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history of the
city of greenville

indian trading post & mill
The City of Greenville is situated on land formerly belonging to the Cherokee Indians and briefly used by an Indian trader, Richard Pearis, as his camp site. On this site Pearis built a house, a trading post, a smoke house, stables, a dairy, a blacksmith shop, a grist mill, a sawmill and slave quarters. Pearis also planted crops and an orchard. However, because he was not a Patriot, all of these possessions he lost during the Revolutionary War.

Following the defeat of the Cherokee Indians and the British during the Revolutionary War, South Carolina made available to Revolutionary soldiers for first occupancy all of the land which composes both the City of Greenville and the County of Greenville.

the village
In 1797, having purchased the grant of land which included Pearis’ camp site and which later had been purchased from the State by Revolutionary soldier, Thomas Brandon, and having obtained several other tracts of adjacent land, totaling 11,023 acres, Lemuel Alston drew a plan for a Village with lots laid off and containing a court house and a jail. This little village which he had named Pleasantburg soon became known as “Greeneville” and was soon thereafter was spelled “ Greenville.”

Lemuel Alston’s dream of development only partly came true. A log jail was built, a log courthouse was built, lots were laid off but only a few lots sold.

McBee influence
In 1815, Alston sold all of his holdings and his very nice home, called Prospect Hill (pictured), to Vardry McBee of Lincolnton, North Carolina.

Through McBee’s progressive efforts, which included not only the sale of real estate, partnership with newcomers in new businesses, bringing trained tradesmen, such as harness and saddle makers, brick makers, a mill wright, carriage makers and house builders to the area, the village grew to a town.

In addition, McBee gave land to each denomination of religion on which to build their church.

After becoming a trading center for surrounding counties, in time, the little Town of Greenville also became a health resort for the low country people who were escaping the malaria and humidity of the coastal regions. Stagecoaches conveyed passengers and mail from Charleston and Asheville. Greenville’s first newspaper, The Republican, began to be published.

from village to town
In 1831, the Village of Greenville became the Town of Greenville and established a City Government with a Council made up of an Intendant and four Wardens. The Council appointed a Clerk, a High Constable, a Town Surveyor, a Bell Ringer and a Sexton who would care for the Town Cemetery, later to be named Springwood Cemetery. The Council strongly advocated the planting of trees along down town streets. To protect their trees, they voted to fine those citizens who even tied their horses to the trees while on business in down town.

Of the many log and weather boarded houses built in the town before 1850, only a few remain and all are listed on the National Register of Historic Places – Whitehall, also referred to as Governor Middleton’s House; the Fountain Fox Beattie House, known as the Greenville Woman’s Club; the Elias Earle Town House and the Josiah Kilgore House (pictured), which is home to the Greenville Garden Club.

The 1850s were a time
of rapid growth in the little town of Greenville and its immediate surrounding area. A new Court House was built and believed to have been designed by the well known Engineer/Architect Robert Mills. Both Furman University and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary came to town.

The first railroad, the Greenville and Columbia Railroad, built its terminal in the West End area. The Greenville Female College was established and grammar schools built. Greenville had a locally owned carriage and wagon manufacturing plant, the largest in the south. Through the generosity of a citizen, Alexander McBee, the City was provided with piped water.

Greenville ’s nearby mountains still provide an abundance of pure water and shield the City from severe weather, such as tornados and large amounts of frozen precipitation.

then came the 1860s
and the Civil War

The City Council had the patrols to become better organized and to be under the direction of Marshals. Men were enlisted into military groups. Women’s groups organized to knit socks and gloves, to prepare bandages and to care for the sick and wounded.

Vardry McBee gave to the State of South Carolina a piece of land on which to build an Armory for the repair and manufacture of rifles, particularly Morse rifles, for the use of the Confederate Army. Morse, himself, moved to Greenville to oversee the rifle making.

At the close of the Civil War, Greenville’s own, Benjamin F. Perry, an attorney, was appointed provisional Governor of South Carolina. Federal troops, commanded by Major John W. DeForest occupied Greenville for the duration of the Reconstruction period.

from town to city –
the textile influence

In February 1869, Greenville’s Town Charter was amended by the S. C. General Assembly establishing Greenville, the town, as a City.

Again, Greenville began to grow. An African American church, Springfield Baptist, was built, the Southern Railroad began operations through Greenville, a large cotton seed oil mill was built on Augusta Street, a horse drawn street railway began operations and the first real bridge was built for Main Street to cross the Reedy River.

Almost simultaneously, publication began of a daily paper, Greenville Daily News, and a large textile mill, Camperdown, was built on the river in downtown Greenville.

In 1876, Greenville’s first non-protestant church was built – St. Mary’s Catholic Church. 1882 was a memorable year for a second mill, the Huguenot Mill, was built within the City, telephone service was inaugurated, home mail delivery had begun and the City School District was created.

By the 1890, a second City Hall had to be built along with a City Hospital.

 

In the late 1890s, Greenville hosted a U. S. Army training camp called Camp
Wetherill where soldiers were trained to serve in the Spanish-American War.

With the turn of the century came electric street cars, Southern Bell telephone service, Coca-Cola and American Cigar production, the building of the Ottaray Hotel and a local man, Martin F. Ansel, being elected to serve as Governor of South Carolina.

In the mid teens, with Greenville being known as the “ Textile Center of the South”, an Exposition Hall for the textile industries was built, but WWII was soon in progress and another army camp was built. This time, the army camp called Camp Sevier was outside of the City, but had a great impact on the economy of the City.

new residential areas evolve
With the increase in wealth because of textile manufacture
and other industries coupled with the establishment of a streetcar system, new residential neighborhoods came into being, such as the Hampton-Pinckney neighborhood (pictured), the Pettigru Street neighborhood, the Pendleton Street neighborhood, the James and Earle Streets neighborhood and the Overbrook neighborhood

construction boom
The mid-20s brought the Poinsett Hotel (“Carolina’s Finest”), the Chamber of Commerce building, South Carolina’s largest furniture store and a theater.

Then, along came textile mill strikes and the Great Depression which affected Greenville just as they did the rest of the country. Construction came to a halt for several years and it was not until World War II and the building of Donaldson Air Force base just south of the City of Greenville that the economy in Greenville improved.

As the suburbs of Greenville showed great increase in both housing and businesses, the heart of the City suffered a great decline.

However, in the mid 1970s, Heritage Green, a cultural complex made up of The Little Theatre, Greenville County Library, the Greenville County Museum of Art and the Greenville Symphony Association, opened in downtown Greenville. Following this event, in 1979, came the building of the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

This downtown revitalization has continued as is exemplified by the recent creation of the Historic Falls Park on the Reedy.


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