About Us

History of the Museum

In March of 2005, James Gambrell visited former Mayor Sharon Brownlee to share with her his vision for a Laurens County Museum. They decided to put an announcement in the Laurens Advertiser for a meeting to be held on March 24, 2005 at the Laurens County Library. A large and enthusiastic crowd attended that first meeting and the Laurens County Museum Association began. The next meeting, on April 8, 2005, the group appointed officers as follows: James Gambrell- President, Kathy Crotts- Vice President, Jane Corn- Secretary, and Carol Senn- Treasurer. In the months that followed more meetings were held, visits to other local county museums occurred and various working committees were formed. The Laurens County Museum Association was officially organized as a South Carolina non- profit corporation on April 26, 2005, then on September 5, 2005 the IRS officially recognized it as a 501 (c)(3) non profit. On September 26, 2006, The Woodmen of the World, Lodge no. 98 sold its building on West Laurens Street to The Museum Association. The members were extremely gracious in their collaboration with the Museum to make the property an affordable and do-able undertaking. The building required some renovations. Board secretary, Jane Corn, obtained a grant for $125,000 which was used for these renovations. Others also gave their time and expertise at reduced or no cost, such as contractor John Kerber, contractor Tommy Thompson and HVAC engineer Martin Lowry. When the work was done, The City of Laurens issued a certificate of occupancy and the Laurens County Museum became a place and not just a name.

Laurens County History

Laurens County and its county seat Laurens, originally Laurensville, originated from the South Carolina patriot and Revolutionary War hero from Charleston, Henry Laurens (1724-1792). Laurens was President of the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War. On his way to Europe to gain support for the colonies’ cause, he was captured by the British and imprisoned in the Tower of London. After his release at the end of the war, he was sent to Paris (The Treaty of Paris) to help negotiate the peace.  Native American Indians were the first known inhabitants of the area. The Cherokee Indians, members of the Iroquois Nation, lived and hunted in the western and central piedmont of South Carolina. Native American artifacts have been unearthed in the areas along the Enoree River, Bush River, and Rabon Creek. Laurens County is a part of the original Ninety- Six District. This part of the state was settled primarily by Scotch-Irish and English immigrants in the mid 1700s, with many of their descendants still residing in the area. Pioneers to the western piedmont area of the Carolinas came from the back country of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, such as John Duncan, arriving in what is now Laurens County in 1753. Duncan, from Aberdeen, Scotland, spent a several years in Pennsylvania before moving south. Liking the lush vegetation and abundant wildlife found in this area, Duncan settled around a creek in the northeastern section of the county not far from the present City of Clinton. John Duncan built a rustic house, a few out buildings, a distillery, and organized a church. The creek near which he settled is known today as Duncan’s Creek, and the church, still in existence, is the Duncan’s Creek Presbyterian Church. Duncan’s Creek Presbyterian Church is the oldest church organization in the upper part of the state. Founded in 1753, the current building, located off Highway 72 a few miles northeast of Clinton, was erected in 1842. William MacPherson settled on Rabon Creek in the late 1700’s with his family. Around 1757, the first European settlers in the current towns of Owings and Graycourt were Richard Owings, III and his family from Owings Mill, Maryland. His son Richard Owings, IV was a patriot in the Revolution.  During the American Revolution some residents remained loyal to Great Britain causing several Revolutionary War battles being fought in the county, including the Battle of Musgrove’s Mill (August 19, 1780), Lindly’s Fort and Hayes Station. In 1785, nine years after Independence, the General Assembly passed an act creating six counties (Laurens, Newberry, Abbeville, Edgefield, Spartanburg, and Union) from the District. The first courthouse, The Laurens County Courthouse, designed in a Greek Revival Style, was erected in 1786, enlarged in 1857 and again was enlarged and remodeled in 1911. This beacon of the county is still located on the historic public square of Laurens and is still used for many county functions. The courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After the county was created, a nucleus of a town was started as the county seat. Eventually to become known as Laurens, a charter was issued for Laurensville in December 1845. The first record of the town being officially called Laurens appears on a charter issued in 1873. The other major city of the county, Clinton, grew up eight miles east of the county seat. The settlement started at the intersection of the main roads between Greenville and Columbia, and Spartanburg and Augusta, built up around Holland’s Store which in 1809 housed the only post office in the eastern part of