(Saluda County; 2000 pop. 3,066). In 1895 the ordinance that created Saluda County mandated that voters choose a site for the county seat “within three miles of the geographical centre of the County.” Three communities vied for the seat. After much controversy, voters chose Red Bank, where Mine Creek and Red Bank Creek converge to form Little Saluda River. Trees were removed and streets and lots laid out. Town limits extended one-half mile in each direction from the courthouse. On July 28, 1896, the cornerstone was laid for the courthouse, and the first town lots sold shortly thereafter. By late 1896 a dispensary, drug store, and general store had been built. After the town was incorporated in 1897, officers were elected, the first court session was held, two hotels opened, and country people moved to town or came for business. The town had a newspaper (the Saluda Sentinel ), two churches, five attorneys, two doctors, and a dentist. By 1912 the population topped eight hundred and the economy was booming. The town had a railroad, a dozen stores, the three-story Able Building, two banks, two hotels, three lumber mills, two brick plants, cotton gins, a newspaper, three churches, two livery stables, two drugstores, many private homes, and a school that offered a high school diploma. In 1918 the town dedicated a new courthouse to replace the original structure.
In the 1920s the boll weevil, deflation, droughts, and floods weakened Saluda’s cotton-based economy. In the 1930s prices continued to drop, jobs were scarce, and banks failed. However, during the same period a sewing plant and a hosiery mill opened and were among the first employers in town to offer jobs to women. In addition, streets were paved, water and sewage systems completed, a swimming pool constructed, and a new school built—all with federal funds. Also, the Saluda Theater opened on July 4, 1936. Unfortunately, after the advent of new highways, the train became unprofitable and ceased operation in 1941.
After World War II, Saluda showed signs of new prosperity. In the 1950s many new businesses opened and additional garment manufacturers arrived. In 1966 the textile giant Deering Millikin built its Saluda plant, and South Carolina Helicopters, with its heliport in town, became a leader in helicopter flight training. New school buildings accommodated all students in Saluda School District One, and in 1970 black and white schools merged.
At the end of the twentieth century, businesses still lined Main and Church Streets and were elsewhere throughout the town. When new high school and middle school facilities opened in 2001, older buildings served elementary students. In the past, few tourists visited Saluda, but the restored Saluda Theater and a museum—both on the courthouse square—began to attract visitors. In 2000 Saluda faced challenges to meet the needs of all its citizens—African American, white, and Hispanic. With the influx of Hispanics working in the county’s poultry industry, the Saluda population increased from 2,831 in 1990 to 3,234 in 1998, and Spanish was heard on the streets and taught in the schools.
Herlong, Bela, ed. Scraps of Interesting History and Other Writings: From the Papers of Benjamin West Crouch. Saluda, S.C.: Saluda County Historical Society, 1996.
Herlong, Bela, and Gloria Caldwell, eds. Breaking New Ground: A Pictorial History of Saluda County. Saluda, S.C.: Saluda County Centennial Com- mission, 1995.