Greer and Taylors Share Common History

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Monday, February 4

Historically, Greer and Taylors have more in common than you might think.

That’s what longtime Greer historian Joada Hiatt shared with local residents at a recent Taylors TownSquare meeting.

“Taylors and Greer have a common shared history,” she said. “People from Greer came over to swim in the lakes at Chick Springs and dance in the ballrooms at the old hotel. Taylors people drove over to Greer to swim at Suttle’s Puddle. It was the first really nice in-ground swimming pool built in Greer along with Hampton, a nice Olympic size pool.”

Hiatt said the two communities have always been connected by the railroads.

“The one event that shaped both communities was the railroad,” she said. “When you think about it, after the civil war, the coming of the railroads changed America. It wasn’t just South Carolina.”

“It was all over our country that railroads began to bring commerce,” she said. “They brought not only goods; they brought mail. They brought people. Being able to move these things caused small communities to develop along these railroads.”

Greer did not start where the City of Greer is today.

“The thriving community for Greer was Pleasant Grove at that crossroads,” Hiatt said.

At Pleasant Grove, there was a post office, school, and churches.

“They had an inn where the drovers came through herding the cattle and stopped at the inn,” Hiatt said. “It was called Bailey’s crossroads because Mr. Bailey had put up the inn for the drovers, and he had a little store there, and people came through.”

“When the railroads decided to come through, picking their locations and their right-of-ways, determined where Taylors and Greer were going to be, where they placed those depots,” she said. “When the railroad came through, they would talk about it as Greer’s Depot and Taylor’s Depot because they were the people who owned the land where these depots went.”

Greer’s first post mark was Greer’s Depot, South Carolina.

“In 1873, that railroad came through,” Hiatt said. “The Atlantic and Charlotte Airline Railroad laid these tracks, which later was going to be the southern railroad through the area; people would say, we’re going over to Greer’s Depot because they would have like a big flea market around when the train would come in, and these depots were set up to be like every five or six miles because they were serving farmers.”

“Taylors was farming,” she said. “Greer was a farming community.”

Greers left his name on Greer when he sold the land and moved because the first post mark said, Greer’s Depot.

“When the town incorporated, they dropped Depot and called it Greer’s,” Hiatt said, “and it was Greer’s legally until 1976 when the community celebrated 100 years and realized they were still Greer’s with an apostrophe “s”, and they had to ask the legislature to drop the apostrophe “s” and make it Greer.”

“So I think it’s interesting that Taylor had no “s” on his name and the town kept the “s” as Taylors, and it probably goes back to being Taylor’s Depot, and Greer lost its “s”; people dropped it,” she said.

Greer’s land was then subdivided.

“Once you had a train coming through, people began to move there,” Hiatt said. “Commerce came; stores came. People came; even churches came.”

“The First Presbyterian Church loaded their one room wooden church on logs and let the horses and mules pull it to town and put it right where the First Presbyterian Church is today in Greer,” she said.

Greer was incorporated in 1876, and Taylors was never incorporated.

“I suspect that Mr. Taylor and the mill did not want to incorporate because of taxes,” Hiatt said. “I noticed a few years ago when there was a big talk about maybe Taylors should incorporate; we in Greer all laughed about that; they’re all worried because Greer is moving down Wade Hampton toward Taylors.”

“Our local joke was the city limits are on wheels, so we can just move them whenever we get ready to down the road toward Duncan and Taylors,” she said, “but I don’t think you need to worry about us.”

Greer is the largest city in Greenville County in square miles, not in population.

“Now, a second railroad also brought development to the community,” Hiatt said. “James Duke, the tobacco duke and of Duke Energy, got into the electric railroads, and he began setting them up and buying some existing lines, and we had the Piedmont and Northern as a second railroad.”

“Now the interesting thing is when Duke is setting up the second line, he has two routes that he’s had surveyed as a possibility,” she said. “One is going to come through Greer and Taylors; the other one’s going through Reidville, and that would bypass us.”

