Remembering Barnwell’s Lamplighter, ‘Miss Martha’

  • Nell Creech and Kathy Smoak, secretaries to county officers, are shown above purchasing “a snack” from Mrs. Martha Martin’s stand located in the county office building in Barnwell.”Miss Martha”, as she was affectionally known, operated a stand at this location for a number of years. She was totally blind.

The year was 1999 when I received a phone call from Reverend Posey Belcher; he asked a favor of me. It seems as if Posey was spearheading the celebration of Barnwell’s bicentennial in 2000, and he needed someone to furnish this newspaper with one article per month for that particular year.

Try as I may, I couldn’t help but accommodate my friend. You see, Posey was a Baptist minister, and he had buried most of the members of our Holland family; we were all Methodist. So, Posey had made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Then I called on our friend Bob Moore of Snelling/Columbia to help me with an idea. Without blinking an eye, Bobby and I were on the same team!

At this point, we will lean heavily on the article appearing in the Augusta Chronicle in the early 1960s. This affords us the only picture available of Bobby’s choice for Barnwell’s friendliest, “Miss Martha” Moore Martin.

Here lies her story.

According to “Miss Martha”, when you have lived with partial blindless for an entire lifetime, then total blindless isn’t too hard to contend with.

Dodging untold despair, this lady sought help from the South Carolina Division for the Blind. Through their training program, our friend was duly prepared and encouraged to become self-sufficient. It was decided that this Barnwell native would open a concession stand inside the Barnwell County Courthouse. The location was perfect: at the foot of the stairs. Possessing a feeling of self worth, she was now in business!

What about handling money?

Miss Martha stated, ”I have learned to recognize the feel of different coins. The only thing that would give me trouble is paper money. I made a policy of not accepting anything larger than a one dollar bill unless it is from someone I know.”

The cost of snack items were no higher or lower than elsewhere around Barnwell. The proprietor wouldn’t hear of such!

Yet, here was a popular gathering place for courthouse employees where friendships were birthed and up-to-date local news was reported promptly’. In today’s world, we would go “hang out” at the base of the courthouse steps with our co-workers, our friends!

And so, in celebrating Barnwell’s bicentinnel in 2000, “Miss Martha” Moore Martin was selected as “one of Barnwell’s friendliest”.

Bob Moore wrote of “Miss Martha”: “Everybody in town knew her special voice, and the mention of her name always brought a smile to the faces of people. To everyone that she touched, she lighted a lamp that immediately allowed one to see good in their being.”

“She never complained, and she never belonged to the blame industry. She was glad to be alive; she was glad you were, too. She treated everyone the same for there were no preferences in her world, everyone was simply a child of god.

While you saw her everywhere in town - the courthouse where she worked, her home where she lived on Main Street, and her church where she worshipped - she never saw you. She was blind. Nobody living in Barnwell in those days will ever forget the name of Martha Moore Martin.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all towns today had lamplighters like “Miss Martha”?