Containing some information on Horse Creek Valley:
In the western section of Aiken County extending from the Savannah River to the city of Aiken, is a section known as the Horsecreek Valley. This section of the county serves as a cradle of South Carolina textile mills, legends, old families, and hard working folks. The Valley extends some twenty miles and houses more than 20,000 people, over 40 churches, and some 20 small independent towns/communities. Each of the small communities, villages, and towns still clings to its identity, although telephone exchanges and a highway network have tied them into an almost single city stretching from Aiken to the Savannah River. The highest point in the Valley is located atop Cemetery Hill near the gravesite of Mr. William Gregg, founder of the Graniteville Company and the industrial titan of the valley.
The Westos and Chickasaw Indians originally inhabited the Horsecreek Valley. The Valley’s legacy dates back either to the tribes of the era or to the brawling era before the War between the States. In December of 1860, when the town of Graniteville was only fifteen years old, South Carolina voted to secede from the Union. At this time in history, the men and boys of Graniteville established company “F” of the 7th Regiment of the Confederate Army and sought to defend their native state. The textile industry located in Graniteville furnished cloth and other materials for Southern military purposes. Because of this war effort, General Sherman ordered the mills destroyed along with a paper mill located nearby. General Kilpatrick was in command of the Union troops. At Aiken, General Joe Wheeler held Sherman’s troops away from Graniteville and thus avoided the destruction of the mills, churches, and homes in the community. Food was scarce during the Civil War, but Mr. William Gregg bartered cloth for food items for his employees, and they fared better than most others in the state. Many people came to the community seeking food and other necessary items, but they were turned away due to the limited supply. Mr. Gregg received criticism from the press and even from the pulpits because he had to turn away many needy persons.
Graniteville became the largest town in the Valley. It was once known by the less lovely, but more descriptive, name of Hardscrabble. Blue granite was quarried from the nearby mines and thus lent the name Granite to the textile mill built in 1843. Mr. William Gregg received a charter in late 1845 and early 1846 giving him the right to build on the land. He built the town, and in 1847 he began constructing the mill and finished it in 1848. The mill has been added to on several occasions. In 1848, there were 300 employees in the mills. The number grew to 660 during World War II. Until the late 1950’s, the company was primarily engaged in making cotton. As the cost of producing cotton began to rise, the company decided to produce knits, synthetics, polyesters, and cotton cloth from the raw fibers. In 1963, when the textile officials saw that mothers were not satisfied with the cloth because they had to iron it, several members helped in perfecting a permanent press fabric.
Mr. William Gregg was born in 1800 in what is now West Virginia. Mr. Gregg went to Columbia, SC, to become a watchmaker, silversmith, and jeweler. Between 1824 and 1836, he managed to build a fortune of about one hundred thousand dollars. Then because of temporary health problems he had to take up residence with his wife’s parents in Edgefield, SC. During this time, he became interested in an old run-down cotton mill in Vaucluse, S.C. He decided to invest money it the mill and undertook its operations. He soon had it running profitably. In 1838, he left the mill and moved to Charleston to form a partnership with an old established jewelry firm and became one of the city’s leading silversmiths. His interest in textiles continued to grow and he visited New England to examine its mills at first hand. In 1845, Gregg obtained a charter from the South Carolina legislature to build the Graniteville Manufacturing Company. He became the builder and first president of the company. Gregg invested his fortune in the mill in order to see it through some very unstable times. Two years after the close of the civil war, William Gregg died. He learned that the dam at Graniteville had broken and he rushed to the scene and waded into the deep waters of the millstream to direct repair operations. During this time, he developed pneumonia and died on September 12, 1867.
Source — Excerpted from “A Brief History of Byrd Elementary,” by J. W. Peacock.