While this former depot in the Greenwood County town of Hodges served the Southern Railway as both a freight and passenger train station for decades, it is best known for its history following the depot’s closure.
The depot opened in 1870 and sat adjacent to another depot for the Piedmont and Northern Railroad. The presence of two railroad depots in the same small town is a testament to the vitality of rail business in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Southern Railway depot in Hodges ceased passenger business in 1957; by then, the Piedmont and Northern depot had been closed for some years. Freight service continued until the spring of 1965.
The rustic building was soon reincarnated, however. In 1970 two men, Gerald Jackson (at far right in photo above) and Steve Bryant (at far left), bought the depot and converted it into a music venue called Jackson Station Rhythm and Blues Club. Though the club focused on blues and was open to all music lovers – Senator Strom Thurmond is said to have had a birthday party there – its owners were gay men, and so the bar was welcoming to other gay locals as well as the entire community. The club was also popular with students from nearby Lander University and Erskine College.
Jackson Station hosted musical acts throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including Widespread Panic. On the night of April 7, 1991 Jackson followed patron Terry Daniel Stogner into the parking lot to ensure payment of Stogner’s tab. Stogner, who was inebriated, attacked Jackson with a bush ax, causing a severe head injury that confined Jackson to a wheelchair. Since then, the former depot and nightclub has fallen into disrepair. Many locals still hold fond memories of Jackson Station, and Daniel Harrison, a professor from Lander University, is writing a book about the club and its owners.
Rail Depot Closes Permanently for 95-Year Old Hodges Landmark
In an effort to document the history of the old Hodges Depot, we are including the following news articles. The first appeared in the Greenville News on June 1, 1965. It was written by staff writer Mike Ellis, who also took the photo which accompanies the story. A full transcription can be found below.
HODGES – The Southern Railway freight depot here, a landmark in the small-town of some 250 persons since 1870, closed its doors permanently at the end of the day’s business Wednesday.
Closure of the station was recently approved by the State Public Service Commission at the request of the railroad.
The freight depot was part of a booming railroad center at Hodges several years ago. The town had two depots, with freight and passenger service at both stations, serving the local populace.
The old weather-beaten Southern station shuddered as the final freight train rolled through the town late Wednesday afternoon, marking the last official business at the depot. Freight agent Harold Salley, 35, agent at the depot since 1957, waved to the train crew as the fast-moving freight passed the station in a cloud of dust.
“I can definitely see the reasons for closing that station,” Salley said. He listed a steady decline in business during the past seven years as one of the main reasons.
Passenger service at the depot was discontinued in 1957 for the same reason, he said. Telegraph service at the station also was taken out at that time.
Salley will take over as freight agent at the Donalds depot in Abbeville County Friday. The Donalds station is located just a few miles north of Hodges on the same track and agent Salley will continue to greet the same train crews on their daily runs.
“It’s just automation and progress just like all other big businesses,” Salley said as he explained the death of the station and its 95 years of service.
“We were operating the station here at a deficit for several years,” the agent said. “The Southern agent at Greenwood will be the controlling station for Hodges and will handle all carload shipments.”
An old building across the tracks from the Southern freight depot bears the name of Hotel Hodges in faded letters over its front doors, testifying to the one-time prosperity and booming railway center. The hotel was once patronized by train crews on overnight layovers in Hodges.
Also still located in the town next to the hotel is the old Piedmont and Northern Railroad Co. station. That depot, which also served passengers and freight, closed several years ago.
Salley said the freight station might be removed or could be leased for storage. He said a portion of the freight room is currently rented for storage.
He said the main business at the station since 1957 has been pulpwood shipments, but added that shipments declined to a bare minimum in the past few years.
Salley had his office in the former waiting room of the 95-year old station. The old ticket offices are empty and blanketed with the collection of dust stirred up by passing trains over the past seven years.
Officials of the Town of Hodges and the Greenwood County Legislative Delegation opposed Southern’s action to close the freight depot.
Hodges Mayor O. M. Nichols said the town’s last hope of ever getting a sizable industry will be drastically weakened with the end of the depot.
Frank Godfrey, owner of a Pulpwood company in Hodges, said the closing will cause him extra trouble. He said he will be required to drive to Greenwood in order to get the agent there to stop a freight at Hodges to load pulpwood.
The Town of Hodges has suffered the loss of about 15 small industries since the days of the Southern station. Four general merchandise stores, the Castcrete Products Co., The Bank of Hodges, the post office and two pulpwood companies today are the town’s only businesses.
Officials of the concrete block company said the depot closing will not affect their business to any great extent. Most of the company’s product transportation is done by truck, officials said.
No fanfare honored the station Wednesday at the end of its 95 years of agency rail service to the town.
The sounds of a door closing, the snap of a lock and fading footsteps welcomed the old depot into permanent retirement.
HODGES – Harold Salley, freight depot agent of the Southern Railway station here, [waves a] greeting to crew members of the last train to pass through the town of Hodges before the agency was closed permanently Wednesday. Southern decided to close the freight depot [due to a] lack of business. The railway station served the town for almost a century. Salley will [?] to officially meet daily trains on the Greenville-to-Ninety Six line in his new position [as agent] at the Donalds freight depot a few miles north of Hodges.
Old Hodges Depot is Moved
This photo appeared on the front page of Greenwood’s Index-Journal on June 6, 1975. The article that accompanied it, along with another photo, are featured in the section below this one.