Laurens County. The City of Clinton was named for Laurensville attorney and representative to the South Carolina Legislature Henry Clinton Young, who helped lay out the first streets. Clinton was first granted a charter in 1852. With the building of railroads in the last half of the nineteen century, the towns and communities of Cross Hill, Mountville, Waterloo, Ora, Joanna and Lanford grew. Mountville was one of Laurens county’s earliest communities. Though the town was not founded until 1890, people had begun to settle along Beaverdam Creek by the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Solomon Fuller, who is listed in the 1800 Laurens County Census, brought his family from North Carolina and is considered the first settler of Mountville. By 1808 a church and school had been built near the creek community, and more families established homesteads on neighboring land. By the late nineteenth century, the Georgia, Carolina and Northern Railroad had built a rail line through the area, and families located closer to the depot, which became the center of the towns emerging commercial activity with banks, stores, cotton gins, and a post office, which changed the settlement into a thriving town. The town of Joanna was settled in the 1760’s, and became known as Martin’s Depot in the 1850s after a local planter, Martin Kinard, who helped bring the Laurens Railroad through the town. It was renamed Goldville in 1872. In 1948 the name of the town was again changed to Joanna. Joanna was the name of the wife of a local industrialist of Joanna Cotton Mills. On April 30, 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet, fleeing Richmond, passed through the town, spending the night at the Lafayette Young House 5 miles southwest of the town. The community of Hickory Tavern is believed to have been named for a tavern that operated in a grove of hickory trees in the area. The 1849 Last Will and Testament of Joseph Sullivan bequeathed “one tract of land, suppose to contain four hundred acres including the Hickory Tavern” to his minor son, Milton A. Sullivan. George W. Sullivan was named as the trustee “until my son Milton A. arrives of age.” His home, The Charlton Hall Plantation House (1825) is also known as “the Brick House” and is in the National Register of Historic Places.

The James Dunklin House, located on 544 West Main Street in Laurens, was built in 1812. It is a registered historic site and is noted as an outstanding example of “up-country architecture of the Federal period”. Washington Williams built this house as a wedding gift to his daughter. One of the oldest homes in the city of Laurens, it now functions as a museum and is owned by the Laurens County Landmark Foundation. The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Laurens, erected in 1846, is the oldest church building still in use in the City of Laurens. Future President Andrew Johnson (1808-1875), a native of North Carolina, and his brother worked as a tailors in the town of Laurens in 1824 and established a tailor shop, when the town had become known for its trade of tailor- made clothes.  In 1864, William Plumer Jacobs (1841-1917), a young minister, came to Clinton and found “a mud hole surrounded by bar rooms” and crusaded for temperance. The bricks of the last bar room to be demolished were used to build a chimney for Jacob’s new home on South Broad Street. Dr. Jacobs is known as one of the most prominent men in the history of Laurens County, founding The First Presbyterian Church of Clinton, The Jacobs Press, Presbyterian College and Thornwell Home and School are products of his vision and effort.  Presbyterian College, founded in 1880 and located in Clinton, is a coeducational, liberal arts college with an enrollment of approximately 1,100. For several years, US News and World Report has listed PC as one of the top small colleges in the nation. In addition to its excellent academic reputation and well-rounded sports program, the college is a key cultural and entertainment resource for Laurens County. Thornwell Home and School in Clinton, founded in 1875, is widely known for the cottage plan it pioneered. The Home of Peace at Thornwell Home and School, Clinton, was erected in 1874 and was the first building of the institution. A beautiful campus of stone buildings, many trees, and landscaping with roses and azaleas, the School division provided the area with the opportunity for private education, grades K-12 until 2007. Thornwell is part of the National Register for Historic Places. Laurens County was also home to Ann Pamela Cunningham (1816-1875), the leader of the movement to preserve Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. Swiftly through her organization of The Ladies of Mount Vernon, the home was protected from any assault during the civil war prior to its restoration. The LMV  raised funds and restored the home and nearby property and is now a historical site that can still be visited daily. No military action occurred in Laurens County during the Civil War though many native sons who went off to war became casualties of the conflict. Cunningham is entitled to the full credit for the preservation of this home of our country’s first president as a national shrine and is a member of the South Carolina Hall of Fame.

