Until the division of Pendleton District in 1826, the town was one of the most influential in the upper half of South Carolina.
(Anderson County; 2020 pop. 3,313). The town of Pendleton was created in 1790 as the seat of Pendleton County. Situated on the Cherokee Path, it was named for Judge Henry Pendleton, a Virginian who fought in the Revolutionary War and remained in South Carolina. In 1800, when the county became Pendleton District, the General Assembly ordered commissioners to create a formal town plan. The resulting plat contained fifty-one town lots of one acre each and forty-three larger “outlots.” One of the first to settle in the new town was William Steele, who opened a store and later became postmaster of what was then the westernmost post office in the United States.
Until the division of Pendleton District in 1826, the town was one of the most influential in the upper half of South Carolina. Initial settlement was by Scots-Irish veterans of the Revolutionary War, but by 1800 lowcountry planters had discovered the Pendleton area and built summer homes. Its mix of small farmers and educated, wealthy summer residents made Pendleton unusual among upstate communities during the antebellum era. A second courthouse was erected on the village green in 1800, and a circulating library was incorporated in 1811. The second decade of the nineteenth century found Pendleton flourishing. A new jail was built off the town square, the circulating library had its funds diverted for a male academy, and a Sunday school society was in operation. The Pendleton Farmers Society, organized in 1815, was still active entering the twenty-first century, making it one of the oldest agricultural societies in the nation. In 1826 Pendleton District was divided into Anderson and Pickens Districts, and the town of Pendleton lost its courthouse status. The Farmers Society bought another courthouse then under construction, completed it, and made it its headquarters.
Pendleton survived despite the loss of its courthouse status. Three miles from the town, John C. Calhoun established his beloved Fort Hill plantation. Calhoun’s son-in-law, Thomas Clemson, bequeathed the site to the state for an agricultural college that became Clemson University. In 1851 the Blue Ridge Railroad began construction of a track between Belton and Pendleton. The road was later extended to Walhalla but advanced no farther due to a lack of funds.
Industry arrived in the twentieth century. Two Milliken textile mills opened nearby, as did large manufacturing establishments operated by Michelin Tire Company, Westinghouse, and Allied Signal Laminates. With its proximity to Clemson University, Pendleton also became home to many of the school’s faculty and staff. In 1970 much of the town was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, helping Pendleton become an upcountry tourist center attracting as many as 100,000 visitors annually.
Badders, Hurley E. Historic Pendleton: A Survey. Pendleton, S.C.: Foothills Printing, 1973.
Klosky, Beth Ann. The Pendleton Legacy. Columbia, S.C.: Sandlapper, 1971.
Simpson, R. W. History of Old Pendleton District: With a Genealogy of the Leading Families of the District. 1913. Reprint, Greenville, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1996.