The Town of Pendleton comprises the majority of the 6,316 acre Pendleton Historic District, created in 1970 as one of the nation’s first and largest historic districts. On April 8, 1790, the Justices of the Peace for Pendleton County purchased this land to establish the courthouse town of Pendleton. Once Cherokee Indian land, the town became the judicial, social and commercial center for what now are Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties. Pendleton is the Upstate’s oldest town and is basically unchanged since it was laid out over 200 years ago.
Pendleton is to South Carolina’s frontier Up Country what Charleston, Beaufort and Georgetown are to the Low Country. From Indians days onward, especially through the Revolutionary period and the century following, Pendleton has played a part in state and national development. For many years, Pendleton was the center of business, culture, and government in the northwestern part of the state. Its position at the crossroads of the Cherokee Trading Path into the Low Country with the Catawba Path into Virginia made it accessible to traders from both directions; its climate attracted wealthy coastal planters seeking a breather from humid summers.
While other South Carolina municipalities relied on the railroad for economic development, the diversion of primary railroads from Pendleton helped to preserve the scale of the town. Today, many of the once thriving rail towns have dysfunctional centers split by seldom used rail lines as the train has fallen out of favor over time. Conversely, Pendleton has suffered little from the railroad’s demise. Similarly, so far the town has escaped the commercial development that follows heavily-traveled roads and interstate highways.
The community was noted for fine cabinet and carriage makers; for ironworking; for the raising of fine livestock. The historic sites and structures of Pendleton have survived despite periods of economic decline and limited growth over the past 150 years. Dogwoods line many streets. Massive cedars and oaks are dominant throughout the area. More than 50 buildings of 18th and 19th century significance remain, the majority within the town limits. The district includes more than a dozen historic sites and numerous museum items.
Our walking tour of this timeless town in 2010 will look pretty much like it would have in 1860 and we’ll begin under the shade trees of the Village Green...
Farmer’s Society Hall
south end of Village Green at East Main Street and Mechanic Street
This Greek Revival structure has been the centerpiece of Pendleton life for over 180 years. It is the oldest Farmers Hall still in continuous use in the United States. The ground floor has always been reserved for commercial trade and on the second floor was the town meeting hall. The village green was the site of the old courthouse; the quartet of sturdy Doric columns were added in 1848. It was in this hall that Thomas Green Clemson campaigned for a state agricultural college that is Clemson University today. John C. Calhoun, a leading advocate of states’ rights in the early 1800s a vice-president under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, was among the members of the Farmer’s Society.
WALK TO THE NORTH SIDE OF THE VILLAGE GREEN.
north end of Village Green at Queen Street and Mechanic Street
The old courthouse and town jail were located on this village green; the Guard house, which also did duty as a market place, was built here to replace the jail around 1860. Today it is the town visitor center. The one-story addition came along in 1911. The library was located here for awhile, then the police headquarters and currently is the magistrate’s office.
TURN RIGHT ON EAST QUEEN STREET AND WALK EAST.
125 East Queen Street
This sturdy brick building was constructed in 1850 as a general store for Jesse Lewis. The enterprise came into the Hunter family in 1870 doing business as “Hunter and Long.” James Hunter eventually bought out his partner and for generations “Hunter’s Store” was the place to go for just about anything in the upstate. “Dry goods” such as shoes and clothing took their place on shelves alongside local produce such as fresh eggs, other foodstuffs like flour and coffee,as well as farm tools and chicken feed. In 1929 a new building was constructed next door and this building was used for storage and workspace until the store ceased operations in 1962. In 1968 the tri-county Pendleton District Commission bought the old general store and has used it as a headquarters ever since. In the process they gave the building its first plumbing and electricity. Otherwise few changes have been made to the structure which retains its original exterior appearance. Inside you can still see the original wide floor boarding and even meat hooks in the high ceiling. For years Commission staff members have been sharing their headquarters with an unpaid resident, the spirit of a local man from the 1890s who died in a caretaker’s apartment that today is the library room. Seems the fellow enjoyed a bit too much liquid refreshment and fell off his horse into nearby Eighteen Mile Creek. He was hauled out and put to bed in the caretaker’s room. Left overnight in his wet clothes and with no heat, he was found dead the next morning after a sudden cold snap lowered the spring temperature below freezing. Hunter descendants have long been familiar with the resident ghost who apparently still visits the site of his untimely passing.
to the rear and east of Hunter’s Store
This rambling wooden structure is the only survivor of several outbuildings used by Hunter’s Store. It was built in 1880. Look for a “captain’s walk” up top that captures panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
161 East Queen Street
Sitting on the highest spot in town, this home was built in 1793 for Dr. William Hunter. In 1805 the Hunters sold the property to the Right Honorable William Lord Viscount Lowther, one of the Lords of Treasury of Great Britain. At the time it was illegal for foreigners to own lad in the new nation so the transaction was completed through agents. It was common practice for such agents to engineer deals for British royalty and it is unlikely Lord Lowther ever set foot on the property that carries his name two centuries later. It was expanded as a country home in 1895 by Charleston-born diplomat William Henry Trescott, who died here three years later. Through the 20th century the house passed through many private hands and even served as a Masonic Lodge.