Charles H. Duckett (1860-1947) was a prominent African American farmer, carpenter, contractor, and funeral home proprietor and for many years was the only African-American in the Southeast operating a retail lumber business. His home,The Duckett House erected in 1892, is located in Laurens and is also listed in the national register of historic places.  Educator Dr. Wil Lou Gray (1883-1984) initiated a program of adult, night education in the Young’s community of Laurens County. Her program was adopted on a state-wide basis, and she became recognized nationally as an effective leader in the campaign against illiteracy. She is a member of the South Carolina Hall of Fame. In 1921, she founded a school which later became her namesake. The Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School continues to be the state’s leader in providing alternative education. Her adopted model was “Why stop learning?” Henry McDaniel, a noted African American politician from Laurens County, served in the South Carolina Legislature from 1868 until 1872. He proposed several bills to in- corporate churches throughout the county and was responsible for getting several roads established. Thomas Sanders (1860-1945) was an educator and humanitarian. His parents had been slaves, but he obtained an education and came to Laurens in 1895 to teach. Sander’s achievements included bringing education for Laurens’ African American citizens from almost nothing to a very organized system. Well respected, one of the public schools in Laurens today bears his name. Sanders was featured in Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” for not missing a day of school for 53 years. Pratt S. Suber (1843-1929) was a former slave who became Laurens County’s first county school Commissioner of Education when the office was established in 1871. Suber also served Laurens County in the South Carolina House of Representatives. From 1874 until 1876, he served as the first county Superintendent of Education. Columbus White, 1857-1945, was a leading contractor, architect, and builder. Two structures he designed and built in the City of Laurens were the Bethel AME Church and the Brown-Franklin BuildingJulia Peterkin (1880-1961), born in Laurens County, South Carolina, was an American author who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1928 for her novel Scarlet Sister Mary. Her father was a physician, of whom she was the third of four children. Her mother died soon after her birth and her father later married Janie Brogdon Mood who was the mother of her younger brother Dr. Henry Ashleigh Mood. In 1896, at age 16, Julia graduated from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, from which she received a master’s degree a year later. She taught at the Forte Motte, South Carolina, school for a few years before she married William George Peterkin in 1903. He was a planter who owned Lang Syne, a cotton plantation near Fort Motte. Julia began writing short stories, inspired by the everyday life and management of the plantation. She was audacious as well as gracious, an ambiguity attested to by Robeson (1995). Peterkin sent highly assertive letters to people she did not know and had never met, such as Carl Sandburg and H.L. Mencken, and included samples of her writing about the Gullah culture of coastal South Carolina. Essentially sequestered on the plantation, she invited Sandburg, Mencken and other prominent people to the plantation. Sandburg, who lived nearby in Flat Rock, North Carolina, made a visit. While Mencken did not visit, he nevertheless became Peterkin’s literary agent in her early career, a possible testament to her persuasive letters. Eventually, Mencken led her to Alfred Knopf, who published her first book, Green Thursday, in 1924. In addition to a number of subsequent novels, her short stories were published in magazines and newspaper throughout her career. She was one of very few white authors to specialize in the African-American experience and character. But her work was not always praised, and Pulitzer Prize-winning Scarlet Sister Mary was called obscene and banned at the public library in Gaffney, South Carolina. However, The Gaffney Ledger published the complete book in serial form. In addition to the controversy over the obscenity claim, there was another problem with Scarlet Sister Mary. Dr. Richard S. Burton, the chairperson of Pulitzer’s fiction-literature jury, recommended that the first prize go to the novel Victim and Victor by John Rathbone Oliver. His nomination was superseded by the School of Journalism’s choice of Peterkin’s book. Evidently in protest, Burton resigned from the jury. As an actress, she played the main character to some acclaim in Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler at the Town Theatre in Columbia, South Carolina, from February 1932. In 1998, the Department of English and Creative Writing at her alma mater, Converse College, established The Julia Peterkin Award for Poetry, open to everyone.

