HISTORY OF MIDDLE PLACE
The Middle Place community was settled in the 1700’s by immigrants from Ireland. This community is located about two miles north of a small town of Govan, South Carolina, in the County of Bamberg. It is a rural farming community that was once a part of a big plantation that was owned by John and Robert Nimmons Kennedy and later owned by their descendents Andrew and William (Bill) Nimmons. Records show that they brought, sold and owned many slaves.
It is said that this area was called “Middle Place” because it was located in the “Middle” of the vast Nimmons Plantation that stretched for many miles and acres, with the “upper” place going west past what is now US Highway 321, and the “lower or bottom” going east toward Ehrhardt Road. There is an oral history that has been passed down through many generations and told most recently by Bob Nimmons– “The Yankee Soldiers came through Middle Place during the Confederate War as they marched towards Buford Bridge, following the path of the Little Salkehatchie River. They marched right through the Nimmons Plantation and it was thought that they would harm or kill the white slave owners. the Nimmons Plantation boss was Bill Nimmons. Boss Nimmons was well liked by his slaves, so the slaves decided to help him by hiding him in a thicket. While he stayed hidden until the threat was over, the Negroes fed and cared for him. They gave him food and drink while watching for the “enemy” while he ate. When freedom came the white boss (Bill Nimmons) gave each Negro man on the Middle Place all the land that he and his family could clear off.”
The history of our slave ancestors began after Emancipation. It is known that they kept the Nimmons surname and many also used their ex-master first name as well. We know that Hopkins Nimmons and his son Charlie along with his brother Robin Nimmons and his son Stephen began cultivating the land for farming. Records show that young Charlie was given 40 acres of land right out of slavery. These 40 acres are located at the end of “Middle Place” and it joins onto acreage given to Robert. Charlie and Robert were quite successful. Charlie later acquired much more property on the Middle Place leaving it to his descendents. Robert also left each of his children a portrait of property to farm.
Another connection to this community was Isaac Nimmons. Isaac was a slave on the Simms Plantation near Midway, South Carolina about 15 miles east of the Middle Place. Isaac was a “Coach Man” or driver for Master Simms. William Gilmore Simms was a noted writer during the 1800’s. In 1842 he wrote “History of South Carolina.” Because of Mr. Simms’ wealth and occupation he traveled around the country; therefore Isaac Nimmons was quite Knowledgeable about traveling. In the Simms record Isaac is noted as Isaac Nimmons; it is told that he was once owned by the Nimmons of Govan and sold to Master Simms who allowed him to keep his surname. Another oral account that has been passed down through the generations is that many trips were made to Charleston during the plantation days to sell cotton, rice, and other farm products and to buy commodities and goods to bring home. It is told that on one such trip Isaac was sold to Master Simms, who also had a home in Charleston. However, when Isaac was freed he was given legal responsibility by a Mr. Pinckney to join the black community of Middle Place. He was also given the responsibility to oversee 25 other freed men and women. The property given to Isaac was directly adjoining the 40 acres given to Charlie with just a path road between them. Isaac, like Charlie, went on to purchase additional property.
Isaac became very important part if the Middle or the “lower place” of the original Nimmons plantation. This writer does not know the family relationship upon Isaac’s arrival on the “Middle Place,” but it is known that Isaac’s son, William (Bill) Nimmons married Charlie’s daughter Jane Nimmons. Bill and Jane were the parents of Solomon and Queen Ester. It is also known that Charlie Nimmons named two of his first-born great grandsons, Isaac and Charlie. It is also known that out of the lineages of Charlie, Robert and Isaac; these 3 names continue even until the present time.
Isaac and Charlie both left wills; neither could read nor write. The wills and document are witnessed with the “X” mark. Isaac died in 1900 leaving many acres of land over $2000.00 in cash to his heirs. Charlie’s will is dated on the 6th day of October 1923; he left his original 40 acres to some of his grand and great grandchildren. During his lifetime he gave tracts of property and sums of money to each of his 9 children.
