From the voices of its natives, the bustling charm of Fort Mill’s Main Street will forever be preserved.
Elizabeth Ford, a 1961 Fort Mill High School graduate and one of the town’s best known lifelong citizens, is considered a driving force behind the creation of the Fort Mill History Museum, said LeAnne Burnette Morse, museum board member. It is due to Ford’s dedication to preserving Fort Mill’s history that the Elizabeth Ford Living History Project was born, Morse said.
The museum premiered the first in the new video series Tuesday for members of the community and dedicated the project to Ford to a full house in the Spratt Building.
“It will be a lasting legacy for her,” Morse said.
The first video in the series, “Remembering Fort Mill,” features interviews with 15 longtime Fort Mill’s residents, capturing their memories of the town from the 1940s to the present.
“Fort Mill History Museum is where history comes to life and this tonight is a prime example of living history,” said Ann Evans, executive director of the museum.
The interviews were a combined effort from Ford, who started gathering them in 2008, before the museum existed, and Morse. Ford’s interviews were archived until now and include former Fort Mill Times publisher William Bradford Jr., Anne Springs Close and Ronnie Spratt, a descendant of Civil War era slaves.
Morse added more interviews this year, including Louise Pettus, Anna Dixon, one of 22 children, Jim Ardrey, whose grandfather ran Adrey’s Drug Store on Main Street, and more. The project included editing 16 hours of raw footage into the interviews seen in the video, Morse said. She said more videos will be coming, including one focused on the Civil Rights era.
“We could edit on this for years,” she said.
The goal, Morse said, is to continue conducting on-camera interviews with Fort Mill natives and longtime residents and archiving first-person narrative history.
“This is priceless living history,” she said. “It will never look under glass the way it is coming out of their mouths.”
Without Ford's dedication and others who worked to preserve Fort Mill’s history even before a museum existed, this project, and the museum itself, would not have happened, Evans said.
“It goes back a good ways with many people working very hard who have a great love for this town and its past and a great respect for history and for preserving that history,” she said.
“You take people who are dedicated and want to see it happen and you don’t have to have bucks in the bank, you don’t have to have a building, you just have to have people that care and have drive to make it happen.”
The museum presented Ford with a journal including people’s favorite memories of Fort Mill and tidbits from the video interviews. The book also leaves room for future memories.
The museum has also opened a new, temporary exhibit, “Bobby Socks and Soda Shops,” related to the memories featured in the video.
The series was produced by Bluestocking Media, with support from the Arts Council of York County Small Grants Program, which gets funding from the Rock Hill A-Tax/Tourism Commission. Other sponsors include the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation of S.C., the S.C. Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Want to know more?
To support the museum’s efforts, including the Elizabeth Ford Living History Project, visit fmhm.org. Full videos and all raw footage from the project is available online.