‘A Country Girl from Colleton County’
by The Press and Standard | October 4, 2019 5:00 am
Last Updated: October 2, 2019 at 3:26 pm
“Moma always said she was just a country girl from Colleton County. She was that, but so much more.”
Edna Lee Padgett England loved to read and loved to tell stories. Bryan England spent the last year telling his mom’s stories in a book, “A Country Girl from Colleton County.”
“Mom would tell us a lot of stories. She loved to talk, she loved to write, she loved to read,” England said. And she lived a long time — almost 98 years.
At her funeral in 2011, people kept coming up to England and telling him “You know, you ought to write about your mom’s stories.”
“I just kind of put it in the back of my mind. I’d never written anything before so I envisioned maybe writing a paper I could just pass around in the family,” he said.
Then England’s life changed. About 18 months ago, he had a “widow-maker” heart attack. “I don’t remember anything about it now,” he said. “But I drove 12 miles to the emergency room while in shock and got there a minute before I died. I died twice for four minutes — if you do five minutes, you don’t come back.”
But he did come back, with a different outlook on life. He’s slowed down, taking time to enjoy the small things. And “I remembered I was supposed to do something, and I decided to write the book about my mom.” He got up the next morning and started writing. It took him six weeks, writing down the stories about his mother and other family and friends in longhand on paper.
What he ended up with, he laughed, was a mess. The handwritten book had arrows and notes in the margins. He asked three people to help him convert it into a readable form, and they all refused. Then he found a woman, Linda Ketron, that he had known through his job (before he retired) as dean at Georgetown-Horry Technical College. She agreed to help. In just five days, she typed up his first draft. Then she sent it to a publisher.
The result is a hardbound book featuring a picture of his mother sitting on a mule on the cover: “A Country Girl from Colleton County: Remembrances of Edna Lee Padgett England” by Bryan B. England Jr.
In addition to the stories — ranging from his mother’s childhood in Walterboro to England’s younger years in Bamberg to memories told to him of grandparents from the Civil War — the book features numerous photos of England’s ancestors and current family members.
England said he’s given many copies to family members and friends, and sold a few. He had his first book signing at Litchfield.
“But I particularly wanted to get back to Colleton County and to Walterboro, because that was where my mother’s roots are.”
He will have a book signing on Tuesday Oct. 15 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Colleton County Memorial Library, which he gave a copy of his book.
He also plans to speak at the Colleton Genealogy Society in November, and hopes to have the books for sale at Hiott’s Pharmacy, The Colleton Museum and the S.C. Artisans Center.
“There’re a lot of emotions in this for me. I cried several times while I was doing this. But I did it for my grandkids. I did it because I died and I came back and they said I should. I did it because I’d like to make her smile.
“But the last thing I thought was I did it because she deserved to have it done.
“She was a good parent and she deserved it. That’s why I did it.”
About Edna Lee Padgett
Edna Lee Padgett was born November 6, 1913 on Mt. Carmel Road in Colleton County, the third child and first girl of Benjamin and Idalee Padgett.
Her father had a small farm and all the children were required to work in the field. When she was about eight, she told her father she could not take the heat in the fields. He said OK, but she would have to go home and help cook for the family. “Believe me … she never stopped cooking until she was past ninety, and she still wanted to then.”
She attended a one-room county schoolhouse, walking or riding in a wagon the several miles to school. She then attended Walterboro High School in town and completed one year at Winthrop College before the Depression hit and she had to come home. When she was 23, she met and married Bryan Benson England Sr. at her family’s home in Padgett Town. The newlyweds then moved to Bamberg where the England family had a farm. They had two children: Ann and Bryan.
“It was a time of smoke houses, wells, mules, country store, chickens in the yard, tin tubs and people talking to one another. A time before indoor toilets, showers, television and of course, computers.”
Eventually, the family moved into Bamberg. Edna lived in the same house (which Bryan still owns) for 60 years. After she retired, she decided to stay in Bamberg, rather than moving back to Walterboro, one day when she came home and saw a rainbow over the back yard. “She said when she saw it, she knew she was supposed to stay.”
Edna died September 14, 2011, after surgery to repair a hip broken in a fall. She was 97.
An excerpt from the book
One story kind of sums up my mom for me. I remember a hot July day when I was about 10. Mother and Dad had their lunch hour from 12-1. I remember Dad’s car coming in the driveway with Moma beside him. She got out and went straight to a very hot kitchen, where she started frying chicken with rice and gravy, string beans, corn, deviled eggs, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, slaw, biscuits, cucumbers in vinegar, sliced tomatoes pears with mayonnaise and cheese on top, and who knows what else. She put it all on the table and took one sip of tea and then said, “Oh my goodness, it’s time for me to go back to work.” I remember thinking, here she has cooked all this food, and she only got a sip of tea. She didn’t do this once but hundreds of times. This was my mom. She was just so committed to our family.