AIKEN - John William Osteen Jr., 91, beloved husband of the late Essie Geddings Osteen, who passed away in 2009, entered into rest on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, at Shadow Oaks Assisted Living Facility.
The funeral will be held at 1 p.m. on Thursday at Shellhouse-Rivers Funeral Home, 715 Pine Log Road, Aiken, with the Rev. Dr. Tim McClendon officiating. Burial will be at Aiken Memorial Gardens. Visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. today at Shellhouse-Rivers Funeral Home.
John was preceded in death by his parents, John W. Osteen Sr. and Bertha Johnson Osteen; and a sister, Sara Osteen Geddings.
He is survived by a sister, Lucille Osteen Clark; four sons, John William Osteen III (Frances), David Vernon Osteen (Audrey), Ronald Stephen Osteen (Connie) and Richard Eugene Osteen (Kay); seven grandchildren, John William Osteen IV, Stephanie Nicole Osteen Lord (Rocky), Rebecca Diane Osteen, Karyn Elizabeth Osteen Parker (Ben), Thomas Michael Osteen (Amber), Matthew Vernon Osteen and Kathryn Rose Osteen Kelley (Will); six great-grandchildren, Owen James Osteen, Benton Thomas Osteen, Sawyer Rocky Lord, Abel Lawrence Lord, Izabella Mariya'lynn Mitchem and Triston Michael Osteen; and a special friend, Annie Gunter.
John's early life was shaped by being raised on a small farm in rural Sumter County near Pinewood. His father died when John was 5, changing his life forever when he, his mother and two sisters moved in with his maternal grandparents and aunts and uncles. He was surrounded by the love and affection of a large family and learned a strong work ethic through life on the farm. He learned to plow with a mule at the age of 9 and developed a love of the outdoors during his youth. John continued that love all of his life through hunting and fishing.
He left the farm when he was 22 and married the love of his life, Essie Geddings. They were married just a few weeks shy of 60 years before Essie passed away. After moving from the farm, John began a 39-year career in the textile industry, ending as a textile printer at Clearwater Finishing Plant in Aiken County.
Upon his retirement, he returned to the outdoors, trotline fishing for catfish on Lake Marion for 18 years. With his lifelong love of the outdoors, John had grown up with dogs and hunted with them. He developed an interest in beagles, hunted them in field trials and bred them for more than 40 years.
John was a marvelous storyteller and would regale friends, family and anyone else who would listen with stories of his childhood and being reared on a farm in rural South Carolina. His storytelling led to a calling to discover his ancestors and the history of growing up in the early 20th century rural South. This journey resulted in developing a family tree with thousands of members and, ultimately, in writing a book, "The History of Pinewood South Carolina and its People."
Along that journey of discovery, in 1976 he began to build a log cabin on the back of his property in Couchton. The effort developed into a living history of late-19th and early 20th-century life. Over time, his efforts included a barn, a privy, a chicken coop, a sugar cane mill, a syrup cooker, a one-room schoolhouse, a smokehouse and a Confederate museum. He also collected tools and artifacts with which to round out the display that was a representation of life during those times.
John was not content to build and collect those items, he shared them with the community. Starting in the early 1980s, he held an open house in November to share his knowledge of that time with visitors while his wife Essie would cook biscuits, small sweet potatoes and fried fatback for guests to sample. This open house was a highlight every year for John, because sharing the information with others was a passion.
He was an avid genealogical researcher and loved delving into his ancestors and family tree. Before the advent of computers, he traced the Osteen line back seven generations to Henry Osteen, born in 1700 in eastern North Carolina, and the Johnson line back four generations to Arthur Pittman Johnston, born in 1783, in South Hampton County, Virginia. He and Essie spent countless hours in libraries, courthouses and cemeteries, discovering old relatives and connections to his past, documenting it with a family tree containing more than 2,600 names.
Upon leaving his home and going to assisted living at Shadow Oaks in Aiken in 2017, he donated the log cabin and the one-room schoolhouse to the Sons of Confederate Veterans Brigadier General Barnard E. Bee Camp No. 1575. The structures were moved to the reenactment site for the Battle of Aiken, allowing the cabin and schoolhouse to be viewed by the public each year during that event. That will allow John's love for sharing knowledge of history to continue for years to come.
John was a lifetime member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) and was a member of the General Joe Wheeler Camp No. 1245. He qualified for membership in SCV as a grandson of Confederate veteran Pvt. William David Osteen, who served in Company H, 5th South Carolina Cavalry, Confederate States of America.
John was a long-time member of Millbrook Baptist Church.
Memorials may be made in remembrance of John William Osteen Jr. to the Aiken County Historical Society, P.O. Box 1775, Aiken, SC 29802.
Shellhouse - Rivers Funeral Home, 715 E. Pine Log Road, Aiken, is in charge of arrangements.
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