Greenville, SC: Blast from the past
Did you know Greenville, SC is located on land that was once Cherokee hunting ground, closed to colonists’ settlement? In this blog post, we take a look at Greenville’s early years.
Greenville’s story began when an Indian trader from Virginia named Richard Pearis married a Cherokee woman and received about 100,000 acres from the tribe around 1770. Pearis set up a plantation on the banks of the Reedy River—in what is now downtown Greenville. From that, the city we know and love was born.
After the Revolutionary War, the new state of South Carolina claimed the Cherokees’ land and began distributing it to Patriot soldiers as payment for their wartime services. In 1786, the state legislature formed Greenville (originally spelled Greeneville) County, a name that likely came from General Nathanael Greene.
Some of Pearis’s land eventually ended up in the hands of Lemuel Alston. Alston originally called his settlement Pleasantburg, but the name never caught on. In 1815, Alston sold his land to tanner and merchant Vardry McBee, who influence was crucial for Greenville’s growth.
It was McBee who gave land for Greenville’s first schools and its first four churches (Episcopal, Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian). He also established a brickyard, rock quarry, saw mill, corn and grist mills, tannery, a large general store, paper factory and cotton and woolen mills.
Most summer visitors to Greenville stayed in hotels and boarding houses, but some built large vacation homes that are now some of the area’s most impressive properties, including Lowndes Hill Plantation. Other historic homes still standing include Earle Town House and the Kilgore-Lewis House.
Greenville continued to grow, amassing a population of about a thousand. In 1851, Furman University moved from Winnsboro, North Carolina, to a bluff above the Reedy River. Then, in December 1853, a train depot opened on Augusta Road to provide more convenient access to the rest of the state.
During the Civil War, Greenville became a refuge for low country residents fleeing federal troops. The city’s only contact with the war came three weeks after Appomattox, when federal troops searching for Jefferson Davis came through Greenville. After the war, in 1869 and with a population of 2,757, Greenville was chartered as a city.
Greenville, SC has come a long way since Pearis’s and McBee’s days. A great place to go to learn more about our area’s past is the Upcountry History Museum. In partnership with Furman University, the museum aims to not only preserve the history of the Upstate but also challenges visitors to understand the value of their own stories, consider the world from different perspectives, and hone their ability to think critically.
Learn more http://www.upcountryhistory.org.
If you’re interested in making the Upstate your home, please contact me. I’ll be happy to show you around.
*Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenville,_South_Carolina, http://www.greenvillesc.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1317