At the Country’s Oldest Stump, a Presidential Twist

For more than a century, South Carolina Democrats seeking political office have traveled by horseback and automobile to a general store on the banks of the Pee Dee River to make their case to curious voters. Their destination: the biennial stump meeting in Galivants Ferry, S.C., which has been hosted by different generations of the same family since the late 1800s.

But on Monday, organizers of the 2019 Galivants Ferry Stump will add new twists to what has become a 143-year tradition. For the first time, the stump meeting will host presidential candidates — and it will do so in the fall of an odd-numbered year.

“A whole new presidential edition,” Sally P. Howard, the event’s director, said. “We’re excited — and nervous.”

Perhaps 2,000 people will make the pilgrimage to Pee Dee Farms General Store on Monday, the site of what the hosts say is the oldest and largest political “stump speaking” event in the country. It has long welcomed candidates for South Carolina governor, United States senator and other local offices, while sometimes attracting national political figures as keynote speakers.

But with interest in the Democratic primary so high in South Carolina, an early voting state, and no stump event planned until long after the state’s primary voters go to the polls, organizers said they had felt compelled to break from tradition and invite presidential contenders to Galivants Ferry in the fall. As of late Sunday, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.; and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota were scheduled to attend.

Visitors will park in a pecan grove, the candidates will mix and mingle in a big open area that was once a hardware store, and there will be plenty of chicken bog, Ms. Howard promised.

“True old-timey retail politics,” she said. “It’ll be quite the festival.”

Speaking about Mr. de Blasio, she added: “We think it’s really fun that the mayor of the largest city will come to a town with only a blinking light. He’s going to see real, rural South Carolina.”

As for a stump — well, organizers had one made that serves as a podium. Ms. Howard conceded that it was hard to know with certainty whether there was an actual tree stump near the store in the 1800s, but, as the story goes, there was a thicket full of them on the property, and candidates certainly could have spoken there.

Ms. Howard said that the first record of a stump event in Galivants Ferry — now an unincorporated community in Horry County, which borders North Carolina — appeared in a notice that told of Gen. Wade Hampton coming to the town in September 1876 to initiate his campaign for governor. Four years later, a local businessman, Joseph W. Holliday, invited county Democratic candidates to speak at his Galivants Ferry store. Organizers say the Holliday family has been hosting the event on their property ever since.

And although an event like Monday’s “has never been done before,” one of the family members, Christy Holliday, told The Post and Courier, organizers have made it clear that the biennial spring event is not going anywhere.

It will return, as normal, in 2020.

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