Cotton became an import crop in Laurens County with the invention of the cotton gin, and by the end of the nineteenth century, textiles were becoming very important in Laurens as well as the upstate. The 1890’s saw the town being served by two railroads and the growth of the community boomed. During the early 1900’s, the county became a large textile center with several major cotton mills being constructed in Laurens, Clinton, and Joanna. The first Laurens Cotton Mill was built on Rabon Creek by Richard Simpson, but burned in 1837. Train tracks were laid in the area following the Civil War, enabling cotton farmers to more efficiently transport their harvests to mills and markets. John W. Ferguson, Nathaniel B. Dial and W.H. Martin established the new Laurens Cotton Mill in 1895. The mill operated under steam power until 1926 when it was converted to electricity. The Milliken family, who owned textile plants throughout the upstate, bought a controlling interest in the mill in 1905. Under their leadership the company replaced housing in the mill village in 1920 and built a school for the children of the mill workers. By the mid- twentieth century, the company had expanded to include a warehouse, cloth room, packing and shipping area, waste house, and water tower. Mercer Silas Bailey (1841-1926) built the first cotton mill in Clinton, Clinton Mill (later changed to the Bailey Plant), in 1896 and in 1902, founded Lydia Cotton Mills, a factory located outside of Clinton originally and named for his wife. M.S. Bailey served as president of both mills until his death in 1926, after with the presidencies passed on to his sons: Cassius Mercer Bailey (1876-1935) served as president of Lydia Mills and William James Bailey (1865-1948) served as president of both Clinton mills (1926-1948)  and of Lydia Mills (1935-1948); Putsy Silas Bailey (1904-1958) served as president of combined operation (1948-1958.) Watts Textile Mill was organized in 1902 seven years after the neighboring Laurens Cotton Mill. Watts Mill was built on the former Watts Plantation, giving the company its name. W.E. Lucas, the companies’ first president, began operations in 1904. Beginning with production cottons for things such as handkerchiefs, the mill expanded in the 1930’s to include synthetic materials, creating parachute fabrics during World War II. A World War II Monument was placed by the mill for 40 Watts Mill employees who killed in combat currently stands on the Laurens County Courthouse grounds. The village around the mill was called Wattsville and this part of Laurens is still referred to by the mill’s name. As dependence on cotton declined, industry and agriculture became more diverse. The 1970’s brought little industrial development to the county, but since 1980, several new industries and distribution centers have located here.

