“Serving both the Southern and the 3 CCCs Railroads.”
City Directories and History: From time immemorial there had been a rocky knoll, the most remarkable feature in an otherwise undistinguished landscape, situated
several miles east of what was known in the first half of the nineteenth century as the village of Ebenezerville, which consisted of ten or twelve
houses, several general stores, and a Presbyterian church, all strung out along a dusty stretch of the Upper Land’s-ford Road. When surveyors charged with laying out a route for the projected rail line from Charlotte to Columbia came to the area of Ebenezerville in the late 1840’s, they took note of this well-known rocky knoll that was to play a part in the history of the future city of Rock Hill; and they soon learned that the country gentry who lived in the vicinity of Ebenezerville were not solicitous of having a railroad built through their Presbyterian enclave.
Accordingly, the surveyors chose a site for “the Ebenezer depot” that was two and one fourth miles east of the village itself. As it turned out, the spot was situated at the base of the rocky knoll aforesaid. The surveyors fulfilled the instructions given them by the owners of the railroad company to provide a depot for the Ebenezerville neighborhood, and at the same time they
placed the depot where the local landowners supported the coming of the Iron Horse and were willing to provide the six acres needed for a depot lot. (We might just as well call it “a warehouse lot,” because this first railroad depot was nothing more than a community storehouse for produce and shipped goods. No provision was made for passengers. At least one early plat of the immediate area called the building a “Ware House.”)
The portion of the depot lot conveyed by A. T. Black measured 317’ by 500’ by 310’ by approximately 500’. The two longer sides paralleled the rail line. The lot was situated on the western side of the railroad. On February 14, 1853, Mrs. Ann Hutchison White deeded two acres to the C. & S. C. R. R. Company for use as a depot lot. The metes and bounds of the land are not set out in the deed. The document states that the land in question is “a portion of the lot upon which the Ebenezer or Rock Hill Depot is located.” We see from the above that the Company acquired one third of the depot lot (2 acres) from Mrs. White and two thirds from A. T. Black, (4 acres).
The author has seen a plat of the depot lot which showed that the depot was built entirely on A. T. Black’s land. He has also seen a plat, perhaps two plats, showing the structure entirely on Mrs. White’s land. And he has seen a plat that showed the building on both Black land and White land. The last attribution seems the most plausible. Barring the discovery of an authenticated contemporary plat of the depot lot, we may never be absolutely certain of the precise spot whereon the first railroad depot was built.
Another crucial factor involved in choosing this site for the Ebenezer, or Rock Hill, depot was its location in relation to the two main public roads in the vicinity of the rail line that passed through the lands of A. T. Black and Mrs. Ann H. White. The Upper Land’s-ford Road, from Land’s-ford in Chester County to Yorkville, passed several hundred yards to the north of the depot site. Today’s Rock Hillians would know the modern street that corresponds to the old road as Charlotte Avenue. The other public road (dating back well before 1830) ran originally from what is now the intersection of East White Street and Confederate Avenue in a west wardly direction through what became the downtown area of Rock Hill (about midway between East Main and East White streets), across the railroad at the point where Black Street originally crossed the railroad, following West Black Street to the intersection with Allen Street, thence with Allen toward present-day York (the last part of the route being known in the 1920’s until the 1950’s as – the old York road”).
An examination of a map of the central area of Rock Hill in the antebellum period shows that the spot chosen for the railroad depot, or warehouse, was about midway of the two roads, cited above. As we shall see in the next chapter, the western terminus on Main Street as laid out in 1851 by ‘Squire’ John Roddey was located at the railroad right of way. The railroad at that point passed through a deep cut, a cut that had to be blasted through flint rock with gunpowder. This “rocky hill” (the rocky knoll) through which the railroad had to pass was the same which gave its name to the depot and then to the future town and city of Rock Hill, as we shall see. The only two grade crossings of the railroad in the 1850’s were located where today’s White Street and Black Street cross the rail line, Black Street being the better of the two crossings. There was enough of an incline at White Street to upset heavily loaded wagons in the early days of the community. In the years from 1852 to 1858-59 the passenger trains always stopped at what came to be called “the Black Street crossing,” not at the depot, or warehouse, which was located some hundreds of feet farther north.
