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History of Central

The town of Central had its beginnings with the arrival of the Atlantic and Richmond Air-Line Railroad Company through Pickens County, September 28, 1873. It was on that date that the connecting link in the line extending north from Atlanta and south from Charlotte through Central was completed and opened for operation. Since the village was midway between Atlanta and Charlotte,caboose about 133 miles each way, the Railway Company decided to set up its shops here and the place was called Central.

A depot and houses were erected for those who worked on the railroad. Stores were erected to provide supplies and food for the people. Shops for the railway workers were built, for this was to be the Terminal where engines refueled and changed. Engineers, conductors, telegraph operators brought their families and, finding the refreshing climate and friendly people to their liking, built homes and settled down.

On the north bank of the railroad track in the middle of the town, a long platform was erected for the coal chute where big, heavy dump carts were kept loaded with black shiny coal. At the end of the coal was a great tank of water that seemed to be always overflowing.

Branching off the right of the track toward the textile mill was the “Y” for turntable, where engines changed. Just below the tank, across from a large grove of trees, a long rambling hotel was built to become quite famous up and down the line. The hotel served not only for an eating-house, but also for telegraph operators, dispatchers, ticket office, waiting room, and a sample room for drummers to display their lines for the inspection of local merchants. After the hotel closed, it was the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Sims while he was freight agent. The famous old building was burned in 1936. 

museum On March 17, 1875, Central was incorporated as a town, according to an Act of the South Carolina Legislature. The town extended one-half mile in each direction from the Airline Depot. The charter was renewed and amended on December 18, 1885.
The town was destined to see a great change take place in the year 1897, when the Southern Railway moved its headquarters from Central to Greenville. The first trainload of cars pulled out Sunday, July 4, 1897, leaving a dazed group of citizens. All shops and all offices were closed. The trains no longer stopped to change engines. Families that had built their homes and settled down were uprooted. Houses were vacant and business was at a standstill. A fire broke out one night that almost wiped out downtown Main Street and there was no fire fighting equipment.

Local businessmen in 1903 opening opportunities for employment organized Issaqueena Mill. T. M. Norris, president of Norris Cotton Mill moved to Central and became an integral part of the community. The Wesleyan College (Southern Wesleyan University) began classes in the fall of 1906 and brought in new people. Central High School moved into its new quarters in the brick building on Church Street in September 1909.

oletownWorld War I broke out and many Central men enlisted to fight overseas. It was in 1918 that influenza hit the nation and Central was not spared. Before the crash in 1929 Central had been growing up and enjoying the boom that followed World War I. After 1929 Central’s two banks failed, mill stocks fell to a low ebb, and Issaqueena Mill passed to the hands of a receiver.

Isaqueena Mill furnished the town’s first water system. The first sewage system was completed about 1949 while Max Perry was mayor. Acetylene lights were used in some homes, but most homes depending on kerosene lamps and lanterns until electricity was introduced. Issaqueena Mill generated its own electric power and furnished some electric power to Central. About 1917 Central contracted for electricity from Lenhardt Dam, a power source on Twelve Mile River. Around 1935 Duke Power bought the right to furnish Central’s electrical power.

Central continues to grow with new roads, industries, recreational facilities, and new homes. For further information on the town, read the book Central Yesterday and Today by Mattie May Morgan Allen.


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Central Heritage Society
416 Church Street
P. O. Box 1162
Central, SC 29630