Newberry County, South Carolina
         
   

   

Year Established

County Seat

Population (2010)

1785

Newberry

37,508
 

First Settled

First Settled By

Significance of County Name

1750s

Germans, English/Welsh, Scots-Irish

Unknown
 

Other Significant Towns:

Prosperity

Helena

Silverstreet

Whitmire

Renno

Little Mountain

Pomaria

Kinards

Click Here - To see how Newberry County evolved each decade - includes all the known towns and villages.

Click Here - To see the known battles/skirmishes in Newberry County during the US Revolution.

A History of Newberry County


The origin of the name Newberry is unknown. The county was formed in 1785 as a part of the Ninety-Six District, and the county seat is the town of Newberry. This part of the upcountry was settled largely by Scots-Irish, English, and German immigrants in the mid-eighteenth century. Germans were so prevalent in part of Newberry County that it become known as Dutch Fork, with Dutch meaning Deutsch (German). Large-scale cotton farming replaced small farms in the nineteenth century, and the coming of the railroad made Newberry a leading cotton market. Historians John Belton O'Neall (1795-1863) and David Duncan Wallace (1874-1951) were Newberry County natives, as was governor and U. S. Senator Coleman L. Blease (1868-1942).
Newberry County is a community filled to its borders with history: ancient Indian sites, battlefields of the American Revolution, historic plantations, and beautiful homes. European settlers (primarily German, Scots-Irish, and English) began appearing in great numbers in the 1750s. Newberry County, formed from the Ninety-Six District in 1785, was once described as the largest tract of unbroken farm land in South Carolina. The origin of the county’s name is still unknown. It is likely an alternate spelling for the English town "Newbury," but the popular notion has always been that the surrounding fields and forests were as pretty as a “new berry.” Although cotton was the primary crop before the Civil War, today’s farmers rotate crops such as corn, millet, wheat, and soybeans. In addition Newberry has dairy, poultry, and cattle farms, as well as many acres of controlled reforestation.

The town of Newberry was founded in 1789 as the county seat. Its site was chosen because of its nearness to the center of the county. By the coming of the railroad in 1851, Newberry had become a thriving trade center. Lutheran-supported Newberry College was established in 1856 and has been an important part of the community ever since. Although the Civil War interrupted the growth of the town and dramatically changed its social order, a stronger community emerged which continued to thrive. Industry, in the form of cotton mills, was introduced to the town in 1881. Although the face of the town has changed because of fires, storms, and former economic slumps, the city of Newberry today retains diverse historic buildings and a revitalized downtown.

Since rivers form the boundaries of the county, other communities developed at highway crossroads and, later railroad depots. Among the towns incorporated as a result of the Greenville and Columbia Railroad were Peak, Pomaria, Frog Level (now Prosperity), Silverstreet and Chappells. A branch railroad to Laurens in 1854 had depots at Jalapa and Kinards. In 1890, the arrival of the Columbia, Newberry and Laurens Railroad prompted the incorporation of Little Mountain. Whitmire, a trading center on the Enoree River, was incorporated in 1891 when the Georgia, Carolina and Northern Railroad came through. Aside from the city of Newberry, Prosperity and Whitmire are the most populous towns in the county.

Many interesting and colorful personalities have made a mark on Newberry's history. Emily Geiger, a young woman living in what is now eastern Newberry County, rode her way into the history books when she delivered a message from General Nathanael Greene to General Thomas Sumter during the American Revolution. Tales also abound about a Quaker girl named Hannah Gaunt who helped defend her father's house against a Tory attack.

John Belton O'Neall was a prominent judge in Newberry County until his death in 1863. Among his many accomplishments is "The Annals of Newberry," an early history of the county. Job Johnstone (1793-1862), a Newberry lawyer, served as Chancellor in South Carolina for thirty-two years and later served on the State Court of Appeals. Another Newberry lawyer, John Fletcher Hobbs, left for Australia in 1882 and, by 1893, had become chief of two tribes of cannibals.

