Pathways of a Southern Town
:Native American Trade and the "Honey Path"
Town historians long debated the origin of the unusual name "Honea Path." Some attribute it to settler William Honey, who purchased 200 acres northeast of town in 1788. Others say it refers to a Cherokee trading path that ran between the Saluda and Savannah Rivers. Before the arrival of Europeans, Native American groups traded goods throughout the region. Cherokee and Creek Indians later used the waterways and pathways to trade with Europeans. Former Honea Path residents recalled Cherokee Indians returning to the area to care for ancestral burial sites as late as 1855. The town's earliest name was "Honey Path."
A walk or drive in and around the town of Honea Path today reveals the town's history. Its historic houses, commercial and public buildings, and surrounding fields of crops and livestock tell the story of the community's growth.
Chiquola Mill and Village
Most prominent on the town's landscape is the Chiquola Mill and nearby mill village. Chiquola is distinctive among the region's textile mills, because it has remained in operation since its doors opened, and because of a tragic conflict between mill employees and owners in 1934. Chiquola was also famous for its highly competitive baseball teams, who fiercely battled those of other mill villages.
Early European-American Settlement
When the earliest settlers from Europe and within the United States came to the area, it was a true frontier. Honea Path's earliest European settler, David Greer, came from Ireland in 1794. Other early arrivals were Obediah and Jennie Shirley, who built a simple log plantation house around 1830. In 1848, M.E. Erwin established a farm, and built a mill for grinding corn and flour. This mill still stands, although its water wheels are now in front of the Jennie Ervin Carnegie Library, named to honor M.E. Erwin's daughter.
The Rail Lines
Honea Path's early success in the testile and agricultural industries relied on access to the railroad. Two different rail lines ran through town. In 1855, train tracks were laid directly behind where you are standing, and a second line arrived in 1911. train service allowed farmers of the area to specialize in cotton cultivation. Before the railroads came, residents were largely subsistence farmers and grew crops for their own consumption and produced many goods at home. The benefits of the railroad to the people of Honea Path were tremendous — including not only shipment of crops, but regular mail delivery, new types of merchandise, and frequent visitors.
:Small Town Life
Memorable events and places of Honea Path included afternoon fellowship at train time, the handmade hat store operated by Maggie Brock, the Town Theatre, Rosa Cox Candy Store, the Old Watkins School, Blacksmith Shop, blackberry patches, Railway Station, Door to Door peddlers and knife sharpeners, quaint churches with ceiling fans, a public cannery, sun parlors, minstrels on Saturday night radio, teachers returning to boarding houses in late August, Coleman Field park in its "Hey Day," preachers with frock tail coats, Queen Anne's lace at weddings, running water and a back yard well, and trash dump southwest of town in the direction of prevailing winds.
Obediah and Jennie Shirley House
Completed around 1830, the Obediah & Jennie Shirley home encloses a circa 1790 log cabin. It is one of the oldest buildings in Anderson County. The Shirley family made many contributions to the success of the town. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Preserving the Past
Many in Honea Path strive to remember their ancestors and to preserve the places that are part of the town's history. Descendants of many of the earliest town settlers still live in the area.
The Jennie Erwin Carnegie Library was built in 1908. Endowed by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, it was the smallest library in the state built with Carnegie funds. The library, an important part of the town's history, is also a repository of that history. Visitors to Honea Path can discover the town's history by visiting the town's people, its buildings, and surrounding farmlands.