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McLeod Farms in McBee has been in existence for a little over 100 years. It consists of thousands of acres of fruit and vegetable fields.

Although it is famous for its peaches and strawberries, many other products are grown over all the seasons of the year. But the hidden gem at McLeod Farms is its museum. One can find 26 vintage restored cars and pickup trucks there, over 20 farm tractors, many farm implements and numerous nostalgic household and tool collectibles there.

The museum at McLeod Farms is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. -- and there is no admission charge to visit this outstanding museum. A curator is always present to help answer any questions that visitors might have.

McLeod Farms’ third-generation owner, Campbell McLeod, had collected many farm implements and old household collectibles over the years. About 25 or 30 years ago, he decided to open a museum next to the McLeod Farms Market where hundreds of thousands of people stop by each year to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as many side items. This store is especially bustling during the strawberry and peach seasons. The collections at the museum began to multiply, and after a few years, the building had to be doubled in size. A snack bar and restaurant soon followed the explosion in popularity of the McLeod Farms Market too.

Cars

Campbell McLeod collected 26 old cars and trucks over the years for this fantastic museum. The display includes one or more vehicles from every decade since automobiles came into being.

There are several prize cars in this fine collection. A shiny blue 1930 Lincoln was restored by a company in Lancaster County that specializes in restoring old cars. This particular car had to be built from two cars to obtain enough good parts and body sections. The rear seat area in this Lincoln is so large that there are two rows of seats facing each other there.

A black 1931 four-door Chevrolet is in pristine condition. It has been driven fewer than 100 miles over its lifetime. For most of its life, it was stored in a garage at a Columbia funeral home. In 1976, this outstanding car won the Antique Car Club of America’s first prize for its restoration.

A 1955 Chevrolet in the museum was a show car and is equipped with a 327-cubic-inch Corvette engine.

Also in the collection is a 1920 McLaughlin manufactured in Canada. While four-cylinder engines were standard in that era, this particular car had a six-cylinder engine, thus giving it tremendously more power over other car makes.

Other outstanding cars on display are two Model T Fords; several Model A Fords, of which one is a Roadster; a 1930 Ford pickup; a 1945 Army Jeep, Campbell’s brother’s Oldsmobile; a Hudson; and even Campbell’s own Chevrolet pickup that was placed in the collection after his death in 2008.

Household, business items

About half of the McLeod Farms Museum contains a plethora of household, business and tool items. Several old-timey four-legged washing machines are on display. Back in the days when no electricity was available in the outlying areas, gasoline-powered washing machines were in use. Upon electrification reaching these areas in the 1920s and 1930s, the gasoline engines were replaced with electric motors. Also before electrification, there were levers that had to be pumped by hand by pushing a long handle back and forth to create suction for a primitive vacuum cleaner. There is even one of these on display.

Other items in the museum collection are: old Singer sewing machines, old Victrolas to play the 78-rpm records, an old manual ice box with a compartment in the top to place a large block of ice, old toasters that had to sit on top of a wood-burning stove to work, several potbelly stoves, a wide Hotpoint roller to iron sheets, as well as several flat irons that had to be put on a stove to warm up. A special separate handle snapped onto these irons, and when one lost its heat, the handle would be unsnapped, and then snapped onto another hot flat iron to continue.

Also on display are an old telephone operator’s plug-in switchboard, an assortment of old churns, a spinning wheel, and a loom that is supplied by many cotton spindles, many hand tools from bygone times, women’s hair curlers which each curler was individually hooked up an electrical cord for a ladies’ hair-do, old produce- and meat-weighing scales from grocery stores, a barber chair with a child’s booster platform, an old dental chair, and even an old liquor still.

Many old tools dot the walls as well as old two-man logging saws. Farm tools also add to the collection. Also mounted on the walls are old shotguns and swords from a bygone era.

Regarding music, there is an old foot pump organ and early large radios that were housed in large furniture pieces. Old bellows cameras are on display as well as old home movie cameras that had three lenses that could be rotated for the various telescopic needs.

Regarding glass, there is a display case with old Coke, Pepsi and Mountain Dew bottles from years past with their old logos. Back in the era of the late 1890s and early 1900s, the state of South Carolina administered the dispensary system and was the only authorized source to sell liquor. Many old dispensary bottles of varying sizes and shapes line the display case.

The museum collection includes many porcelain dolls called “brides’ dolls” and are dressed in period clothing from many countries. Several horse-drawn carriages are on display -- from large ones to a small two-person carriage called a “doctor’s carriage” for house calls or also a “courtin’ carriage” which gentlemen would use to woo their intended-to-be.

Along the walls of the museum are many artwork features. Also adorning the walls are old gasoline station signs for Gulf, Texaco, Pure Oil and Gasoline and Quaker Oil.

Also featured is an array of old mechanical cash registers from various farm supply stores, grocery stores and department stores. Some of these were even made of brass.

Farm tractor, implement section

Under the outside covered area, there are about 25 vintage tractors on display. One is a 1920s steel-wheel John Deere tractor. Prominent brands of tractors on display include John Deere, Avery, Fordson and International. Additionally, many farm implements are in the collection. Among these are mule- and horse-drawn plows and planters, hay balers, and hand-operated cotton and corn planters that when pushed into the soil released both the seeds and some moisture to help them survive.

Summary

McLeod Farms is now owned by the fourth-generation family member, Kemp McLeod, who oversees the thousands of acres of fields, the retail market and the Farm Museum. His sister operates the restaurant and the old-timey meat market on the premises.

McLeod Farms also has an Orangeburg connection. The food safety director and product inventory manager is Diana Dibble Todd from Orangeburg. She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Dibble of Orangeburg and has been employed there for over eight years. Diana’s father and grandfather directed the destiny of Orangeburg’s beautiful Edisto Memorial Gardens for over 45 years while serving as superintendent of parks here.

All in all, visiting the McLeod Farms Museum in McBee can provide an exhilarating experience in educating everyone on how far progress and mechanization has come over the last 100-plus years. Definitely a two-thumbs-up experience!

And don’t forget to stock up on the strawberries and peaches in season, plus the homemade breads and fresh vegetables, not to mention having peach cobbler topped with ice cream at the snack bar. Even the restaurant and old-timey meat market there are superb pleasures. Going to McLeod Farms is certainly an outstanding road trip experience.

Peaches are in season now until early September.

Retired Orangeburg dentist Dr. Gene Atkinson is a noted local historian and author.

This article originally ran on thetandd.com.

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