Pickens County: A Brief History
Article Written for "Pickens County Heritage", by G. Anne Sheriff
Reproduces with permission from the author

Pickens County was Cherokee Indian Territory until the American Revolution. The Cherokees sided with the British, suffered defeat, and surrendered their South Carolina lands. This former Cherokee territory was included in the Ninety-Six Judicial District. In 1791 the state legislature established Washington District, a judicial area composed of present-day Greenville, Anderson, Pickens, and Oconee counties, and then composed of Greenville and Pendleton counties. Streets for the courthouse town of Pickensville (near present-day Easley) were laid off, and soon a cluster of buildings arose that perhaps included a large wooden hotel, which served as a stagecoach stop. In 1798 Washington District was divided into Greenville and Pendleton districts. The latter included what eventually became Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens counties. A new courthouse was erected at Pendleton to accommodate the Court of General Sessions and Common Pleas, and soon thereafter Pickensville began to decline.

In view of the growing population and poor transportation facilities in Pendleton District, the legislature divided it into counties in 1826, and a year later decided instead to divide the area into districts. The legislation went into effect in 1828. The lower part became Anderson and the upper Pickens, named in honor of the distinguished Revolutionary soldier, Brigadier General Andrew Pickens, whose home Hopewell was on the southern border of the district. A courthouse was established on the west bank of the Keowee River, and a small town called Pickens Court House soon developed

By 1860 Pickens District had a population of over 19,000 persons of whom 22 percent were slaves. The district was largely rural and agricultural. Its small industry consisted mainly of sawmills, gristmills, and a few other shops producing goods for home consumption. The district's Protestant churches were numerous, but schools were few. The Blue Ridge Railroad reached the district in September of 1860. During the Civil War the district suffered little from depredations of regular Yankee troops but was frequently plundered by marauders and deserters who swept down from the mountains.

The war left the region largely destitute. The South Carolina Constitutional Convention of 1868, meeting during the first year of Congressional Reconstruction, changed the name district to county throughout the state. The Convention also established Oconee County out of the portion of Pickens District west of the Keowee and Seneca rivers plus a small area around the Fort Hill estate that formerly belonged to John C. Calhoun. This small area around the Calhoun property was transferred to Pickens County in the 1960s.

A new courthouse for Pickens County was erected at its present location, and many of the residents of Old Pickens on the Keowee moved to the newly created town, some with their dismantled homes. The loss of the Oconee area greatly reduced the county's population. It did not again reach 19,000 until 1900.

The county's growth was accelerated by the building of the Atlanta and Charlotte Air Line Railroad (later called the Southern Railway) in the 1870s. The town of Easley, named for General W. K. Easley, was chartered in 1874. Liberty and Central sprang up along the railroad about the same time and were soon incorporated. Calhoun (now part of Clemson) came into being in the 1890s, to be followed in the early 1900s by Six Mile and Norris as incorporated areas.

A major factor in Pickens County's growth was the coming of the textile industry. The county's first modern cotton mill, organized by D. K. Norris and others, was established at Cateechee in 1895. By 1900 the county could boast of three cotton mills, two railroads, three banks, three roller mills, thirty-seven sawmills, ten shingle mills, and four brickyards.

Yet until 1940, with a population of 37,000 (13.2 percent black), the county remained primarily rural and agricultural. Like many other Piedmont counties, Pickens had a one-crop economy. Its citizens were engaged mainly in growing cotton or manufacturing it into cloth. A notable change in the Pickens landscape was the coming of paved highways; one completed across the county, about 1930, ran from Greenville to Walhalla by way of Easley, Liberty, and Central.

The most significant developments in the county's history have occurred since World War II. By 1972 there were 99 manufacturing plants in the county employing almost 15,000 personnel and producing not only textiles but a wide variety of other products. The population today is estimated to be 93,894 residents. There is a heavy in-migration to Pickens County because of its climate, industrial opportunity, proximity to Greenville's labor market, and scenic beauty.

A Condensed Timeline of Pickens County History
Prepared by the Pickens County Museum of Art & History

Any event of historical significance that should be considered for possible inclusion in the Pickens County Timeline may be submitted to picmus@co.pickens.sc.us.

