"Broken bridge a danger to homes," January 27 edition. Arthur Bays and other Teal's Mill residents petitioned to keep their home insurance rates down and reduce the time it could have taken to replace the bridge that connects the heart of that community. Residents were initially told it could take up to three years to build a new bridge. Instead, the voice of the people was heard and a new temporary bridge stands ready to open this week; having been closed just more than one year. This story received 899 hits on the Chronicle's website.
"New drug is a killer," July 28 edition. Health officials, law officers, concerned citizens such as Dr. Gabe Simpson, along with municipal and county councils, pulled together in 2011 to create laws aimed at keeping people out of harm's way by banning bath salts. Stores within the town of Cheraw volunteered to pull the products from their shelves at the request of Cheraw Chief of Police Jay Brooks. The ordinances created in Chesterfield County were the first in the state of South Carolina. This story was viewed 2,111 times on the Chronicle's website.
"Dreams become a reality as ground is broken at Carolina's Centre Industrial Park," October 13 edition. The spec building currently under construction at Carolinas Centre Industrial Park on Highway 9 between Cheraw and Chesterfield, has been a vision for economic development for nearly ten years. The 50,000 square foot facility is being built in hopes of bringing new business and jobs to Chesterfield County. The creation of the industrial park has been a joint effort between the towns of Cheraw and Chesterfield. A spec building in Pageland proved to be a success when it was purchased by National Choice Bakery, although it took nearly five years. This story was viewed 1,009 times on the Chronicle's website.
#5 (1658 views): "ACLU alleges school violated Constitution," September 29 edition. New Heights Middle School Principal Larry Stinson's decision to allow a Christian rally and concert to take place in the school's gymnasium, during school hours in Jefferson last September, prompted the filing of a lawsuit against the Chesterfield County School District by the American Civil Liberties Union. The suit claims the school district violated constitutional laws concerning religious practices in public schools. The Christian rapper known as B-SHOC, pictured here, gathered national attention when he posted a video taken at the middle school that day on YouTube. This story was viewed 1,658 times on the Chronicle's website.
"2 killed following collision with Amtrak train," June 23 edition. Cheraw mourned the loss of two town employees this past summer, Glenn Locklear and Barney "Sly" Driggers, when their municipal truck was hit by the morning Amtrack train in route from Miami to New York. None of the 224 passengers aboard were injured. This story was viewed 2,879 times on the Chronicle's website.
"Investigators continue probe of shooting death," June 9 edition. Graham F. Douglas, 32, has been accused of killing 27 year old Eden Smith, both of Chesterfield. Douglas was incarcerated for most of the summer, but has been under house arrest since August. He still awaits trial. Allegedly, the incident occurred at this Chesterfield residence on Jackson Road West. This story was viewed 3,814 times on the Chronicle's website.
"Cheraw and Town urges public to 'Save the Post Office," May 19 edition. Letter-writing campaigns and local resistance to the idea of closing Cheraw's Post Office, built in 1930, caught the attention of many this past year, including Associated Press writer Jennifer Levitz. A photograph taken inside the post office, along with statements by former Cheraw Mayor Scott Hunter, were published in The Wall Street Journal this past fall. Current Mayor Andy Ingram has visited Washington on behalf of Cheraw's Post Office since his election in November. A decision as to whether or not the United States Postal Service will close the downtown office is expected to be announced in March of 2012. Supporters are urged to continue the letter-writing campaign. This story was viewed 1,119 times in the Chronicle's website.
"Historic courthouse open for business," March 31 edition. Built in 1884, to replace the one burned during Sherman's march through the south, the Old Chesterfield County Courthouse was renovated in 2011, providing space for the Chesterfield Visitor's Center, the Greater Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce office, the Historical Society of Chesterfield County Museum, the Chesterfield Genealogical Research Library, and the Chesterfield Visual Arts Alliance. The building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was purchased from the county in 2005 by the town of Chesterfield. Margaret Dotson, for whom the art gallery there is named, displays one of her paintings of the building's unique copula. This story was viewed 312 times on the Chronicle's website.
"Shelter dogs shot by animal control officers," March 10 edition. News that 22 dogs had been shot in the head, allegedly by sheriff's deputies at the Chesterfield County Animal Shelter last March ignited animal rights activists across the county and nation. The officers involved are no longer employed with the county and Chesterfield County Sheriff Sam Parker is no longer in charge of the shelter. The South Carolina Attorney General ordered Chesterfield County Council to take responsibility for the shelter, setting up mandatory regulations and inspections with assistance from the South Carolina Humane Society. The first official inspection is scheduled for January 2012. This story received 3,042 hits on the Chronicle's website.
"State Park reveals new programs and improvements to community," March 24 edition. Cheraw State Park, the first of South Carolina's 47 parks, was built in the 1930's and continues to be an active part of community life. The addition of the golf course in the early 1990's helped boost the park's usage. And under the current leadership of Mark Davies in 2011, there has been talk of bringing back the swimming area, new playground equipment was installed and Moonlight Canoe Tours began. Parks are good for the soul and the pocketbook, said Davies, "for every dollar spent at a state park, ten is spent in the community." This story was viewed 1,206 times on the Chronicle's website.
The new year usually finds people saying things like, “out with the old, in with the new.” But if you kept up with Cheraw’s political scene for 2011, you already know that when it came to choosing a mayor the people said, “out with the new, in with the old.”
January brought snow and civil suits by a local man claiming to “hate” a national business. Earthquake tremors were recorded in Chesterfield County in both the spring and fall of 2011. And the whole world watched in horror as images of Japan’s tsunami flooded the news.
In the past 12 months Cheraw has said hello to Goody’s and goodbye to Food Lion. The people of the community have gathered with petitions to build bridges in Teal’s Mill and save the Post Office in Cheraw. Talk of reopening the swimming area at Cheraw State Park surfaced this past year and a racer’s reunion at the old Cheraw Speedway was a big hit.
Local doctors, such as Dr. Gabe Simpson, began warning the community about the health hazards and dangers of bath salts this past year; and the community listened. Officers in the town of Cheraw and Chesterfield County were the first in the state of South Carolina to push for local legislation banning the sale, use or possession of the drug. The ordinances written into law in Chesterfield County have served as examples for communities across the nation.
Chesterfield County made national headlines more than once in 2011. Headline stories such as the “Chesterfield 22” involved accusations of animal cruelty at the county’s animal shelter. Two employees for the Town of Cheraw were killed by the Amtrak train last summer, and at least two civil lawsuits were filed against the Chesterfield County School District. One is a wrongful death suit, claiming school officials did nothing to stop the bullying that led to a student’s suicide. The other suit against the school district involves religious practices, spurred by the Christian rally and rap concert held at New Heights Middle School in Jefferson. A Chesterfield County teacher, from that same middle school, also made headlines this past year, facing charges of criminal sexual conduct with a former minor student.
Chesterfield’s baseball team took the championship for the first time since 1963. The Tribe, Cheraw High’s marching band, was invited to play in Washington, D.C., for the 2012 Memorial Day Parade. And due to an increase in the state’s population over the past 10 years, Chesterfield and other counties have been assigned new voting districts to accommodate an additional voice in Washington for the South Carolina House of Representatives.
Chesterfield County residents celebrated the re-opening of a newly renovated “Old Courthouse” in Chesterfield, while visions of an Industrial Park, located between Cheraw and Chesterfield, began to materialize.
Citizens in Cheraw decided to allow the consumption of beer or wine at sidewalk cafes and expanded the city limits to include property across the Great Pee Dee River in Marlboro County. Cheraw Town Council settled disputes regarding the purchase of the old B.C. Moore’s warehouse for the purpose of expanding programs through the recreation department, but council’s word is still out on controversy surrounding the “legality” of bed and breakfast businesses in the Historic District.
The Town of Cheraw decided it would be okay for people to raise chickens and the town leaders decided anyone walking their dog on public property should be obligated, by law, to pick up their pet’s poop.
The community enjoyed festivals, participated in a criterion bike race, stuffed a bus for school supplies and organized motorcycle rallies as fund-raising efforts to help neighbors suffering with illnesses.
The year began and ended with tragic stories. The very first issue of 2011 reported the discovery of a Florida man’s body along Old Wire Road in Patrick. The shooting death of one Chesterfield man last summer, has another local man still awaiting trail for murder. A Chesterfield County jury found Mitchell Rivers guilty of murder for the 2005 death of his four month old foster son, and he was sentenced to life in prison. A Cheraw High School graduate was struck and killed by a wrecker on West Market Street. And the horrific December rape, beating and murder of Hope Melton has caused many Chesterfield County women to sign up for self-defense and training classes to carry a weapon.
History was brought to life with the introduction of cell phone tours for the town of Cheraw and there were ceremonies to mark the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 all over the county. Fire destroyed property in the Hatcher Hill area of Wallace and took the life of a father and hero in Patrick.
Another local legend, Jimmy Duffy, was awarded the Order of the Silver Crescent by the State of South Carolina. Kimberly Villafranca was crowned Miss Brave 2011. Pat Earle, of McBee, was named to the National Teacher Hall of Fame. And thanks to Lindsey Bennett, The Greater Cheraw Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year for 2011, many local artists and musicians enjoyed an avant-garde atmosphere for classes, exhibits and concerts.
The community supported Sandblast rallies, parades with New Orleans style jazz bands, sidewalk art and festivals of all sorts throughout the year. There were people who took the Polar Bear Plunge at the Chesterfield YMCA and people who stood in line waiting for food. The unemployment rate was listed in February of 2011 for Chesterfield County at 14.9 percent.
In light of all these local triumphs and tragedies for one small community, it’s no small wonder a stranger, passing through town, observed and published in the April 2011 issue of Reader’s Digest, a fitting description of Cheraw. Haskell Harris had this to say, “I realized that every house there — whether it was in need of repair or gleaming with fresh paint — had character and soul and that houses like that are harder and harder to find.”
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, ext. 229, or by email at email@example.com.