Sandlapper Slept Here. . . .

501 Kershaw Street
& Spears Guest House, Cheraw

by Dan Harmon

EDITOR'S NOTE: "Sandlapper Slept Here" is a column that appears in each issue of Sandlapper Magazine, featuring bed-and-breakfasts and historic inns throughout the Palmetto State. Here's an example. If you find it interesting, you may want to peruse our back issue listings for information about previous columns.

They call Larry Spears "The Back Porch Picker." Back porch picking is exactly what we did on a summer Sunday night at the homestay of Larry and his wife Kay. He brought out one of his vintage guitars and his mandolin, and we spent the evening enjoying songs and stories. Here, I thought, are a couple who know how to make a nerve-tattered guest unwind.

"Unwound" may be the best way to describe Larry and Kay. They live contentedly with their two children (Amy, 10, and Will, 14), a golden retriever named Casey, a basset hound named Minnie and a cat named Claus (who, Kay explains, "came in with the Christmas tree"). They bought their 150-year-old home in 1984 and opened it as a B&B the next year - making them virtual old-timers in the state's B&B industry.

Between songs, they'll share with you some of the upper Pee Dee's rich local history. The bricks in their kitchen island, for example, came from the hide-out of Bogan Cash in the nearby Cash community.

"Bogan shot the sheriff in Cheraw in the 1880s," Larry says. "They went to his hide-out and waited him out. Then they ambushed him and killed him."

The famous Cash-Shannon duel - the last duel fought in South Carolina - took place near here in 1880. Larry and Kay credit contractor Bill Stokes Sr. of Society Hill, grandson of Col. E.B.C. Cash the duelist, with "making this house what it is."

Which is quite special. Furnished with beautiful antiques and art and reproduction pieces, it focuses all the hosts' attention on one guest suite. You'll sleep on a four-poster canopy bed in quarters with such conveniences as a microwave, minirefrigerator and TV. You'll find a carafe of wine and snacks on arrival. I opted for the chocolate mints and browsed the antique spectroscope picture collection. An ancient baby crib brought a smile. The floors are of heart pine.

The 3,300-square-foot home, which is on the National Historic Register, is in a shaded, quiet neighborhood. Dizzy Gillespie once lived down the street. At streetside is one of the town's two stone carriage blocks; in dirt street days, ladies could mount their carriages from the stone without soiling their clothes.

Just across the street is a smaller home, Spears' Guest House. It features four guest rooms, each with a private bath, and common living, dining and kitchen space, with an outdoor grill and patio. Business guests there will find phones with modems and fax equipment. It's ideal for a small administrative or large family retreat.

Kay's breakfast can be continental or, if preferred, something on the order of stoneground grits, a casserole of sausage, egg and cheese, and various fruits. You can dine sitting on cornshuck kitchen chairs or in the formal dining room.

Business guests frequently stay here during the week. "We get a lot of long-term people, because industry in Cheraw is growing so rapidly," Larry says.

Larry, a native of Bennettsville, works for Southern Bell. Kay, a Cheraw native, teaches handicapped students at Cheraw High and sells real estate. What inspired them to add this responsibility to their careers and other interests?

"The tax credits, to be perfectly honest," Kay laughs. "Actually, we really have enjoyed it, and we've had very nice and interesting people stay with us. It's educational for the children. We've had real cowboys staying here, doing rope tricks in the front yard."

"Cheraw's not a destination, so to speak," Larry admits. "We're a hundred miles from everywhere - Charlotte, Columbia, Greensboro, the beach."

That must be why I found this stay so relaxing. The town's quiet, the hosts are wonderful, the rates are reasonable and the back porch concert is absolutely free.

501 Kershaw Street (501 Kershaw St., Cheraw, SC 29520; (803) 537-7733) has one suite with private bath in the main house, four rooms with private baths in the guest house, $40-65; long-term rates available. Children okay. Smoking okay. Pets discouraged.

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