Those of us who know the historic John de la Howe campus and love its bucolic setting are understandably upset when someone, who really doesn’t know our story, says, “I drove by your school some years ago. You are in the middle of nowhere.”
I would like to suggest that the “middle of nowhere” is in the eye of the beholder.
Established in 1797 when much of America was in the “middle of nowhere,” John de la Howe largely has remained a working farm surrounded by pristine forests. Nestled in the heart of the Sumter National Forest, JDLH comprises more than 1,300 acres, including pastures and large tracts of timber. Some of our property is on the Little River that feeds into Lake Thurmond.
The tomb area where the namesake for our state agency is buried rests on more than 160 acres of protected land and must be left in its natural state. A stand of “Old Growth Forest” has been protected from fire and logging since 1797 and is one of the best remaining examples of this forest type in the Piedmont region of South Carolina. Our forest is listed as a National Natural Landmark and is in the original tract of land purchased by Dr. de la Howe in the late 1700s.
The campus area, where students from throughout the state live and study, is on another 117 acres surrounded by woods and pastures.
The building where my office is located is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and birds are chirping outside my window as I write. When I drive to and from work, I pass by dozens of goats and their kids, as well as cows and calves. Down a winding road, we have chickens, and across another winding road are more barns where pigs and their babies born in the past couple of months make their home. The grass is so green that you want to take off your shoes and run barefoot, and sometimes I believe that the sky above surely was created by an artist with the most vivid blue paints!
It is spring at historic John de la Howe where azaleas are bursting with exotic colors, bees are buzzing, butterflies are flitting from bloom to bloom, and wild dogwood blossoms add a punch of white to the woods that are becoming green after a cold winter. The serenity that envelopes our campus is the sort that people pay large sums of money to find.
I am beyond fortunate that my drive to work doesn’t come with pangs of anxiety because of traffic. I don’t maneuver interstates or congested city streets. True, once I’m here, I can’t dash out for coffee at Starbucks or spend my lunch hour checking out the sale at Talbot’s. I did that before in a different time and place.
But I can go to see what is blooming in the greenhouse and watch the baby goats play! And I can look around and know that this “nowhere,” in existence for 221 years, continues to provide a learning and living environment that will enable young people to have successful lives.
We didn’t get the “memo” telling us that we are in the “middle of nowhere.”
Our alumni and all who are here — and all who have been here — know that we are in the “middle of somewhere” – and this somewhere is quite grand!
Submitted by Karen Petit, JDLH Office of Public Relations and Marketing