Historical Look at Union County
Before white settlers came to what is now Union County, the area was part of the vast territory claimed by the Cherokee Indians as hunting grounds. There is some evidence the Cherokee may have inhabited parts of Union County, as some early land grants in the county are described as containing Indian cabins.
The first white settlers came to Union from Virginia in 1749 and settled on the Pacolet and Tyger rivers and at Fairforest Creek. In the next few years, other families came from Virginia and Pennsylvania and settled around Brown’s Creek and Cane Creek.
According to local historian Jeannette M. Christopher, the years between 1763 and the beginning of the Revolutionary War saw the greatest migration into Union County. People built log cabins, cleared the fertile river and creek bottoms and planted tobacco, flax, corn, wheat and other grains and grazed their animals. There were few slave owners in the early days of the county.
The city and county of Union got their names from the old Union Church that stood not far from Monarch Mill. For a long time the town of Union was known as Unionville, with the name later being shortened. The church was a place for people of the Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian faiths to worship.
During the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Musgrove Mill took place on the Enoree River on August 18, 1780 at the junction of what is now Union, Spartanburg and Laurens counties. Other battle sites in Union County include Fishdam Ford and Blackstock Battlefield.
A district court was formed by the General Assembly in the late 1700’s in the upper part of the county in a new town named Pinckneyville. Located near the junction of the Broad and Pacolet rivers, Pinckneyville was to be the “Charleston of the Upstate” and its streets were named after streets in that city. Despite settlers, a post office, inns and a jail, the town never caught on and the court was moved to Union. Interested persons can visit the ghost town and see the remains of several old buildings, including the courthouse.
Thomas Cary Duncan, who founded Union and Buffalo mills, was known as Union’s pioneer capitalist and industrialist. He began his own railroad company to connect Union and Buffalo. Hundreds of families moved to Union from North Carolina and Tennessee and spent their lives working in these cotton mills.
In the early days of World War I, Union County became famous for being the only county in the nation that did not have a draft because its draft quotas were filled by volunteers.
Union County’s industrial base is diverse, including the manufacturing of roller bearings, felt products, bath products, cordage, metal forgings, textile fiber, woven goods, finished textile products and paper pulp. There also are machine shops and metal fabrication facilities.
Although Union County has no interstate highway, a new four-lane was completed in 1991 to Spartanburg County.