(Greenville County; 2020 pop. 8,202). The modern city developed in northern Greenville County near the intersection of the Buncombe Road and the road to Jones Gap. After the completion of the new wagon road to Asheville and Knoxville in 1794, drovers crowded the Buncombe Road in the fall, camping and staying overnight at local farmhouses and taverns. The Travelers Rest post office was established in 1808 to serve the largely farming community, and the mail was delivered by stage, which ran from Asheville, North Carolina, to Greenville. Churches nearby included Reedy River Baptist Church (ca. 1778), an early Separate Baptist congregation, and Jackson Grove Methodist Church (1832), the latter created at the site of a camp meeting. Local one-room schools were operated in the area, and in 1883 the Travelers Rest Academy (later High School) opened.
In 1888 the Carolina, Knoxville, and Western Railway began construction of a line along the Reedy River from Greenville north to River Falls. The train was commonly known as the “Swamp Rabbit.” Summer visitors from the lowcountry boarded at the spacious home of Robert W. Anderson, later known as Spring Park Inn. A rivalry developed between residents in the lower and upper sections of Travelers Rest over access to the rail line, and two railroad stations were constructed. After the town was incorporated by the legislature in 1891, the residents of the upper section secured incorporation as the town of Athens in 1893. In 1900, when Athens ceased to function as a town, it had a population of 107, just one more person than inhabited Travelers Rest.
Churches were established as the village grew, including Travelers Rest Methodist Church in 1893 and First Baptist Church in 1913. Trinity Presbyterian Church was established in 1933 in Renfrew. The first major industry came in 1929, when Brandon Mills began production at Renfrew Bleachery. In 1946 it became a part of Abney Mills. After changing hands several times, it closed in 1988. After World War II other industries located in Travelers Rest, including the Zonolite Division of W. R. Grace (1946), two garment plants, Curtron Curtains, and two embroidery plants: EMB-TEX and Kemco. By 1960 the population of Travelers Rest had risen to 1,973. An international business, Ernst Diamond, which produces grinding wheels, opened in 1982. In the final decades of the twentieth century, the town’s population expanded as it increasingly became a bedroom community within the flourishing Greenville-Spartanburg metropolitan area.
Goodlett, Mildred W. Travelers Rest at Mountain’s Foot; The History of Travelers Rest. N.p., 1966.
Huff, Archie Vernon, Jr. Greenville: The History of the City and County in the South Carolina Piedmont. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.