 Today's Pickens County was Cherokee Indian Territory
until the American Revolution

1753   Fort Prince George built on Keowee River at Cherokee's request to protect them from Creek Indians.

Cherokee War.

Hopewell Treaty - the Cherokee forfeited most of their SC land.

Secona Baptist Church, located two miles west of Pickens, was built.

Secona Baptist Church organized.

SC Legislature established Washington District, consisting of present-day Greenville, Anderson, Pickens and Oconee counties. Town of Pickensville established (near present-day Easley).

Oolenoy Baptist Church, named from a well-respected Cherokee Chief Woolenoy, was built of logs. The first minister was Rev. John Chastain.

Old Stone Church (Presbyterian) built by John Rusk, Revolutionary War heroes and others. This was the first church in South Carolina to allow slaves to be members. The cemetery has many historical markers, including General Andrew Pickens.

Washington District divided into Greenville and Pendleton Districts. Pendleton District consisted of present-day Anderson, Pickens and Oconee counties.

John Caldwell Calhoun served as United States representative

John Caldwell Calhoun, Secretary of War to President James Monroe

Andrew Pickens dies (born - 1739)

Benjamin Hagood built the original Hagood mill around 1825.

Golden Creek Mill was originally built on the banks of Golden Creek in 1825 by Joseph Woodal to provide cornmeal, grits and flour in early American neighborhoods. In later years it was converted into a Cotton Gin and Press.

John Caldwell Calhoun, Vice President to President John Quincy Adams

Pickens Courthouse Post Office established on Main Street on May 16th.

Pendleton District divided into Anderson and Pickens Districts. Pickens District consisted of present-day Pickens and Oconee counties. A courthouse was built on the west bank of the Keowee River and the town of Pickens Courthouse started.

John Caldwell Calhoun, Vice President to President Andrew Jackson

John Caldwell Calhoun, United States Senator

First hotel at Table Rock.

John Caldwell Calhoun, Secretary of State to President John Tyler

Present-day gristmill, Hagood Mill, reconstructed 3 miles north of Pickens, just off present day Hwy 178 on Hagood Mill Road was built by Benjamin Hagood's son, James Hagood.

John Caldwell Calhoun, United States Senator

John C. Calhoun dies (born - 1782).

Hagood-Mauldin House built by James E. Hagood in Pickens Courthouse.

The Presbyterian congregation for Carmel Church was originally formed in the mid 1700's. Carmel is the oldest Presbyterian Church in the old Pendleton district. The first church was built of logs. The present sanctuary, constructed of hand made bricks was completed in 1856.

1858 or 1859
The Blue Ridge Railroad reaches the Pickens District.

Civil War - Pickens District had population of 19,000 persons (22 percent were slaves). Blue Ridge Railroad reaches Pickens District.

Soapstone Church was built in the late 1860's by freed men who settled here after the Civil War. It is the oldest African-American Church in the Upstate. It is still used for Sunday worship.

Pickens District divided into Pickens and Oconee counties. The town of Pickens Courthouse relocated to present site and name changed to Pickens. To get the land to relocate, Elihu Griffin $270 for 94 acres, James Ferguson, $50 for 18 acres, Wynn Blassingame $12 for 24 acres and William Allgood $75 for 15 acres.

Hagood-Mauldin House, built in 1856 by James Hagood, a prominent attorney, was moved from "Old Pickens" to present location (104 N. Lewis St., Pickens)

The Pickens Courthouse Methodist Episcopal Church South was organized. This was the first church in the new town and people of all denominations attended services. Note: There are quite a few older churches in the area outside the town of Pickens. For example, Secona Baptist Church, located two miles west of Pickens, had its beginning in 1786.

The Masonic Lodge was dismantled and moved from Old Pickens to New Pickens.

Pickens first courthouse was built.

Mercantile establishment of James M. McFall and John Lewis Thornley was built. This is one of the earliest stores built on Main Street in Pickens.

First issue of the "Pickens Sentinel" newspaper published in July. This newspaper is the oldest continuous business in Pickens County.

