The Yorkville Enquirer reported on Nov. 21, 1888 from Eda Jane: “Since the opening of a cotton market at Hickory Grove, a large amount of trade from this side of the river (Union Co.), is going that way. Much of the supplies for next year will be bought there. Good ferry rates are available for market wagons, and the price paid for cotton there is an inducement. There are now five business houses in Hickory Grove doing a general mercantile business.”
City Directories and History: The 1910-1911 catalogue of the Hickory Grove High School clearly states it is a school “dedicated to the cultivation of good health, good morals, sound learning and right character.” Principal D. W. A. Neville and Trustees W. T. Slaughter, J. S. Wilkerson and W. A. Hood, M.D. were to see that this goal was carried out. Principal Neville also served as the high school teacher while Miss Ruth Martin was in charge of the intermediate Grades and Miss Clara McElroy the primary grades. The school’s catalogue described the town of Hickory Grove as a modest village beautifully set among surrounding hills, vales, forests and fields, and having pure water and invigorating climate. The small town, situated on the Charleston Division of the Southern Railway was, in 1910, populated with 500 people who were “intelligent, sociable and religious.” The rail line ran directly from Blacksburg, Smyrna, Hickory Grove, Sharon, York and Rock Hill with four trains daily.
It had three churches–an Associate Reformed Presbyterian, a Baptist and a Methodist. The business section boasted of containing a bank, two first class hotels (The Leech House and The Central Hotel) and nine stores, seven of which were brick. The town was said to have a good telephone system and was looking forward to being “electrically lighted” from the electric power plant nearing completion at Ninety-Nine Island on Broad River.
More than a dozen businesses of Hickory Grove provided funds for publishing of the school’s catalogue. One of these was J. N. McGill who owned one of the brick buildings in which he sold a variety of dry goods. McGill’s income was not limited to the mercantile business. He owned three farms where he had a considerable herd of cattle and was well known as a champion beekeeper having up to 60 hives at one time.
The Yorkville Enquire of Nov. 4, 1891 reported on “three families moving into Hickory Grove homes. Mrs. Castles has moved into her dwelling on Wylie Ave., Mr. Martin has moved into his house on Peachtree Ave., and policeman Broom has built a neat dwelling on Peachtree Avenue.”
The Rock Hill Herald on Dec. 14, 1901 reported, “burglars recently entered the store of Mr. J.N. McGill at Hickory Grove and stole several pairs of pants and $2.00 in cash.”
Another catalogue patron and owner of a general merchandise store was C. S. Moorehead. The Mooreheads had moved from Wilkinsville, across the Broad River, to Hickory Grove about the time the town was chartered in 1889. By 1904 W. J. Moorehead had built a brick store building and had stock with an estimated value of $6,000. He also owned several houses and lots and a branch store at Hopewell. He also was in egg production, handling about 15,000 dozen a year.
The Central Hotel, owned by W. T. Slaughter, was located in the business district and a short distance from the depot. At the Central, polite attention was given to guests and every effort was made for their comfort and entertainment, for only $2.00 a day. A special service for traveling salesmen he offered a free sample room where they might display their wares. Not only was Slaughter a school trustee and hotel proprietor, he was also the state manager of the Woodmen of the World. His office was at the hotel and could be reached at telephone number 8.
Not far away was the business of Moss & Jones. Their advertisement in the school’s catalogue reminded the public of the necessity of their trade. “You may have your cellar full of potatoes, and bins full of wheat, cribs full of corn, plenty of fat hogs, and good cattle, wood pile high as the house and money in the bank, but your horse must be shod, and your vehicles repaired. Remember that we have up to date machinery and can do your work promptly. Satisfaction guaranteed.”
A few miles out of town was the farm of W. S. Wilkerson who had already developed a thriving business making and selling sorghum molasses. Just after the turn of the century Wilkerson increased his production by inventing a new process for milling sorghum cane and soon earned the title “Sorghum King.” Wilkerson served as York County Commissioner for many years and in the South Carolina Legislature. He was a diversified farmer, gaining a good living through a number of cash crops, ginning, saw milling, threshing and hay baling. His son, John S., opened a mercantile business in Hickory Grove in 1904 where he assured his patrons they would get “polite attention and fair dealings.”
One of the town’s oldest businesses was McDill’s. J. N. McDill began a dry goods business before the Civil War, even before there was a Hickory Grove. McDill’s was the center of activity for the area, lending his name to the antebellum post office and voting precinct. In 1910 N. M. McDill was cashier (manager) of the Bank of Hickory Grove and operated an insurance business from his office there.
In 1910 the Hickory Grove School, not unlike those of today, observed the usual holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Other “Special Days” observed were Arbor Day (October), Robert E. Lee’s birthday (January), John C. Calhoun’s birthday (March) and Flag Day (April). The high school catalogue assured prospective residents: “With our school, our churches, our business opportunities, and our progressive citizenship, our town offers many unsurpassed advantages to people seeking a good location for homes, and to those people our citizens extend a hearty welcome in their midst.” Though nearly 100 years have passed since the 1910 Hickory Grove School Board Trustees extended this welcome, visitors will find it is just as strong and warm as ever. Hickory Grove is still a good place.
J.L. West – Author
This article and many others found on the pages of Roots and Recall, were written by author J.L. West, for the YC Magazine and have been reprinted on R&R, with full permission – not for distribution or reprint!
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