As with many other towns in South Carolina’s upcountry, the railroad and cotton mills brought dramatic growth to Easley.
(Pickens County; 2020 pop. 21,626). As the Atlanta and Charlotte Airline Railroad was being completed through Pickens County in 1873, Robert Elliott Holcombe proposed to railroad authorities that he would build a depot at his own expense if the line went through property he either owned or had an option to buy. His offer was accepted, and Holcombe laid out business and residential lots that sold well. The General Assembly granted the new town a charter of incorporation on January 20, 1874. Holcombe was elected the town’s first intendant (mayor). In 1895 the town limits were extended due to growth, and the town of Easley was rechartered under the stipulations of a new uniform charter law.
Many would have thought the new town would be named for Holcombe, who became the first depot agent, but Holcombe asked that it be named for William King Easley, an attorney who was born in Pickens County near the Greenville County line. While Easley maintained his home there, much of his work was in Greenville, where he served as attorney for the rail line.
As with many other towns in South Carolina’s upcountry, the railroad and cotton mills brought dramatic growth to Easley. The first mill was begun in 1890 when John M. Geer, a cotton buyer from Piedmont Mills who came often to buy Easley’s cotton, told Easley citizens that if they would raise the stock, he would begin a mill. The stock was raised, Easley Cotton Mills was organized, and Geer was elected president and treasurer. Later two mills in nearby Liberty were purchased by the Easley corporation. In 1902 Glenwood Cotton Mills was begun, and Alice Mills followed in 1910.
Diversification of industry developed in more recent times, and Easley has a healthy retail trade. Nontextile firms that have opened in Easley include Danfoss Fluid Power, manufacturers of pumps and motors; and Perception, Inc., manufacturers of kayaks. Ortec makes chemicals for the textile industry. Textile mills still in operation include Alice, Mayfair, and Hollingsworth Saco-Lowell. They employ in excess of 4,300 people.
Easley is home to more than eighty churches representing sixteen denominations. The Palmetto Baptist Medical Center has 109 beds and seventy-two doctors. Numerous subdivisions, mostly to the east and south of the city, are occupied largely by persons working in the adjoining Greenville County. Growth within the city has been constant, however, with a seventeen percent increase in population during the 1990s.
Browning, Wilt. Linthead: Growing Up in a Carolina Cotton Mill Village. Asheboro, N.C.: Down Home Press, 1990.
Easley Mill Memories, 1900–1991. Easley, S.C.: Easley Mill Reunion Committee, 1991.
Pickensville-Easley History. Easley, S.C.: Forest Acres/McKissick Quest Program, 1989.