Pickens remained a small town throughout the twentieth century, although improvements continued. In 1947 Dr. Gaine E. Cannon began Cannon Memorial Hospital as a clinic, which expanded to a forty-seven-bed hospital in 1949 and moved to new facilities in 1982.
(Pickens County; 2020 pop. 3,185). The upcountry city of Pickens, named for Revolutionary War general Andrew Pickens, was chartered on July 22, 1868, as the seat of government for the newly created Pickens County. It was the second town by that name, replacing Old Pickens, which had been the courthouse seat for the old Pickens District. Some of the structures in Old Pickens, including the jail, were dismantled and rebuilt in the new town.
The area was poor and rural in the years after the Civil War. In 1869 the Pickens population was less than one hundred, but within a year the town claimed two general stores, two barrooms, two boardinghouses, the courthouse, and several nearby dwellings. Court week was a big event each October. In 1871 the first hotel opened, and a school with sixty students operated as well. The Pickens Sentinel published its first issue that same year. The first house of worship was built by the African American congregation of the Griffin Ebenezer Baptist Church (1871). However, many town lots remained vacant, some of which were used to grow corn, cotton, or oats.
The last two decades of the nineteenth century were years of growth for Pickens, with new businesses developing westward along Main Street away from the original business district surrounding the courthouse. The Young Men’s Christian Association was active in the 1880s, as was a Masonic Lodge. As the seat of county justice, Pickens also had lawyers’ offices. In 1882 the Pickens Institute Joint Stock Company financed the building of an academy on Main Street, which was dedicated on April 20, 1883, and operated until financial troubles closed it in late 1888. There were several schemes to get a railroad to serve the town before the Pickens Railroad Company was chartered on December 24, 1890. The train derailed on its maiden run in 1898, to the dismay of investors. The 9.6-mile track led to Easley. In the early years of its operation, the tracks did not allow turning around, so the train had to run backward returning to Pickens. Locals named it the “Pickens Doodle” because its action reminded them of a doodlebug backing into its hole. The National Railway Utilization Company bought the line in 1973.
Pickens remained a small town throughout the twentieth century, although improvements continued. In 1947 Dr. Gaine E. Cannon began Cannon Memorial Hospital as a clinic, which expanded to a forty-seven-bed hospital in 1949 and moved to new facilities in 1982. A jail built in 1902 became the county museum in 1975. In the early 1980s city businesses produced textiles, aluminum die castings, electrical capacitors, and electric hand tools. The town had a radio station, and the Pickens Sentinel continued as a weekly newspaper. Although the Pickens County population grew considerably, the town population remained at just over three thousand from 1980 through most of the 1990s, a size that continues to this day.
Pickens remains a pleasant, small town in the foothills, convenient to urban areas but without the attendant problems of a larger city.
Morris, Jane Boroughs. Pickens: The Town and the First Baptist Church. Pickens, S.C.: Pickens First Baptist Church, 1991.
Pickens County Heritage Book Committee. Pickens County Heritage, South Carolina, 1995. Waynesville, N.C.: Don Mills, 1995.