Looking for history in Greenville, SC? When you travel to a new place do you want to know how it got to be the way it is now? Does knowing the origins of place names and historical events that happened there make your adventures richer? It does for us too! History runs deep in the red Carolina clay and we love to share it with y’all. South Carolina has played a major part in the evolution of the United States starting with its inclusion as one of the original 13 colonies. But of course, the Native American history of tribes such as the Catawba, Cherokee, Congaree, and Santee goes back much further. Speaking of evolution, there’s an even older history – of my people – the furry, fanged, feathered, and scaly that goes back further still. But we’ll begin even deeper, at rock bottom, in that Carolina clay. Put on your Indiana Jones hat ‘cause it might get dusty!
Are you a rock fan? This is the home of Smiley, Clemson’s oldest tiger – a Saber-tooth Tiger skeleton. Located on the grounds of the South Carolina Botanical Garden at Clemson University and supported by the active paleontological research program, here many treasures can be found. Large collections of faceted gemstones and fluorescent minerals are on permanent display. Revolving exhibits throughout the year may include such attractions as the current preparation of a Triceratops skull where visitors can watch the work up close. Admission is free. Free parking, no permit required. Open: Mon – Sun 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Start discovering at 140 Discovery Lane, Clemson SC.
This destination is actually a favorite turn around for weekend group bike rides leaving usually from Furman campus in Greenville. Located on the grounds of historic Hagood Mill, built in 1845 – explore two historical sites from vastly different eras in one visit! Found only recently – 2003 – on a boulder under a road built in 1820, the 32 distinct petroglyphs are exhibited in situ. They feature clear human and abstract figures. Open: Wed, Fri, Sat 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. There is a $5 parking fee on Sat. Get prehistoric at 138 Hagood Mill Rd, Pickens SC.
The Catawba Indian Nation occupies tribal lands dating back at least 6000 years. In addition to permanent displays, get acquainted with their rich culture through many hands-on 2-3 hour seminar experiences like beadwork, and flint knapping classes, or traditional dinner and dance. You will need to plan and make reservations one month in advance for these offerings but it is well worth it. Hikers can head out from the cultural center on three walking trails each with many historic features and markers including an active archeological dig center. Open: Mon – Sat 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Walk in the paths of the ancients at 996 Avenue of the Nations, Rock Hill SC
Keowee and Toxaway are both of Cherokee Native American origin. Keowee, meaning place of the mulberry, and Toxaway, meaning place of thunder. Beautiful views of the Blue Ridge can be found on the two hiking trails. The Jocassee Gorges Visitor Center houses exhibits about the region’s extraordinary natural diversity, the region’s importance as a scientific research destination, the history of the people who lived here in the past and features a three-dimensional topographic map of the region. If you would like to appreciate the natural beauty longer, rental cabins and camping sites are available. Park open: Sat – Thurs 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Get in touch at 108 Residence Dr., Sunset SC.
The regional history of the fifteen South Carolina counties that comprise the Upstate can be investigated here, housed on Greenville’s Heritage Green next to the Children’s Museum and Greenville County Art Museum. Exhibits of historical technologies going back to the early 18th century are on display to give a feel for life in earlier times. Click the link for a schedule of visiting shows currently on view. Open: Tues – Sat 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sun 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Go way ‘back in the day’ at 540 Buncombe St. in Greenville.
Revolutionary War Sites
Cowpens National Battlefield is the site of the successful “Double Envelopment”, considered one of the most decisive victories of the Revolutionary War and you can find out what that all that means on 842 acres worth of various historic features. Open: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., year round. Delve in at 4001 Chesnee Hwy.
Historic Brattonsville another decisive battle and a famous film location put Brattonsville on the visitor magnet map. Very family friendly with 30 historic structures and costumed interpreters of days and ways gone by, including historic farming techniques and farm animals at Bratton Plantation. Open: Tues – Sat 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sun 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Get immersed at 1444 Brattonsville Rd, McConnells, SC.
Kings Mountain has a unique battle history as no British fought in it – only Americans, Patriots against Loyalists, and for the weaponry used. They hold re-creation events throughout the year. Check the event schedule for details. Visitors center and hiking trails. Open: Daily 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Find the turning point at 2300 Park Road Blacksburg, SC
Poinsett Bridge, namesake of Poinsett Highway and the Poinsettia flower, Joel R. Poinsett was the US Ambassador to Mexico. The bridge was built in 1820, the oldest surviving bridge in South Carolina. Find it on the map at Callahan Mountain Rd, Landrum SC.
Christ Church Episcopal Historic Churchyard It’s a who’s who of headstones right in downtown Greenville! And the church is stunning too. If you like to make charcoal rubbing this is your spot. Many the street names in Greenville will be echoed here
Civil War History
Museum and Library of Confederate History in Greenville. The stated mission of the museum: “to provide a true and accurate historical perspective of the War period in an educational manner and to preserve the cultural heritage and artifacts of the South.” It houses an impressive collection of artifacts and a research library. And it’s right in Historic Pettigru district of Greenville. Open: Mon, Weds 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Fri 1 p.m. – 9 p.m., Sat 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sun 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Get some perspective at 15 Boyce Ave.
Christ Church Episcopal Historic Churchyard It’s a who’s who of headstones right in downtown Greenville! And the church is stunning too. If you like to make charcoal rubbings this is your spot. Consecrated in 1854, many the street names in Greenville will be echoed here. Get spooked at 10 N Church Street
South Carolina State House was literally under construction during the civil war and was damaged by Sherman’s army in 1865. Take the tour and enjoy artworks and other artifacts from South Carolina’s long history. Check the link for tour times. See the flags waving proudly on the grounds at 1100 Gervais St, Columbia SC.
The Lynching of Willie Earle a reminder of slavery, segregation’s hideous past and a historic legal milestone. The site of the last lynching in South Carolina. Find the marker on Old Easley Highway (State Highway 124) near Bramlett Road (County Road 105), on the left when traveling north.
The Friendship Nine was a group of African American men who went to jail after staging a sit-in at a segregated McCrory’s lunch counter in Rock Hill, South Carolina in 1961. You can find the historical marker and the restaurant, now called the Five and Dine at 135 E Main St #101, Rock Hill, SC.
Campbell’s Covered Bridge is the only remaining covered bridge in the state, and it’s bright red and picturesque, constructed in 1909. Go take a gambol across the Campbell and a few selvsies with your friends. Run across it at 171 Campbells Covered Bridge Road, Landrum, SC.
Greenville is defined by its historic textile mills, however, none as yet have official tours or designated park areas. The mill towns were little villages surrounding the mill itself and dominated Upstate life in the early 20th century. Woodside Cotton Mill Village is one of the most impressive and you can walk or drive through it as you would any historic neighborhood. It’s located around Woodside Ave. between 6th street and E/W Main. Taylors Mill, on the other hand, is being transformed into an artists colony. There are many artist’s studios popping up in the old buildings, great community events are held there, and the coffee house, Due South Coffee is top notch. Click the link to see what they have going on during your visit.
Shoeless Joe Jackson was a baseball player who became famous for, well, going barefoot and swinging a bat. Learn his story at the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum, located at 356 Field St in Greenville right across from Fluor Field you could see a game and make it real field of dreams kinda day!
Lastly, you might enjoy Downtown Greenville Driving Tour or the Historical West End Walking Tour around Greenville. Click the link for details. I’m going to put on my tricorn hat shoulder my musket and heady back to my burrow. Hope you enjoy the rest of your stay, thinking about how far we’ve all come.
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