Greenville County (population 438,119) stretches from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains into the Piedmont Region of South Carolina. Greenville’s origins go back to a post established for trade with the Cherokee and with settlers traveling from Virginia to find land. Early settler Richard Pearis built a gristmill along the Reedy River, the first of many water-powered industries in this Upstate Region. Pearis married a Cherokee woman and was given several tracts of land by the tribe. On part of this estate now stands the city of Greenville and Paris Mountain; its name a derivative of Pearis.
More Revolutionary War battles and skirmishes were fought in the future state of South Carolina than any other, including a notable Patriot victory at the Battle of the Great Canebrake near present day Simpsonville in Greenville County. The Greenville District was created in 1786, but was known as Pleasantburg until 1831. After early attempts at development by Lemuel Alston, Vardry McBee became known as the “Father of Greenville.”
The railroad arrived in 1873, facilitating the move of the textile industry from the North to the South. Greenville soon became known as the “Textile Capital of the World” – a distinction it maintained until nearly the end of the 20th century. “Shoeless Joe Jackson” played in the local textile leagues. Greenville remains the economic center of the Upstate Region, with a diversified economy expanding into high-tech manufacturing, health care, and professional services.
Today the Greenville County Historic Commission strives to protect, preserve, and enhance the distinctive architectural and cultural heritage of the area, in partnership with several organizations and foundations that focus on preservation. Campbell’s Covered Bridge, the last original such structure in the state, was restored in 1990, and a local scout troop has helped with its maintenance. The bridge’s 100th birthday was marked in 2009 with its listing on the National Register of Historic Places and the development of a park, with the bridge as its focal point. It is also a featured site on the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway Driving Tour.
The Greenville County school district social studies program has a strong emphasis on local history and historic preservation, and the Living History Farm at Roper Mountain Science Center is a favorite site for hands-on local history programs, such as traditional brick making. An 1845 slave cabin was recently relocated to the farm, where it joins 11 other historic structures that date from 1795-1898. A Save Our History grant from the History Channel will assist in the reconstruction, restoration, and educational interpretation of the cabin.
Designated a Preserve America Community in February 2010.