(Greenwood County; 2000 pop. 22,071). In 1823 John McGehee built a summerhouse midway between Abbeville and Cambridge to escape what was regarded as the unhealthy vapors of Cambridge. His wife, Charlotte, called their home Green Wood. A village named Woodville developed nearby, with a post office established in 1837. Its designation was changed to Greenwood in 1850. Construction of the Greenville and Columbia Railroad in 1852 shifted the village business center a half mile to the northwest, where stores and warehouses grew up around the depot. The town was incorporated in 1857.
After the Civil War, Greenwood slowly gained population and new businesses. It became a bustling railroad town, with passenger and freight trains steaming through a village served by three railroads by 1890. The Greenwood economy, based on agriculture and transportation, was altered dramatically in 1890 when William L. Durst opened the Greenwood Cotton Mill. The town emerged as a center of textile manufacturing under the leadership of James C. Self, John P. Abney, and F. E. Grier.
Greenwood experienced significant growth in the last decade of the nineteenth century, particularly after the town became the seat of Greenwood County in 1897. Attorneys and businessmen erected handsome houses on streets radiating from the new courthouse square. Local investors, known as “The Syndicate,” developed an impressive block of granite buildings to house new businesses. In 1898 entrepreneur Joel Bailey relocated his house and in its place built the Oregon Hotel to serve railroad travelers. Baptists and Presbyterians constructed sanctuaries on adjacent blocks of Main Street.
In 1898 Greenwood developed a municipal electric power and water plant, providing residents with an adequate water supply and access to electricity. Two years earlier, five local businessmen, led by George A. Barksdale, formed the Greenwood Telephone Company and commenced operations in 1898 with forty-two subscribers. To enlarge educational opportunities for young women, state senator Creswell A. C. Waller and other promoters persuaded Methodist clergyman Samuel Lander to relocate his college to Greenwood. Lander College opened on its new campus in 1903 and has been a state college since 1973.
A 1944 tornado slashed through the south side of town, destroying the hospital. Textile magnate James Self replaced it in 1951 with a modern medical facility, Self Memorial Hospital, to serve the lower Piedmont region.
In the closing decades of the twentieth century, Greenwood’s evolution continued. A Federal Highway Administration grant removed the railroad tracks from the center of town, while a local project renovated the storefronts on the square. Retail businesses, originally concentrated around the train depots, were displaced by bank buildings and professional offices. The shopping patterns shifted to the outskirts of town, to strip shopping centers along a bypass road and the highway to Abbeville.
Bowen, Ann Herd. Greenwood County: A History. Greenwood, S.C.: The Museum, 1992.
Watson, Margaret J. Greenwood County Sketches: Old Roads and Early Families. Greenwood, S.C.: Attic Press, 1970.