Established by J.I. Vallentine, this general store and an adjacent cotton gin were established in 1911. Both were central to the community of Cope, which was founded in 1894 on land owned by Jacob Martin Cope. Cope sold a portion of his land for the town and train depot, and people still flock here to experience small-town life as it was in the early twentieth century.
Vallentine’s son, Robert, took over running the store in 1937 along with his sister, Henry Ella. They replaced the original store with the current building in 1940. The brother-and-sister team attracted visitors to the old-timey store and gin until their deaths in the 1980s.
Afterwards, Robert’s daughter, Jo Helen Riley, minded the store. The gin was destroyed in Hurricane Matthew (see below), but until then, ginning demonstrations were also held. Incidentally, Mrs. Riley is also the great-granddaughter of Jacob Martin Cope.
The store is no longer open on a daily basis, but people can call ahead to view displays of wares from throughout the twentieth century. Below, a cotton warehouse beside the former gin boasts loyalty to the Clemson Tigers.
Hurricane Matthew swept through South Carolina on October 8, 2017, leaving a wake of destruction in its path. Sadly, a casualty of the storm was the Cope cotton gin, seen below.
Vallentine’s Gin & Store: Paintings
Vallentine’s Gin & Store: Reflections
Contributor Treva Thomas Hammond shares her experience growing up in Cope: “Vallentines was established in the early 1900s as a cotton gin and general store. I remember going there as a young girl and buying hoop cheese slices from the Mr. Vallentine. The store sold everything from cheese and bologna to hardware items. Today, the sign in the window states that customers can call ahead to see items from the past. On the cold February morning that I took this picture, it seemed as if I had fallen back into the past.”