A History of York, South Carolina

York County Court House - York, SC (2008)


The county seat is located in the historic city of York. Known as the "White Rose City," York is one of the largest historic districts in the United States and is home to over 7,800 residents. Originally settled by emigrants from Pennsylvania and Virginia, York was called the "Village of Yorkville," the "Town of Yorkville," and finally the "Town of York" in 1915.

The first settlement in what is now the city of York occured in 1786 when the first court house for the newly-created York County was built at Fergus' Crossroads. From the beginning, the village had the benefit of serving as the county seat and as a market center for central and western York County. Economic activity resulting from these factors led to gradual growth and the beginnings of a downtown area. The town was incorporated in 1841 as "Yorkville."

Today, much of York's history can still be seen by visiting the Historic District. The houses that can be found on Liberty, Madison, Kings Mountain, Jefferson, and Congress Streets reflect the quality of one of the state's largest Historic Districts comprising 264 acres.


Steps to establish a county seat were first taken in 1786 with the laying out of a town on the site of Fergus's Cross Roads. The name of the crossroads originated with two brothers, John and William Fergus, and was the crossing of six roads near the geographic center of the county (near the present location of Congress and Liberty Streets in York). The six routes were important wagon roads; one running northwestward from the village of York toward Kings Mountain known as the Rutherford Road, one running southwestward toward Pinckney's Ferry on the Broad River, one running south to Chesterville, one running northeastward toward Charlottesburg and the Catawba River known as the Armstrong Ford Road, one running eastward towards Nation Ford on the Catawba River, and the sixth running southeastward to Landsford on the Catawba River in Chester County.

The new town became known as the village of York, or more commonly York Court House, within a few years. In 1841, when the town was incorporated, the name officially became Yorkville. Nearly all of the original lots were sized with a width (or street frontage) of 66 feet and a depth of 330 feet. A public spring was established and utilized by the early residents as a source of drinking water and for washing clothes.

William D. Martin, a future member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, traveled through the village of York in May of 1809, and gave a description of the town in his journal. "Its local situation is pleasant & interesting. The scite [sic] is on a plane of some length, near the centre of which is a small eminence, on which is built the Court House, a neat brick building. The private houses also, are principally of brick, & very far excel those usually built in similar places."

The population of the village in 1823, as recorded by Robert Mills, stood at 441 and included 292 whites and 149 blacks. In his "Statistics of South Carolina," Mills provides us with a good view of the village of York in 1826. The town was "regularly laid out in squares" containing "8 stores, 5 taverns, a male and female academy, post office, and a printing office, which issues two papers weekly." Brief descriptions are also given of the new court house, the public jail and several residences. Mills concluded that the village at that time had a bright future. "The increasing prosperity of this village, its salubrious site, interesting scenery, contiguity to the mountains, and cheapness of living, will have a tendency to give it a preference in the minds of those who are seeking residence in the upper country."

By 1840, the population of the town had reached 600; by 1850, Yorkville contained 93 dwellings and 617 inhabitants. In the years just prior to the American Civil War, the town gained a reputation as a summer resort for many lowcountry planters trying to escape the malarial swamps of the lowcountry for the moderate climate to be found in the upstate. By 1860, the population of the town had topped 1,300, an increase of more than 125% in only one decade. During the American Civil War, the town also became a focal point for residents from the lowcountry as a refugee destination during Federal occupation of their hometowns.


As Yorkville, the town was granted a U.S. Post Office on July 3, 1802, and its first Postmaster was Mr. John McCaw. On June 9, 1915, the Post Office Department officially change its name simply to York. It has been in continuous operation ever since inception.


© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved