A Community’s Seeds are Sown
In 1873, the seeds of what would come to define the economy and culture of Greenville County began to be sown. Three men from Boston arrived in Greenville dreaming of a new direction for South Carolina, one that would capitalize on its agricultural strengths by creating a cotton manufacturing center right where the crop was grown. By 1876, the men were running the Camperdown Mills Company, with cotton mills operating on both sides of the Reedy River in downtown Greenville. The enterprise set the stage for Greenville’s future. By 1930, 16 mills and two bleacherys were operating in Greenville County. Thirteen of the mills are still standing, and all are located within three miles of downtown Greenville and the original Camperdown Mills.
This “textile crescent,” named because of the crescent-shape the mills and their adjacent resident “Mill Villages” form on the map of Greenville, has a long and complex history. On one hand, the mills and their villages evoke nostalgia for the old days of hard work and strong community, where a lack of material wealth was made up for by stable employment and a deep sense of comradery among workers and Mill Village residents. On the other hand, mill history also reflects the culture of its times, including Jim Crow segregation, depression-era unrest and post-war industrial decline.
Today, the story of the textile crescent is no less complex. Most of the mills shuttered their doors decades ago, and the Mill Villages have experienced years of decline and infrastructure neglect. Even so, many long-time residents still share the same sense of community that characterized the villages of the past. At the same time, investors who see opportunity for development in the area have begun repurposing blighted buildings, and younger, wealthier residents have begun flocking to the area in droves.
Honoring Greenville’s Past, Present and Future
To help support residents both old and new, MetroConnects is beginning essential sewer collection infrastructure rehabilitation work throughout the textile crescent. In September, the Greenville County Council awarded Metro $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to assist with this urgent work. “We are very excited about the unprecedented opportunity to receive grant funds to replace sewer lines in the historic Mill Village systems located in the crescent mill area of Greenville. These pipes are past their useful life,” said Carol Elliot, General Manager of MetroConnects. In celebration of these awards, we would like to honor the textile crescent’s rich past, vibrant present and exciting future with our new blog series, The Textile Crescent and the Making of Greenville. Our first post coming up will begin with an introduction to the early history of the mills and the people who created them. Stay tuned for future posts on histories of the Mill Villages, Textile League Baseball, African Americans history in the mills, and more!
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