History of Chesnee

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Compiled by the staff of the Kennedy Room of Local and South Carolina History, 2004
Property of the Spartanburg County Public Libraries; duplication is not permitted without consent.

• Location: Northeastern Spartanburg County
• Established: 1900-1910
• Fun fact: Named for John B. Cleveland’s great-grandmother

Chesnee owes its creation to the Carolina Clinchfield and Ohio Railroad Company. Around 1900, the CC&O decided to build a line through a sparsely settled section of northeastern Spartanburg County.

Located up in the far right corner, the area was isolated from navigable waterways and railroads. Farms dotted the area, but there was no community center. When news of the railroad was publicized, citizens such as G.W. Bonner and Cyrus Williams foresaw rapid growth and began to plan toward that end. A land company headed by businessman John B. Cleveland bought land from Bonner, and the beginnings of a community were under way.

Cleveland named the organization the Chesnee Land Company, and chose the name of the company for the new town. His choice was in honor of his great-grandmother, whose maiden name was Margaret Chesnee or Chesney.

A September 1908 Spartanburg Herald article discusses the “proposed city” of “Chesney” and notes that two commissioners are laying out roads for the town. In 1909, civil engineer Walter Willis took a leave of absence from his job with the CC&O to formally lay out the town. The noted engineer, who also laid out Spartanburg’s Cleveland and Duncan parks, was assisted in the Chesnee project by his wife, Zula, who helped run surveys for her husband.

In 1910, the Chesnee Cotton Mill was formed, drawing new residents to the town. The mill survived until 1997. Other early enterprises were a lumber mill, hotel and pharmacy. Dr. Joe Cash built a hospital in 1919, but it burned in 1922. Chesnee, population 186, received its town charter on March 7, 1911.