Pacolet, South Carolina, (population 2,690) is in an area that was once sacred hunting and fishing territory for the Cherokee and Catawba Nations. European settlers began farming there after a treaty was struck with the Cherokee Indians in 1753. Gen. Daniel Morgan camped at a site just south of town before the Battle of Cowpens during the Revolutionary War.
The community experienced its greatest growth in the latter half of the 19th century. Pacolet Manufacturing established a textile mill in 1882, and the town of Pacolet was incorporated in 1896. A 1903 flood destroyed almost everything at the mill, but the company rebuilt, and by 1907 Pacolet Manufacturing was the largest manufacturer in Spartanburg County, and one of the largest in the South. The company remained the chief employer in the area until the mill closed in the 1980s.
After the mill closed, Pacolet struggled to find a new identity and economic base. In 2003 Pacolet became a pilot community for “Pilgrimage of Place,” a Clemson University rural revitalization project. The program connected community members with experts in a variety of fields and produced a lengthy community master plan. The master plan recognized a need to protect the historic resources of the town, and recommended new walking trails, a riverfront park, and a community meeting room. Pacolet has been steadily working to carry out all parts of the master plan and has successfully met many goals. In 2007, Pacolet became the first community in South Carolina to complete all four cycles of the Pilgrimage of Place program.
Thanks to the work of many local residents, Pacolet has seen resurgence in celebrating and protecting its local cultural resources. The importance of the mill and its buildings, as well as the local landscape, designed by noted landscape architect Earl Draper, has been recognized. The town also has one of the largest concentrations of arts and crafts homes in the state. Local landmarks have been placed on the National Register, and buildings associated with the mill have been preserved and re-used. Community members are working to restore the Marysville Community School, which was built in 1915 by Pacolet Manufacturing for black children whose parents were mill employees.
Pacolet History Tours are community-organized events that have grown immensely since their inception. The tours were first held in 2001 for Pacolet elementary students. Students toured the town and 40 community volunteers served as tour guides and storytellers. Adult members of the community became interested in the tour, so adult tours started the next year. Other schools began to bring their students, and now Pacolet hosts cultural heritage tours for outside groups as well.
Coinciding with the school tours, the town of Pacolet and Pacolet Elementary School set up the Pacolet Community Social Studies Curriculum. The curriculum meets South Carolina Social Studies Standards for kindergarten through fifth grades and uses the community as a classroom. Students learn about local, state, and national history as well as local government. In 2008 Pacolet received a Golden Achievement award from the South Carolina division of the National School Public Relations Association for the implementation of this educational partnership.
A number of events are held in Pacolet to celebrate the town’s cultural heritage. The Greater Pacolet Indian Summer Festival takes place each fall. The highlights of the festival are performances by members of the Catawba Indian Nation. The festival also includes an antique car show, food and crafts sale, carnival games, and music and dance performances by local entertainers. Each January, Pacolet, in conjunction with a number of local groups, celebrates Gen. Daniel Morgan’s victory march from the Pacolet River to the Cowpens National Battlefield by hiking his route.
Designated a Preserve America Community in July 2008.