Vallentines Gin & Store – Cope, South Carolina
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This general store and adjacent cotton gin in the Orangeburg County town of Cope have been operating since 1911. Established by J.I. Vallentine, the store and gin have been central to the town founded by Jacob Martin Cope in 1894.
The store and train depot have been the center of the town’s activities for more than a century, and people still flock to both 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, pictured above and below, until their deaths in the 1980s.
Since then, Robert’s daughter, Jo Helen Riley, has been minding the store, still drawing folks to ginning demonstrations and offering tours to travelers winding through the town’s country roads. Below, a cotton warehouse beside the gin boasts loyalty to the Clemson Tigers.
Incidentally, 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.
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.
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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.”
Vallentines Gin & Store Info
Address: 132 Cotton Avenue, Cope, SC 29038
GPS Coordinates: 33.378519,-81.006751
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