by Clayton Hensley
South Carolina may be known for its peaches, producing more than the “Peach State” next door, but its pecans also rival those of states like Georgia that are also known for their pecans. Whether you say “pea-CAN” or “pea-KAHN” chances are you’ll run across this tasty nut on your travels to the Old 96 District especially in the small town of Ninety Six South Carolina, home to the Ninety Six National Historic Site.
About a block west of downtown sits the James Wesley Fouche home, a stately Southern building with tall white columns, and a second-story porch. Construction on the home began in 1848 and was finished in 1852. Mr. Fouche had a meeting there that led to the birth of Furman University not far away in Greenville, South Carolina. Stretching out beside the home you’ll find a grove of pecan trees which most likely date back to the early years of the Fouche home.
Today, John Murray and his family live in the home and run their business, “96 Pecan Company” next door. And while this is a great place for pecan lovers, even those who aren’t big on this buttery-tasting nut might want to stop here and check out what’s inside.
As you turn off the main road, be on the lookout for a green-colored metal building with an old Coca-Cola vending machine near the entrance. Outside there’s also a few benches and a sign with a bright red tractor signifying you’ve found the 96 Pecan Company. Another sign asks people to, “Please Drive Slowly: Our squirrels don’t know one nut from another.”
Step inside the building and you may feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Just beyond the racks of pecan products, old shelves lining the back wall are filled with vintage metal cans like Prince Albert, Velvet, and Camel tobacco products. Mixed into the assortment of tins you’ll find a wide array of antiques helping bring the past into view.
While you can certainly spend time browsing the collection of antiques, it’s the pecans that are the real stars of the store. John and Charlotte Murray give their customers plenty of reasons to take home some Murray Farm products. You are probably familiar with tasting rooms at wineries or breweries, but the Murrays have a truly mouth-watering tasting experience for people of all ages. Nothing fancy, but once you’ve tried some of the more than 20 varieties of pecan products, you most likely will find it difficult not to buy a bag or two to take home.
Tastings start with a simple white paper placemat put on top of the counter. From there, the Murrays start bringing out the pecan treats. One by one, the treats are placed on the mat, and you begin to get a taste of what makes this an extraordinary experience.
You might want to start with the simple, roasted pecans and work your way to the honey glazed, bourbon, or key lime pecans then move up to other best-sellers like the Southern Pecan Toffee (one of John Murray’s favorites) or the Pecan Carmel Clusters. (Are you hungry yet?)
While you are tasting or browsing through the items in the store, John Murray will likely tell you a few stories, show you old pictures or if you’re into football you might want to get him started talking about his days playing football at Clemson University under Coach Danny Ford. He also has a puzzle on hand that at first looks simple, but it will likely stump most everyone who tries to solve it.
While tours aren’t part of the experience, John can certainly explain the intricacies of pecan production and might get a chance to show you around. Growing and harvesting pecans is not a simple process. Bringing the pecan from the trees to the bags in the store requires a lot of work. Along the way, many things can go wrong, and farmers can lose thousands of pounds of product. Knowing about what goes into farming pecans certainly makes you appreciate all the time and effort that goes into the quality of the 96 Pecan products, a true treasure in South Carolina’s Old 96 District.
Have a taste of our Old 96 District Sweets Trail or Old 96 District BBQ, or check out our list of travel deals and packages!