Greenwood in 1889

Greenwood in 1889

from South Carolina in the 1880s: A Gazetteer
Compiled and edited by John Hammond Moore
Original article from The Charleston News and Courier, 1889

Greenwood, originally a fifty-cent meal stop on the Columbia and Greenville Railroad, almost disappeared when a schedule change shifted the eating time to nearby Ninety Six. But in the 1880s, thanks to new railroad connections generated for the most part by residents of Greenwood itself, the town’s population rose from 745 to 1,326, making it the second-largest community in Abbeville County. This anonymous report describes Greenwood in December of 1889.

Someone has said that the history of Greenwood began fifty years ago when the daily trains on the Columbia and Greenville Road would stop at the town and the passengers could get for fifty cents one of the best meals to be had in the State. Many are the travelers from lower Carolina who remember the little town by the roadside where such fine dinners were to be had. But the schedule of the trains was changed and the dinner station was moved to the famous town of Ninety-Six. So the history of Greenwood was cut short and the town nearly ceased to be, and never was heard of except as the location of a good female school. The time was not yet ripe for Greenwood to show the latent energy within her bounds and to make plain how a few sound-minded, enterprising men could build up a community and set in motion wheels of progress whose velocity increases with time. Greenwood has no history. It is making its record in the present, and a record, too, of which it can be proud.

Without any natural advantages, Greenwood is fast becoming one of the busiest marts in South Carolina and is destined to be one of the best distributing points in the upper section of the State. Nature gave health, Greenwood has done and is doing the rest. The town is pre-eminently an example of what can be accomplished by unremitting energy and boundless self-reliance. The Columbia and Greenville Railroad was diverted from its natural and most direct route on its way from the Capital of the State to the Mountain City and made to circle round to Greenwood by the enterprising efforts of the townspeople. The Augusta and Knoxville Road was built solely by the people of Greenwood and a few of those living along the line. Work was commenced on this road when there was but one thousand dollars subscribed towards the enterprise and it was built to completion amidst the jeers of hundreds. It was at first owned almost entirely by persons in and around Greenwood and was operated by them until it was bought by the Central of Georgia. There never was a road built under such fearful odds and with so little encouragement from outsiders, and yet there are few roads which pass from the possession of the first stockholders with as little loss as did the old Greenwood and Augusta Road.

The next road projected from Greenwood was the "Greenwood and Abbeville, with the privilege to extend either way, east or west." The charter for it was then altered so as to allow it to run to Chester, and then again to Monroe, N.C., and Atlanta, Ga., where the name was changed and it was known as the Georgia, Carolina, and Northern. It will be one of the best roads in the South, running as it does through a section of country ripe for development. Thus Greenwood has become a railroad centre, well knowing that in our fertile Southland where there were the outlets for traffic that there would spring up very soon a traffic to let out. In the case of Greenwood this has proved itself true. Enterprise after enterprise has been begun. As a cotton market the town has grown till now it far exceeds in wealth and prosperity any town in the State of its own age and has few peers among those of twice or thrice its age.

Marketing Cotton

The town is governed by an intendant and a board of wardens. As the town is, so are its rulers, young and enterprising. Mr. Joel S. Bailey is the intendant and the wardens are: J.W. Duckett, B.R. Calhoun, C.W. Crews, and Lewis Wailer (colored). Greenwood is a dry town and needs no peace officers and has only a night watchman. There is a nominal town tax of one and one-half mills.

The Greenwood Bank, with a paid in capital stock of $40,000, commenced business on September 15, 1888, and since that time has been doing a thriving business. Last August it declared a dividend of 8 per cent and carried $3,000 to the surplus fund. Its stock is not on the market and cannot be bought except at a very great advance. The business of the bank is increasing rapidly, and it is probable that next year’s dividend will greatly exceed that of this year. The officers of the bank are: J.K. Durst, president; D.A.P. Jordan, vice president; J.W. Greene, cashier; J.F. Davis, assistant cashier. The directors are Dr. W.B. Millwee, R.W. Majors, H.P. McGhee, H.M. Spikes, and T.C. Duncan.

The Greenwood Cotton Mill will begin work next season. The present capital stock is $100,000, but it is probable that this will be doubled, and the buildings are being constructed with this view. The mill is being built on the co-operative plan, and no money is allowed to lie idle but is called for just as it is needed.

About the mill site the company owns twenty acres of land on which the cottages of the operatives will be built. A side track runs from the mill sit to the Richmond and Danville Railroad, which has connection with the Augusta and Knoxville. The mill will make the coarser grades of cotton, and if the Alliance decide to use cotton bagging for another year, machinery for making this article will be put in the mill.*

Mr. W.L. Durst, one of the most enterprising men of the town, is the president of the cotton mill company, and Mr. Joel S. Bailey is the secretary and treasurer. The directors are WL. Durst, Dr. J.C. Maxwell, Dr. W.B. Millwee, G.A. Barksdale, J.T. Simmons, H.P. McGhee, and W.H. Bailey.

The cotton seed oil mill was completed a few weeks ago and is now in active operation. It is a twenty-ton mill with a capital stock of $30,000. It is conveniently situated to the railroads. The mill is one of the best constructed small mills in the State, and has been so pronounced by experts. The Smith-Vail machinery with Carver linters are the kind used in it, and the most careful attention has been given its construction and equipment by its president, Dr. W.B. Millwee. The directors of the company are Dr. W.B. Millwee, Dr. J.C. Maxwell, J.T. Simmons, J.P. Mickler, J.S. Morse, T.F. Riley, and H.B. Reynolds.

The only cotton compress in the State outside of Charleston and Columbia is in Greenwood. A company of capitalists have put it here, after critically examining the whole State for a favorable location. It is situated near the side track to the cotton mill and convenient to the three railroads.

Messrs. Johnson and Wilkerson of North Carolina have been operating a door, blind, and sash factory for the past two years, but so far have not been able to do more than satisfy the local patronage, which, however, has been considerable owing to the number of buildings being put up in Greenwood.


*The Farmers’ Alliance was fighting the “jute trust” at this time, and its members were refusing to use jute bagging for cotton.

Note: Ninety Six usually was referred to as “Ninety-Six” in the nineteenth century.

Continued on next page.


Greenwood in 1889 Article

Great article! I am not a native Greenwoodian, having relocated here in 1978. This explains why Greenwood developed over Abbeville and Ninety Six which were established areas much earlier.

Great find! Love reading this

Great find! Love reading this and seeing all the old family names. You have to wonder if they are the same families. You can almost map out Greenwood roads with these names. Millwee, Reynolds, Durst, Bailey, Calhoun, Maxwell...

Thank you for this most

Thank you for this most informative article. I look forward to reading more. Perhaps you will research the SALAK Railroad history as well. Once again, thank you.