Guy McBride Dabbs (Oct, 1,1904-April 13, 1983) and Wrenna Christine Hancock
(May 24, 1903 - May 4, 1978)
If James McBride Dabbs inherited his writing ability from his father, then Guy McBride (Mac) Dabbs inherited his skill for farming. He was remembered by one of his nephews as the last of the true Southern Gentlemen Farmers. He was a man of many talents and knowledgeable in numerous areas in addition to farming. In fact, his first love was never farming, it was music.
Only four years old when his mother, Maude, died. Mac was raised by his step-mother, Sudie Furman. At 18 he entered the
University of South Carolina and majored in music and then attended the Peabody Conservatory (now part of John Hopkins University in ) and received a four year certificate. He returned to Baltimore Columbia in 1928 where he taught music at for four years. Chicora College was originally founded as the Presbyterian Female Seminary and later merged with Queens College of Charlotte, NC. From 1930 – 1939 Queens College was known as Chicora College . Queens-Chicora College
During his years at
Carolina, Mac had met Wrenna Christine Hancock (5/24/1903 – 5/04/1978), also a student at and captain of the girl’s basketball team. They courted throughout their education with Wrenna teaching and then taking a job with the Red Cross while Mac was in Carolina . They were married in 1932 at which time they returned to Mac’s childhood home to take over his father’s farm. Baltimore
Mac writes that the land on which the Eugene Whitefield Dabbs home was built was granted to Arthur Tomilinson in 1764 by King George III of
. This is a different track of land than the land grant to Peter Mellett in 1750 for the land at Rip Raps. This particular track of land was added to the Dabbs family when Samuel McBride expanded his acreage by buying up surrounding land. One of the stipulations of the grant required clearing and cultivating three acres out of every hundred acres annually. Mac figured that if Tomilinson had done that all the land should have been cleared by the end of the century. He figured Tomilinson didn’t meet the stipulations of the grant. Samuel McBride failed to meet it after he bought the land. Most assuredly Samuel’s son, James, and his wife, Sophronia, were not able to meet that requirement, nor did Mac’s father, Eugene Whitefield Dabbs, when the land was deeded to him through his wife, Maude. Mac would laugh when saying that at any time he figured the land may revert to the heirs of King George, III. England
Mac had never seen farming as his life’s career. He studied music. Just as his Uncle Guy had left the offer of a Chair in Mathematics at USC to return to the farm to help his mother, and while his brothers Eugene preferred politics and James preferred writing, they all, nonetheless, returned home. The difference between Mac and the others was that beside his love for music he was also really good at farming.
A shrewd and astute businessman, Mac cultivated acres of lettuce, tobacco, cotton and corn in addition to livestock of cows and hogs. Wrenna, meanwhile, poured her energies into a host of creative endeavors. She was an excellent cook and seamstress and decorated her home with flowers and a large variety of crafts. Her nieces and nephews remember that dinner at her home was an event, not only in the quality of the food, but in the beauty and color that she used in setting a table and decorating her home.
Mac was accused of being a compulsive counter and an exacting accountant. Debts were recorded to the penny and not forgotten. Whether he was counting acreage, rainfall, yields per acre-row-stalk, profits, losses, or man hours of labor, he was counting. He professed that he came by it naturally. His father was a counter. He remembered that his father used to measure the circumference of the wheel and then tie a ribbon around one of the spokes of a wheel on the buggy before they went anywhere. He would then count the number of rotations the wheel made from the beginning of the trip to their destination and divide by 5280 to get the mileage. On the way back he’d take a different route to determine which was the shortest distance. He had, in fact, his own odometer reading.
Around 1914 Mr. Hallie Bland from Sumter, the Ford Dealer and donor of
, came to the Dabbs home and demonstrated the Delco generator. It ran on kerosene but had to be started on a coke bottle filled with gasoline. It put out 32 volts of direct current that would operate lights and a water pump that meant they had indoor plumbing for a bathroom and water for a kitchen sink. At that time 97% of rural people had no electricity. The Dabbses were one of a few families that had lights and a pump. When the batteries went dead on the Delco, it would require hand cranking to get it going again. Once Mac hooked the belt of the Delco to his tractor to get the generator restarted. When the fuel went out in the tractor, the lights went out. When the Rural Electrification Administration brought electricity to everyone, Mac remembers gladly signing a contract for $7.50 per month for five years. Swan Lake Gardens
Wrenna was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and that, coupled with diabetes, began to limit her life in many ways. During the last ten years of her life she was bedridden and became dependent upon Martha Ann Prince for personal nursing and care of her home.
