Downtown Anderson. Wikimedia Commons.


1833 –

Incorporated as a city in 1882, Anderson became a center of the Piedmont’s late nineteenth-century industrial expansion.

(Anderson County; 2020 pop. 27,701). A new courthouse in the upstate became necessary in December 1826, when Pendleton District was divided into Anderson and Pickens Districts. The General Assembly appointed five commissioners to select a site. They acquired some 150 acres of land near the center of Anderson District for $4.62 an acre. A courthouse was completed in 1828, and a town developed around it. In 1833 the town of Anderson was incorporated. The town grew slowly during its first two decades, with the primary highlight being the founding of Johnson Female University in 1848. However, growth accelerated following the arrival of the Greenville and Columbia Railroad in 1856. Between 1850 and 1860 the number of merchants expanded from sixteen to forty-four.

Near the end of the Civil War, as Union troops marched through the Midlands, a branch of the Confederate treasury was removed from Columbia and located in the building that had housed the Johnson University. For eleven years after the war, Union troops occupied Anderson. The garrison used the Johnson University as headquarters, and the men camped nearby. The first rally held by former Confederate General Wade Hampton in his campaign for governor was held in Anderson on September 2, 1876.

Incorporated as a city in 1882, Anderson became a center of the Piedmont’s late nineteenth-century industrial expansion. In 1890 the first of several cotton mills were built on the outskirts of Anderson, and mills soon ringed the city. By 1900 the city had joined Greenville and Spartanburg as the leading textile manufacturing centers in South Carolina.

William C. Whitner led the formation of the Anderson Water, Light and Power Company, building a power plant at High Shoals on Rocky River, four miles from Anderson. A line was run to the town, and power reached Anderson on May 1, 1895. Two years later a larger plant was built at Portman Shoals on the Seneca River, twelve miles from town. Anderson Cotton Mill agreed to use the new source and became the first cotton mill in the South to be powered by long-distance transmitted lines. Electric streetlights and trolley lines soon followed, and a Charleston newspaper dubbed Anderson “The Electric City.” Having excess power, power company directors created the Anderson Traction Company in 1904 to operate electric trolleys, running lines to mills at the outskirts of the town and into main residential areas. Looking for still more users, the company built Buena Vista Park, establishing additional trolley lines to handle visitors.

Anderson’s prosperity continued into the early twentieth century. A new library and new hospital opened in 1908. In 1910 a successful campaign raised $100,000 to start a college in Anderson. The money was offered to the Baptists, and Anderson College opened in 1912 as a four-year college for women. In 1914 a suburb, North Anderson, was developed, containing two hundred lots that were connected to the city by a trolley line. The suburb merged with Anderson in 1929.

Significant growth continued after World War II as Anderson attracted new, nontextile industries. Although most of this industrial expansion occurred just beyond the city limits, Anderson benefited nevertheless and became a regional retail and commercial center attracting people from both South Carolina and Georgia. A civic center and sports and entertainment center within the city limits garnered attention, as did a new courthouse, completed in 1991. These projects complemented an extensive downtown renovation program marked by the creation of new green space, a resurgence of shops and restaurants, and improved building facades. The 1897 courthouse became a county office building. Entering the twenty-first century, Anderson looked to the future but remembered its past with four historic districts, plus several individual structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Anderson County Tricentennial Committee. Anderson County Honors the State of South Carolina on Her 300th Birthday: Souvenir Program. Anderson, S.C.: Anderson County Tricentennial Committee, 1970.

Badders, Hurley E. Anderson County: A Pictorial History. Norfolk, Va.: Donning, 1999.

Dickson, Frank. Journeys into the Past. Anderson, S.C.: Dickson, 1975. Watkins,

William L. Anderson County, South Carolina: The Things That Made It Happen. Anderson, S.C., 1995.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Anderson
  • Coverage 1833 –
  • Author
  • Keywords Industrial expansion, Electric city,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date July 24, 2024
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 14, 2022
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