(Spartanburg County; 2020 pop. 2,774). Located in west-central Spartanburg County between the North and Middle Tyger Rivers, Wellford was once part of the hunting grounds of the Cherokee Nation. Cherokees called the area “Tucapau,” meaning “strong cloth.” Tucapau later became the name of a single community. European settlers, mostly Scots-Irish, began arriving from Pennsylvania and Virginia in the late 1750s. Attracted by the fertile farmland and ample wildlife, they settled along the North and Middle Tyger Rivers, which became known as the “upper settlement.” Fort Prince, approximately a mile and a half from Wellford’s future location, provided early settlers with protection from Native Americans and British during the Revolutionary War.
Following the war, the area became part of Spartanburg County. For most of the nineteenth century, the future site of Wellford remained a settlement of scattered farms associated with Beech Springs Township. Businesses developed after the Danville and Richmond Railroad arrived in 1876. A depot was built along with a wooden water tower from which the steam locomotives could fill their tanks. The emerging village was named for C. P. A. Wellford, a railway surveyor and a director of the Danville and Richmond. Several general merchandise stores, a post office, and the Wellford Bank were built near the depot. This section of Main Street became known as “Merchants’ Row.” The first homes in the village were also built along Main Street, and churches and an academy soon followed. In 1881 a group of African Americans established Sunny Graded School for the education of the former slave population. In 1882 Wellford received a town charter and elected its first intendant (mayor) and town wardens.
During the early twentieth century, Wellford remained an agricultural community with a few small textile factories. In 1922 Jackson Mills opened a plant just outside the town. The only source of electrical power for the community was the power plants at the mills. In the 1950s Wellford became a more diversified industrial area, with additional firms arriving to take advantage of electric service provided by Duke Power Company. Jackson Mills was joined by Leigh Fibers, Sybron/Tanatex Chemical Corporation, and International Paper Company, which built plants just beyond the town’s limits. With this new growth, Wellford was incorporated as a city in 1976. Wellford benefited from its location along a rapidly growing corridor paralleling U.S. Highway 29 and Interstate 85 between the cities of Spartanburg and Greenville. In 1970 the population was 1,298. Two decades later the population had almost doubled.
Leonard, Michael. Our Heritage: A Community History of Spartanburg County, S.C. Spartanburg, S.C.: Band & White, 1986.