Pickens County was Cherokee Indian Territory until the American Revolution. The Cherokees sided with the British, suffered defeat, and surrendered their South Carolina lands. This former Cherokee territory was included in the Ninety-Six Judicial District. In 1791 the state legislature established Washington District, a judicial area composed of present-day Greenville, Anderson, Pickens, and Oconee counties, and then composed of Greenville and Pendleton counties. What was first named Rockville in 1791 became Pickensville the next year, and later became Easley in the late 1800s.
During its short history, Pickensville played a major role in the development of Upstate South Carolina. In 1792, it held the distinction of being the district seat for Washington District which was composed of Greenville and Pendleton Counties. In 1798, the Washington District was divided into the Greenville and Pendleton Districts with Pickensville maintaining its place as the district seat for Pendleton. Pendleton District was composed of what would later be known as Pickens, Anderson, and Oconee Counties.
In view of the growing population and poor transportation facilities in Pendleton District, the legislature divided it into counties in 1826, and a year later decided instead to divide the area into districts. The legislation went into effect in 1828. The lower part became Anderson and the upper Pickens, named in honor of the distinguished Revolutionary soldier, Brigadier General Andrew Pickens of Revolutionary War fame, whose home Hopewell was on the southern border of the district.
When a new courthouse was built in Pendleton for the Court of General Sessions and Common Pleas, the importance of Pickensville began to wane. The ultimate demise came when the railroad located through Easley, a scant 2 miles away. Easley's namesake was General William King Easley who fought for the confederacy during the Civil War. Of note is the fact that General Easley was an attorney for the Atlanta and Charlotte Railroad Company. In the late 1800s, General Easley persuaded railroad to lay a track through the town. As soon as the Charlotte-to-Atlanta Airline Railroad completed laying their tracks, surveyors laid out streets for the new town, and Easley was chartered in 1873. Robert Elliot Holcombe, who became the first mayor of Easley, financed and built the first depot in town. And in 1875, the US Post Office Department renamed the Pickensville Post Office to the Easley Post Office.
The advent of the railroad helped fuel the development of the textile industry in the area. Cotton was king and the textile industry was the backbone of the growing economy. The railroad transformed Main Street into a bustling business center and invited new industries to the area.
Easley Textile Company, later known as Swirl Inc., came to Easley in 1953 bringing jobs, a boost for the economy, and the popular “Swirl” wrap dress. In 1956, Saco Lowell, manufacturer of yarn production equipment, also built a plant in Easley. Infrastructure of the town expanded and the construction of U.S. Highway 123 brought new business and retail to the City of Easley.
Today, with a population of 19,993 (based on 2010 Census data), Easley offers excellent educational and healthcare facilities, a varied manufacturing base, and a diverse network of retailers. Easley also boasts a vibrant downtown area featuring restaurants and specialty shops, along with a water-feature park and outdoor amphitheatre, which creates a first-class venue for community festivals and entertainment events. In addition, retail development along Highway 123 offers endless shopping options with a balanced blend of locally-owned businesses, along with national brand retail chains.
SOURCE: Article Written for " Pickens County Heritage", by G. Anne Sheriff