Neatly spanning the borders of Anderson and
Abbeville Counties you will find the unique town of Honea Path that has been in existence
since the 18th Century.
Or is it Honey Path? The town charter, granted by
the state in 1855, gives the spelling of the name as Honey Path. It is not clear whether
this is a mistake in the charter or if the intended name really was Honey Path. It is
clear from family records that the local folk knew the town as Honea Path well before the
Many legends exist regarding the name of the town
and its various spellings. Some surround an Indian Chief named Honea who spent time in the
area. Others believe that the name of a local post master and/or depot agent was Honea and
thus gave his name to the town. One of the most colorful legends reports that there was a
"big path" used by the Indians in their travels through the upstate which passed
through the area. The Indian word for path sounded much like the word Honea. Because this
was a "big path" the Indians repeated the word twice to enforce the importance
of the path. White settlers kept the Indian word for path and the English word for path.
They called the area Honea Path.
One of the favorite legends regarding the name of
the town is that there were a lot of bee trees found along the "big path" used
by the Indians. Because of this the settlers called the path, "honey path." On a
plat of land purchased by David Greer in 1794 one can clearly see a path laid out across
the property. The path is identified as Honey Path. Colton's map of South Carolina
published in 1855 shows the name of the town as Honey Path.
Regardless of which legend you choose, at the
time of the Centennial celebration in 1955 the name of Honea Path was officially adopted
in the state records. The common name for the town was at last legally the name of the
The first settlers came to the Honea Path area in the late 18th
century. The first named settler to purchase land in the area was David Greer. By 1810 the
area had built its first school. This was the first of many schools in this area. It is
believed that a town began to flourish and that as early as 1825 several general stores
existed. With the arrival of the railroad in the 1850's, the town's future was secured. At
one time several hotels were established to take care of the people who came to conduct
business or to visit the area.
In the early 1900's several of the
local businessmen determined that it would make more sense to mill the cotton being grown
in the area before attempting to ship it to market.
Mill was organized in April, 1902. The mill was four stories high and contained 83,200
square feet. Operation began in 1903. In an early photograph of the mill one can see a
patch of cotton actually growing immediately outside the front door of the building. While
the ownership of the mill has changed several times over the years, it has been in
consistent operation since it opened. The events of September
1934 at Honea Path were at the epicenter of a long-developing storm of worker protest in
the South's leading industry, textiles. Honea Path workers joined in the General
Textile Strike, one of the largest in American history, a protest that was initiated and
sustained by southern mill workers. The strike was one of a series of worker protests in
1934 that occurred in every region of the
United States and that helped reshape
American attitudes and government policy about the work place in critically important
ways. Within a year of these events, the federal government passed the landmark National
Labor Relations Act, three years later, The Fair Labor Standards Act (maximum hours,
minimum wages, and a ban on child labor). As a result, workers received a larger place in
American life and politics, a larger place that they had long since earned and more
equitable treatment in their work. Similar concerns for
a more just workplace were later catalysts for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and, more
recently, for the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The events of September 1934, in
Honea Path, give us a unique opportunity to remember the tragic, and the
courageous, and to recognize the essential role of textile workers and the
textile industry in the reshaping and enhancing of the century that has now come to an end.
A Carnegie Library was built in the town in 1908.
Honea Path has the distinction of being the smallest town in South Carolina and one of the
smallest in the United States to construct a Carnegie Library. This historic building is
still in use as a branch of the Anderson County Library. It has recently been expanded but
the expansion carefully preserved the distinctive face of the library. In 1958 the name of
the library was changed to the Jennie Erwin Library of
Honea Path. She served as one of the original trustees and donated $1000 toward the
purchase of the first books for the library. Although there were lean years when the
library reported "no new books were purchased this year," the library has been
available for more than 90 years to serve the residents.
On a ride through the town one can
see many lovely old homes, some of which have been restored, representing the construction
motifs of the last 200 years.
Main Street is being restored. Several businesses welcome
you to come in and browse. The antique buff will find many things to admire. If you
venture into the alley behind the west side of Main Street, you can see the storefronts of
the town's earliest buildings, still in use today.
If you visit the historic town hall you may purchase a copy
of Honea Path Milestones and learn much more about our unique town.