Laurens Glass Works (1910-1986) began as South Carolina’s second glass bottle producer.Columbia had the distinction of having the Palmetto State’s first-Carolina Glass Company-which had opened in 1902 initially to produce bottles for the controversial South Carolina Dispensary, but for unknown reasons it closed in 1913. The Laurens project was the brainchild of a few prominent business and political leaders in the Laurens community led by Nathaniel Dial. A lawyer and businessman who seemed to epitomize the New South ideal of economic progress, Dial already had established a textile mill in Ware Shoals, a bank in Laurens, several power plants, and other entrepreneurial ventures in the upstate. Along with five other Laurens business leaders Dial formed a partnership with a capital investment of $50,000 to “manufacture bottles, glass, glassware … ” and other articles usually made by a glass factory. The new enterprise also planned to mine and quarry stone,rocks, and the “products and by-product thereof.” One of its first major soda drink bottle contracts was with Coca-Cola. Until 1899 Coke had been a fountain drink, but as the new century began a Chattanooga firm received permission to bottle the drink for distribution to a wider clientele. As a result, by 1915 Laurens became one of three southern firms to produce bottled coke. Contracts for Coke would be one of the firm’s mainstays during its first decade of production. The business relationship with Coke would continue for the next seven decades. The upstate plant made several types of Coke bottles, ranging from the classic six-ounce hobble skirt shape patented in 1915 to the twelve-ounce and commemoratives made later in the century. Laurens Glass Works steadily grew over the next several years despite occasional setbacks caused by economic downturns or war. Contracts with Coke bottlers throughout the region continued to grow, while new clients in the Southeast, both big and small, sought the Laurens product. Southeastern bottlers of Frosty Root Beer, Dr Pepper (Waco, Texas), Pepsi (Eastern North Carolina), CheroCola (Columbus, Georgia) , among many others, had contracts with the upcountry bottle manufacturer during the twenties and thirties. Smaller bottlers such as Game Cock Ginger Ale (Greenville) and the firm of Strawhorn and Seago (Greenwood) also ordered from Laurens Glass. After Nathaniel Dial and his original investors helped the Laurens firm get started, Dial’s nephew, Albert Dial, assumed leadership of the firm. The younger Dial was the inspiration behind Laurens Glass. He led the reorganization and hiring of skilled workers from the Midwest and East and oversaw the firm’s establishment in the glass bottle business before his premature death in 1928. Ernest Easterby succeeded the younger Dial, and he, too, became a force behind the glass plant’s survival and early growth. Also a Laurens native, Easterby had progressed through the ranks and worked alongside Albert Dial. Once he assumed the leadership of the firm he remained its president for over forty years. He earned the respect of most employees at Laurens Glass. Those who worked under his regime until his death in 1974 remember his even-handed demeanor and encouraging comments on and off the production floor. Born in 1888, he had worked at the upstate firm from its early days and was an important collaborator with Albert Dial in resurrecting the fledgling firm after its initial failure in 1911. He relinquished his post as president in 1971 but stayed as chairman of the board until his death. Perhaps the most prestigious order received by Laurens Glass Works was in 1963 and associated with one of the nation’s greatest tragedies. As Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson prepared to welcome President John F. Kennedy for a Texas visit in November, he planned a reception for the nation’s chief executive at his Texas ranch. Being a man who both respected and sought status, Johnson wanted soda club bottles made with the vice presidential seal inscribed on each bottle. Laurens Glass received an order for 2,400 Canada Dry Club Soda bottles with the stipulated seal. They were shipped to a Waco, Texas bottler for filling. But Kennedy was assassinated before Johnson’s reception could occur. In the aftermath of this tragic event, the new President ordered all the bottles scrapped. Even though most probably were destroyed, a few survived and are highly desired by bottle collectors today. With many special contracts, Laurens Glass Works was marked as one of the nation’s top bottle manufacturers and had grown into a major manufacturer of glass bottles and containers in the 1970’s with employment at more than 800. But as the importance of glass bottles in American stores and households started to decline, plastic bottles and other containers began to replace them in the mid to late seventies. As this trend accelerated and larger conglomerates absorbed more bottling business, the upstate firm’s place in the market declined. In 1968 the family-run Laurens Glass was sold to Indian Head, a larger, national firm in Wilmington, Delaware, and Indian Head moved its headquarters to Laurens in 1974. Later Indian Head itself was absorbed and had become a subsidiary of the container conglomerate, Ball-inCon, based in Indiana. In 1986, with plastic bottles now dominating the market, Laurens ceased glass soda bottle production and focused on glass jars and containers for foods and medicines. Ten years later Laurens Glass announced its closing. With glass beverage bottles virtually displaced by plastics, the attempt to find another niche in the glass container business seemed out of place for a firm that had made its name with soda bottles for so long. But the company’s final demise stemmed from more practical business issues, namely old equipment, the plant’s inability to expand and accommodate updated machinery.

