History of the Middle Tyger Area

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HISTORY OF THE MIDDLE TYGER AREA

Lyman | Duncan | Wellford

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.

Lyman

• Established: 1870s
• Location: West of Spartanburg
• Fun fact: Originally called Groce Stop


The Middle Tyger branch is located in Lyman and also serves the nearby communities of Wellford and Duncan. Lyman traces its beginnings to a general store started by Augustus Belton Groce near the railroad tracks that cut through his property. It supplied local farmers and soon became known as Groce Stop.

Slowly, a community began to emerge around the store. The loose-knit community received a major boost in 1923 when Boston-based Pacific Mills purchased 750 acres from Groce and, a year later, began textile operations there. The town’s name was changed in memory of Pacific Mills’ president Arthur T. Lyman, who died in 1915.

The model mill village drew new residents to the area, and the mill expanded in 1927 and again in 1931. The town’s first church, the First Baptist Church of Lyman, was organized in 1924.

Lyman underwent major changes in 1954, when Pacific Mills sold the plant to Burlington Industries, and residents voted to incorporate. At that time, the town had 900 residents.

Burlington sold the mill to M. Lowenstein Corporation in 1956, and in 1985, Springs Industries purchased it. The end of the Lyman textile era ended on February 1, 2005, when Springs closed the local mill.

Although Lyman has seen a surge in residential growth as it has become something of a bedroom community, the town will be hard-pressed to replace the tax base the textile industry has provided since its early years.



Duncan

• Established: 1811
• Location: West of Spartanburg
• Fun fact: Originally was called New Hope


In 1811, a post office was established on what is now S.C. Highway 290. A tiny settlement sprung up around it, and both the post office and community were named New Hope. In 1854, the town changed its name to Vernonville or Vernonsville in honor of local physician J.J. Vernon.

In the mid-1850s, plans were under way to put a railroad line through Duncan, but the impending Civil War disrupted them. It wasn’t until 1873 that the Atlanta and Richmond Railroad laid a line through the town.

Shortly after the Civil War, Leroy Duncan came to town and began buying land. Duncan was an ambitious man who craved recognition. During celebrations for the new railroad line, Duncan promised townspeople that he would provide land for city streets if they would agree to rename the town after him. In 1881, the name change became official.

Duncan became the site of an important footnote in Spartanburg County’s African-American history when the Rock Hill Negro School opened in Duncan in 1881.

Within two years of its name change, Duncan boasted a population of 200, along with several general stores, saw and flour mills and a cotton gin. The town received its charter in 1889.

The Hughes Hotel, opened in 1892, became a focal point of the town and drew travelers from the Greenville-Spartanburg road.

Duncan has survived despite lacking the textile industry and heavy farming base of many Spartanburg County communities. In recent years, BMW has drawn new residents to the area.



Wellford

• Established: Mid-1700s
• Location: West of Spartanburg
• Fun fact: Controversies have existed over the town’s date of creation, spelling of its name and size


The oldest town of the Wellford-Duncan-Lyman trio is Wellford. Just how old it is remains a matter of dispute. The town’s charter, granted in 1881-82, states the community began in 1740, but local historians believe that date to be too early.

The Upstate was wilderness populated by Indian tribes until the mid-1750s, when Spartanburg County’s first known white settler, Elijah Clark, came to the area. During the early 1760s, Fort Prince was built nearby for protection against Indian raids. Most historians agree it wasn’t until the 1760s that organized white settlement of the region began.

Whatever the date, the area around Wellford originally was known as Beech Springs township. The community began a growth spurt in 1876 when the Danville-Richmond Railroad came to town. A depot, post office and general store were built to accommodate the railroad, and the bustling little community was renamed after Danville-Richmond director C.P.A. Wellford. Some say, though, that the town’s name originally was spelled Welford.

Wellford’s history is now hazy due to a series of fires many years ago that destroyed early public buildings in town. Several schools existed in Wellford’s early years, along with the Sunny Graded School for freed slaves, which was chartered in 1881.

The town began the process of becoming chartered in 1881, with the final signing of the charter taking place in February 1882. The charter set up a number of rules for the town, including a 99-year ban on liquor.

When the town was chartered, Wellford was roughly four square miles. On March 14, 1910, the size of the town was reduced by 1-1/2 square miles, but the reasoning for this has been lost.

In the late 1970s, Mayor Hubert Odom led the charge to regain the town’s lost acreage, which ended up within Lyman’s town limits. Lyman officials vowed to go to court to fight the land grab, but the Wellford Town Council decided to let bygones be bygones and stick with the boundary set in 1910.

The Wellford-Duncan-Lyman area now lies in the heavily traveled thoroughfares between Spartanburg and Greenville counties.