One half of that land he left to Mac with the stipulation that he would take care of his two sisters. Sophie and Elizabeth remained in the house with Mac and his family until 1937 when they built Road’s End-in-the-Pines with money that was received from sale of timber. In addition, Eugene W. Dabbs, Jr., also sold timber that year and renovated his home. Initially,
and Whitfield were very similar. During renovations, Whitfield was expanded by adding a second floor and columns. In contrast Fern Park was expanded in 1940 when a kitchen and dining room were added to the east side. Originally, one had to enter the back porch to go from the hallways to the dining room and kitchen, a nuisance in freezing weather. Fern Park
Major renovations to
were done in 1958 when all ceilings, except the original kitchen, were lowered from 12’ to 9’. The wall between the front hall and the original right bedroom was removed to make a living room measuring 16’ x 30’. The back hall was narrowed and added to the dining room to make it 16’ x 25’. Part of the back porch was enclosed to make it an office, maid’s room and utility room. Two chimneys were torn down; the one in back (the old dining room) and the one in the front hall. Two fireplaces were closed, leaving two open. The flue in the kitchen was torn down. A 20’ x 20’ porch was added on the east side next to the pool. Insulation was put in ceilings and side walls. Central heating and air conditioning were installed. One sleeping porch on the west side was enclosed with windows and the other was used to enlarge the bathroom between the two porches. Fern Park
In 1952 a swimming pool had been added on the side yard of
. Years earlier, Wrenna’s father had built a large mobile double T frame supporting four swings that would turn in a circle around a center pole. These two items became main attractions of entertainment and on many an afternoon family members, visiting relatives and friends would arrive to sit around the pool and swim. Lynda Dabbs would laugh that, on a hot day, Uncle Mac's would be the destination of children from Mayesville, as they would climb in cars and head there to swim and have a picnic lunch. As nephews and nieces grew into young adults, this was the location for bridal showers, rehearsal dinners and barbecues. The wedding would be at Fern Park . The picnic the night before was at Uncle Mac’s. Brick Church
Louise Dabbs Bevan recalls growing up and envying the clothes and money that Uncle Mac’s family had. Mac’s daughter, Martha, laughs and says she remembers asking for things and always being told, “It’s just not been a very good farm year, this year.” And yet, they did travel. Martha recalls wonderful family trips to
, DC, and a 6 week trek across country. In fact, picture albums are abundant with photos that are labeled from each of these vacations. In fact, picture albums are abundant with photos that are labeled from each of these vacations. New York, Washington
However, tragedy would haunt this good family and years that should have been filled with the joys of prosperity and watching grandchildren were too often interrupted by struggles with health issues and finances.
In 1976 Mac and Wrenna’s second son, John, tragically died an early death from pancreatic cancer. Other health problems continued to plague the family. Young Mac, Jr., suffered from bipolar disease and went through some very difficult times between 1960 and 1970. Supported by his amazing wife, Frances, they would finally find medication that helped to control the extreme mood swings. Martha, meanwhile, overcame a battle with alcohol to become a tremendous asset to the family and community. But there were years during Mac and Wrenna’s lives where Mac, Sr., struggling with his own depression, worried desperately about his family and the potential loss of his land.
Evelyn Dabbs recalls that Mac loved to go for car rides and it was frequently a daily car ride that would boost his spirits. For the last three years of his life every day at around 2 o’clock she would pick him up and they would drive. They’d start by going by a court house and picking up a county map and then each day Mac would sketch out a particular route through the back roads that he wanted to travel. During the course of three years they traveled every road in five counties. Getting out of the house and surveying the land seemed to relax him. He found a melody and rhythm in the predictability and beauty of the seasons. As always, music remained his comfort and companion and for 35 years he provided all of the music every Sunday at
. Brick Church
It is regretful that Mac did not live to see the outpouring of love and support for his children and the contributions they made to the community. In the end Mac would have been very proud of each of them.