Duke was looking to link Spartanburg and Greenville as well as Anderson and Charlotte with his electric inter-urban railroad.

“They went out looking,” Hiatt said. “Reidville was very gungho because they saw how Greer developed when a railroad came through, so they went out and they told them that they had all the right-of-way secured from the farmers and that they would build a brick factory that would produce a thousand bricks a day for whatever they needed.”

“Now, the Greer and the Taylors group got together and said, let’s not let that railroad go to Reidville,” she said. “They invited the railroad officials to Chick Springs hotel. They wined and dined them, and they said, just think about it, look at all those textile mills down the line; you build the railroad right down beside those mills; cotton will come in on your railroad to the mills and goods will go out of the mills on your railroads, and they sold them and that’s why two lines come through Greer and Taylors.”

Today, the Inland Port is a major factor for the area, and Taylors is coming up on the 100-year anniversary of a major wreck on their trestle.

“The last car jumped the tracks, and the front car stayed on the trestle,” Hiatt said. “One of the interesting stories from this accident was there was a blind man traveling; he was not hurt, but he threatened to sue the railroad because he lost his hat.”

“We talk about nuisance lawsuits; well, they were then too,” she said.

The trestle was a major part of the P&N (piedmont and northern) railroad.

“During the depression, people couldn’t afford it (the train),” Hiatt said, “so they lowered their rates to a penny a mile, and people said that P&N stood for poor and needy because that’s who could afford to ride on the train.”

“Both communities have rich histories to preserve,” she said.

Museums
The Greer museum was the dream of Carm Hudson, who served for a time as the librarian at Crestview Elementary School.

“She decided Greer needed a museum to preserve its history for its school children, so she started in 1993 working on this and opened in a rented building in downtown Greer in 1996,” Hiatt said. “She had to move across the street during parts of the years because her building got sold.”

“She heard one day that I was retiring from the library and ran in and strong armed me,” she said. “I thought I’d not get out of there unless I told her, yes, I would come and work at the museum when she retired, so I started as a non paid director at the museum in 2006, and I had the good job of moving to the old Greer post office, which was a depression era post office and then was later city hall.”

Hiatt helped to move all the displays and set them up in the new location.

“I will say that small museums have a real hard time; there’s no doubt about it,” Hiatt said. “We have a lot of people that call for information, and we’re used a lot without them being on site, but city council thinks we’re not busy at all, and yet they don’t realize that weekly I get email or letters where I’m sending off pictures and research.”

“All kinds of people come in and do genealogy,” she said. “The real estate agents love us. They actually come in to research houses or buildings they’re selling, what’s the historic connection here, because lots of times if you’re going to sell an old building or an old house and you’re going to renovate it, you can find grants and you can get tax rollbacks because you’re preserving history.”

Two major problems exist for small museums: funding and staffing.

“We use volunteers, and the volunteers you use are people that are retired because they have time often,” Hiatt said. “We all get old; we can’t do it anymore.”

“One of the things that draws people back to museums is to have ongoing programs and things,” she said.

Her advice to Taylors is: “Don’t build a museum, but preserve your history.”

“You have a historic mill,” Hiatt said. “You have a building right there. Through pictures that people would bring you, that you either scan or they give you, you can create story boards throughout your mill that people can walk by and get your history.”

“You don’t have to pay a director to stand there,” she said. “They (the pictures) will tell your history. You can collect artifacts and put them in cases and lock them up where nobody will bother them and people will walk by and look at them, so you can have, in essence, a museum without having to have attendance there and wondering who’s going to volunteer and keep the museum open today.”

Hiatt has also worked with Arcadia Press to publish four different books about Greer, and she advised Taylors residents to do something similar.

“These are good to do, and it becomes a fundraiser for you,” Hiatt said. “That is what I would suggest as far as our experience in Greer.”

Greer Heritage Museum is located at 106 S. Main Street, Greer, with hours Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information, call 877-3377; mail PO Box 995, Greer, SC 29652; or email greerheritagemuseum@yahoo.com.

Written by Kaelyn Cashman, Greer Citizen

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