The choice of the depot site seemed reasonable, since as stated above, the structure was built at a place that was convenient to both the main public roads, chiefly the Upper Land’s-ford Road. Not long after the depot was built and trains began to arrive there, a wagon road was made to connect the Land’s-ford Road (Charlotte Avenue) directly to the depot lot. This “unofficial” road (which ultimately became Chatham Avenue and passed over the lands of J. Lawrence Moore) became the shortcut used by travelers and local farmers coming south on the Land’s-ford Road from the direction of Ebenezerville and the Nation Ford.
While the depot site may have served the public reasonably well, it was certainly not an ideal spot for building purposes. The Rev. James Spratt White, son of Mrs. Ann H. White, wrote in 1884 that the place where the depot stood “was in former times a pond of water every winter from one to two feet deep.” He went on to say that “the lands immediately around this spot were in woods [that] belonged to George P. White and A. T. Black.” The writer has been told that the area was fed by a number of springs. If we are to believe local talk, we learn that in the basement of the 1912 railroad station there were several pumps in constant operation taking out the spring water that was still flowing at that spot as late as the 1970’s. It is likely that the water is today piped away into a city storm drain.
As noted above, the depot, or warehouse, as constructed in 1851 on wood pilings, had no space designated for passengers. Commercial concerns dictated the original design of the little structure, but public pressure on the railroad officials forced a re-thinking of the situation in 1858-59. The Company then remodeled the original depot, adding rooms for the telegraph office, for passengers, and for storing shipped goods and baggage. The remodeled “station” served well for a quarter of a century. In 1884 this structure was destroyed by a fire that was started among a lot of cotton bales stored on the platform of the freight office.
According to the recollections of the Rev. J. Spratt White, the first passenger train arrived (from the south) at Rock Hill in June, 1852. A careful examination of the evidence, however, reveals that the correct date was probably March 23, 1852. The coming of this train signaled the completion of the rail line from Columbia to the depot called variously “Ebenezer Depot” and “Rock Hill,” and it also called for a permanent name for the depot. The “credit” for naming the depot “Rock Hill” is usually given to J. Lawrence Moore and Col. Edward Avery.
The CCC Depot which was at a different “unknown” location. The Herald reported Nov. 29, 1888 – “That the CCC’s passenger trains are now receiving and discharging passengers at the new depot which was the former ——–‘s residence. The new depot building will be built as rapidly as possible and should be ready within two weeks. A large cotton platform is also nearing completion.”
The Herald reported on Jan. 3, 1889 – “The first regular passenger train on the 3 CCC Railroad went through Blacksburg on Thursday of last week. When the train arrived, it was greeted with a large concourse of people, bands, and the bursting of fireworks. All trains now run regularly from Camden to Blacksburg, at which point passengers can connect to the airline railroad for Shelby and Rutherfordton. This has brought the remotest sections of the county together.”
“The standing of the merchants is high. They are all prosperous and are the very bone and sinew of this land. The amount of annual business being done in banking, manufacturing, general business, and cotton amounts to at least $1,500,000. A well-known merchant has an estimate, which I here make use of to show what a very large sum of money is invested here. At the present time there is invested in taxable property about $1,335,000, in general business $200,000, in banking concerns $215,000, in manufactures $400,000; amount of general business transacted about $950,000; amount of cotton and manufacturing business done yearly about $1,450,000.” Reprinted from South Carolina in the 1880s: A Gazetteer by J.H. Moore, Sandlapper Publishing Company – 1989
The Herald reported on Jan 10, 1889 – “The CC and A railroad has put an addition of about 300 ft., of side track northeast of the passenger depot.”
