Laurens County Chamber

Historic Laurens County


History

The original inhabitants of Laurens County were the Cherokee. John Duncan, the first known white settler, arrived in 1754. On March 12, 1785, the General Assembly established Laurens and five other counties out of the old Ninety-Six District.

The county's name derives from the Honorable Henry Laurens of Charleston, president of the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War and later an ambassador to France.

The town of Laurens (known as Laurensville well into the 1800s) became the county seat and the first courthouse was erected in 1786. By 1820, Laurens was known for its trade of tailor-made clothes, which is what drew Andrew Johnson, a future U.S. president, and his brother to Laurens. They arrived in 1824 and established a tailor shop.

By 1840, the area was booming. The local landmark courthouse on the square was built that year and later enlarged in 1857. Businesses in the area included medical practitioners, a fancy confectionery and fruit store, carriage, buggy and wagon shops, tailoring establishments, building contractors, flour and corn mills, and 81 registered whiskey distilleries.

No military action occurred in Laurens County during the Civil War, but many native sons were casualties of the war. During Jefferson Davis's flight from Richmond, he passed through Laurens County and gave a speech to the residents of Mountville.

By the end of the nineteenth century, textiles were becoming very important in Laurens County and the upstate. The Laurens Cotton Mill was established in 1895. Mercer Silas Bailey built the first cotton mill in Clinton in 1896, and both Lydia Mill and Watts Mill were established in 1902. Today, textiles have been displaced by a wide variety of industries: plastics, automotive, and advanced manufacturing.

There are three museums in Laurens County.

  • Clinton Museum--located at 400 North Broad Street in the Griffin family home in Clinton.
    For information, call (864) 938-1099.
  • Gray Court-Owings Historical Society--located at 4711 N. Old Laurens Road in Gray Court.
    For more information, call (864) 876-2667.
  • The Laurens County Museum is located at 205 West Laurens Street in downtown Laurens, SC. For more information call (864) 984-3860 or 684-5639.
Genealogy

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