Marie Boozer gained notoriety for her great beauty, and her exploits (after leaving Newberry) were the inspiration for two books: "La Belle" and "Another Jezebel." Coleman L. Blease (1868-1942) was the only permanent resident of Newberry to be Governor of South Carolina. A lawyer, Representative and United States Senator, he was elected Governor in 1910 and 1912. Interestingly, his two opponents in 1912 were also from Newberry.

Among the many scenic and historic sites in the county are: The Rock House (pre-Revolutionary, the oldest house in the county); Quaker Cemetery (used from the 1760s - 1820s); Tea Table Rock (site of a British encampment during the Revolutionary War); St. John’s Lutheran Church, Pomaria (1808); Little Mountain (800 feet above sealevel, highest point in county); Gauntt House, Newberry (1808, oldest home in city); Hardy House, Maybinton (1825, typical of early nineteenth century); Pomaria Plantation, Pomaria (1826, site of a well-known nursery); Old Court House (1851); Newberry College (founded 1856); Jasper Hall, Whitmire (1857, fine ante-bellum residence); Rosemont Cemetery (1863); Newberry Opera House (1881); Oakhurst, Newberry (1891, a fine Victorian home); Lake Murray; and Lynches Woods (a scenic road winds through the forest).


Old Newberry County Courthouse (2007)

Newberry County, of the lower tier of Piedmont counties, was carved out of the Ninety-Six District, under au ordinance passed in 1783, and organized under the act of 1798; in March, 1789, John Coate made a present to the county of two acres on which to erect public buildings, at Newberry, the county seat. It is probable that the name is that of a captain of Sumter's state troops; it is certain that the county was a camping ground of the British Colonel Tarleton on his memorable march to Cowpens.

It is bounded on the northeast by the Enoree River and on the south by the Broad River, which rivers and many other small streams water it. The area is 601 square miles, the population in 1920, 35,552, estimated 1925 at 36,098. It is a rich and prosperous agricultural region with 61 per cent of its soils of the Cecil variety, 11 Appling, eight Meadow, and five Georgeville. It ranks high in the production of cotton, as well as corn, oats, and cover crops. In a competition in 1925 amongst eight Southern states, Willie Pat Boland, a Newberry boy, won the prize for the best ten ears of corn. The growing season is 215 days. Interest is developing in dairying, and in the marketing of a fine quality of granite.

The county maintains an excellent health unit, and efficient home and farm demonstration agents. Clinics are regularly held to take care of the health of school children.

In Newberry town (population 1920, 5,894), is Newberry College, a standard institution. There are Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal churches. In the county's ten cities and towns are graded schools. Rural schools have made more progress in the last five years than in all preceding. One-teacher schools were reduced from 28 to eight; high schools increased from four to nine; state accredited high schools from one to five.

The Southern, the Seaboard Air Line, and the Columbia, Newberry and Laurens railroads, with a total mileage of 79, serve the county. Amazing progress has been made in highway building. State highways run through it from the capital to the Piedmont and busses run daily over them. Ample banking facilities are in the towns, including three strong institutions at the county seat.

In 1925, three cotton mills at Newberry and one at Whitmire, having an aggregate capital of $4,500,000, with 181,472 spindles manned by native white labor, consumed 117,590 bales of cotton.

Whitmire has 1,955 inhabitants; Prosperity, 748; Helena, 435; Little Mountain, 399 ; Silver Street, 297 ; Pomaria, 288 ; Kinards, 236; Chappels, 207; Peake, 160.

In morals, in religion, in industry, in business, in education, the county is sound and conservatively progressive. And it is markedly hospitable to newcomers and new enterprises.


Immediately above, published in "South Carolina: A Handbook," prepared by The Department of Agriculture, Commerce, and Industries and Clemson College, Columbia, South Carolina, 1927. Copyright not claimed.

 


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