A united Telephone truck raises telephone wires to allow the Southern Railroad depot to move through as workers brought the building to its new site. The building was moved Thursday from its original site to the intersection of Highway 185 and 25 near Hodges. A story and a nother picture are on page 9. (Index-Journal photo by Danny McNeill)
Hodges Depot: The Center of Hodges Life Years Ago To Get A Facelift
This article and photo accompanied the front page photo (shown above) in the June 6, 1975 issue of Greenwood’s Index-Journal. The article was written by reporter Vicki Thomas. The SC Picture Project thanks each reporter and photographer who helped preserve the history of this old depot; we are grateful to both the Index-Journal and the Greenville News for allowing us to reprint the articles.
HODGES – The old Southern Railroad depot today has a new home, and the building will undergo a facelift before it is opened again to the public.
The depot, now owned by Gerald Jackson of Hodges, was moved Thursday to the intersection highways 185 and 25 near Hodges.
Jackson said he plans to renovate the building but will “try to preserve its depot from in something like a museum.”
“I have also acquired another depot in Edgefield so I can user all the original materials for the renovations.” Jackson said. “The Hodges depot is so old it is put together with wooden pegs and I want to preserve the atmosphere of the building so people who go there will think they are in an old railroad depot.”
Jackson said Southern Railroad is working with him to renovate the building and obtain original furnishings. He said he hopes to have all the renovation work finished by Aug. 1.
The Southern depot, one of two in Hodges, has played a big part in the history of the town.
First called the Cokesbury depot, the name was later changed to Hodges, in honor of the Hodges family.
The railroad first came through the area in 1852 and the town of Hodges few up around it.
Guy B. Emerson, owner of Emerson’s store, said the depot was planned to be located in Cokesbury, but legend has it that the people there refused because they were afraid that the slaves would venture too close to the tracks to look at the train and be run over.
Emerson said the depot at one time had provided jobs as well as entertainment for the people of Hodges.
Day and night clerks were needed for the depot seven days a week and someone was hired to keep train engines fired up each weekend when train crews would go out of town.
The town then had a water tank and coal chute for use by the railroads which used the old black steam engines run on coal.
Emerson said the trains were “fascinating to children who didn’t know what to think about such machinery.”
“We got to know the trains by their whistles. Each whistleblower had his own signal he would blow so we knew who was coming,” he said.
“On Sundays, everyone would go out to meet the train because it was the only thing we had to look forward to,” he added.
Emerson noted that during the 1920’s Hodges had two hotels and 12-13 stores. At that time the railroad had several passenger trains running each day through the town and two freight crews staying over each night.
He added that at one time trains were used to haul cotton and pulpwood from the depot.
Emerson said that “this was cotton country with the tow gins located in the Hodges area.”
He noted that at one time about 100 bales of cotton were kept on a platform by the depot daily.
“Cotton buyers would buy the cotton on the streets and it would be weighed at the depot, tagged and loaded onto a boxcar for shipping,” Emerson said.
He noted that when people started buying and driving cars they began going elsewhere to do their buying and selling and industry died in Hodges.
While the depot provided many good times for Hodges, it was also the meeting place for traveling salesmen who were attracted by the town’s night life.
Emerson noted that his father had told him stories of times when Hodges had five bar rooms and no churches.
“There was plenty of gambling and chicken fighting and traveling salesmen would come to the town on weekends to enjoy the activities,” he said.
Emerson said he had heard that an ordinance was passed around the time the town was incorporated banning the sale of alcohol beverages in Hodges for 100 years.
“I don’t know if the time is up yet,” he added, “but alcohol is still not sold here.” The depot was the scene of a shoot-out during church services one Sunday in 1912.
Emerson recounted the story of a black man who had been shooting at houses and was finally surrounded under a box car of one of the trains at the depot.
A rural policeman and several others shot at the man for quite a while before he was captured – without being grazed even once by the many bullets fired at him,” he said.
A branch of the railroad used to run between Abbeville and Hodges and this was widely used, especially by soldiers during World War I who would come into Hodges to take trains to Greenville or Columbia. But that was discontinued about 1939, Emerson noted.
The depot also has an historical side – being the site of the first stump meeting held in South Carolina.
According to Frank E. Jordan’s “S.C. State Democratic Primary,” Gov. Tillman spoke at the depot site July 20, 1888 as part of a series of stump meetings that took him to Greenville, Chester, Sumter, Florence, Charleston and Blackville.
Emerson said he did not know when the building was constructed but said front waiting rooms were added about 1912. He noted that Southern Railroad closed the depot about 10 years ago.
The old Southern Railroad depot in Hodges moves slowly around a curve in the road en route to its new location at the intersection of Highways 185 and 25. The depot, now owned by Gerald Jackson of Hodges, will be renovated using original materials from another depot acquired by Jackson and is expected to open again to the public in August. (Index-Journal photo by Danny McNeill)
Cabaret Crowd May Hear ‘All Aboard’ at Jackson’s Dept by Next Spring
This article, dated December 4, 1975, appeared in Greenwood’s Index-Journal.
STATION: At Historic Hodges Depot
This article was published in Greenwood’s Index-Journal on January 25, 1996.
Reflections on Southern Depot and Jackson Station
Beth Traynham of Salley, who contributed the copy of the first news article above, writes, “This is an article about the Southern Depot in 1965. This is when it closed. At the time it closed it was located up town in Hodges. My father was the last agent there. Eventually Gerald purchased the depot and turned it to a bar. Gerald was also my neighbor – good soul he was. Great bands got their start there [and] Senator Strom Thurmond had a birthday party there.”