All of modern Anderson County was comprised of Cherokee hunting grounds until 1777 when the land was ceded to South Carolina. The area was called the Pendleton District, and was later divided into Anderson and Pickens Districts. A town would be built around the newly constructed courthouse, which would eventually become Anderson, named after Revolutionary War hero, Robert Anderson, who surveyed the land along with Andrew Pickens. Textiles and agriculture played vital roles in the city, which gained the nickname, “The Electric City,” after William Whitner ran the South’s first long distance electric lines from High Shoals in 1895. Today, Anderson’s downtown area offers much to the vibrant community as it continues to serve as the county seat.
Belton's origins are closely related to the rise of railroads, giving the town the nickname, "Child of the Railroad." A spur line of the Columbia & Greenville Railroad was created to connect to Anderson and eventually, hotels, shops and rest areas were added along with the Belton depot. Growth led to the official charter of Belton in 1855. The town was named after the first Columbia and Greenville Railroad Company President, Mr. John Belton O'Neal. Belton's concrete standpipe, erected in 1909, acts as a major symbol for the town and is the tallest of the 3 that remain in South Carolina at 155 feet.
Legend and lore surround the small town of Honea Path, especially regarding its name. One theory is that a large presence of bees in the area produced an abundance of honey along the route. The predominant suggestion by historians, however, is that “Honea” is a Cherokee word for “path.” To place significance on something, the Cherokee would repeat the word, so “Honea Path” may be the English adaption of a phrase meaning something like “important path.” To cause even more confusion, the town's 1855 charter calls it "Honey Path" while history shows that locals were calling it "Honea Path" before the Civil War. Regardless, Honea Path saw incredible growth after settlement and has given Anderson County two of its most extraordinary landmarks; the Chiquola Mill and the Carnegie Library.
In 1886, a railroad from Charleston was completed in modern-day Iva. Settlers sought to move to the area to develop communities along the newly established railroad system. One of the prominent property owners was Dr. Augustus G. Cook, who purchased a large plantation for his family. He named the local depot "Cook's Station," which he would later have to change as another "Cook's Station" already existed on the line. Shortly after, the entire community was named in honor of Dr. Cook's daughter, Iva. The area of Iva was a farming community and eventually Jackson Mill led to massive growth in the 1900's. Today, Iva's charming, small-town atmosphere is reflected in its friendly community and pleasant scenery.
Pelzer's establishment was a direct result of the rising textile industry. Five men wished to replicate the success they found in Charleston, and the area which would be known as Pelzer, was situated perfectly along the Saluda River. Francis J. Pelzer and the Pelzer Manufacturing Company bought this land with visions of creating an ideal "mill town" and shortly after, mills, bridges, housing, and a dam were created. The town made history when one of its mills became the first in the country to operate on long distance electricity. The collapse of the textile industry led to the closure of Pelzer’s historic mills but its spirit lives through the people who continue to be the life of the town.
Pendleton is not only one of the most historic towns in the county, but also serves as a historic landmark for the entire state of South Carolina. The Cherokee Nation once encompassed modern-day Pendleton before the Revolutionary Era, though negotiations with South Carolina saw the boundary lines recede in the years following that war. In the late 1700's, Pendleton served as the seat of the Pendleton District. Notable sites include the Farmer's Society Hall, Hunter's Store, and the Ashtabula and Woodburn Plantations.
In the early 1800's, a few wealthy businessmen purchased over 700 acres of land which would become known as Twiggs. The town turned into a healthy farming district and made great use of shipping and transportation methods. Barges, bridges, ports and eventually, railroads were used to import and export various goods from the thriving town. The railroad would leave a lasting impression when, in 1888, Twiggs was renamed Starr in honor of C&WC Railroad Captain, W.W. Starr. Starr's reputation grew as one of the most comfortable towns in the area. Starr remains a vibrant community with roots in its agricultural heritage.
The town of Frankville was chartered thirty-two years after Pelzer was founded when John Franks surveyed and performed the street layout of the area. This small town would eventually become known as West Pelzer, named appropriately for its location on the West side of the tracks which separate the two. Farmers and merchants were the main residents of the town, along with Pelzer Mill employees who wished not to live in the village. Business owners were quick to settle in West Pelzer, as the Pelzer Manufacturing Company controlled and dictated all business in Pelzer. They saw great prosperity as they catered to residents of both towns. Many of the first structures still stand today along with exceptional schools and friendly neighborhoods.
Williamston's interesting history can be traced to its natural spring water and the folklore that surrounds it. West Allen Williams, for whom the town is named, is credited with discovering the mineral spring at the heart of his land. After some time, the water came to be renowned as possessing amazing healing properties and attracted settlers and tourists to the area. Williamston experienced massive growth soon after, in conjunction with the rise of railroads and construction of schools, trade posts, and a bustling hotel. The town is also known for its early female college, the Williamston Female Seminary, which later moved to Greenwood to become Lander University. Today, Williamston remains a thriving town and its treasured mineral spring is celebrated annually during Williamston's Spring Water Festival.