A chance encounter on a rice plantation marked the beginning of a love story that continues to impact residents of Conway.
Sarah Jane Beaty, the beautiful young daughter of John and Elizabeth Beaty, was weaving clothes for the family and their servants at the plantation home of William Alston near Murrells Inlet when a dashing young stranger approached the plantation home where she was visiting.
According to Harriet Stogner, writing in the Vol. 20, No. 4 edition of the Independent Republic Quarterly, the rest of the love story was told to Jane’s great-granddaughter, Mrs. Jeanne C. Miller, who related the following story.
“She (Jane) glanced up from her work and looking over the porch she saw a tall young man smiling as he raised his hat. Hesitating for a moment, he asked, “is this the residence of Colonel William Alston?’ Jane replied that it was, but that he was away on a hunting trip.’”
The young man, Joshua S. Norman, said he had walked for miles and Jane kindly asked him to be seated and rest. During the ensuing conversation, Norman mentioned that during his travels he had visited a small village of Conwayborough.
“Why,” she exclaimed, “that is my home. My mother and maid come here with me every year while I visit the plantations and weave.”
Norman said he was retracing his steps and would stop again in Conwaybororough. He asked Jane for a letter of introduction to her father.
Jane spoke almost disdainfully, saying “How can I introduce someone I do not know, not even by his name.”
Nevertheless, she informed Norman that he could travel to Conwayborough on a flat boat and gave directions to her father’s home on Kingston Lake.
Norman followed Jane’s advice and a few days later he was walking down a long driveway bordered with elm trees, ending at a beautiful large house on the banks of Kingston Lake, surrounded by large oak trees covered with the long gray moss almost reaching to the ground.
Col. Beaty greeted Norman with dignified caution but grew interested in the young man as they talked and walked about the property.
Col. Beaty asked Norman how long he would be in Conwayborough.
“Well sire, I would like to remain until your wife and charming daughter, whom I met in Georgetown, return. And with your privilege, I would like to meet her again.”
The colonel immediately became hospitable.
The two men returned from a tour of local farms in time to see Mrs. Beaty and Jane alight from the family coach.
As Jane met them, she called out to Joshua, “So you have introduced yourself to my father? I hope he will in turn tell us your name.”
“This was the beginning of the happiest days for the homeless and lonely young man,” wrote Mrs. Stogner. “A beautiful love grew between them as they spent their time swimming and fishing in the lake.”
After marrying in 1811, John and Jane Norman became prominent citizens of Conwayborough
Aunt Jane, as she was affectionately called, ran a hotel in Conway. It stood where the Jerry Cox Company operated on Main Street for many years.
Her hotel became a gathering place for young people of the village and it is believed that many happy marriages began with a shy flirtation in her parlor.
“She was very strict with the affairs of her hotel, however, because the doors were locked at midnight and no one was admitted after this hour, unless a necessity,” wrote Mrs. Stogner.
Jan is credited with helping to raise funds for the Methodist church on Conway. A group of women meeting in her home in 1828 passed a bowl around to collect money.
She gave a corner of her property for the building and the first church was completed in 1845. She also gave the land on which Kingston Presbyterian Church was built in 1858.
Jane died in 1881 at age 90.
Her grave in the churchyard is marked by a unique urn that reads “Grandma.”
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