Woodruff

Woodruff probably gained its greatest recognition in the postwar decades due to the success that the coach W. L. “Willie” Varner brought to Woodruff High School athletics, especially football. Under Coach Varner, the Wolverines won ten state football championships.

(Spartanburg County; 2020 pop. 4,507). Located at the intersection of S.C. Highway 101 and State Road 50 in southern Spartanburg County, the junction that became the town of Woodruff originated at the meeting of the Buncombe Road, which ran from Charleston to the mountains, and the Georgia Road. In 1787 Joseph Woodruff, his brothers, and other family were listed as members and deacons in the earliest minutes of the Church of Christ at Jamey’s Creek, which would later become Woodruff Baptist Church. As early as 1789 Woodruff purchased two hundred acres of land on Jamey’s Creek, including the present site of Woodruff. By 1825 Woodruff post office (which took its name from the postmaster Thomas Woodruff, Joseph’s son) and Woodruff’s Tavern dominated the crossroads.

Situated in the midst of an expanding cotton region, Woodruff developed as a trade center for the rural farming communities. By the 1850s the town was hosting substantial fairs for the exchange of livestock and domestic manufactures. Woodruff was incorporated in 1874 with a population estimated at 150, but with the coming of the railroad in 1885 the population had grown to an estimated 1,600 by 1886. As a terminus on the rail line, the station at Woodruff included a turntable that would return trains to Augusta, Georgia.

A fair that began in the 1870s grew into a major annual event by the 1890s, drawing visitors from as far away as North Carolina. During the 1880s and 1890s construction steadily progressed along Main Street, with the popular Leatherwood Hotel as the focal point. Industry came to town in 1898 with the arrival of Woodruff Cotton Oil Company, and within three years the newly chartered Woodruff Cotton Mill began operation. By 1907 the W. S. Gray Cotton Mill was established, further expanding Woodruff’s residential base with additional mill houses. Until World War II the major diversion from textiles in the area was peaches, with more than 200,000 trees within a ten-mile radius. During the 1950s, with industries settling near large cities, Woodruff saw a four percent drop in population. But with the 1962 opening of the Jeffery Manufacturing Company, an industrial equipment maker, the town’s industrial base grew and diversified. New jobs attracted residents, and Woodruff ’s population reached 4,576 by 1970.

Woodruff probably gained its greatest recognition in the postwar decades due to the success that the coach W. L. “Willie” Varner brought to Woodruff High School athletics, especially football. Under Coach Varner, the Wolverines won ten state football championships.

A change to a council/manager city government coincided with revitalization efforts in the mid-1980s to combat revenue shortfalls brought on by a stagnant local economy. This resulted in an eight percent drop in population between 1970 and 2000. In 2001, however, grant funding initiated a $1.1 million revitalization of downtown to replace sidewalks, add decorative lighting, and bury overhead wires.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Woodruff
  • Author
  • Keywords intersection of S.C. Highway 101 and State Road 50 in southern Spartanburg County, Joseph Woodruff, his brothers, and other family were listed as members and deacons in the earliest minutes of the Church of Christ at Jamey’s Creek, developed as a trade center for the rural farming communities,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 5, 2022
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 26, 2022
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