Sandhills Rod and Gun Club: A brief history

By: J.A. Bolton - Storyteller

The Sandhills Rod and Gun Club was organized on Nov. 14, 1955, with 25 charter members. It is probably the second-oldest hunting and fishing club in Richmond County that’s still going strong.

Their first president was John Lentz, vice president was Edwin Key, secretary was James S. Foreman and treasurer was Willis Bryant.

The goal of the new club was to promote good sportsmanship, better hunting and fishing, and to help enforce adequate wildlife laws.

The first meeting was held in the basement of the First Methodist Church in Ellerbe. Wasn’t long, the newly formed club leased a 253-acre tract of land, five miles west of Ellerbe off Grassy Island Road. The lease included use of a four-room tenant house, several large fields and many acres of hardwood trees. The club leased the land for $22.57, which was the amount of the Richmond County taxes levied against the tract at that time.

All members of the club signed a note at the Richmond County Bank, so the funds would be available to remodel the four-room house to be used for their club house. All the labor was donated by members of the club with the exception of building a new chimney.

All partitions in the house were removed, including a single chimney that stood in the center of the old house, giving the club one nice big meeting room.

A point of interest should be mentioned here. During the renovation, the club members discovered that the house had been built over a huge rock located near the center of the house and it was protruding though the floor. Seems an ingenious builder had let this rock serve as the back of a double fireplace and had built the chimney to the rock. Why, it took many a sledge hammer blow to finally remove enough portions of the rock to a point below the floor level.

A kitchen-dining room was added later. At this time, there were two opportunities to present themselves. First, it seems the state highway deptartment was tearing down a bridge over Mountain Creek near the Pee Dee River. Timbers from that bridge were made available to the club if’en they could remove them from the bridge site. With a lot of sweat and hard work, the members removed these 6×10 oak timbers, hauled them to the club house, and used them as floor joists for their kitchen and dining addition. Why, them oak timbers were so hard, that using any type saw but a chainsaw was a useless venture.

After the sills were installed, the second opportunity was when a member found an old building that would be given to anyone who would tear it down and remove it from the site. Ellerbe Poultry supplied the truck, the club members dismantled the building, and the lumber was transported to the club house. This was just about enough lumber to finish the addition of the new room. Mr. M.E. Key and Mr. Jess Meacham became the club’s “resident engineers” during this club project.

As time went by, more improvements were made to the club’s land, such as a new skeet and archery range.

In 1980, a 1.5-mile nature trail was established on club land. Many species of trees, shrubs, vines and ferns were identified and marked. Lots of times when folks walked the trail, wild deer, turkeys, and lots of squirrels and song birds were spotted.

Although friends were made and good sportsmanship was abundant, there was still a keen intra-club competitive spirit in a variety of activities among the members. The activities ranged from who had caught the biggest bass, bream, crappie or catfish during the year. Records of these catches were made and the member who weighed in the biggest fish in each category received a plaque at the annual awards banquet. The honor of having killed the largest antlered deer was a coveted award, as were the best shots at the skeet range. These and other types of competitions are still in place today at the club.

Over the years, bylaws have been formed as rules to be carried out by each member so the club can carry on in an orderly fashion. One of the rules limits our membership to 75 members. Each member will pay $75 per year to be a member. Although our membership does change sometimes, this allows new people to join the club. Men, women and even their children or grandkids are welcome to come to a meeting as a guest of a member. At some point, if they would like to become a member, they are voted on by the club.

The Sandhills Rod and Gun does more than stand on its laurels. We help sponsor events like the Wild Game Cook-Off which is held each year with help from the Agriculture Extension agency. We have members who teach hunter education classes. We send two young people to Fur-Fish and Game Camp which is held at Millstone 4-H Camp. Also, we send five kids to the “Green Wing” event put on by Ducks Unlimited, which is held each year at McKinney Lake and Fish Hatchery.

Club membership activities include an annual awards banquet in January, annual fish fry in May, and the club has a public auction in October to help support our club activities. Members are encouraged to use our gun and skeet ranges. Black powder and archery events are held by members. Hunting is allowed by members on our land, with safety and sportsmanship being strongly encouraged.

Our meeting night is the second Thursday night of the month at 7 p.m. A free meal prepared by members is served and, after the meal, we have a meeting and a program. These programs are put on by club members or volunteers in the community. The programs have included bird watching, rod and reel casting at targets, Christmas gift exchange, turkey calling contest, quality deer and game management, elk hunting, trapping demonstrations and new rules and regulation on hunting and fishing — just to name a few.

Over the years, our club has received several awards, including Governor’s Conservation Achievement Award of the Year.

Our club is always interested in folks coming and giving a short program on anything that concerns conservation and wildlife.

If you would have an interest in coming to our club as a guest you can contact any member, our current president (Mr. Ricky Monroe) at Monroe Small Engines or me at [email protected]

Remembe,r good sportsmanship and conservation are essential in protecting the natural resources the good Lord has placed on this earth.

J.A. Bolton is a member of the N.C. Storytelling Guild, Anson County Writer’s Club, Anson and Richmond County Historical Societies, member of Sandhills Rod and Gun Club and author of his new book “Just Passing Time.”

J.A. Bolton