Pickens County, South Carolina

Year Established

County Seat

Significance of County Name

Population (2020)



Brig. Gen. Andrew Pickens


Legislative Act Creating County

First Settled / By

County Evolution by Decade

Official County Website

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1753 / English, Scots-Irish

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Historical Post Offices

American Revolution

American Civil War

Significant Education Events

Alphabetical / Date Started

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Coming Later

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Airports in Pickens County

Maps of Pickens County

Books About Pickens County

Genealogy Sources

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A History of Pickens County

Thomas Green Clemson on the front porch of Fort Hill, the Calhoun-Clemson mansion on the Clemson University campus.

American Revolution Patriot Brigadier General Andrew Pickens moved here after the war and became one of the Pendleton District founders. Pickens District (county) came with the 1826 division of Pendleton District, and in 1868 Pickens County was divided to created Oconee and Pickens counties. The present city of Pickens became the county seat.

Central was midway on the Atlanta & Charlotte Air Line Railway. Liberty is named for Salubrity springs, and Easley is named for William K. Easley. Textile developer D.K. Norris named Norris and Cateechee. Dacusville is named for an early citizen and Six Mile is named for a stream. Pumpkintown was a pioneer crossroad.

The railroad saw the creation of Calhoun, named for statesman John C. Calhoun. Son-in-law Thomas Green Clemson deeded the Calhoun Plantation to South Carolina for an agricultural and mechanical college, and the town was renamed Clemson.

Pickens County was Cherokee Indian Territory until the American Revolution. The Cherokees sided with the British, suffered defeat, and surrendered their South Carolina lands. This former Cherokee territory was included in the Ninety-Six District. In 1791, the state legislature established Washington District, a judicial area composed of present-day Greenville, Anderson, Pickens, and Oconee counties, and then composed of Greenville and Pendleton counties. Streets for the town of Pickensville (near present-day Easley) were laid off, and soon a cluster of buildings arose that perhaps included a large wooden hotel, which served as a stagecoach stop. In 1798, Washington District was divided into Greenville and Pendleton districts. The latter included what eventually became Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens counties. A court house was erected at Pendleton to accommodate the Court of General Sessions and Common Pleas, and soon thereafter Pickensville began to decline.

In view of the growing population and poor transportation facilities in Pendleton District, the legislature divided it into counties in 1826, and a year later decided instead to divide the area into districts. The legislation went into effect in 1828. The lower part became Anderson and the upper Pickens, named in honor of the distinguished Revolutionary soldier, Brigadier General Andrew Pickens, whose home Hopewell was on the southern border of the district. A court house was established on the west bank of the Keowee River, and a small town called Pickens Court House soon developed

By 1860, Pickens District had a population of over 19,000 persons of whom 22 percent were slaves. The district was largely rural and agricultural. Its small industry consisted mainly of sawmills, gristmills, and a few other shops producing goods for home consumption. The district's Protestant churches were numerous, but schools were few. The Blue Ridge Railroad reached the district in 1859. During the American Civil War the district suffered little from depredations of regular Union troops but was frequently plundered by marauders and deserters who swept down from the mountains.

The war left the region largely destitute. The South Carolina Constitutional Convention of 1868, meeting during the first year of Congressional Reconstruction, changed the name district to county throughout the state. The Convention also established Oconee County out of the portion of Pickens District west of the Keowee and Seneca rivers plus a small area around the Fort Hill estate that formerly belonged to John C. Calhoun. This small area around the Calhoun property was transferred to Pickens County in the 1960s.

A new court house for Pickens County was erected at its present location, and many of the residents of Old Pickens Court House on the Keowee moved to the newly-created town, some with their dismantled homes. The loss of the Oconee area greatly reduced the county's population. It did not again reach 19,000 until 1900.

The county's growth was accelerated by the building of the Atlanta & Charlotte Air Line Railway (later called the Southern Railway) in the 1870s. The town of Easley, named for General W. K. Easley, was chartered in 1874. Liberty and Central sprang up along the railroad about the same time and were soon incorporated. Calhoun (now part of Clemson) came into being in the 1890s, to be followed in the early 1900s by Six Mile and Norris as incorporated areas.

A major factor in Pickens County's growth was the coming of the textile industry. The county's first modern cotton mill, organized by D. K. Norris and others, was established at Cateechee in 1895. By 1900, the county could boast of three cotton mills, two railroads, three banks, three roller mills, thirty-seven sawmills, ten shingle mills, and four brickyards.

Yet until 1940, with a population of 37,000 (13.2 percent black), the county remained primarily rural and agricultural. Like many other piedmont counties, Pickens had a one-crop economy. Its citizens were engaged mainly in growing cotton or manufacturing it into cloth. A notable change in the Pickens landscape was the coming of paved highways; one completed across the county, about 1930, ran from Greenville to Walhalla by way of Easley, Liberty, and Central.