Hopkins and Robins, both born into slavery, did not let the condition of their time hinder or cloud their dreams. They had a vision of a better “a-coming.” They instilled into their sons– Robert, Charlie and Isaac– the importance Isaac –the importance of God, Family and Community. Such was the beginning of this unique community. Since 1863, this little community continues to exist. When they could not buy or trade at the local stores, they started their own company store. When the county or state did not have a school for them, they built their own. The Middle Place, though in the midst of severe racism, was once and independent thriving community with as many as 40 families governing themselves in an orderly manner.
Shortly after experiencing the joys of freedom, these men and women through prayer and hard work settled into a thriving working community. Along with their successes came the setbacks of “Jim Crow” and share cropping and they began to realize that they needed some learning, they needed a school. They began to think that real freedom would come through education — thus, the beginning of the Middle Place School.
History Of The Middle Place School
The Middle Place School was built around 1892. It was built by the community for the children of the community. This building was used as a one room school schoolhouse, with one teacher who taught grades primer through 8th grade. This school was built as a result of the efforts and desires of the blacks to acquire a place of learning for the adults as well as the children. At one time, night school was taught to the adults.
Isaac Nimmons was instrumental in building the Middle Place School. He not only contributed funds, he also went with a crew of black men in the woods to cut lumber to be used in the building the school.
The one-room schoolhouse had a stage across the east end, an iron potbelly heater, initially a few wooden benches to sit on, and the lap was used to write on. There was no teacher in the community at the time the school was built and there was no pay or a teacher from the county or state; these brave patriarchs hired and paid the teacher themselves. The first teacher was a man named Jamison. His last name is unknown. During these years blacks could not be addressed by Mr., Mrs. or Miss and last names, so they became “Miz Daisy” or “Miz Helen.”
The schoolhouse soon became the center of the community; it was used for all of the social functions such as Sunday School, community picnics, programs like Children’s Day, Field Day, Christmas and Easter celebrations, and 4th of July celebrations. The school was used for fundraising parties where cakes, pies, and other goodies were sold to pay the teacher and buy books and equipment. The school was also used for political and community affairs. It had a governing board of trustees, men of the community who chopped and supplied wood for the heater.
One of the first teachers at the Middle Place School was Elizabeth Evelyn Wright. Miss Wright is the Founder of Voorhees, a school teacher established in nearby Denmark. It was her dream to start a school of higher learning at the Middle Place. She was, however, run off by the white merchants of Govan.
The County of Bamberg at this time began paying their “colored” teachers $60 per month for 3 months per year. The neighborhood of the Middle Place decided that they wanted to have 6 months of school. They got together and paid her the additional 3 months.
In 1918, because of the generosity of the community, Miss Daisy began teaching night school. Some of her night students were Robert Nimmons, Daniel Richburg, Sr., Cephus Counts, Allen Counts, and Lemuel Bennett. They have said that she introduced them to fractions.
In 1920, the Middle Place schoolhouse made some alterations. Glass windows were installed, instead of the wooden shutters and open-door windows. An inside ceiling was added and it was freshly painted inside and out. At the very top of the building a bell tower was added and a tin roof was installed. The first roof was made of mortar and straw.
From 1903-1933, the men who worked on the railroad that came through Govan and Olar were mainly blacks who came from other towns as well as local area. They were just out of slavery and illiterate. While they worked on the railroad in the local area many of them stayed in shacks and railroad boxcars at night. Some of the railroad workers wanted to learn to read and write. They learned that the Middle Place School was offering evening classes for adults who worked during the day, so they joined the adult classes. In fact the Middle Place School became the school mainly for railroad workers after regular school hours.
At one time, because of the student population, the community hired another teacher and a portable folding partition was used. Other teachers who taught at Middle Place were Miss Mable Sease, Miss Cornelia Patrick, Ms. Queen E. Faust, sister-in-law of Mrs. Daisy Nimmons and granddaughter of Isaac Nimmons, Mrs. Ruby Generette, and Mrs. Christine Richburg, who was the last teacher at the Middle Place from 1950-1952.
Middle Place Learning and Information Station, Inc.
Tue: 8:00am - 3:00pm | Wed: 8:00am - 3:00pm
Thurs: 8:00am - 3:00pm | Fri: 8:00am - 3:00pm
1949 Middle Place Road | Olar, SC 29843 | Phone: 803-368-0038