Happenstance brought us to another historic site in Greenville, this one under the radar of the majority of locals, even those living nearby. With old mill ruins, river shoals and a few acres of bottomland forest, in my opinion Pelham Mill Park is one of the coolest parks in Greenville County.
Home to the first textile mill in Greenville County outside of city limits, there are scenic and historic elements that liken it to Falls Park downtown. The Upstate was largely shaped by the textile industry, and just as Falls Park contains the ruins of a mill, Pelham Mill Park contains the remnants of a cotton mill. The evidence of a complex series of stone and brick foundations spanning the floodplain, shoals and terrace overlooking the Enoree River are accessible to visitors; though, be warned - with steep, muddy footpaths, tall grass and an unfortunate abundance of trash, extreme caution should be exercised when exploring the site.
The Greenville County Historic Preservation Commission donated the thirteen acres to Greenville County in 1988. Seven acres have been added through a partnership with Western Carolina Regional Sewer Authority, and the master plan for the park includes eventual interpretive signage, picnic sites and a walking bridge spanning the river that would provide access to trails along the Enoree River. One aspect of the plan which has been completed is the dog park, and a second that is currently in the works is restoration of the former Pelham Mill Post Office.
|In 2008 (source here) and now|
The building was built in 1870 as Pelham Mill’s office until the textile plant closed in 1930. It became a post office until it was closed in 1996, and when Highway 14 was widened in 2002 it was moved to its present location. Greenville Rec is restoring the historic structure for use as a community building with help from Western Carolina Regional Sewer Authority and Greenville County.
Other features of the park include a paved path leading to the historical 19th century stonework dam. An overlook provides a view of the dam, architectural remains of the mill and shoals on the Enoree River. Crumbling walls, foundations and depressions give evidence to what used to stand on the site: two steam smokestacks, underground pipes, drains, turbines, nine brick pilings, the mill’s main powerhouse and steam generator, and finally the large mortared stone dam with six sluice gates spanning the Enoree River. The Mill burned down in 1943 (except for the mill office), as the only fire trucks available had to come all the way from Greenville and Greer.
Pelham Mill is recognized by the Greenville County Historic Preservation Commission as one of 11 historic sites in the County.
On a related note, the Enoree river served another important purpose a few hundred years earlier. In 1766 NC/SC negotiated a boundary between ‘Indian land’ and their new settlement with the Cherokee. This line extended from Honea Path across the Reedy River all the way to Virginia, but today there is nothing to remind us of this aspect of southern history except a few historic markers. If you do stop at the marker, make sure to find the nearby geocache…