She can't go home again

Ellenton native will recount story


Oh, the friends we know and love,

We'll meet upon some other shore,

For Ellenton - fair Ellenton

Is gone forever more.

- from the song: "The Death of Ellenton" by Jesse Johnson and Dixie Smith

Ellenton, South Carolina, was a small but incorporated town where Lillian Beard Moore spent her first nine years. On Nov. 28, 1950, the day after her ninth birthday, the town's 760 residents received word that they had less than two years to move out - the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and the E.I. du Pont de Nemours Co. had selected about 300 square miles in Aiken, Allendale and Barnwell counties for the construction of the Savannah River Plant.

The decision was made as the Cold War was escalating and threats from the Soviet Union were seen as very serious; the plant, or Savannah River Site as it is now known, would manufacture plutonium and tritium, needed to make the H-bomb. Ellenton has the distinction of having been the only incorporated town taken over by the U.S. government in order to protect the U.S. and its citizens.

At 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 17, Moore will share the story of Ellenton in a presentation to Sumter County Genealogical Society at Swan Lake Presbyterian Church, 912 Haynsworth St.

She emphasizes that her memories "are those of a child who observed 'grown-up' reactions," but she has done research and talked with friends and relatives about the exodus and its aftermath.

"We had 18 months to leave," Moore said, adding that for her family it was not as traumatic as for the wealthy homeowners who had lived in Ellenton for generations and lost their ancestral homes. Her family went to Jackson, a town that was about two miles from the border of the site.

"God was with us the whole way," she said.

"My parents were young, young enough to see it as an opportunity. My father got a job at SRS; that alone gave us the opportunity to build our very own house for the first time."

After the town had been vacated and buildings had been moved or condemned, little was left beyond the paved streets and driveways.

Moore said her talk for the society will deal with "how the Army affected our lives, how I had to assimilate to the new lifestyle in Jackson."

She recalls how she had no concerns about the so-called "bomb plant" until near the end of the evacuation, when she had some nightmares, most about fear of the bomb.

"That's the only time I remember any fear," Moore said.

The town of New Ellenton was built to take the place of Ellenton, and reunions of former Ellenton residents have been held there for more than 40 years. Moore has been to several reunions and has met several old friends there, she said, and hopes to go to more.

"Memories came back when I saw faces in old photographs," she said, adding that a cousin, who had also lived in Ellenton, has been very instrumental in her research.

While she can never really go back to her childhood home as it was, she has been back to the site.

"Going back to Ellenton's Main Street a few years back gave me the most eerie feeling," Moore said. "We saw mostly curbs, steps going up to the yards of where some of the beautiful, ancestral homes were."

Mostly, Moore recalls that she was "a happy child."

And while the people of Ellenton generally were glad they could make the "patriotic sacrifice," as many saw their evacuation, Moore said, "There was heartbreak, too. It was such a unique place."

Lillian Beard Moore is married to Sam Moore of Dalzell, where they have lived since 1971. They have three adult daughters. She served as a substitute at Thomas Sumter Academy for several years, then joined a Sumter law firm, from which she retired in 2007.

The public is invited to the 7:30 p.m. April 17 meeting of the Sumter County Genealogical Society to hear Lillian Beard Moore's presentation titled "From the Beginning to the End," the story of her hometown, Ellenton. Admission is free to the meeting at Swan Lake Presbyterian Church on the corner of Haynsworth Street and Bland Avenue. For more information, call (803) 774-3901.