GREENWOOD SC – DEFINING COMMUNITY DAILY
Greenwood SC has a true sense of community that is ingrained in the lives of her citizens. From organized youth sports at Greenwood County’s Recreation Center or state-of-the-art YMCA, to a deep commitment to the arts; from a quality of life approach to business and industrial recruitment, to an organized effort to create safer, more connected neighborhoods, “community” is the foundation upon which Greenwood has been built.
The Greenwood Chamber takes pride in being at the forefront of this phenomenal record of growth and remains committed to promoting the quality of life that is the hallmark of this outstanding city. As you read further, consider this your personal invitation to visit Greenwood if you are considering relocating or simply passing through. We’re certain you’ll be impressed with the sense of community you’ll find here.
Greenwood SC Community History
Considering the number of people building homes in the Greenwood area today for the purpose of vacationing and future retirement, it comes as no surprise that the first residence here, a 600-acre plantation built in 1823 by John McGehee, Jr., was a summer home for him and his bride, Charlotte, who named the residence “Green Wood.”
When the first railroad came through in 1852, it moved the center of the village to it’s present-day location as stores and businesses began to locate around the depot. This marked the development of the “widest Main Street in the world” and the Square, now referred to as Uptown Greenwood.
During the last half of the nineteenth century, Greenwood was considered a railroad town, and her merchants dealt in groceries, general merchandise, dry goods, farmer’s supplies, furniture, rice, and cotton. There were also banks, insurance companies, and undertakers.
As Greenwood grew, the community became known throughout the state as “pre-eminently an example of what can be accomplished by unremitting energy and boundless self-reliance” and Greenwood’s “hospitable and progressive” people welcomed “all who may come” to their town. These characteristics are still present in today’s Greenwood residents.
Area historians have credited several “pillars” with shaping the Greenwood of today – ones that were in place from her earliest days. First, was a special interest of Greenwood residents in the education of their children. By the time of its chartering in 1857, Greenwood schools had been in operation for 25 years.
A second foundation for Greenwood’s continued prosperity was the initiative and hard work of its founders and early settlers in providing transportation facilities; first railroads, then highways and then an airport.
The third pillar of Greenwood’s development was the area’s textile industry, which remained a vital economic block supporting the Greenwood Community until the late 20th century.
During the era when “cotton was king and the gin was his throne”, many textile mills were operating in South Carolina. Greenwood’s first plant, Greenwood Cotton Mill, was organized by William L. Durst in 1889 and placed in operation in 1890. The second mill, Grendel, began operating in 1897. Durst died in 1902 and his brother, J. K. Durst, succeeded him as president of Greenwood Cotton Mill.
Other notable developments that marked the turn of the century were:
- Greenwood was chosen as the site of a state Baptist orphanage and the first children arrived at Connie Maxwell Children’s Home in 1892. Today this site is still beautiful with its stately oak trees, educational farm and gardens, lovely homes, playgrounds, and church.
- Telephone service began in 1896 with 42 subscribers.
- Two newspapers, The Greenwood Journal (1894) and The Greenwood Index (1897) were launched. They merged in 1919 to become The Index-Journal, which is still the only daily newspaper in Greenwood County.
- The Oregon Hotel opened in 1898 to provide lodging and meals for travelers.
- The first business development on the west side of the square began in 1898 when a group purchased the property and opened a block of stores.
- Greenwood began operating its own power plant for water and electricity in 1899.
1908 marked the beginning of a new era in the textile business. James Cuthbert Self, a cashier at the Bank of Greenwood (which became Bankers Trust and is now part of Bank of America), was elected president of the Greenwood Cotton Mill while maintaining his banking career until 1916. One of its plants was closed and the other was doomed unless machinery could be updated. Mr. Self went to the manufacturers in New England to borrow the money to update the mills. It took two trips and his integrity and conviction, but he succeeded. Self was well known for his good business sense and his consideration of the dignity of his employees and others in the community. He once said “I don’t think much of a man who makes money in a community and then forgets about it.”
Other mills had begun to appear in Greenwood and the weeding-out process of ownership began. John Pope (Jack) Abney, a banker with Farmers and Merchants Bank, acquired the Panola and Ninety-Six mills.
Greenwood was now the simultaneous home of two titans of the same industry. They were competitors, both characterized by hard work, vision and good judgement. James C. Self, Jr., who succeeded his father and E. B. Grier, who succeeded Jack Abney, also possessed those same characteristics.
The sense of visioning displayed by Greenwood’s earliest industrial leaders became the blueprint by which successive leaders grew businesses in Greenwood. This was never more evident during Greenwood’s industrial diversification beginning in the 1960’s. Today, there are a nearly 100 industries in Greenwood ranging from less than 10 employees to over 3200.
Early Greenwood was considered a healthy place to live. Many of its first residents, including the McGehees moved here for that reason. Perhaps this early influence helped propel Greenwood into becoming the regional center for health care services that it is today.
From its first days, Greenwood was well supplied with doctors. Medical care was provided in the doctors’ offices (usually in their homes) or via house call. The first hospital was built in 1911 and served the area even after a tornado in 1944 did major damage to it.
The principal instrument Mr. Self used to express his gratitude for the opportunity that had been given to him to live, work, and prosper in Greenwood was the Self Family Foundation, chartered in 1942 “to hold property in common for religious, educational, social, fraternal, charitable, and eleemosynary purposes.” Among the stated purposes was “to acquire, operate or maintain a hospital in Greenwood County” and “to foster, encourage, promote, support, carry on, or conduct research in any or all of the medical arts and sciences.”
Self Memorial Hospital, opened in 1951, has been the foundation’s largest single project. It has grown tremendously ever since and is now, as Self Regional Healthcare, a major referral center for superb specialized health care.
The Greenwood Genetic Center, an institute organized to provide clinical genetic services and laboratory testing, while developing educational programs and materials, and conducting research in the field of medical genetics, began it’s existence here in 1974.
Opened in 1996 as a part of the Genetic Center, the J. C. Self Research Institute of Human Genetics is a state and national resource in which scientists seek a greater understanding of the causes, treatment, and prevention of birth defects and mental retardation.
Created near the Greenwood Genetic Center, The Greenwood Biotechnology Park, with its South Carolina Biotechnology Incubation Facility, allows companies to start up financially sound and grow as their research is approved by the FDA or other government agencies. Such research will help find cures for diseases and disabilities and create foods that can provide better nutrition for more people. Most recently, the Greenwood Genetic Center partnered with Clemson University to expand existing facilities of the J.C. Self Research Institute to add a 17,000-square-foot research and education center in human genetics. The Clemson University Center for Human Genetics will be a core campus for recruiting research and development companies engaged in human diagnostics, cognitive development, central nervous system, autism, birth defects, cancer and inflammatory diseases. The project will expand Clemson University’s existing doctoral program in human genetics, create an internationally competitive research and development team and expand research capabilities at the Self Institute.
Greenwood continues to grow and thrive because of visionary community leaders who adapt to change and chart courses towards new prosperity. Throughout Greenwood’s history, one thing has remained constant – the community’s commitment to quality living and a progressive business environment. If you ask any of the businesses and industries why they located in Greenwood, these two factors are nearly always at the top of their lists.