South Carolina's Lower Midlands is a peaceful place that embodies the traditional Southern slower pace of life.
Driving east on U.S. Highway 78, you pass miles and miles of cultivated fields interspersed with stands of Southern pine and oak and the occasional farm house.
You see a sign marking the highway as part of the South Carolina Heritage Corridor's Discovery Route.
You cross the brand-new bridge over the North Fork Edisto River -- the longest blackwater river in the nation -- and enter Orangeburg County.
A few minutes later, the speed limit drops to 45, then to 30, and you might wonder why, until you round a bend and suddenly find yourself cruising along a wide boulevard in the middle of a town.
You're in the Town of Branchville, South Carolina.
You pass a pair of restaurants, a wood furniture and deck maker, and the post office before reaching the intersection of U.S. Highway 21, where you can see the Town Hall, a full-service bank, a dollar store, two more restaurants, an insurance agency, a community events center (available for private rental) and a pair of convenience stores, one with a nationally franchised sub sandwich restaurant.
Turning left, you'll see a walkway with rows of small wooden buildings on either side. This is Branch Junction, a re-creation of what Branchville might have looked like many years ago. It is the focal point of the Raylrode Daze Festivul each September.
You pass a pharmacy, another restaurant and a car wash before arriving at the railroad depot. In the front is a railroad museum (open by appointment; see more under the "About Us" tab). In the back is a restaurant. Several U.S. presidents ate meals there, and now, so can you.
Crossing the railroad track, you pass the old railroad freight depot (which is being renovated), the farmers market, a collectibles shop, a barbershop, a coin-operated laundry and a convenience store with pizza and chicken franchises.
If you follow U.S. 21 north, you will pass the youth ballpark and one of the Town's two playgrounds.
If you follow U.S. 78 east, you will pass the family physician's office, a lawn-and-garden and hardware store, an auto mechanic shop, a wood products manufacturing facility and the relatively new K-12 public school serving the Branchville area.
Slowly but steadily, Branchville has been attracting new residents and new business entrepreneurs. State-of-the-art broadband has been installed in the area. The town and county are cooperatively building an athletic complex near the edge of town. Residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural sites are available. Efforts are ongoing to re-establish the branch library and a full-service supermarket. Branchville's future looks bright.