Thomas Wannamaker grave stone

Thomas Wannamaker Salisbury was born October 26, 1877, in Lebanon, South Carolina, near Ridgeville.  His story is one of rags to riches in Summerville, South Carolina. 

His dad, Thomas Wannamaker Salisbury, was born in Lebanon, South Carolina on February 6, 1836.  He grew to be 6 feet tall.  In 1861 he married Martha D. Blanton, also from Lebanon.  He had a dark complexion, dark hair, and hazel eyes.  1861 was also the year the war started between the states.  On March 20, 1862 Salisbury, then 25, enlisted in the Confederate Army at Charleston, South Carolina.  Thomas was then assigned to the regiment’s horse infirmary camp at Lancaster, South Carolina on December 8, 1864.  He deserted to the enemy at Charleston on February 18, 1865 and was paroled March 10, 1865.  After the war, Thomas went back to farming in Lebanon. 

Thomas and Martha had several children.  Their second son, named after his dad, was born October 26, 1877.  At the time of his death Thomas’s dad was laid to rest in the Blanton Family Cemetery in Lebanon, SC. 

Thomas was born on camp meeting Sunday.  Once a year, five Methodist Churches come together and have a week long camp meeting in the community of Lebanon.  The Methodist Camp Ground dates back to 1794

Cypress Methodist Campground - "Tents"

 and is one of the oldest in South Carolina.  Francis Asbury (1745-1816) a circuit rider and the first Methodist bishop in America, preached here in 1794, 1799, 1801, and twice in 1803.  The camp ground is supported by five local communities: Givhans, Lebanon, New Hope, Ridgeville, and Zion.  This camp ground is in session the week ending the fourth Sunday in October and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.  The Salisbury families were strong Methodists.  “Tents” or rough-hewn cabins form a rectangle around the “tabernacle,” the open-sided shelter where services are held.  The Methodist Camp

Tabernacle at Cypress Methodist Campground

 Ground still continues today. 

Thomas learned farming from his father.  He was a hard-working young man and a good learner.  It was back in the time when it took a lot of money to travel away to school, so Thomas never went to school but worked with his dad in the fields.  It was in the 1890s that Thomas talked to his dad about working in Summerville.  His dad said okay.  Thomas walked the 12 miles to Summerville.  He would stay the week, but on the weekends walk back to Lebanon.  He rented a room in Summerville for a dollar a week.  Humorously, he told people later, that one night he got extra work unloading a car load of slabs and earned a dollar, so he didn’t have to pay rent that week. 

Thomas found a job in the brick yard and worked 12 hours a day.  He worked for 60 cents a day, or five cents an hour. His dad had taught Thomas that he was no better than anyone else, and anyone else was no better than him.  He soon began stroking the furnaces to dry the brick, learned how to lay track and operate the locomotive and was then advanced to one dollar a day.  Industrious, he engaged in agriculture for a while.  He became part owner of a farm, which prospered for a while.  For safety in this pursuit, he engaged in buying and selling cattle, hauling slabs, and in the operation of a saw mill.  It was while in the slab-hauling business that the opportunity presented itself to buy the brick works.  So, instead of working at the brick works, he now owned it. 

Thomas met and fell in love with Fanny Lillian Varner.  He asked Fanny to marry him, and she said yes, changing her name to Fanny Lillian Salisbury.

Thaddeus Stanland was a confederate veteran who came to Summerville in 1881, with his wife Sarah.  Thaddeus bought large tracts of land to establish his lumber business.  He built the house at 130 W. 1st North St., presently

Parks Funeral Home - Salisbury's home until 1940

Parks Funeral Home. He built his house from the finest timber, using wide, square trees as columns to tower from foundation to roof, and to run the length of the house.  The huge beams were supposedly dragged from the mill to the construction site by oxen and mules that were then used to help pull them into place.  The house was painstakingly designed with each piece of lumber being cleverly numbered to ensure proper placement.  At the time of Thaddeus Stanland’s death in 1908, he left the home to his wife Sarah, and his daughter Ruth.

In 1912 Thomas W. Salisbury purchased the house for $2800.00.  Thomas and his wife Fanny Lillian raised their family there.  Their sons, Evans, Meders and Wannamaker, along with their daughters, Fanny, Lila and Martha were raised in the house.  Fanny, their daughter, was married in the house and at the time of her death the same parlor was used for her family visitation.

Thomas’s business had made the word brick, synonymous with Salisbury. On any given day, a fleet of trucks were constantly delivering brick all over South Carolina.  For starting off with no money, Thomas W. Salisbury said his success was a “bunch of determination and hard work.”

