The buildings, located in Centenary in lower Marion County, comprise what is left of Ella’s Grove Plantation, established by Benjamin Franklin “B. F.” Davis in the mid-1800s and named for his first wife, Gabriella “Ella” Jenkins Davis.
Davis was a Civil War veteran who was captured by Federal troops and paroled upon pledging allegiance to the Union. Following the war, he continued to farm, and on January 1, 1867, he opened a small general store at Dog Bluff, located on the Little Pee Dee River a few miles east of Centenary. Once land transport improved and he was no longer dependent on the river to move goods, Davis relocated his operation to its current site. Although now abandoned, this area was once the center of the community.
His eldest son, James Clement Davis – better known as “Mr. Jim” – inherited the enterprise, and in 1915 constructed a new brick building (shown here). He retired in 1952 at the age of 92. Taking his hometown’s name to heart, he lived until 1960 – long enough to celebrate his 100th birthday. His son, Guy, then ran the store (which he owned in partnership with his brothers Wendell and Buckingham) until at least 1975. An article from that year appeared in the Florence Morning News and details the store’s history.
We are unclear on the status of the original home(s) at Ella’s Grove. One old house still stands near the store, and we know “Mr. Jim” built this residence to replace an earlier one that his large family of 11 children had outgrown. However, another source states that the original Davis home was moved to Marion in 1899. The land itself was inherited from the Jenkins family, which had a house there as well. If you can help us solve this mystery, please contact us. Thank you!
More Pictures of Ella’s Grove
The weather-beaten brick building in the picture below is one of the last of a vanishing breed – the country general merchandise store. In 1975, the Florence Morning News detailed the history of the brick building, writing “If you need a collar for your mule, a cast iron frying pan, a pair of blue jeans, or a pack of potato chips, the Davis Brothers store at Centenary is where you can find it.”
This wooden building served as the original store after B. F. Davis moved his business to Ella’s Grove. Once it was replaced by the brick structure in 1915, it served as the company’s warehouse.
Reflections on Centenary
BJ Thurman of Conway, who contributed the photo of the Davis buildings below, also sent the following info: “This is a photo of two old store buildings on the B. F. Davis Plantation known as Ella’s Grove in Centenary, SC. Centenary is located in lower Marion County. The old home, built circa 1850, is no longer on the property as it was moved to Marion in 1889.”
Jerri S. White of Marion, who took the shot below, writes this: “The photo was taken for a tour of the Centenary area of Marion County by the Pee Dee Chapter of the South Carolina Genealogical Society. The following is an excerpt from tour notes: ‘The business was founded on January 1, 1867, by B. F. Davis, the grandfather of the present owner, a few miles east of the present location at Dog Bluff on Little Pee Dee River. There was no railroad transportation in the area at the time, and roads were poor, so supplies for the store had to be brought up the river on barges. A few years later, however, land transport had improved, and Davis moved his operations to the population center of the community, to the present site. The frame building which Davis built here as his second store still stands on the site, and is used by the present owners as a warehouse. The present brick store building was built by him (James Clement Davis) in 1915.'”
Kenneth Malcom of Summerville, who contributed the two photos below, shares: “I love to run the back roads of South Carolina and other states and document history through photographs. I stumbled across this gem during one of those excursions. It was truly like stepping back in time.”