229 East Queen Street
This classic “upcountry” townhouse from the early 1800s was built for William Sharpe, the first postmaster in Pendleton. The plan of this home is based on a central hallway flanked by single rooms.
239 East Queen Street
The builder of the original house, that dates tot he first decade of the 1800s, has been attributed to Frederick Symmes, a physician and editor of the Pendleton Messenger. It has been much altered through the years and is significant principally for its extensive boxwood gardens, many of which are believed to pre-date the War Between the States.
244 East Queen Street
W.H.D. Gaillard, a buggy maker and investor in the Blue Ridge Railroad and Pendleton Cotton Mill, built this home for his family in the mid-1800s. He also served as a warden for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for 40 years.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
328 East Queen Street
William Henry Morningstar built St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, originally a 50-foot by 32-foot rectangle, in 1822. The bell tower was added later and contained a bell from the ship, Seabrook, which sailed many years ago from Charleston to Edisto Island. The original bell was given to the cause of the Confederacy during the Civil War. The Church features a winding stairway, which leads to the balcony where slaves once worshiped. In the churchyard cemetery lie many of South Carolina’s most famous citizens, including Mrs. John C. Calhoun who was the wife of the Vice President and a lifelong member of the congregation. Thomas Green Clemson, founder of Clemson University and his wife Anna Maria Calhoun Clemson also are buried in the church cemetery. Confederate generals are interred here as well: Barnard Bee, who gave the name “Stonewall” to General Thomas Jonathan Jackson is buried in the family plot and Clement Hoffman Stevens as well.
TURN RIGHT ON ELM STREET.
215 North Elm Street
This was the original residence of F. Frank Sloan when it was built around 1830. A later owner was Richard Wright Simpson, a South Carolina legislator who lived in the home most of his life. As an attorney Simpson wrote the will of Thomas G. Clemson that led to the establishment of Clemson University. Simpson was the school’s first chairman of the board of trustees.
118 North Elm Street
This appealing home was built by Thomas Pickens in 1860 as a wedding present for his bride. Mrs. Pickens refused to live in the house and went off to live with her parents instead. Now, 150 years later virtually all the construction remains original, save for the brick wall surrounding the property.
TURN RIGHT ON EAST MAIN STREET.
368 East Main Street
This is an 1830 house that received its name from an owner who found 14 different types of vines snaking around the garden when he bought the property. The house was Elizabeth Carolina Ball’s wedding gift upon her marriage to Edmund Templar Shubrick, a United States naval officer from Charleston. It was believed that Shubrick’s friendship with General William Tecumseh Sherman spared Pendleton the union torches during the Civil War.
Pendleton Oil Mill
349 East Main Street
Originally known as Pendleton Gin when founded in the late 1800s, the oil mill had the original function of producing oil from pulverized cotton seeds.
203 East Main Street
This house was built by J. Norton Hunter in 1880 and remained in the family for nearly a century. It was converted to a restaurant, restoring the heart pine floors and high ceilings but has since been converted back to a residence.
173 East Main Street
Barnard Bee of Charleston, son of a delegate to the Continental Congress, Thomas Bee, built this house sometime around 1833. He only stayed a while before he set out for the Republic of Texas where he filled a number of political roles in the new nation. He strongly opposed the annexation of Texas into the United States but when it happened, he returned to South Carolina. His sons, Hamilton Prieleaux Bee and Barnard Elliot Bee, Jr. both served as generals in the Confederate Army in the War Between the States. The younger boy, Barnard, was mortally wounded at Bull Run and was one of the first generals killed in the conflict.
TURN LEFT ON MECHANIC STREET.
132 Mechanic Street
This was the first brick structure built in Pendleton when it was erected by John Bradley Sitton in 1859. Sitton served as mayor for 15-20 years and as postmaster from the house for over 30 years. Despite modernization, the original appearance remains virtually intact.
James Hunter House
140 Mechanic Street
This wood frame house, built a year after the Sitton House across the street, is its identical twin in plan and elevation. Next door is a small brick building which may have been a blacksmith shop or tin shop. It served as headquarters for the Jones Rifles during the Civil War.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS ONE-HALF BLOCK BACK TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT ON THE VILLAGE GREEN.