The Spartanburg County Historical Association was formed thanks to a small group of historically-minded Spartanburg County citizens. In September 1957, a planning meeting was held at Converse College and was attended by James Buchanan, Louisa Carlisle, Frank Coleman, Charles Lindsay, and Elford Morgan. It was quickly followed by an organizational meeting held at the WSPA auditorium and attended by over 100 interested members of the community. Charles Lindsay was elected the first president of the organization and the Spartanburg County Historical Association was on its way.
The founders of the organization stated its purpose to be: To promote interest in the history of the county; to bring about a closer relationship among persons in the county who are interested in its history; and to encourage the preservation of historical sites, materials, and records of the area. While the Historical Association has since developed a mission statement that reflects its current programs and goals for the 21st century, this original purpose lies at the heart of our mission and who we are.
One of the first programs offered by the Historical Association was a Fall Tour, held on Sunday, October 27, 1957, to four historic houses in the county: The Seay House, the Dr. Pinckney Miller House, the Thomas Price House and Walnut Grove Plantation. All of the homes were historic structures in need of preservation. Today, the Historical Association maintains and operates all but Dr. Pinckney Miller's House as historic house museums. In December of 1957, the first Historical Association exhibit was put on display in a vacant building on East Main Street near First Baptist Church, planting the seeds for the Spartanburg Regional History Museum housed today in the Chapman Cultural Center on East St. John Street.
Regional History Museum
From that first exhibit on Main Street, the museum went on to find a home in a corner of the Pine Street Library. When the library moved to a new facility on Church Street in downtown Spartanburg, the Museum moved to a storefront location at 100 East Main Street in what was formerly a Belk store. When the Chapman Cultural Center opened in 2007 to house many of the county's arts and culture organizations, the Museum moved into the second floor of the Carlos Moseley Building, commonly referred to as The West Wing. Whatever its location, the Spartanburg Regional History Museum continues to be a go-to spot for a glimpse of Spartanburg's history and a base of operations for outreach programs to schools, after-school programs, and other community organizations. The Spartanburg County Historical Association offices are also housed with the History Museum.
Walnut Grove Plantation
In 1961 Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Moore Craig, Sr. donated Walnut Grove Plantation house (c. 1765) with eight acres of land to preserve the site and allow it to be used for the education of the public. On October 15, 1967, the restoration was dedicated and opened to the public. Several structures were moved onto the Plantation to complete the restoration and represent the outbuildings and dependencies common in the late 1700s in the Backcountry of South Carolina.
Walnut Grove Plantation is on land granted in 1763 by King George III to Charles Moore when this area was on the western frontier. The site portrays living conditions in Spartanburg County prior to 1805. The main house has double-shouldered chimneys, clapboard-over-log construction, and Queen Anne mantels. The other buildings include Rocky Spring Academy, one of the first schools in the area; a separate kitchen; a blacksmith's forge; a meat house; a barn sheltering a Conestoga-type wagon; a well house with its dry cooling cellar; and the reconstructed office of Dr. Andrew Barry Moore, the county's first trained physician.
The grounds also include an herb garden centered with a dipping well and the Moore family cemetery. Buried there are Margaret Katherine (Kate) Moore Barry, local Revolutionary War heroine, as well as other family members, slaves and Revolutionary War soldiers. A nature trail runs from the Moore Family Cemetery to the back of the main house and passes some spectacular native trees and wild flowers.
Since its first tour in 1957, the Association explored the possibility of saving the impressive Price House. The Price House, along with 89 acres of land, was purchased in 1969. Funds were secured to stabilize and weatherproof the much-vandalized house and to surround it with a high cyclone fence. The house was put on the National Register in 1970 and was opened and dedicated in 1972.
Thomas and Ann Price built this house on his 2,000 acre plantation around 1795. The brick house with its steep gambrel roof and inside end chimneys is most unusual for this section of the country. The bricks for the house were made on the premises and are laid in Flemish Bond. The plantation had as many as 28 enslaved people farming the land. Price was an entrepreneur licensed to sell spirituous liquors and to keep a "house of publick entertainment," meaning that he could provide food, drink, and lodging to stagecoach travelers passing through the area. Price also operated a store and served as the local postmaster.
Thomas Price died in 1820; his wife the following year. They accumulated enough possessions to fill a 42-page inventory at Ann's death. The inventory contained a thorough listing of all the objects in the house, store, and on the Plantation. The inventory, found in the Office of the Spartanburg County Probate Judge, has been a guide in furnishing the house. Interestingly, the Prices' house was the only household in the county prior to 1820 that had carpets and curtains. This indicates the status and taste of the couple. You can see a summary of the enslaved people listed in the estate's settlement with appraised and "real" values here.
The Seay House, believed to be one of the oldest dwellings still standing in the City of Spartanburg, is a log and frame structure on the crest of the hill on Darby Road. The oldest portion of the house is a typical Scots-Irish, one room, one-and-one-half story, log house. The logs are hand hewn, and the foundation is fieldstone. The pipestem chimney, also made of fieldstone, is a style commonly found in Virginia but quite unusual for upstate South Carolina. Although a definite construction date for the log portion has not been established, evidence indicates that it was built prior to 1850, possibly as early as the late eighteenth century. Only two of the late nineteenth-century frame additions remain. We focus on the lives of the three Seay sisters who lived in the house in the late 1800s/early 1900s and the daily activities they pursued to run a small farmstead during that time.
Preservation efforts relating to this structure began in the early 1970s. The site was nominated and placed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 7, 1971. Preservation efforts of the Spartanburg County Historical Association began with the purchase of the property in 1974. The first phase of the initial restoration efforts began in 1975. The house restoration resulting from the initial preservation efforts was so noteworthy that the South Carolina Institute of Architects presented the Association an award for the most outstanding architectural restoration project in the state for 1979. The Seay House was dedicated on April 26, 1981, and opened to the public.
Other Projects & Activities
General Daniel Morgan Monument
The big event of the week in nineteenth-century Spartanburg was Sales Day. Every Monday, wagons carrying provisions and goods from the county and from the North Carolina mountains would gather in Morgan Square. People who had traveled far camped out by the spring behind the courthouse. Not only was this market day for everyone in the area, but it was also an opportunity to exchange gossip, visit with neighbors, and frequent the local shops and saloons. Morgan Square has been at the heart of Spartanburg trade and commerce since 1787, when settlers began construction of a log courthouse, jail, pillory, whipping post and stocks. The Square was named for the Revolutionary War general after the statue of Daniel Morgan was erected and dedicated in 1881.
For more than 100 years, the Morgan Monument has been a reminder, not only of the valor of early Spartans at the Battle of the Cowpens in 1781, but of the first cooperative effort of all 13 original states and the federal government after the Civil War. The shaft of granite and the bronze statue of Morgan was the work of sculptor J.Q.A. Ward. Congress voted $23,000 to pay for the work, and the city and county of Spartanburg shared the cost of the base and labor.
In November 1987, the Ward statue was returned to Spartanburg from Philadelphia where it had been displayed as part of the Bicentennial celebration of the U.S. Constitution. During this time, the statue was restored to its original glory by sculptor Eleftherios Kaardadoulias through the generosity of local citizens in an effort spearheaded by the late preservationist Peggy Gignilliat.
The Peggy T. Gignilliat Preservation Award
In 1989, the Association created the Peggy T. Gignilliat Award to recognize Mrs. Gignilliat's tireless preservation efforts in Spartanburg County. This award is given to those who are following in her footsteps. The award for preservation is based on the following criteria: