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The up-country of South Carolina which includes Spartanburg County was ceded to the English by the Cherokee Indians in 1755. Spartanburg was the frontier next to the Cherokee Nation. Among the earliest settlers in Spartanburg County were the Scots-Irish immigrants from Pennsylvania, the Indian traders, and the cowmen. At first, they lived in peace with the Cherokee Indians, but during the Indian Wars, they lived in fear and built several forts, including Fort Prince, Gowen’s Fort, and Fort Nichols. In 1776, the present day Greenville County-Spartanburg County boundary was established to separate white man’s territory from the Cherokee nation.
The Old Spartan District was a hotbed of action during the Revolutionary War, including a bloody civil war between Tories and patriots. The Battle of Cowpens in 1781 was a pivotal battle of the Revolution in which the Americans were led by General Daniel Morgan whose military strategy is still admired today. A monument to Morgan stands in the city’s square.
Following the organization of the United States, the economy in the Spartanburg District turned to cotton and the development of textile mills drawing on the abundant water power in the Piedmont. Most farms were small and not as dependent on slave labor as the huge plantations in South Carolina’s Low country. While South Carolina led the way in secession from the United States and many South Carolina and Spartanburg men served in the Confederate forces, there were no major battles of the Civil War fought in the state. Sherman’s devastating march to the sea ruined much of the state but bypassed Spartanburg although the area shared in the general deprivation of the war. However, by the 1880s, Spartanburg was booming due in large part to the rapidly expanding textile industry. The town grew quickly with many moving into mill villages to staff the mills.
Spartanburg prided itself on its commercial acumen and cultural advances. The county had been an educational center from its beginning. Wofford and Converse colleges, large residences, a public library and an Opera House known throughout the South for its musical offerings provided a strong sense of pride in the city. With the construction of several rail lines passing through the city, the state’s first municipal airport, several mineral springs resorts within the county, a busy agricultural center and the ever-present textile mills, Spartanburg was "the Hub of the Piedmont."
The area’s mild climate and hard-charging businessmen attracted one of the largest troop-training facilities for World War I to the area. In 1917 Camp Wadsworth opened on the western edge of the city.
The 1929 stock market crash, the subsequent prolonged closing of all banks in the county and the national depression hit Spartanburg hard. The area revived at the beginning of the Second World War. Another large troop-training facility, Camp Croft, brought hundreds of thousands of soldiers through the county. Peach-growing made Spartanburg a top producer of the crop and the textile industry benefited from war-time demands.
After the war Spartanburg industry slowly began to diversify and today the county is home to many types of industry. During the late 50s and early 60s the county became a center of foreign industry when many European companies located plants and offices here. Today the county is a home to many Asian companies as well. The Greenville-Spartanburg Airport has recently expanded to handle increasing commercial traffic and there are several foreign trade zones located here.
Today the city is home to five colleges, Milliken Research Center, BMW, Michelin, Hoechst Celanese and many other businesses. Interstates 85 and 26 criss-cross the area. Spartanburg is an active center of the arts and its downtown is booming once again with restaurants, shops and a new library. A major shopping mall and the proximity to neighboring Greenville has brought expansive growth to the west side of Spartanburg County. Recreational opportunities include boating and fishing on Lake Bowen and Lake Blalock, the bicycling Assault on Mount Mitchell, an extensive youth soccer program, a nationally known youth swimming program and easy access to the nearby mountains.
Compiled by Spartanburg County Public Libraries, 1997