(Greenville and Laurens Counties; 2000 pop. 6,017). Fountain Inn, formerly a commercial center for southern Greenville County, by the late twentieth century had increasingly become a bedroom community for the burgeoning city of Greenville.
The name Fountain Inn derives from an early nineteenth-century “inn with a fountain” (a gushing spring) on the post road mid-way between the county seats of Greenville and Laurens. A post office established in 1832 was given the name Fountain Inn. Noah Cannon bought a large tract of land south of the inn following the Civil War and opened a store, but no real center existed until after the 1886 arrival of the Charleston and Western Carolina Railroad, which ran between Laurens and Greenville. Cannon laid out town lots and Fountain Inn was chartered in December of that year.
In 1886 the town had three stores, a school, a Masonic lodge, and a Baptist church. Within three years the Baptists were joined by the Methodists and the Presbyterians to form the usual church triumvirate of upcountry towns. By the early twentieth century the town had grown to over twenty businesses, including two hotels, a cotton gin, a bank, and a pharmacy. Local investors joined the late nineteenth-century textile boom that swept the upstate by opening the Fountain Inn Cotton Mill in 1898. In typical fashion, this led to the establishment of a mill village to provide housing for workers. The village, with its school and churches, was located across the railroad tracks from the rest of the town. Other textile mills followed, but Fountain Inn remained primarily a commercial hub for nearby farmers. Twentieth-century transportation developments reinforced Fountain Inn’s prosperity, as the town straddled what emerged as a major north-south highway in the upstate.
The second half of the twentieth century brought a general decline, beginning with the agricultural economy, followed by the textile industry, and compounded by the development of regional shopping malls. However, the rural decline coincided with an increase in the town’s population, especially in the number of African Americans. The era also witnessed some loss of community identity as the high school was consolidated, the local paper started serving “The Golden Strip” (Fountain Inn and her neighbors to the north, Simpsonville and Mauldin), and the local beauty queen became “Miss Golden Strip.”
By the twenty-first century, some diversification of the industrial base had occurred and the completion of Interstate 385 to Greenville led to considerable residential growth within the city and in the surrounding area. The interstate made it easy for many to work and shop outside the area, and the increased population provided a base for revitalizing the downtown. Nevertheless, Fountain Inn still retained much of its small-town character and charm.
Coleman, Caroline S., and B. C. Givens, comps. History of Fountain Inn. Fountain Inn, S.C.: Tribune-Times, .
Huff, Archie Vernon, Jr. Greenville: The History of the City and County in the South Carolina Piedmont. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.
Richardson, James M. History of Greenville County, South Carolina, Narrative and Biographical. 1930. Reprint, Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Company, 1980.