Laurens County also has the privilege to be the home of musicians Reverend Davis, Pink Anderson and JT Taylor. Reverend Gary Davis (1896-1972) of Laurens was blind as an infant. He recalled being poorly treated by his mother and that his father placed him in the care of his paternal grandmother. Davis reported that when he was 10 years old his father was killed in Birmingham, Alabama; he later found that his father was shot by the Birmingham sheriff. He took to the guitar and assumed a unique multi-voice style produced solely with his thumb and index finger, playing gospel, ragtime, and blues tunes along with traditional and original tunes in four-part harmony. In the mid-1920s, Davis migrated to Durham, North Carolina. There he taught “Blind Boy Fuller” and collaborated with a number of other artists in the Piedmont blues scene, including Bull City Red. In 1935, J. B. Long, a store manager with a reputation for supporting local artists, introduced Davis, Fuller, and Red to the American Record Company. The subsequent recording sessions marked the real beginning of Davis’s career. During his time in Durham, Davis became a Christian; in 1937, he was ordained as a Baptist minister. Following his conversion and especially his ordination, Davis began to prefer inspirational gospel music. In the 1940s, Davis moved to New York. In 1951, he recorded an oral history for the folklorist Elizabeth Lyttleton Harold (the wife of Alan Lomax). who transcribed their conversations in a typescript more than 300 pages long. The folk revival of the 1960s invigorated Davis’s career. He performed at the Newport Folk Festival. Peter, Paul and Mary recorded his version of “Samson and Delilah”, also known as “If I Had My Way”, a song by Blind Willie Johnson, which Davis had popularized. “Samson and Delilah” was also covered and credited to Davis by the Grateful Dead on the album Terrapin Station. Eric Von Schmidt credited Davis with three-quarters of Schmidt’s “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”, covered by Bob Dylan on his debut album for Columbia. Blues Hall of Fame singer and harmonica player Darrell Mansfield has recorded several of Davis’s songs. Davis is buried in Lynbrook, Long Island, New York. Pinkney “Pink” Anderson (1900-1974), the American blues singer and guitarist was born in Laurens, South Carolina. He joined Dr. William R. Kerr of the Indian Remedy Company in 1914 to entertain the crowds while Kerr tried to sell a concoction purported to have medicinal qualities. He also toured with Leo “Chief Thundercloud” Kahdot and his medicine show, often with the harmonica player Arthur “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson, who was based in Jonesville, South Carolina. Anderson was recorded by the folklorist Paul Clayton at the Virginia State Fair in May 1950. He recorded an album in the early 1960s and performed at some live venues. He appeared in the 1963 film The Bluesmen. He reduced his activities in the late 1960s after a stroke. Attempts by the folklorist Peter B. Lowry to record Anderson in 1970 were not successful, although apparently he could occasionally summon up some of his past abilities. A final tour took place in the early 1970s with the aid of Roy Book Binder, one of his “students”, taking him to Boston and New York. He is buried at Lincoln Memorial Gardens, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Anderson’s son, known as Little Pink Anderson (1954), is a bluesman living in Vermillion, South Dakota. Syd Barrett, of English progressive rock band Pink Floyd, created the band’s name by juxtaposing the first names of Anderson and North Carolina bluesman Floyd Council, having noticed the names in the liner notes of a 1962 album by Blind Boy Fuller (Philips BBL-7512), written by the blues historian Paul Oliver: “Curley Weaver and Fred McMullen, … Pink Anderson or Floyd Council—these were a few amongst the many blues singers that were to be heard in the rolling hills of the Piedmont, or meandering with the streams through the wooded valleys.” James “J.T.” Taylor (1953) from Laurens is an American singer and actor best known as the former lead singer of the R&B/funk band, Kool & the Gang. Before his rise to fame, Taylor was a school teacher and amateur night club singer having first joined a band at the age of 