(Spartanburg County; 2000 pop. 2,690). A cluster of towns in Spartanburg County have held the Pacolet name: Pacolet, Central Pacolet, Pacolet Mills, and Pacolet Park. Prior to the Revolutionary War, the area around Pacolet was known as Grindal Shoals. The area was open for settlement after colonial governor James Glen made an agreement with the Cherokees in 1753. Some people believe that “Pacolet” is a Cherokee word meaning “fast-running horse,” while others hold that the word comes from the last name of an early French settler. The area was known as Buzzard’s Roost in the early nineteenth century because of the large amount of cockfighting in the area. A railroad station opened in 1859 with the name Pacolet Station.
In 1881 the textile manufacturing pioneer John H. Montgomery and his associates purchased 350 acres on the Pacolet River at Trough Shoals. The General Assembly incorporated the Pacolet Manufacturing Company the following year, and by 1884 a three-story, 10,000-spindle mill was in full operation. Two more mills were built, and by 1895 the three mills at Pacolet had a combined capacity of 53,424 spindles and 1,864 looms, making it the largest textile manufacturing complex in Spartanburg County. Pacolet was chartered by the secretary of state on May 6, 1896. Disaster struck the community on June 6, 1903, when the Pacolet River flooded and destroyed Pacolet Mills 1 and 2 and severely damaged Mill 3. Pacolet and Clifton Mills sustained the most damage in the flood, with total losses estimated at $3.5 million. Although the Pacolet mills were unionized during the General Strike of 1934, the strike was ineffective and union workers were generally fired by the mills.
The Montgomery family continued to operate the Pacolet mills until 1947, when they were sold to Roger Milliken. In 1967 they were consolidated into Deering Milliken, which ceased operations at Pacolet in 1983 and dismantled the mill buildings, a hotel, and some of the ornate houses that lined Victor Park. Unlike many upcountry mill villages, however, the town of Pacolet survived, thanks in part to well-built and maintained mill housing that kept its value and a municipal government that continued to provide services to town residents even after the mills had gone. “Pacolet endured,” observed the local historian Betsy Teter, “though much of its history existed only in photographs.”
Leonard, Michael. Our Heritage: A Community History of Spartanburg County, S.C. Spartanburg, S.C.: Band & White, 1986.
Stokes, Allen H. “John H. Montgomery: A Pioneer Southern Industrialist.” Master’s thesis, University of South Carolina, 1967.
Teter, Betsy Wakefield, ed. Textile Town: Spartanburg County, South Carolina. Spartanburg, S.C.: Hub City Writers Project, 2002.
Waldrep, George Calvin. Southern Workers and the Search for Community: Spartanburg County, South Carolina. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.