First Pickens Physician, Dr. Francis A. Miles opened his practice on July 27th.

The first academy built in Pickens, located on the west side of South Catherine Street, used until 1881.

Village of Calhoun started (became Clemson).

Pickens Graded & High School / Pickens Institute started by Mrs. Spartan Goodlet.

The town of Easley was chartered along the new Atlanta and Charlotte Railroad (later called Southern Railway).

Town of Central incorporated.

Town of Liberty chartered.

On August 18th, the citizens of Pickens County traveled to the various polling places, casting ballots in a Democratic primary, the first in South Carolina.

Late 1870's
Soapstone Church & School organized (first African American school in Pickens County).

The Atlanta and Charlotte Air Line Railroad (later the Southern Railway) was built.

On September 28th the town of Central had its beginning with the arrival of the Atlantic and Richmond Air-Line Company through Pickens County.

The town of Easley, named form General W. K. Easley, was chartered.

The Griffin House, (location) was built by J. C (Calhoun) Griffin. This is the site that Elihu Griffin built his home decades earlier.

Clemson University was founded.

108 Glassy Mountain St., built in the late 1890s, this house is one of the oldest home in Pickens.

On Dec. 24, 1890, the South Carolina General Assembly granted a charter for the Pickens Railroad Company.

Second Pickens County Courthouse built (used until 1959).

McKinney Chapel was built and used for regular services until the late 1930's. Today there are services held one Sunday a month conducted by the Grace United Methodist Church in Pickens.

The Pickens Inn boarding house was built, across from the train station at the corner of Cedar Rock St. and Hampton Ave. The tearing down date is unknown.

First Baptist Church was built.

The name of the post office was changed to Pickens on January 30th (from Pickens Court House)

First modern cotton mill was called Cateechee, built by Col. D.K. Norris and others, was established on the shoals of Twelve Mile River.

Maiden run (and wreck) of the Pickens "Doodle". Railroad called Doodle by locals because it could not turn around on the tracks so to return from Easley it backed into Pickens "like a doodle-bug".

By 1900 the county could boast of 3 cotton mills, 2 railroads, 3 banks, 3 roller mills, 37 sawmills, 10 shingle mills and 4 brickyards.

Babb's House, 231 Ann Street, this house was built in the early 1900s by Andrew Babb and his brother.

First Fire Department in Pickens, which used a two-wheel cart with a two and a half inch hose around the drum of the cart.

Pickens County Jail (present-day Pickens County Museum) built.

Easley Publishing Co. (Easley Progress) founded.

Colonial House, a Greek Revival-style house, (206 Griffin St, Pickens) was built by Ben A. Hagood.

The Hiawatha Hotel (which is currently the Pickens Hotel) was built and was a popular summer resort for the low country people. Presently the building is offices, but still has a few rooms upstairs for weekly or monthly boarders.

Pickens Centralized High School was built. Used at first for first through tenth grades, then combined junior and high school until 1954 when current Pickens High School was built, at which time it became a junior high until January 1968. This building was torn down in the 1970s.

Central Wesleyan University opened (renamed Southern Wesleyan, 1995).

On May 4th, The Pickens Cotton Mill was chartered.

First bridge across the Keowee River (Chapman Steel Bridge).

The McFall House, (location), built by the former Vesta Mauldin, the widow of Waddy Thompson McFall. She was the daughter of the first sheriff and the sister to Judge Mauldin.

Pickens Mill Baptist Church was built.

First brick house built in Pickens. This house was built for J. T. Taylor.

Last legal public hanging at Pickens County Courthouse.

Town of Six Mile chartered.

The Pickens Sertoma (Service to Mankind) Club was founded.

The Keowee Flood, when Toxaway Dam broke, destroyed many homes and the original steel bridge at Chapman's Ford. The 130-foot long Chapman's Covered Bridge, consisting of 50,000 board feet of heart pine lumber replaced the bridge the next year.

Dr. J. L Aiken was one of the first dentists in the area, practicing from 1919 to 1961.

The Cureton Home, 230 Ann St., Pickens, was built by Mayor C. L. Cureton. Cureton served as Mayor of Pickens in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Pickens Garden Club was founded with education and beautification as goals.

