Genealogical Society v. Civic League 

dispute involves 2,500 family names 

— from Abney to Zimmerman 

A Continuing Special to the Advertiser 

By Katharine Walton 

[The following article announcing details on a public hearing appeared in the June 21st edition. Shortly after the weekly distribution, which began on June 21st, the Edgefield Advertiser learned that the public hearing is being postponed due to an agreement to decide on categories of property to be assigned ownership. 

We’ve updated the article below to reflect the past tense and the now unscheduled court date and will confirm specifics on the new public court date when information becomes



A public hearing for Old Edgefield District Genealogical Society (OEDGS) v. Edgefield Civic League was scheduled for the Edgefield County Court House, before Special Limited Referee Warren Herndon, for Monday, June 26 at 10 a.m. according to court documents filed May 25. 

The focus of this now unscheduled court room hearing is on the rivalrous claims to the Tompkins Library’s contents — most notably the archived family papers and relics (such as the Rev. John Lake’s Citadel uniform) carried into the Tompkins Library’s study rooms and vault, since the bank building was donated to the town in 1929. 

The hearing will either settle assignment of property or — if there is disagreement to the special referee’s decisions — launch the continuation of the epic dispute.

At the root of it all

More than 2,500 surnames (from Abney to Zimmerman) showed up in the inventory — of printed stories, records, relics, and family trees — that was sorted and counted during the month of May, meeting the deadline set by Circuit Court Judge Donald B. Hocker. 

These 2,500 family names, of Edgefield timber, created a scaffolding and built its history. Branching off of the 2,500 surnames are multitudes. 

“Each Smith has more than one Smith,” said Doug Timmerman, past president of the OEDGS, and past president of the Civic League, who was just re-elected, to lead the now eight board members, at their meeting on June 13. (Beth Thornton, president this past year, will remain on the board.) 

The Civic League would keep and steward the family files and books and relics in the Tompkins Library on Courthouse Square, citing that families contributed their belongings to The Tompkins Library.

OEDGS, plaintiff in this case, is claiming ownership of the library’s contents, and has said it plans to take what they see as their property to a new location in Johnston, which is in Edgefield County, but a separate town, a good drive from the Edgefield town center.  

Who will be at the Court House? 

Anyone interested is welcome to attend. 

“I think because there’s public interest, they asked for the main courtroom,” said Charles L. Reel, clerk of court, who definitely plans to be there. 

Initially, Reel said the June 26mediation decision wouldn’t be public or even at the court house. But since speaking to the newspaper for its May 24 published report, the clerk of court received an email from the special referee, hired and paid equally by both the plaintiff (OEDGS) and defendant (the Civic League): The email requested use of the main courtroom.

As of Monday, June 19, clerk of court had not received any notice that a judge will preside. At press time, there’s still over a week to prepare for court and make changes. 

Tonya Browder Guy, plaintiff, is the current president of the OEDGS and continues to write for its newsletterThe Quill. Continuing board member Beth Thornton will be representing the Civic League.

Both sides were asked to give a possible witness list. 

Guy and Thornton could be asked to speak. Others may be asked too. 

Attorneys on this are Ted von Keller, for the OEDGS, and for the Civic League, John Kelchner is replacing Reginald Belcher from the same law firm, Turner Padget, said Thornton. 

Who among the 2,500-multiplied, with Edgefield surnames, will show up at the courthouse on June 26th? This hearing won’t be televised. 

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