The Greenville and Columbia Railroad was the first railroad to enter the South Carolina upcountry. Its numerous spurs testified to the widespread demand for railroads in the booming era of cotton production. The road was chartered in 1845 to connect Greenville and Columbia. Originally slated to go through Laurens, agitation from residents in Anderson and Abbeville Districts forced the directors to consider a longer route along the west side of the Saluda River. Residents of each district bought up stock in an effort to secure enough votes for their preferred route, and Anderson and Abbeville carried the day. When the road was completed in 1853, the circuitous 160-mile route included spurs to those two towns. Final construction costs topped $2 million.
The success of the Anderson and Abbeville spurs inspired the creation of other short routes that extended the reach of the Greenville and Columbia in the upstate. In 1854 the Laurens Railroad completed a thirty-two mile line from Laurens to Newberry. The Spartanburg and Union Railroad, completed in 1859, connected those two cities with the Greenville and Columbia at Alston. Finally, the ambitious Blue Ridge Railroad was proposed to depart from Anderson and eventually reach to the Ohio Valley, a prospect that roused the interest of Charleston investors. Few others were interested in the road, however, and the massive expense of blasting through Stumphouse Mountain hampered progress on the proposed line. The project, bearing hopes of reviving Charleston’s economic fortunes, had made it only from Anderson to Walhalla when the Civil War began.
The railroad’s property in Columbia suffered extensive damage during the Civil War, and flooding in 1866 destroyed forty miles of its track. The railroad reopened later that year, but it was quickly beset with financial difficulties. It went bankrupt in 1872 and fell into receivership in 1878. Two years later the road was purchased by the Richmond Terminal Company. By 1893, after a series of purchases and mergers, the Greenville and Columbia had become part of the Southern Railway system.
Ford, Lacy K., Jr. Origins of Southern Radicalism: The South Carolina Upcoun- try, 1800–1860. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Huff, Archie Vernon, Jr. Greenville: The History of the City and County in the South Carolina Piedmont. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.