UNION — A railroad depot built by the man who brought the Industrial Revolution to Union County is the setting for a play about life in Union County in the first decade of the 20th century.
For most of its existence, Union County was agrarian and rural, a state of affairs that persisted into the late 19th century. All that began to change when local businessman TC Duncan gathered together a group of like-minded local businessmen and brought the textile industry to Union County. In the years that followed, Union County began to industrialize and urbanize, its factories and municipalities growing as a result of the efforts of Duncan and the group he lead.
In addition to building factories, Duncan and his group also built the communities that would house the workers for those factories. They also built railroads to serve the factories and communities they built, railroads that would bring in workers to work in those factories and to live in those communities.
The railroads began and ended with the depots in the communities they served and one of those depots is the setting for Boogaloo Folk Life Productions’ latest play, “Chance Connections: Flags, Trains, Snakes, Cotton Mills.” The play will be performed this Friday and Saturday and June 24 and 25 at 7 p.m. each evening in the USC Union Auditorium.
Written by Dr. Dan O’Shields with original songs by David Leigh, the play is directed by Kathy Stepp who also serves as chairman of Boogaloo Folklife Productions. Stepp discussed the play which she said is a fictionalized but historically accurate telling of the stories of the events and people depicted.
“It takes place at the Union-Buffalo Depot on July 4, 1907,” Stepp said. “The depot was what Mr. TC Duncan built to transport goods and workers between the two mills.
“There are several stories, one of which is about George Jeter’s search for her long-lost sister,” she said. “There’s a story about families coming in from the mountains to work in the mills.”
Stepp said the story about the families who were brought by Duncan from the mountains of the Carolinas seeks to convey how their lives were changed by this. She pointed out that where they had been “living off the land” in their native mountains they would now have jobs in the factories and have homes in the towns and describing the change in their lives as “a big adventure for them.”
The play doesn’t hesitate, however, to look at the downsides of life in the industrializing and urbanizing Union County of 1907. Stepp said one of the stories in the play is about a payroll robbery while another is about a pair of con men seeking to swindle the families coming from the mountains to go to work in the mills.
While the play is an original work, Stepp said that it based on the history of the era.
“Most of the stories are historically based,” Stepp said. “Not one hundred percent true, but historically based.”
Stepp said that though the stories take place at the same location, they are told separately throughout most of the play but come together at the end. She said there will also be a surprise guest at the end.
Wine and cheese will be served at Friday’s opening performance and because of that admission is $15. Admission for the rest of the performances will be $10.
Tickets for the play are available at Something Special, the Union County Arts Council, and from cast members.
Stepp thanked USC Union for allowing Boogaloo to use the auditorium for the performance of Chance Connections and she invited the public to attend.
“We want to thank USC Union for letting use their auditorium,” Stepp said. “We’d like to invite everyone to attend and enjoy Chance Connections.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.