Limestone College in Gaffney is an independent four-year liberal arts institution offering bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees. The school traces its beginnings to 1845, when Thomas Curtis, a Baptist minister from England, established the Limestone Springs Female High School in a former resort hotel near the crossroads community of Gaffney’s Tavern. The school’s remote location and Curtis’s death in 1859 severely hampered efforts to keep the institution alive. The Civil War and Reconstruction curtailed activities, and Curtis’s son William was forced to sell the school at auction in 1871. The Limestone Springs property changed hands several times until the late 1870s, when local civic leaders secured a grant from the New York industrialist Peter Cooper. In 1881 they opened the Cooper-Limestone Institute for Young Ladies.
The school underwent its most dramatic transformation in the late 1890s. Investments from several textile men, including John H. Montgomery, created the present institution, Limestone College, in 1898. Improvements included a new main building, Curtis Hall, named in honor of the founder. Lee Davis Lodge, a scholar of wide-ranging interests, was the new president. He oversaw the 1904 construction of the Winnie Davis Hall of History, named for the daughter of Jefferson Davis. In the 1920s the local businessmen James A. Carroll and Wylie Cicero Hamrick directed efforts to enlarge the physical plant. By 1925 the college completed a gymnasium, a science hall, and a building for music and fine arts. During the next forty years, Limestone school developed a solid academic reputation and completed two more buildings, the nine-hundred-seat Fullerton Auditorium (1964) and the A. J. Eastwood Library (1966). The school was racially integrated in 1967.
Faced with a decline in enrollment, Limestone went coeducational in 1970. The school instituted intercollegiate athletics in 1973, and Limestone’s athletics program gained national prominence. In 1984 the men’s golf team won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Championship. In 1987 the school hired Gaylord Perry, a former major league pitcher, to initiate its baseball program. Most significant was the Limestone College men’s lacrosse team. The team became a national powerhouse, winning the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II National Championship in 2000 and 2002.
Since the 1990s, Limestone College has centered its efforts on recruiting, fundraising, and development. The school renovated several campus buildings and initiated a statewide evening program with major sites in Columbia and Charleston. Limestone was also among the first to offer courses via the Internet and eventually established a self-contained, degree-offering “Virtual Campus” program with students located worldwide.
The Centennial of Limestone College. Gaffney, S.C.: Limestone College, 1945.
Hopper, C. G., Jr., and Bobby G. Moss. Toward the Light: Photography and Limestone College. Gaffney, S.C.: Limestone College, 1998.
McMillan, Montague. Limestone College, a History: 1845–1970. Gaffney, S.C.: Limestone College, 1970.
Taylor, Walter Carroll. History of Limestone College. Gaffney, S.C.: Limestone College, 1937.