Our History

Pickens County: A Brief History

From the earliest of times to the American Revolution, the land that is now Pickens County belonged to the Cherokee. If you look around, there are still remnants of and references to our native ancestors. Though the land originally belonged to natives, English traders such as James Beamer were settling in the area and establishing relationships with the Cherokee people around the 1720s. When the Cherokee felt threatened by the French and rival Indian tribes, they appealed to Royal Governor James Glen for protection. What resulted was Fort Prince George, built along the Keowee River. Fort Prince George became an early focal point of the area and a point from which many of our places derive their name. If you look at a map, Mile Creek, Six Mile, Twelve Mile Creek and Ninety Six all reportedly got their names based on their distance from Fort Prince George. Although the fort was only in use for a few years and it now resides underneath Lake Keowee, it stands as our county’s most significant contribution to colonial America.

As more of the land was settled following the American Revolution, it brought to the area the county’s future namesake. Revolutionary War Brigadier General Andrew Pickens established his home, Hopewell Plantation in the Clemson area in the 1780s. South Carolina’s map was ever-changing until the 1868 Constitutional Convention split the existing Pickens District into Oconee and Pickens Counties. The location of the Pickens Courthouse settlement was then moved from its original site on the banks of the Keowee River to a spot several miles to the east. There, several prominent local men donated 151 acres of land to establish the new town of Pickens. Since 1868, the city of Pickens has remained the county seat.

In the early years of Pickens County’s existence, the railway came through and gave rise to many of the settlements that became the towns we have today. Easley was incorporated in 1874, Central in 1875, Liberty in 1876, Calhoun (now Clemson) in 1892, Norris in 1909, and Six Mile in 1910. It wasn’t just the railroad that made these communities bustling centers of commerce and trade. In 1895, D.K. Norris opened the first cotton mill, which was called Cateechee Mill, in Pickens County. From that point forward, cotton mills and manufacturing have been an important way of life for the people of Pickens County.

In 2018 we celebrated our 150th birthday as Pickens County. As residents looked back on a century and a half of county history, we celebrated with the unearthing of the 1968 centennial time capsule. It was a time for reminiscing about where we came from and where we are going. As the sesquicentennial year closed out, citizens had an opportunity to fill a time capsule of their own. Inside were placed pictures, letters, and other special mementos of current-day Pickens County. Everyone from local government officials, our many manufacturing plants, and the everyday citizen took part in preserving our rich history for future generations.