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Segars Mill — Hartsville, South Carolina

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Segars Mill

This dilapidated structure in Hartsville was once the center of a resort teeming with people celebrating the carefree days of summer. It was built in the early twentieth century and quickly became the go-to spot for locals looking to swim, play, and dance the night away.

Segars Mill Pavilion Hartsville

Bill Segars of Hartsville, 2004 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The land where it is located is thought to have been the site of a mill prior to the Civil War. Unfortunately, not much is known about the mill’s original incarnation. History holds that Jacob Kelley, who established the Kelleytown farming community of Hartsville in the early 1800s, evacuated to an island here in 1865. Major General John E. Smith of the Union army came through Kelleytown in the spring of that year and made Jacob Kelley’s house his headquarters, causing Kelley to flee. Interestingly, the legend also states that Kelley, who was 85 at the time, was allowed to carry his community’s valuables with him and chose the island because it enabled him to more effectively stand guard over this stash of silver and gold.

Segars Mill Hartsville

Bill Segars of Hartsville, 2004 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Eventually Kelley’s descendant, Henry K. Segars, either expanded or restored the original mill. (It is unknown what condition the mill was in at the time it came into his possession.) At this juncture, under Segars’s ownership, the mill ground grist, and in time Segars added a cotton gin and even a hydroelectrical plant. The surrounding water became known as Segars Mill Pond. The Beaver Dam Creek supplied water for the mill pond, which was separated from another pool, below it, by a spillway and earthen dam. As early as 1913, Segars built a pavilion next to this pool to serve guests coming to swim, the remains of which are seen here. On June 29th, 1920, he received an official charter for the attraction, which he called Segars Bathing Resort. The resort was financed by Segars, his brother Ed, and J.C. Hungerpiller.

Segars Swimming Pool

Courtesy of the Darlington County Historical Commission © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The pool’s floor was billed as “white” and “sandy,” and in the process of enlarging it, Segars uncovered several freshwater springs which added a steady influx of cold water. These springs gave the swimming hole a reputation for being cool and refreshing on oppressively hot summer days. Following the initial success of the resort, Segars added more buildings to the property and sold concessions and merchandise such as swimsuits and picnic supplies. The swimming hole itself measured 40 feet wide and 90 feet long and boasted unusual features such as a water-powered merry-go-round and a rope ride across the pool. Advertisements encouraged guests to “Ride the Ropes” – the ride consisted of a rope hanging from a mechanized belt. People could grab hold of the rope and move (relatively) quickly from one end of the pool to the other.

Ride the Ropes at Segars Bathing Resort

Courtesy of the Darlington County Historical Commission © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The bathing resort, which included a dance hall above the changing rooms in the pavilion, proved to be so popular that it landed Henry Segars in serious trouble with his church. On October 6, 1923, he was tried before his church before being condemned as the proprietor of a “sinful resort.” Three years later, he and other family members founded Kelleytown Baptist Church, which remains active today and continues to serve Segars family members, along with others. Undeterred, Henry Segars continued operating his “sinful resort.”

Segars Bathing Resort in Hartsville SC

Courtesy of the Darlington County Historical Commission © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

In fact, the resort operated for two more decades, finally closing sometime in the 1940s. During this period the polio epidemic was taking its toll, and a lack of knowledge caused many to cease swimming in public pools for fear of contagion. Subsequently, many such resorts closed during this time. People still enjoyed Segars Mill for the other types of recreational it afforded, however, as seen in this 1959 photo of a family fishing from the dam.

Segars Mill Fishing

Bill Segars of Hartsville, 1959 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The dam that had contained the Beaver Dam Creek waters for so long finally gave way in 1986. During the dam break, several of the buildings were destroyed, making the once-vibrant resort even more desolate. Shortly after the breach, family members rebuilt the dam, restoring the pond. Below is a photo of the area taken shortly after the dam broke.

Segars Mill Dam Breach

Bill Segars of Hartsville, 1986 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Today, only the ruins from the pavilion remain at the site of Segars Bathing Resort. Still owned by the Segars family, the quiet pond on the side of the road belies the jovial past of a popular summer swimming hole. At 534 acres, the land has been placed under a protective easement awarded by the South Carolina Conservation Bank. Present on the property are the large pond as well as eight smaller ponds. The land was awarded a grant for conservation in part because it is the site of an intact Carolina Bay.

Segars Mill Creek

Bill Segars of Hartsville, 2004 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Many thanks to Bill Segars for the photos on this page and much of the information as well as Brian Gandy of the Darlington County Historical Commission. For more on the bathing resort, please read Brian Gandy’s article written for the Darlington County Historical Commission.

Historical Photos of Segars Mill Bathing Resort

The following photos are of the Segars Mill Bathing Resort from the zenith of its popularity in 1936. The images are provided by the Darlington County Historical Commission. The photo descriptions are from Bill Segars, also of the Darlington County Historical Commission.

