Phone: 864-947-6231
Hours: Mon. - Fri. 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon and 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Office is closed 12:00 noon - 1:00 p.m.
History of Pelzer
some information taken from a memo by W.H Taylor, 1970

John Wilson, born in 1773 engaged in farming in Anderson County and operated a ferry across the Saluda River at a spot called Wilson' Ferry. Later a bridge, named Wilson's Bridge was constructed near a shoal and water fall where the ferry originally crossed. Wilson later served as a member of Congress around 1812.

Upon his death (date unstated) Congressman Wilson was buried in the family graveyard in what is now the Pelzer Communiy House and park area. According to oral histories of old residents, they believe dozens of residents were buried there with the last known burials between 1880 and 1890. This, to date has not been substantiated but is accepted as fact today by the local community.

Around 1880 a number of men in Charleston, S.C. whose attention had been attracted to the possiblilies of cotton mill manufacturing in the upstated began seeking a location to construct a cotton mill. They finally decided on Wilson's Bridge area because of its location close to the Columbia & Greenville railroad. The company, Pelzer Manufacturing Company was begun at the time Francis J. Pelzer, William Lebby and Ellison Smyth purchased 500 acres of land. In 1881, Captain Ellison Smyth broke ground for the first building in what was named the Town of Pelzer (an unincorporated town at that time).

By 1896, four cotton mill units had been built and were operating...employing about 3,000 persons. The population of the unincorporated town was estimated to be between 5,000 and 6,000.

Pelzer's Mill #1 had the first incandescent lighting system ever installed in a cotton mill. Mills prior to this time were illuminated by large exterior windows and kerosene lamps. Power for operating this mill was supplied by three direct drive water wheels located beneath the mill building. The last mill build (Mill #4) was built in 1895 and was the only mill in the region to be constructed on a hilltop. Others, up to that time had to be in the valleys to get the water power onto their water wheels. Mill #4 was the largest mill under one roof in the United States at this time.

A dam for powering Mill #4 was built on the Saluda River...about 3 miles downstream. It was considered a marvel of construction at the time and was made from stone dug from a quarry owned by Pelzer Manufacturing Company. Stones weighing up to 20,000 pounds were cut out, handled and moved into place along with numerous wood beams of undesribed cut sizes. This hydro power plant was the first build for generating electricity for use in cotton mill manufacturing.

By 1902, Pelzer was the only place in the state with compulsory education. As a condition of employment, persons had to sign an agreement that they would send their children to school if they were between the ages of 5 - 12 years. Daily attendance was mandatory unless ill or otherwise excused. Regular school attendance was also rewarded by the manufacturing company by giving a prize of 10 cents per month.

In those early days, Pelzer schools were in session for ten months of the year instead of the normal three to four months as in most other places in South Carolina. And in 1899 the first kindergarten in Anderson County was started by Pelzer.

In addition to the schools, Other items provided by the company were a lyceum building with an excellent reading room and well-illuminated library of approximately 5,000 volumes. It was kept open in the evenings after working hours. Entertaining and instructive lectures were also provided on occasion. The company also operated an ice mill and a lanudry, there was also an opera house where traveling plays were staged.

Pelzer Manufacturing company was sold to Lockwood & Greene in 1923. The company was subsequently sold to Kendall Company in 1936. Kendall later became a part of Colgate-Palmolive in the 1970s. In the 1980's the mill was purchased by Gerber Products Company although it went through several name changes over the next few years.

As the 20th Century came to a close, the company wound down as textile manufacturing practically disappeared in this country. Operations ceased, the mills and its real estate were sold and the buildings were salvaged for scrap metal, the wood building materials and the usable brick.

The mill site properties as they stand today are mostly graded down and somewhat cleaned up after the salvagable materials were taken. The land, along with a few leftover buildings where the mill sites were once located are for sale.

some information taken from a memo by W.H Taylor, 1970

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This page was last updated: July 17, 2015
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