Hiott Printing Company was established.

First hospital in Pickens County - Dr. Peek's Hospital in Six Mile.

First 4-H Camp in U.S. (present-day Camp for the Blind) in Rocky Bottom.

The Woodruff House, 250 Ann Street, Pickens, was built in 1927 by Dr. Paden Woodruff. Dr. Woodruff opened his practice in 1919 and was Mayor of Pickens in 1929-1931.

The Findley House, 206 Hampton Ave, Pickens, was built by William Elbert Findley, later occupied by his son Earle W. Findley. The honorable Earle W. Findley was mayor of Pickens from 1956-1977.

The Aiken House, 256 Ann Street, Pickens, was built by Dr, J. L Aiken, this home served as the Presbyterian Manse from the early 1940s to 1972.

Pickens County joined the Greenville Council of Boy Scouts (Name changed to Blue Ridge Council in 1932).

Six Mile devastated by tornado.

The first paved highways completed, ran from Greenville to Walhalla by way of Easley, Liberty and Central.

Built in the late 1800s, and originally known as Gravely Mill, it became known as Meece Mill with its new owner Bob Meece. The mill was reconstructed by Mac Walker in 1930 and operated until 1964. Today it is home to Yoder's B-B-Q and is known a Yoder's at Meece Mill.

The city purchased a 1925 model Seagrave Fire Truck from the city of Danville, VA, which was the first fire truck Pickens ever had.

First Girl Scout Troop.

The Brackett Home, 111 Glassy Mountain St, Pickens, was built by Dr. W. C. Brackett.

The Singer Company purchased the Appalachian Lumber Company (started in 1927).

The Poinsett Lumber and Manufacturing Co., a division of The Singer Company (now OWT) purchased the railroad.

World War II - Pickens County population - 37,000 (13% African American)

The Bivens Home, 112 Glassy Mountain St, Pickens, was built by A. W. Bevins.

Last reunion of Confederate veterans at home of Matthew Hendricks (he was 101 years old).

Oolenoy Baptist Church, which was originally built in 1795 of logs and rebuilt in 1840 of planks, was again rebuilt in 1945. This church is still in use today.

A. W. Bivens is mayor of Pickens from 1946 to 1952.

The current Pickens High School was built.

Pickens County Historical Society organized.

Pickens County YMCA was chartered.

The "Liberty Monitor" newspaper founded.

Third and present courthouse built.

The Singer Company consolidated its sawmill and cabinet operations with the woodworking operations from Arkansas and the Craftsman power tools from New Jersey to the Pickens location.

The Easley YMCA building built.

Poinsett Lumber and Manufacturing co. announced that the "Doodle" was for sale. James F. Jones of North Carolina purchased the "Doodle" for approximately $50,000. It now has a home as a tourist attraction in that state.

Mayfair Mill acquired The Pickens Cotton Mill and operated it as the Mayfair Mill until it closed in 2002.

Archaeological excavations at Fort Prince George site on Keowee River.

Work in progress for Keowee Toxaway Nuclear Project

Pickens County Centennial.

Behavioral Health Services of Pickens County established (renamed from Pickens County Commission on Drug & Alcohol Abuse).

Old Pickens County Jail reopened as Pickens County Museums.

The Concerned Citizens for Animals (CCA) was founded.

Pickens Civitan Club started to be involved in community projects and develop new friendships.

Pickens Area Junior Assembly started as a civic and social group that has supported many recreational and health projects.

Ryobi Limited purchased the former Motor Products Division of The Singer Company renaming it Ryobi Motor Products Corp here in Pickens. The facility is now home to OWT Industries.

Legacy Square was built which features a fountain constructed with bricks sold to individuals.

Hanover House, built in 1716 for French Huguenot Paul De St. Julien in Berkeley County, SC was moved to Clemson University in 1941, and moved again to the South Carolina Botanical Garden in 1994.

Pickens Post Office moved to its present location on Johnson Street.

Present Pickens County Administration Facility built.

The YMCA building in the town of Pickens was built.

Pickens County population - 113,097.