The Cherokee used to hunt on the territory that is now Greenville, and colonists were not allowed to hunt there. Richard Pearis, a rich Virginia immigrant, arrived in South Carolina in 1754 and developed contacts with the Cherokee. Around 1770, Pearis had a kid with a Cherokee lady and acquired roughly 100,000 acres (40,000 ha). Pearis developed the Great Plains plantation on the Reedy River in what is now downtown Greenville. The South Carolina country was divided between Loyalists and Patriots during the American Revolution. Pearis was a supporter of the Loyalists and their Cherokee allies.

The Patriots replied by burning down Pearis’ estate and imprisoning him in Charleston after the Cherokee assaulted them. Pearis never returned to his estate, but his name is immortalized on Paris Mountain. In 1777, the Treaty of Dewitt’s Corner gave South Carolina practically all Cherokee land, including present-day Greenville.

In 1786, Greenville County was established. Some accounts claim the county was named for General Nathanael Greene in commemoration of his participation in the American Revolutionary War, while others claim it was named after him. In 1788, Lemuel J. Alston arrived in Greenville County and purchased 400 acres (160 ha) as well as a piece of Pearis’ previous plantation.

Alston utilized his property holdings to build Pleasantburg, a hamlet where he also erected a grand home, in 1797. Vardry McBee bought Alston’s estate in 1816, then rented the Alston mansion as a summer resort before making it his home from 1835 until his death in 1864.
McBee, known as the “Father of Greenville,” provided property for various buildings, including churches, academies, and a cotton factory. McBee helped move Furman University to Greenville from Winnsboro, South Carolina in 1851, and he helped support it.

The Greenville and Columbia Railroad was founded in 1853 by McBee and other Greenville County officials. Due to the development of McBee’s gifts and the town’s appeal as a summer resort for visitors, Greenville grew to roughly 1,000 people in the 1850s. Pleasantburg was established as Greenville in 1831.

Latter 19th century

In the 1890s, the Greenville and Northern Railway was turned into the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which opened in 2010.

Greenville supported a conference in December 1860 to discuss the question of South Carolina’s secession. Delegates from the Greenville District included James Furman, William K. Easley, Perry E. Duncan, William H. Campbell, and James P. Harrison. The South Carolina state convention, together with the Greenville delegation, decided to separate from the Union on December 20, 1860. The Confederate States Army received about 2,000 men from Greenville County. The Confederacy received food, clothes, and guns from the town.

Greenville did not see any combat until 1865, when Union soldiers searched the area for Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who had escaped south from Richmond, Virginia. Greenville County native Benjamin Franklin Perry was named Governor of South Carolina by Andrew Johnson in June 1865.

The South Carolina General Assembly revised Greenville’s town charter in February 1869, making Greenville a city. In the 1870s, construction blossomed, with the construction of a bridge across the Reedy River, new mills along the river, and new railways. Greenville’s first daily newspaper, The Greenville News, was founded in 1874. The city’s initial telephone lines were built by Southern Bell. Cotton mills were the major infrastructure arriving in the city. Greenville was a cotton mill town due to the presence of prominent cotton mill firms. Greenville was recognized as the “Textile Center of the South” by 1915. From 1915 through 2004, the city-sponsored the Southern Textile Exposition, a major textile manufacturing trade show.

20th century

Main Street around 1910

Greenville functioned as a training station for Army recruits during World War I. Commercial activity grew after World War I, with new movie theaters and department stores opening. In 1925, the Mansion House was razed and the Poinsett Hotel was built in its stead. Greenville’s economy was harmed by the Great Depression, which forced mills to lay off workers. In 1933, Furman University and Greenville Women’s College were forced to unite due to the devastating economy. The Textile Workers Strike of 1934 created such a ruckus in the city and mill towns that the National Guard was called in to calm things down. Sirrine Stadium and a new Greenville High School were built under the New Deal.

During World War II, the Greenville Army Air Base was created in 1942, adding to the city’s continued expansion. Following the war, a propane explosion on November 19, 1946, killed six people and wounded over 150 others. The explosion, which included a tank carrying around 3,500 US gallons (13 m3) of propane, was heard 50 miles (80 km) distant in Gaffney.

Greenville Main Post Office

Willie Earle, a black man suspected of killing a cab driver, was kidnapped and murdered by a mob of primarily taxi drivers on February 16, 1947. Thirty-one white males were prosecuted together for the crime; the majority of the defendants signed confessions, many of which named Roosevelt Carlos Hurd as the lynch mob leader and the one who shot Earle with the shotgun. Every defendant was found not guilty by a jury of 12 white males on May 21, 1947.

Greenville’s economy boomed after WWII, thanks to the opening of new downtown shops and the extension of the municipal borders. Furman University increased its enrollment and relocated to a new campus. Greenville created higher education institutions such as Bob Jones University in 1947 and Greenville Technical College in 1962.

In 1962, the Greenville–Spartanburg International Airport opened in nearby Greer. Greenville’s economy ultimately slowed in the 1970s, creating a hole in the downtown area owing to the departure of numerous merchants. With the Greenville County Museum of Art and the Hughes Main Library, Mayor Max Heller renovated downtown Greenville. Main Street was later transformed into a two-lane road with sidewalks and trees.


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