The Bethune Observer, c.1913-1923, reported the local news longer than its predecessor, the town’s first newspaper, The Bethune Enterprise, c. 1900-1902.
Both were edited and printed by the wheelchair-bound J.E. Gardner, assisted by his wife, the former Margaret M. Barnes.
In the late 1990s, Carol McNaughton, then employed at the Camden Archives, collected and printed for private sale a publication Bits and Pieces from "The Bethune Observer."
McNaughton states: “The Bethune Observer shows the ordinary life and times of businesses, rural farm families and citizens...in the early part of the century...[W]e see the lifestyle changes taking place within this time frame.
“You can vision the line up of stores on Main Street giving the community a variety of goods to enliven their everyday lives. The railroad plays a vital part of daily transportation bringing people from other parts of South Carolina and distances beyond, to vacation at the Big Springs Resort, visit family and friends and gives the local residents an opportunity to reach beyond their small town to link with the rest of the world.”
McNaughton’s work, along with newspaper samples given us by Harvey Teal, provide the following excerpts:
9 JULY 1914 Issue
Big Spring News
This promises to be one of, if not the best season in the history of Big Springs, so many are visiting here that never were here before.
Quite a number were registered at the hotel the past week, among whom were: Mr. and Mrs. M.L. Raley, Mt Croghan; Mr. and Mrs. L.E. Lee, Angelus, Mr. and Mrs. Naiford, Lydia; Mr. R.H. Burns, North Carolina; Misses Shaw and McLaurin, Hartsville; Misses Rabon, Camden; Messrs. Carter, Denham, McLeod and Byrd, Hartsville; Mr. and Mrs. W.M. Miller, Jefferson...
The dance on last Wednesday evening was quite a success. Comstock’s orchestra furnished the music, and dancers and onlookers enjoyed to the fullest the dancing and music.
Sandy Grove Dots
There was a large crowd from this section at the Big Spring on the Fourth. We regret to say, however, there was considerable disorder and drinking there on that occasion. This should not be allowed, and we are glad to state this conduct will be cut out in the future, so the management says...
There will be a game of baseball next Saturday afternoon between Sandy Grove and Tiller’s Ferry on the latter’s grounds. The game promises to be interesting...
We were shown a jar of peaches Tuesday morning at the store of Mr. H.W. Northcutt that was put up in August, 1888, by his mother. The peaches are still in perfect state of preservation and can be seen at Mr. Northcutt’s store...
The Fourth was a very quiet day in Bethune. A large crowd went to Big Spring, and several attended the big celebration at Kershaw.
L.W. West Clerk
J.A. Shaw Chief of Police
6 AUGUST 1914 Issue
Local and Personal
A barbeque and four games of baseball will be pulled off at this place by the colored people on Saturday...
During the thunder shower on Monday afternoon three fine mules which belonged to Lee County chaingang were killed by lightning. The gang were working the public road near Kelly’s Bridge when the mules were killed.
Company G, Second Infantry, South Carolina National Guard, will encamp for two weeks at Big Springs, beginning August 25...the men will receive pay during the encampment.
Sunday School Convention
The 36th annual Sunday School convention for Kershaw County will be held at Sandy Grove church...Go to stay for every session, as the people of Sandy Grove will certainly take care of you. J.C. Humphries, President.
[On the two-day program: Rev. J.C. Davis, P.B. Fields, Prof. A.L. Humphries, F.F. Whilden, Alvo Humphries, W.L. McDowell, Rev. C.B. Smith, W.A. Harrelson, A.J. Beattie, Henry A. Wise, and T.B. Humphries.]
Big Springs Hotel, now open and the fare excellent. Large crowds suffering with rheumatism or stomach troubles are being benefited. Good bathing, boating, dancing and other amusements. Ask your [railroad] agent for cheap rate ticket.
King’s Hotel, Bethune--Rates $2.00 per day
More Local Ads, Features
Carter and Padgett Undertakers [colored and white]
H.W. Northcutt--New Home Sewing Machines
L.P. Carter--Colt’s Acetylene Generators
McBee Auto Repair Shop (J.B.Bolin)--Practial Auto Mechanic
Bethune Drug Co.--Dodson’s Liver Tone for 50 cents
G.S. King--General Mechandise, Pumps and Fittings
The Peoples Grocery--Next to railroad track, Bethune
WANTED--To rent or buy a two-horse farm near Bethune
Seaboard Railroad Schedule
[Four separate Northbound trains arrived daily in Bethune--two in the morning at 7:22 and 9:35 a.m.; and two later ones at 5:43 and 8:25 p.m.
Also four separate Southbound trains arrived daily in Bethune--two in the morning at 9:35 and 10:05 a.m.; and two later ones at 6:08 and 10:43 p.m.]
24 AUGUST 1916 Issue
Local and Personal
The box party which was to have been held at the residence of Mr. D.W. Horton above town last night for the benefit ofthe Cedar Creek Sunday School, was postponed on account of threatening weather...
The Woodmen and Junior Orders at Timrod had a banquet at the Timrod school house Saturday night. Judge M.L. Smith and Mr. C.W. Birchmore, of Camden, came out and delivered addresses. Mess. S.T. Gardner and J.E. Copeland accompanied Judge Smith and Mr. Birchmore to Timrod.
Mr. and Mrs. M.M. Johnson spent Sunday night at the home of the former’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. H.T. Johmson, at Shamrock. Mr. Johnson was formerly a citizen of Jefferson, where he was prominently identified with municipal and civic affairs for several years. He has moved to Camden, where he expects to reside. Murdock Johnson is a young lawyer with bright prospects and we predict for him a splendid future.
1 FEBRUARY 1917 Issue
Hon. Andrew J. Bethea, Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, will deliver a lecture in the Bethune high school auditorium tomorrow (Friday) night. Mr. Bethea’s subject will be an account of his peace trip to Europe. This lecture has been delivered in a number of towns in the State during the past year and has been favorably received wherever heard. Admission free
Mr. D.M. Kirkley, of Kershaw R.F.D., was in town Saturday afternoon with a petition praying the citizens of Buffalo township to protest against... a 3-mill tax to improve and maintain the public roads of this township. Quite a number of people...signed the petition.
The Observer, 50 cents, a year, in advance.
25 MAY 1922 Issue
Local and Personal
The new post office building will probably be completed by Saturday next and occupied early next week.
C.C. Horton, manager of the Bethune Hotel, is visiting relatives at Kershaw, Heath Springs and Lancaster...
A game of baseball was played at Heath Springs last Friday afternoon between Bethune and Heath Springs, high school teams...
The business houses are urged to close their places of business for one hour every day, from 11 to 12, and attend services at the Methodist Church...
Quite a crowd from this section attended the Confederate Reunion in Darlington last week.
New Jewelry Store
The Edgeworth Jewelry Co., Corbett Edgeworth, manager, opened a new jewelry store here on Tuesday.
Mr. Edgeworth is well known here, having resided in Bethune for a number of years, and is an expert jeweler...
10 AUGUST 1922 Issue
Local and Personal
Saturday last was a big day with the colored folks in this vicinty. There was a picnic and three baseball games at the Josey Spring, about 7 miles below here.
Big Day at Big Spring
Next Saturday, Aug. 12, will be a big day at Big Spring. A general basket picnic and barbeque will be held and a large crowd is expected to be present.
The candidates for state offices have accepted an invitation to be present and this will be an added attraction for the visitors. The speaking will begin at 10 o’clock, and last until about 5 o’clock, if necessary, giving the candidates ample time to present their claims...A big time promised to all.