Segars Mill Bathing Resort

Courtesy of the Darlington County Historical Commission, 1936 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The above photo is a full view of the resort. The main point of focus is the Texaco Star painted on the side of the dance hall.

Segars Mill Merry Go Round

Courtesy of the Darlington County Historical Commission, 1936 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Seen above is the merry-go-round. Note the black lines from the device running off the left side of the photo; these are the belts that ran from the mill to the device to turn it. Also note the concrete structure to the right of the merry-go-round; that is the concrete bridge that is seen in the present-day photo at the bottom of the page in the above section.

Segars Bathing Resort Barrel Rolling

Courtesy of the Darlington County Historical Commission, 1936 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The above photo shows one of the ‘toys’ at the resort, Running the Barrel. The barrel was hooked to a motor that turned it, and the people had to run to stay on the barrel. Note the swim wear.

Segars Mill Diver

Courtesy of the Darlington County Historical Commission, 1936 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Above a man leaps from the high dive. This is the deep end of the pool, closest to the mill and the dam. To the right of the diver is a tall sliding board, and to his left is a swing; one would swing out over the pool and then turn loose into the water. The large building in the background is the dance hall.

Segars Mill High Dive

Courtesy of the Darlington County Historical Commission, 1936 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

This is another photo of the high dive. The large building where the people are sitting on the boardwalk is the former cotton gin. The two black lines are the belts going to the merry-go-round. Notice the men wearing ties.

Reflections on Segars Mill

Bill Segars says of the photo of the three people fishing: “The fishermen are my father, my older sister, and me. We would very often go to the mill pond to wet a hook, didn’t catch much but, we always had good conversations.” ​

Add your own reflections here.

Segars Mill Info

Address: 550 Segars Mill Pond Road, Hartsville, SC 29550
GPS Coordinates: 34.373331,-80.135111

Segars Mill Map

Please Share Your Thoughts!

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12 Comments about Segars Mill

Joye Irvin says:
July 20th, 2019 at 3:12 pm

Wish it was still in operation! Looks fantastic!!

Diane Watford Steen says:
July 15th, 2019 at 12:28 pm

My mother and father Hoyt and Pearl Watford went there. I have a picture of them on the bridge.

Christy Marshall says:
July 14th, 2019 at 9:37 pm

I’m so happy to read about my towns history. I really enjoyed reading this article and looking at the old photos. Wondering what it was like to live back in those days. It would be so fantastic if this could be rebuilt to go have some fun back in time. Old music playing, appropriate dances, drive in movies, definitely the water barrel lol just like the old days we see here! Yes we may have a water park but this is our roots it would be such a special place for family’s to go enjoy. I had no clue that this had even been. there. You learn something new everyday. Thank you and god bless.

Cooper Lee Segars says:
July 21st, 2019 at 3:14 pm

Did your great grandfather live at 73 Maple Street in Charleston? And did you have an aunt Charlotte who became a district superintendent of the United Methodist Church in Virginia? Grandfather’s name was Jim.

Guerry Glover says:
June 4th, 2019 at 7:02 am

My maternal great grandparents were Richard Segars and Sabra Stokes Segars. My grandfather moved to Charleston and I don’t know much about my Segars relatives in Hartsville. I drove there yesterday and looked around- I saw a street sign for Segars Mill Pond Rd but couldn’t find anything else. Thank you for putting this information about Segars Mill Pond out there.

Albert Timmerman says:
December 31st, 2018 at 2:45 pm

My grandfather, Albert Jordan, and Mr. Henry were lifelong friends. My mother spent many childhood days swimming and socializing at the Mill Pond.

William Huneycutt says:
June 6th, 2018 at 8:29 pm

Nice, Del Huneycutt

Judy Greene says:
July 15th, 2016 at 6:07 am

My Mother, Becky King Tarlton, had many memories she shared about Segars Mill. Wish I could have seen it.

Vicky Tyner Earle says:
July 13th, 2016 at 10:06 pm

Thank you for the article on the history of Segar’s Mill. I enjoyed the pictures. I love especially love the one with Bill, Mamie, and Mr. Graham. I wish people could hear some of the wonderful stories my aunts and uncles have told of their fun times there. Seeing the pictures made me remember them and made me smile. Thank you!

Lori Douglas says:
July 13th, 2016 at 11:19 am

A great read. I can remember my mom's stories of swimming there as a child. Thanks for sharing.

Timmy Rowland says:
July 13th, 2016 at 12:43 am

Thanks Bill. Very interesting!

Jacquelynn Segars says:
July 12th, 2016 at 9:04 pm

This is a great article and wonderful photographs of Segars Mill Resort. It is updated from a previous article with new facts and photos! Kudos to Bill Segars and Brian Gandy!

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