Trio, South Carolina, is one of those wide spots in the road we often pass driving the backroads of our state. Once a small but thriving little town, all that is left of Trio is the bank/post office building, and across the road, a small store.
The town was named by a trio of brothers — William, Walter, and James Bryan — who came from North Carolina around 1880 to establish a turpentine business. The railroad came through the area in 1882 and the next year the three registered Trio as a town and anchored it with a large brick bank and post office.
Turpentine and tar were important and profitable products in the 1700s and 1800s and the great Longleaf Pine forests of South Carolina were a good source. In a laborious process, pitch from the tree was gathered by men who stripped swaths of the bark, allowing resin to ooze down the tree into containers at the foot of the tree. The resin was made into tar or turpentine.
Tar and pitch were used here on the coast for a century in ship-building, repair, and maintenance. Turpentine was important in the manufacture of axle grease, lamp oil, medicine, paint, and other products.
The building later housed Rowell’s General Store until it closed in the early 2000s. Now Trio’s Zip Code has been retired and its only building sits empty, sagging, cracked, and nearly alone.
The only other structure left where a town once stood is a nameless store across the road. We’ve never noticed any customers when we were passing by, but the proprietor is always sitting out on a bench outside, just like in times gone by. The story of a trio of brothers who named a town for themselves is nearly lost as well. Now even the locals no longer say Trio. They pronounce it Try-Oh.