The most significant developments in the county's history have occurred since World War II. By 1972, there were 99 manufacturing plants in the county employing almost 15,000 personnel and producing not only textiles but a wide variety of other products. The population today is estimated to be 93,894 residents. There is a heavy immigration to Pickens County because of its climate, industrial opportunity, proximity to Greenville's labor market, and scenic beauty.

Pickens County was named for Revolutionary War hero Andrew Pickens (1739-1817). The county seat is the town of Pickens. This area in the northwestern corner of the state was Indian territory until 1777. It subsequently became part of Pendleton District (at one time called Washington District). In 1826, Pendleton was divided into two counties, Pickens and Anderson; the western portion of Pickens County was later split off to form Oconee County (1868). The earliest European settlers in thisregion were Indian traders.

The British built Fort Prince George around 1753 as protection against the Indians, and the fort was the site of several battles in the Cherokee War of 1756. The Cherokee town of Old Seneca was later destroyed by American troops in 1776. John C. Calhoun (1782-1850), United States vice president, senator, and cabinet member, made his home at Fort Hill plantation in Pickens County. His son-in-law, Thomas Green Clemson (1807-1888), bequeathed the plantation to the state for use as an agricultural college, which led to the founding of Clemson University.

Pickens County, formed by the Constitution of 1868 [1826 as Pickens District], lying between Saluda River on the east, Keowee River on the west, North Carolina on the north, and Anderson County on the south, is in the Third congressional district and the Thirteenth judicial circuit. It was named for Brigadier General Andrew Pickens.

The area is 529 square miles, 338,560 acres the population for 1920 was 28,329 and was estimated in 1925 at 29,975. In 1920 there were 23,391 whites, 4,931 colored, and 7 foreign bore. Mountainous in the northern part with fertile valleys productive of core, hay and small grain, the hill soils are adapted to apples and other fruits. The lower part produces cotton and truck, as well as grain, and food stuffs, peaches and many other fruits. The growing season averages 210 days.

The hills are covered with hardwood and other timber, some of which is being judiciously cut and marketed in lumber, tan bark, and acids., A fine clay soil provides a foundation for great productivity. The county includes a part of the Clemson College property.

Numerous bold streams lead into the border rivers, furnishing water power for corn and wheat mills, cotton gins and electricity, and on these streams are rich bottom lands. Thirty-six miles of double tracked main line of Southern railway traverse the county and Easley is connected with Pickens by a branch line of nine miles.

Pickens, the county seat, in 1920 had 895 inhabitants, now estimated at 1,150. It is the highest incorporated village in the state, 1,162 feet above sea level, and has water works, sewerage, paved streets, electric lights and power.

Easley, population 3,568 in 1920; Liberty, 1,705; Central, 898; Calhoun, 450 (railroad station for Clemson College); Norris, 206; and Six Mile, 134; are towns on the Southern Railway. Six Mile has a growing Baptist school and a well ordered private hospital.

Eight prosperous cotton mills owe their success largely to the intelligent, industrious operatives drawn from the mountains. Nine banks serve the business needs. There are six accredited high schools and the county has the lowest percentage of illiterates in the state.

On Keowee river is the site of Fort Prince George, English trading post established in 1755, after Governor Glen's treaty with the Indians. Sassafras Mountain (3,548 feet) is the highest elevation in the state. The county is rich in history not generally known or appreciated.

Baptists are the most numerous denomination, though Presbyterians, some of the "Wesleyan Faith," and Methodists are active. The county has excellent topsoil roads and 36 miles are being hard surfaced. Rocky Bottom camp, for annual encampments of boys and girls organized in corn, cotton, pig, tomato and canning clubs, is situated in a high altitude on the picturesque highway No. 14, leading to Brevard, N. C. Pickens county- boasts the largest and most effective corn club in the United States.

Many farmers and specialists are succeeding in the poultry industry, in which they are aided by good roads and closeness to markets. The state "Hi-Y" (high school Y. M. C. A. boys of the state), Camp John B. Adger, has a home near Mount Pinnacle and is occupied annually by boys from many sections. Lands may be had at reasonable prices and home seekers are welcome, especially those who have succeeded in enterprises adapted to a comparatively undeveloped agricultural community which is beginning to realize its own possibilities. The county has only a small bonded debt and the tax rate is low.

Immediately above, published in "South Carolina: A Handbook," prepared by The Department of Agriculture, Commerce, and Industries and Clemson College, Columbia, South Carolina, 1927. In the Public Domain. [with minor edits]


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