13. He joined Kool & the Gang in 1978 and became the band’s lead singer in 1979. In 1979, Kool & the Gang released the platinum-selling album, Ladies’ Night, which garnered the hit singles, “Too Hot” and “Ladies’ Night”, solidifying Taylor’s status as the group’s frontman for years to come. Taylor and Kool & the Gang’s next three albums were also successful including the 1980 album, Celebrate! which produced perhaps the group’s most recognizable hit to date, “Celebration.” In 1988, Taylor amicably left Kool & the Gang to pursue a solo career and has released four solo albums to date. In 1989, he released his first solo album entitled Master of the Game which produced several hits including the album’s first single, “All I Want Is Forever”, a duet with Regina Belle. Another single, “The Promised Land” was included on 1989’s Ghostbusters 2 soundtrack. In 1991, Taylor released his second solo album, Feel The Need, which garnered the hits, “Long Hot Summer Night” and “Heart To Heart”, a duet with Stephanie Mills. 1993 saw the release of the singer’s third solo album, Baby I’m Back, followed by his fourth solo album in 2000 entitled A Brand New Me. During Taylor’s solo career, he briefly reunited with Kool & the Gang, releasing the 1996 album, State of Affairs. Although the album was well received by critics, it was not commercially successful in comparison to Kool & the Gang’s releases from the late 1970s and early 1980s. During the 1990s, Taylor began his acting career in earnest appearing in the 1992 Hollywood film The Mambo Kings, and the long-running Broadway musical, Raisin.

Two of South Carolina’s governors have been from Laurens County: Robert A. Cooper and William D. Simpson. William Dunlap Simpson (1823-1890) was the 78th Governor of South Carolina from February 26, 1879, when the previous governor, Wade Hampton, resigned to take his seat in the U.S. Senate, until 1880, when Simpson resigned to become Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court. Born in Laurens District, South Carolina, in 1823, he was educated at South Carolina College (later the University of South Carolina), completing his studies in 1843, and spent one term at Harvard Law School. He practiced law in Laurens with his partner (and father-in-law) Henry Clinton Young. He served in the South Carolina legislature in the 1850s and early 1860s and serving in the Confederate States House of Representatives from 1863 to 1865. After the Civil War, he returned to practice law in Laurens until 1876, when he ran successfully for the post of lieutenant governor and was re-elected in 1878. Upon Wade Hampton resigning from the governorship to assume his senate seat, Simpson was elevated to become the 78th governor of South Carolina. He resigned prior to the ending of the term for governor after being appointed Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court and served for ten years from 1880 until his death in 1890. He is buried at the Laurens City Cemetery. The William Dunlap Simpson House on West Main Street in Laurens is in the National Register of Historic Places. Robert Archer Cooper (1874-1953) was the 93rd Governor of South Carolina from January 21, 1919 to May 20, 1922. Born in Waterloo Township, Laurens County, Cooper was admitted to the bar in 1898 and practiced law in Laurens. In 1900, Cooper was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives until 1904 when he was elected as the Solicitor of the Eighth Judicial District of South Carolina. Cooper entered the gubernatorial election of 1918 and won the general election without opposition to become the 93rd governor and elected to a second term in 1920. He resigned from the governorship in 1922 to accept an appointment to the Federal Farm Loan Board that lasted five years. Cooper returned to the practice of law, but was called by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve as the General Counsel on the Commodity Credit Corporation. Roosevelt later appointed him in 1934 as Judge of the District Court for Puerto Rico, a position Cooper held until 1947. Cooper died on August 7, 1953, and is buried at the Laurens City Cemetery in Laurens. His house is included in the South Harper Historic District and National Register of Historic Places.

 

museumscfmthumbnailmuseumbestofupstatethumbnail