York County (population 199,035), located between the Broad and Catawba rivers in the South Carolina Piedmont, was first settled by Europeans in the 1750s. Early settlers, predominantly Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, played a major role in the American Revolution. Two key battles—Huck’s Defeat and Kings Mountain—were fought in what would become York County in 1780.
The county was officially established in 1785. Agriculture and mining, supported by slavery, dominated the area’s economy until after the end of the Civil War.
Beginning in the 1880s the textile industry became increasingly important, and by the 1950s it was the largest employer in the county. Railroads and textiles spurred the development of Rock Hill and Fort Mill, now the largest cities in York County. Since the decline of textile manufacturing in the late 20th century, the economy has shifted to finance, high technology, services, and heritage tourism. Proximity to Charlotte, North Carolina, has also enabled a substantial commuting work force.
Recently, a joint community effort resulted in the restoration of the former McCrory’s building and lunch counter in downtown Rock Hill. The lunch counter was the site of a 1961 civil rights sit-in that resulted in the arrest of the protestors, who chose to serve their 30-day detention rather than paying bail. They became an example for other “jail-no bail” protests, which became a major catalyst for civil rights legislation.
Other area attractions include Historic Brattonsville, a 775-acre village and Revolutionary War battlefield with more than 30 colonial and antebellum structures, and the McCelvey Center, a restored century-old school that contains genealogical and historical archives, maps, and documents.
Annual events in York County include Yap Ye Iswa, the native Catawba Indians’ festival; Feis Chlobhair, which honors the Scotch-Irish influence; a reenactment of the Battle of Huck’s Defeat; and an observance in honor of the Overmountain Men, who trekked 14 days to defeat the British at the Battle of Kings Mountain.
Designated a Preserve America Community in December 2007.