(Greenville County; 2020 pop. 25,272). Incorporated on August 13, 1901, Simpsonville began many decades earlier as a crossroads hamlet where the Old Stage Road intersected a former Cherokee trail, later named the Georgia Road. Residents of northeast Laurens County became Simpsonville’s first businessmen. In 1838 the farmer Peter Simpson arrived and established a blacksmithing operation, followed shortly thereafter by the merchant Silas Gilbert, who opened a general store. In that same year the locale was assigned a post office called Plain. As Simpson’s services grew in popularity, the crossroads became known as Simpsonville. However, in 1853 the Greenville and Columbia Railroad was completed several miles east of Simpsonville and siphoned off wagon trade and brought growth in the village to a standstill through Reconstruction.
After the war members of the local African American population left the churches of former slaveowners and organized Cedar Grove Baptist Church in 1870, the first church within the modern city limits. Completion of the Greenville and Laurens Railroad near Simpsonville in the mid-1880s brought further change. A high school was built, and a merchant, Sidney J. Wilson, surveyed land for a town and began selling lots. In 1886 the Plain post office officially became Simpsonville. Soon the town became a cotton-processing hub, claiming three gins and a cottonseed oil mill by 1900. That same year the Simpsonville population reached four hundred. In 1907 town representatives solicited the brothers John and Edward Woodside to build the Simpsonville Cotton Mill, which remained the town’s largest employer until after World War II.
Schools enjoyed a great deal of attention. In 1911 the Simpsonville Music College was established, and in 1915 the high school issued the first state diplomas in Greenville County. Also, between 1921 and 1940, the Simpsonville High School girls’ basketball team, the “Whirlwind,” amassed 303 wins and four state championships.
During the Depression of the 1930s, the Farmer’s Bank of Simpsonville was one of the few banks in Greenville County that did not fail, but Simpsonville remained a stagnant agricultural center until 1953, when the Greenville Water Works extended its system through the towns of Mauldin, Simpsonville, and Fountain Inn. The towns served by this new water line, dubbed the “Golden Strip” by a local reporter, became attractive locations for industrial development in the early 1960s. A simultaneous demand for new housing and the widening of U.S. Highway 276 in 1956 laid the foundation for further expansion. In the 1980s Simpsonville began attracting residential overflow from the Greenville-Spartanburg metropolitan area. Industry accelerated on Simpsonville’s periphery along Interstate 385, and houses were purchased by employees in the larger urban areas as well as by local workers. Between 1970 and 1990 Simpsonville’s population grew 254 percent. An additional increase of more than 13 percent from 1990 to 1992 made Simpsonville the fastest-growing city in the state. As Simpsonville responded to the effects of suburban sprawl, city officials worked to combine efforts to encourage growth while preserving the ambient appeal of the small town core.
Huff, Archie Vernon, Jr. Greenville: The History of the City and County in the South Carolina Piedmont. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.
Richardson, Lawrence R., and Robert L. Richardson. Simpsonville: A Community Study. Simpsonville, S.C., 1939.