City Directories and History: The town officially began around the site of a large wooden water tank constructed to serve the steam engines of the Chester and Lenoir Narrow Gauge Railroad. According to traditional folk lore, water spilling on the ground caused patches of clover to grow at the base of the water tank. Railroad workers began referring to the town as Clover Patch. The Town was chartered on December 24, 1887. Clover became a booming textile community. Textiles continue to play a part of the community’s economy. The town has since grown steadily, reaching a population of 5,094 in 2010.
JOHN KNOX’S HISTORY OF CLOVER
(The following was found in the Yorkville Enquirer, June 30, 1922. It is based on an interview with John Knox, who was the oldest citizen of the town of Clover at that time.) …. Mr. Knox now in the 81st year of his age, has lived at Clover since 1877, “and,” he says, “I remember that was the year I moved here from the Beersheba section of York county because it was the year after South Carolina was emancipated from negro rule and domination.” Despite his 81 years of age, Mr. Knox maintains that he is still a young man and when the reporter interviewed him about Clover’s early days a short time ago he found him in his garden, where the old gentleman pointed to a quantity of grass and weeds that he had just cut, in proof of the fact that he is still a hale and hearty specimen. No other man is as familiar with the growth and progress of Clover and with the history of its earliest days, because he has lived its history. His memory is keen and if he were inclined to do it he could no doubt sit down and enumerate each family who came in the early days and he could pretty nearly tell the year and month that each came and what became of them and the children and all that sort of thing. It wouldn’t be hard for him to do either, because Clover didn’t really begin to grow until the cotton mills began to look this war for a location some thirty years ago.
Before Clover was Clover, according to Mr. Knox, the site of this town was the best place for hunting rabbits that he knew of in this section. Many a time when the snow was on the ground has he tracked rabbits in large numbers and caught and killed them right where one of the banks or other buildings stand.
Clover is not an old town in point of years, and in fact, it has developed altogether since the Civil War and since 1876. That was the year that the former King’s Mountain railroad, now the Carolina and North-Western railroad, came through Clover and that was the year the town really started. To the Carolina and North-Western railroad, or the “Narrow Gauge,” as it used to be known, more than any other factor is due the building up of Clover. Before there was any town at this prosperous place there was a Presbyterian church called New Centre, located about one mile south of the
present main square of the town. There the people from the surrounding country gathered on Sunday to worship God. That, however, was long before the war and there was nothing there but the church and the graveyard. It was a good structure, that church, as country churches went in that day and the woodland around provided a place for numerous gatherings of the people. The first post office that Mr. Knox recalled at Clover was kept by the late Miles Smith and was located about where the residence of W. P. Smith now stands in the southwestern section of the town. There wasn’t much mail to come to Clover or New Centre, as the place was called in those days. In fact, mail was only received twice a week, coming from Lincolnton, N. C., on the north and Yorkville on the south. There was no Gastonia because Gastonia is even younger than Clover. After the Civil War this post office was moved to the store of Zimri Carroll, about one mile west of Clover on the Clover-King’s Mountain road. Then came the railroad and the changing of the name from New Centre to Clover. While Mr. Knox was not living in 1876, the year the “Narrow Gauge” railroad reached Clover and a station was built there, he was in Clover the day that the station was opened for business and he remembers well the torchlight parade that was held in celebration of the event. General Wade Hampton was engaged in famous red shirt campaign against Carpetbag domination about that time and all the young men an older men too, were wearing red shirts and whooping it up for Hampton. They had a double celebration that night in honor of the coming of the railroad and in honor of General Hampton and the whole countryside that night resounded with the whoops and yells of the “red shirters” yelling for Hampton and the railroad. “I have heard men yell for Tillman and Blease,” said Mr. Knox, “buit I have never heard any yelling like the yelling for Wade Hampton and the railroad when it came to Clover.” When Mr. Knox came to Clover in 1877, the year after that torchlight parade, there were just two stores in Clover. The late Zimri Carroll conducted one and the late Capt. W. B. Smith the other. They were just stores and they sold a little of everything. In addition to the stores there were a number of shanty cars housing the railroad workers, but counting the railroaders there were not a hundred people in the hamlet. Then it was that Mr. Knox began the blacksmith and woodshop business that is now carried on by his son, Mr. George Knox, and his grandson, Mr.John Knox, of the third generation. Clover grew very slowly at first. After some time New Centre Presbyterian church was abandoned and the Presbyterians built the little Presbyterian church on King’s Mountain street that has recently given place to a new church building that will cost when completed about $50,000. The congregation was small and money was scarce in those early days, but the congregation managed to raise $10 from Sunday to Sunday to pay a Presbyterian minister torn some other town to preach. There were lots of Sundays, however, when there was no preaching because—well, Clover people can raise a thousand dollars now where they could raise ten dollars in those days.
The first school house at Clover was a little cne-room affair and the first teacher was the late Joshua D. Gwinn, who for many years was the late Joshua D. Gwinn, who for many years was postmaster at Clover. Mr. Gwinn, who was the first citizens, originally spelled his name “Gwin,” just me “n.” When he was commissioned postmaster however, the clerk who wrote out his commission wrote it with two “n’s” and as it would take lots of correspondence and delay to correct it, Mr. Gwinn left it that way until his death.
The first intendent or mayor was the late Joseph Bell. Mr. Knox was one of the first alderman. Another was Dr. E. W. Pressley, now of Greenville but for many years a resident of Clover. If there are any others of the first council living, Mr. Knox does not recall. The town was originally chartered with the understanding that a barroom or saloon would not be allowed. And there has never been a legitimate liquor shop in Clover. But in its early days as a town Clover was mighty bad about drunk men, according to mr. Knox, and that happened in this way: Along the South Carolina-North Carolina line, only a few miles north of Clover, there were many barrooms forty years ago. Many of these saloons or liquor shops were built right on the line, a portion of the house in each state. If North Carolina officers got after the barkeeper, he would simply move over into South Carolina and vice versa. So lots of folks from this section would go up to the line to get their liquor. It was an hour’s drive or more from Clover to the saloons. By the time a man got his liquor and got back as far as Clover he’d be feeling rather hilarious and the policeman or “men,” most often the plural was necessary, had their hands full…. (Information courtesy of and from: YCGHS – The Quarterly Magazine)
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