 The year 1927 brought sorrow to the Salisbury family.  On June 20, 1927, Fanny Lillian Salisbury died at 46 years of age.  At the time of her death, Thomas was 49 years old.  For the next 13 years, he would live the single lifestyle.  During that time he moved two of his sons, T.W. Jr. and Medder into the operation of the brick company. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Salisbury had turned his talents in other directions.  He bought and sold real estate in Dorchester County.  At one time he owned more land than anyone else, except the utility companies.  Back when Mr. Salisbury owned the dairy farm, he would use a wagon to deliver milk to Summerville, including the Pine Forest Inn.  He said, some day he was going to own the Inn.  In the 1930s, he bought the Pine Forest Inn.  It was at a time when tourists were starting to go to Florida and the golden age of Summerville was coming to a close.  Mr. Salisbury tried many different things to keep the Inn afloat.  He even tried the “Summerville Adventure School.”  But alas, in the 1940s, the Pine Forest Inn was torn down.  Thomas Salisbury had the building taken apart board by board so people could not say he had burned it down for the insurance money, which was a common practice of that day.

 In 1940, Thomas W. Salisbury became ill.  He hired a 30year old woman, Miss Marie Jahnz, to come in and take care of him.  Over a short time, Thomas got better.  In fact by 1941 he asked Marie Jahnz to marry him.  Marie was born on November 23, 1910.  She did marry Thomas and her last name did change to Marie Jahnz Salisbury.  At the time she was 31 years old.  She gave birth to their first child a son, on December 1, 1941.  They named him Thomas Jahnz Salisbury, but everyone called him Tommy.  His sister, Marie Louise Salisbury, was born 10 years later in 1951.  Thomas W. Salisbury called his daughter Honey, because of the natural color of her hair. 

"Monticello"

In 1941, Thomas W. Salisbury was doing well with his businesses.  While talking one day to his wife Marie, she mentioned how much she liked Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello.  She said she would like one like that.  Thomas got busy and designed a house like Monticello.  He built the

Pond beside "Monticello" replica

house on Marion Avenue here in Summerville.  Marie loved the house and land.  It was only about a stone’s throw from the Pine Forest Inn.  The house looks the same as Monticello, only the top was put on the side as a sunroom.  On the left side of the house you’ll see a pond, with an island in the middle of it.  He stocked the pond with fish and you’ll see ducks swimming on the water.  On the island, you will see camellia and azalea bushes.  Many rare varieties could be found on the estate, which was constantly being augmented by grafting and rooting.  The house became a home, as Tommy and Honey were born and moved in. 

When the Pine Forest Inn was torn down, there were thousands of azalea bushes on the grounds.  Mr. Salisbury had them dug up and planted all over Summerville.  Mr. Salisbury took an active interest in sports, particularly baseball and football.  He was one of Summerville High School teams’ most enthusiastic supporters.  He described his present physical condition to hard work, and the fact that he has never used tobacco or alcoholic beverages in any form.  Mr. Salisbury also confined his used of expletives to one.  His favorite form of condemnation of anything was, “jackass”, which can be quite powerful when he would put his heart into it.

Through the years, all of Honey’s brothers and sisters have died.  Honey still has memories of riding on her father’s shoulders and watching as her dad gave out money from his Social Security check to needy folks in Summerville.

 “The Summerville Scene” newspaper, only costing seven cents, ran this article on Thursday, December 17, 1959, vol.14 #29.

                                “Thomas Wannamaker Salisbury Dies At Home Here”

Thomas Wannamaker Salisbury, 82, died at his home Saturday night.  He had been sick for two weeks and had been in a hospital in Charleston until just before his death.

Thomas Wannamaker Salisbury was born in Berkeley County, October 26, 1877, a son of Thomas Wannamaker Salisbury and Mrs. Martha D. Blanton Salisbury.

In recent years, his main activity was the cultivation of Camellias.  He received a thank you note from Pres. Eisenhower for a gift of “Salisbury Camellias.”

His first wife, Fanny William Varner died in 1927.Honey never realized that her dad could not read or write, until after his death.  She was informed at that time that her dad would sign legal documents with an X for his signature. Marie Jahnz Salisbury lived after her husband’s death to later marry a gentleman with the last name of Rivers. Marie died February 5, 1975 and was buried at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Summerville.

Thomas Wannamaker Salisbury, a rag to riches story about a man who first of all, loved his family and secondly, gave to needy people.  What a great role model for us to follow today.

Marie Jahnz Salisbury Rivers grave stone

Written by Mark Woodard

Research sources:

  • Marie Burrell interview.
  • T.W. Salisbury Dies at Home Here. Summerville Scene newspaper December 17, 1959
  • US Census, 1900
  • Historical sign #1814 Cypress Methodist Camp Grounds
  • Summerville Journal Scene. Thomas W. Salisbury Climbed Success Ladder the Hard Way. P.L. Neland. January 20, 1947
  • McIntosh, Beth. Beth’s Pineland Village. The R.L. Bryan Company, Columbia, SC (1988)