Cherokee Indians lived in this region long before the American Revolution. It was the Cherokee’s choice to side with Great Britain during the war for independence and two months of fighting in the summer of 1776 between the Patriot militia and the Cherokees, aided by Loyalists, brought Indian defeat. Crops were destroyed, towns were burned and the Cherokees gave up, ceding their land to South Carolina. By 1789 this region became Pendleton County, later named Pendleton District. Today, that area is now Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties, but a common bond remains.
The Town of Pendleton was created in 1790 for a courthouse seat. It is named for Judge Henry Pendleton, a Virginian who fought in the Revolution and remained in South Carolina. Until a division of the district in 1826, the town was one of the most influential in the upper half of South Carolina. Initial settlement was by Scots-Irish veterans, but by 1800 the aristocratic LowCountry planters and politicians had discovered the Pendleton Area and built summer homes. It caused a mix of poorly educated farmers and well-educated wealthy citizens and together they laid the groundwork for the progressive region here today.
On April 2, 1790, commissioners of the new Pendleton County met for the first time and minutes of that meeting stated that a tract of land owned by Isaac Lynch was considered to be central in the county and “most convenient to erect the county buildings”. The next order of business was to select a Clerk of the County and Printer John Miller, who later would begin a newspaper after giving up the business in London and later Charleston, was unanimously chosen.
The commissioners were Andrew Pickens, Robert Anderson, John Miller, John Wilson, Benjamin Cleveland, William Halbert, Henry Clark and John Moffet. They determined each road should lead from Pendleton to or by their homes – but it worked well, as they lived in all parts of the county.
April 8, 1790, is the day the Town of Pendleton—also known as Pendleton Court House or Pendleton Village—can officially be dated. Book A, page one of Pendleton County land deeds records Isaac Lynch was paid five shillings by the commissioners for the land.
In November, 1790, the commissioners had ordered the surveying and staking out of six one acre lots for the public buildings and several businesses and families moved in. A log courthouse had been built on Tanyard Branch and it was 1797 before the first courthouse was built on what became the village green.
The state legislature, in the meantime, had determined there should be a new system of courts, and Pendleton became a district rather than a county. The lack of growth from 1790 to 1800 was due to the former Washington District, composed of Greenville and Pendleton counties, having a district seat at Pickensville.
When the Pendleton District was created, the commissioners ordered the formal layout of the town. It resulted in fifty-one town lots of one acre each and forty-three “outlots” of several acres each. One of the first to come and open a store which still stands today (site of the Village Café as of June 2014), was William Steele, who also became the postmaster.
By 1800, South Carolina low-country plantation owners had discovered Pendleton as a summer home retreat. R. W. Simpson, writing in a later period, said many were attracted “by the salubrious climate and its rich and fertile soil. Simpson said they built fine homes and though some were miles away, they referred to their place as being in “the Town of Pendleton”. Simpson said they brought refined customs and manners, “and the very name of Pendleton became a synonym for refined and beautiful women, and for elegant high-toned and chivalrous gentlemen”.