Woodside, John Thomas
Textile mill owner, entrepreneur. Woodside was born in Greenville County on May 9, 1864, the son of John Lawrence Woodside, a prominent landowner, and Ellen Permelia Charles. As a merchant, manufacturer, banker, and real estate developer, Woodside personified South Carolina’s transformation to a modern economy. He grew up working on his father’s farm in Woodville, near the southern tip of Greenville County. The elder Woodside also owned a general store and served the area with a gristmill, saw mill, tannery, and cotton gin. Ellen Woodside was one of the area’s leading churchwomen, founding Lickville Presbyterian Church in 1882.
Woodside received his education first under private tutors and later at a nearby school. In 1883 he left home to teach school in Greer. The following year he went to work for his uncle at the Reedy River Factory, a cotton mill south of Greenville. He remained there seven years and gained experience in every aspect of cotton manufacturing. In 1891 Woodside struck out on his own and opened a grocery store in Pelzer. He moved to Greenville in 1894 and opened another grocery store on Main Street. On April 25, 1894, he married Lou A. Carpenter. The marriage produced no children.
In upstate South Carolina, textile mills were the order of the day. Woodside followed the lead of several other local entrepreneurs and built Woodside Mill in Greenville’s west-side industrial district. He began operations with eleven thousand spindles in 1902. The mill was an instant success and underwent several expansions in the following decade. Woodside also purchased additional plants in Easley, Liberty, Simpsonville, and Fountain Inn, merging them into a single firm, Woodside Cotton Mills, in 1911. In 1912 he expanded Woodside Mill to 112,000 spindles, making it the largest complete cotton mill under one roof in America.
In addition to textile manufacturing, Woodside ventured into banking and real estate. He established the Farmers and Merchants Bank in 1907 and eventually served as director of five upstate banks. In 1923 he constructed his Greenville headquarters, the seventeen-story Woodside Building. In 1926 Woodside purchased 66,000 acres in Horry County, where he began the first large-scale development along the Grand Strand. He completed a championship golf course and the Ocean Forest Hotel in Myrtle Beach in 1929.
The 1929 crash on Wall Street devastated Woodside’s fortune. Within five years his banks failed, his Myrtle Beach venture collapsed, and he lost control of Woodside Cotton Mills to creditors. He spent the remainder of his life in Greenville in modest circumstances and largely forgotten. Unique among his fellow textile manufacturers, Woodside completed an extensive autobiography, although it was not published. Woodside died in Greenville on January 5, 1946.
Dunlap, James A., III. “Victims of Neglect: The Career and Creations of John T. Woodside, 1865–1986.” Master’s thesis, University of South Carolina, 1986.
Huff, Archie Vernon, Jr. Greenville: The History of the City and County in the South Carolina Piedmont. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.
Woodside, John T. Autobiography. Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.