The Herald reported on March 28, 1889 – “The CC and A railroad authorities have been petitioned to remove the shanties on their right of way, opposite the depot. These are unsightly buildings and the railroad authorities should not refuse to remove them.”
The Herald reported on Oct. 24, 1896 – “Five trains passed the Southern Depot within an hour on Thursday night. Four were passenger trains and one was a freight.” Also, “The State railroad Commission met in Rock Hill on Thursday and agreed the City needs better passenger depots. The Southern Railroad has agreed to build a handsome depot on the Northeast corner of Railroad Ave., and Whites Street to cost between $3,000. and $3,500. The OR and C (formerly the CCC), will build a station just across the street. There is no agreement on building a Union Station.”
The Herald reported on Oct. 31, 1896 – “Southern Railroad officials came to look at the site of a new depot, it will be 110 – 60 feet. It will include three rooms, two waiting rooms and an office. It will be connected by an open passageway to express and baggage rooms. Construction will be of wood.”
The Herald reported on Nov., 7, 1896 – “The new Southern Depot will require moving the streetcar line and changing the grade of the track so it can pass safely under the OR and C bridge.”
The Herald reported on Sept. 1, 1897 – “That A.G. Owens of Owens, Ms., is visiting Rock Hill. He left town in 1859. He says, “at that time there was a log house for a hotel, one bar room, and only one or two residences in the neighborhood of the railroad station.”
The Herald reported on Sept. 4, 1901 – “That the SC and G Company (formerly the CCC’s Railroad), is preparing to build and new trestle over the Southern Railroad near the depot in this city. The present trestle was erected when the railroad was built thirteen years ago.”
The Herald reported on April 12, 1902 – “A large number of citizens gathered at the depot on Thursday night to see Pres. Roosevelt. However, the train did not stop. The President waved his handkerchief and bowed to the crowd as he passed.”
The Herald reported on May 28, 1902 – “The Herald has been told that the Southern Railroad will acquire the SGAG railroad (CCC’s), about the first of July.”
The Herald reported on March 25, 1903 – “Discussion has been going on for some time about building a bridge on Main Street over the Southern Railroad for the passage of vehicles and pedestrians. A representative from the railroad has surveyed the site and determined that this would be impractical due to the topography.”
The RH Record reported on June 20, 1907 – “The old Engine House, which stood on Railroad Ave., is partly torn down and will shortly be a thing of the past.”
The RH Record reported on May 28, 1908 – “A join meeting of the City Council and the Executive Committee of the Chamber of Commerce voted to ask the state railroad commission to have the Southern Railroad build a double – deck depot in Rock Hill at the point where the 3CCC’s road now crosses the main line of the Southern Railway.
The RH Record for June 15, 1908 reported, “The State Railroad Commission has ordered that work be started on a new depot for Rock Hill within 30 days.”
The Rock Hill Record reported on May 26, 1910 – “The Southern Railway Co., is planning a $40,000 depot in Rock Hill.” In June they reported – “Mayor Roddey has been in Washington meeting with officials of the railroad about the new depot. The company is offering to spend $50,000. but they want the city to do additional grading and a steel span over the railroad.”
The Herald reported on Feb. 26, 1914 – “A new office for the freight depot is to be built. Supt. Hudson showed plans for the 40-40 ft building on West Main Street., just west of the railroad. The entire platform will be covered by a roof.”
The Herald reported on April 28, 1925 – “That Southern Railroad received a building permit to repair the underpass at the passenger station at a cost of $350.”
Click on the More Information > link found below the picture column for additional data. [Information provided via Along the Land’s Ford Road – Vol. I, 2008 by William B. White, Jr.] Also see Urban Renewal image for a 1950’s look at the area. (Slave Rental on Rock Hill Railroad)
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The Rock Hill Record of Aug. 9, 1909 reported, A busy spot in Rock Hill is the Charleston Division Railroad Shop of the Southern Railroad. It is under the charge of J.H. Disher who has about twenty – five men working, including machinist. The crew recently overhauled a freight engine and can do most work except heavy boiler work.
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