Resident volunteers built this log structure in the Mont Clare hamlet of Darlington with cypress timber in 1933. Legend holds that the Mont Clare Mission Church laid its foundation in the area when a new bride settled here in 1893 and desired a local church. The Mission officially organized in 1913 as a nondenominational congregation and held Sunday school and worship in a local school house until this community center was built.
After its construction, the congregation met weekly in the new community center until its brick church was built next door in 1960. The church then moved into its new home and became Mont Clare Baptist, a Southern Baptist-affiliated church. The community center sits beside it amid the pine trees and hosts various community meetings, including school groups and other church organizations.
In 2005 the community center was modernized with restrooms, and in 2008 a historical marker was installed in recognition of the center’s historical and cultural significance.
Detailed History of Mont Clare Community Center
Below is an article that was contributed to the South Carolina Picture Project by Bill Segars of Hartsville. It originally appeared in his local paper, The Darlington New & Press. It was published in May of 2015.
If you thought this series of article was written about churches, it is, and this building does have religious significance. Other than the religious significance of this building, it also exemplifies what the yield can be when a community works together for a common good. Located at 1632 Mont Clare Road, it had its beginnings in 1933 with the citizens of the Mont Clare area of Darlington County. Their idea was to have a “community center” for the people to use, so the people banned together to build it.
When the original idea was conceived, R.G. Donald built a miniature log building as a model of what this 34’ X 62’ building would look like in the near future. The idea and the model were all this small community needed to leap into action.
The prime movers in this endeavor were E. M. Williamson, Sr., who donated land from his Mont Clare Plantation, and T. C. Cox, who donated logs and other timber cut from his Skufful Plantation. The Donald and Winters families, along with many other locals, also contributed countless hours of work for the betterment of their community. The building was completed with some help of the WPA (Works Progress Administration) workforce. The sandstone used in the foundation and the fireplace came from Skufful Plantation between the Mont Clare firetower and Gilmore’s Mill.
The interior contained a large stage for performances on one end of the log structure. A mural of the Darlington County 1905 courthouse with commercial advertisements around the perimeter was painted on canvas as a backdrop behind the stage. This rustic structure proudly hosted innumerable family reunions, children’s parties, and wedding receptions. It served as a voting precinct and hosted other events of interest to community citizens. Even Slim Mims & His Dream Ranch Boys (band) performed here.
As a part of this community interest, it was a natural for the Mont Clare Mission to hold their weekly Sunday School meetings here. This non-denominational mission had its beginning in 1913 at the nearby Mont Clare School. The first minister was a Baptist, the Reverend F.W. Putney, followed by the Reverend W.S. Jones, another Baptist. Several Presbyterian and Methodist preachers served this group through the years as leaders. The Mission group enjoyed their stay here at the community center from 1933 until 1960, when the Mont Clare Baptist Church was formally founded, and the present church building was built next door.
In the 1970s Mont Clare Baptist Church obtained control and care of the center, assuring its perpetuation. The closeness of the people in this community continues, centered on this building. For more convenient use, in 2005 residents pulled together again to raise funds and construct restroom facilities in keeping with the rustic style of the original building. Then on April 26, 2008, Darlington County’s 57th Roadside Historical Marker was unveiled commemorating the life of the Mont Clare Community Center, again by interested citizens.