Ware Shoals, South Carolina

“Ware Shoals is a town in Abbeville, Greenwood and Laurnes counties in the U.S. state of South Carolina, along the Saluda River.

Ware Shoals is the site of an old water wheel grist mill operated in the early 1800s by William Ware at Rutledge Ford, on the Saluda River.

Nat Dial of Laurens County envisioned the possibility of damming this river to power a cotton plant.  Dial started the project, but ran out of funds before the power plant was completed.  Benjamin D. Riegel bought the project from Dial and founded both the Ware Shoals Manufacturing Company and the town of Ware Shoals in 1902.

The construction of a power plant was completed in 1904, as s prelude to the construction of a stat-of-the-art textile mill in 1906.  The power plant originally provided for 4,800 horse power.  The mill contained 30,000 spindles.  By 1916 a new mill was constructed, containing 70,200 spindles and 1,300 looms.

Between 1904 and 1916, the population of Ware Shoals had grown from 2 men employed to maintain the newly constructed power plant, to 2,000.  By the 1960’s the mill was employing 5,000 people.

James MacEnroe” (assistant treasurer of the mill) “was instrumental in the construction of the town’s first school… The mill employed the school’s eight teachers and required many of its employees and their children to attend classes.

In 1926 a large school building was constructed to accommodate the Caucasian students.  This building is still used today as the Ware Shoals High School and remains one of the oldest school buildings in the use in the state of South Carolina.

In the 1950’s, the Emma Maddox School was completed for African American Students… The Emma Maddox Building of the current Ware Shoals Elementary School was named in her honor, in recognition to the educational, spiritual and civic lived of African Americans in the greater Ware Shoals area.  When the public schools were integrated in 1969, Emma Maddox School became the Middle School for all students in the community.

Benjamin Riegel  helped organize the town’s first church when he brought a Presbyterian preacher, Rev. J. M. Dallas.  The first church building was intended as a union church building and the Methodists and the Presbyterians used it together, while the Baptists constructed their own facility.

By 1916, the town was as new and modern ans any in South Carolina.  In addition to the cotton mill and the school, the Ware Shoals Manufacturing Corporation, later known as Riegel Textile Corporation, helped give the town electric lights, water and sewerage and good streets.  The mill operated a bank, a railway, an ice factory, a cotton gin and a cotton seed oil mill.  A community center was built by the textile company…

‘The People’s Amusement Hall’ is what Benjamin Riegel set out to build, but was so proud of it that he named it the Katherine Hall, in honor of his daughter.  … At various times housed  or hosted a movie theater, the community library, a Masonic Lodge, a pool hall, a teen canteen as well as showers and dressing rooms for the adjacent swimming pool.

The mill also operated a department store, or ‘company store’ as was common in mill towns through the South.  The store began as a one-room shanty in 1906.  By 1920, a newly constructed store was on its way to becoming one of the best and most  modern department stores in the state…  There was a soda fountain where the community members socialized, toy department, pharmacy, candy counter, men’s shop, ladies ready-to-wear, section, furniture department, bargain basement, grocery store and cloth shop…

… ‘The Big Friendly’ remained a central part of life in Ware Shoals until its closing in 1963.  It soon became the SEO, or Southern Textile Executive Offices of the Riegel Textile Corporation.  With the closing of the mill and the end of Riegel Textile, the town bought the building and located its City Hall in the now-historic building.

Riegel Stadium was built in 1931 using workers from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s nation-wide job program. The stadium was first used for football games in 1934.  Lightning was installed a year later, allowing night games as well. Through the decades, Reigel Stadium has hosted high school teams, textile baseball leagues, and the Negro baseball leagues. In 1954, the stadium hosted an exhibition game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Senators.

The town reached a peak in the early 1970’s.  However, gross mismanagement at the corporate level facilitated the rapid demise in this plant.  The mill was closed in 1985 and Riegel Textile was sold to Mount Vernon Mills.  The population was 2,363 at the 2000 census.”

Source:  Wikipedia for Ware Shoals on-line.


Ware Shoals, South Carolina — 4 Comments

  1. Born in a small house there in 1943. Had many relatives there that worked in the mill and raised families. Ours moved around a lot looking for work and we eventually arrived in Kokomo, Indiana of all places where we have been ever since. Still have relatives living in Ware shoals and all through the South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia regions. Now we are spread all over and hate the separation from our loved ones. Life can be harsh sometimes.

  2. Upon the mention of the Riegal textile Mill in Ware Shoals, SC, I couldn’t help recall when about 20 years old, I moved to Ware Shoals from Elmira, NY (where I live now). I began living with my brother who also worked at the mill until I too was hired. That was in the early part of 1977. I understand that the mill has since caught fire and is now a vacant lot, but Ihave fond memories of sleeping and staying at the Ware Shoals Inn until moving back to Elmira, NY. As I near retirement, my wife and I hope to relocate back in Ware Shoals, SC; Lord willing!

  3. To all concerned, there is a small gravesite above the Saluda River on a hill on Cemetary Road that has several gravestones with the Ware name. The dates are around the 1820’s, if any of the Ware family wants to see them, contact Bob Jennings in Ware Shoals, SC, which was named after the Wares.

  4. While researching early WARE ancestors, the name Ware Shoals popped up quite often. This excellent article explains just how it came into existance, grew and prospered by the efforts of many including the Ware family.


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