Restored Reedy River Industrial Complex
Backstory and Context
Restored Reedy River Industrial Complex
While its history as a country is very limited, the United States had been known as one of the most industrious countries on the planet. In just a few centuries. It has emerged as an industrial power on the World Stage as a result of the ambition and hopes of its countrymen to outweigh their competitors both on a national level and on the world stage. One representation of America’s early industrious beginnings includes the Reedy River complex situated on the river banks of the Reedy rover in Greenville, South Carolina. While this old abandoned building may now serve as merely a remnant of a time now past, this very factory served multiple purposes during its’ time among the town of Greenville. To be specific, the complex was once the base of the largest carriage production in the United States, a feat that would be followed in 1925 when it was bought out by a new owner who changed its’ products from carriages to mayonnaise. Even despite not being used as a base for industry, the complex itself is now still helping to bring more people to the town of Greenville because of its use as a cultural center for the city that boasts a theatre and a restaurant that hosts concerts, parties and festivals.
While the complex is the main focus, it should be taken into account the community that brought it into existence. Prior to the arrival of the European settlers within the territories of what was to become South Carolina, these lands originally belonged to the Cherokee Native Americans. Living in towns that were autonomous, the natives divided each other into two groups-the Ayrate (Claw) and the Ottare (Mountainous) peoples. By the late seventeenth century, these autonomous communities became part of a confederacy under the leadership of an individual known as the “First and Beloved Men.” Although each town contained six thousand warriors that was equivalent to the seven thousand combined white and African American population already in South Carolina. In the year 1738 a small pox epidemic suddenly broke out that quickly reduced the native population to half that original number to 2,750 fighting men out of a total population of 13,500. While there was interaction between the natives and the Spanish colonists throughout the sixteenth century, it was the expeditions of the British that were to change their destinies. The British had already been established as a colony in the territories close by the Cherokee natives whom they often traded with at least among the natives whom they often traded with at least among the natives of the lower caste villages for over fifteen years. However throughout the years, the British tried unsuccessfully to obtain Cherokee lands until February 12th, 1747 when an Indian agent George Prowley and native leaders from the lower towns signed a deed which opened Cherokee hunting lands for settlement which was paid for in ammunition. “The Immediate effect of this cession was to open land along the Indian path…it marked the first time that Greenville land was mentioned in negotiations between a British providence and the Cherokees”
For almost eighteen years following the signing of the deed between the natives and George Prawley, there was a decent amount of cooperation between the natives and the English settlers but in September of 1765 the issue of settlers’ boundaries was again raised. During the course of events that took place Governor Thomas Boone brought into question that the South Carolina boundary should be determined through cooperation with the Cherokee leaders and on October 19th of that year, the chiefs ceded to the British all land south of Dewitt’s Corner using the Reedy River as a boundary mark between North Carolina and South Carolina. On June 2nd, 1766 Governor Boone established the boundary line and proclaimed it “strictly enjoy[ing] and require[ing] all persons whether who have either willfully or inadvertently seated themselves upon any lands in this providence…reserved to the Indians to remove themselves from such settlement.” Following the establishment of the boundary line for North and South Carolina. Throughout the course of the 1760s settlers began to settle in the area that would eventually become Greenville, the first being Richard Pearis. Because he was married to a Cherokee woman, he was given several tracts of land by the Cherokee natives. Yet it was also during this period that settlers began to move into the back country of the Catawba lands only to later return after only a short period of time away. Following the return of settlers to the Catawba lands, many groups of people including the residents of Cherokee Spartanburg and York counties, claimed to have grants from both North and South Carolina. North Carolina wanted the boundary to run from the Catawba Nation West to the Reedy River but South Carolina challenged its claim. This debate eventually went to the Board of Trade in London.
Following the return of settlers to the Catawba lands, many groups of people including the residents of Cherokee Spartanburg and York counties, claimed to have grants from both North Carolina and South Carolina. North Carolina wanted the boundary to run from the Catawba Nation West to the Reedy River, but South Carolina challenged its claim. This Debate eventually went to the Board of Trade in London. Following this meeting of the board that the Privy Council were recommended to send a few commissioners from the two providences to survey the land whom then drew up the present boundary between the southwest of Charlotte to the eastern boundary of Greenville county as the old Indian boundary line north of the Reedy River was laid off as Greenville now lay in South Carolina in what became known as the Treaty of Dewitt’s Corner. During the course of the 19th Century, Greenville began to grow as a community. However, it was not until the last two decades of the antebellum period 1840-1860 that Greenville began to flourish, specifically, with the coming of the railroads; as well as its’ reputation as a center for higher education. In addition to these traits the town became known for its growth in industry, one of which that became known for its growth in industry, one of which that became the most prominent was the Gower and Cox Wagon and Carriage Factory that was situated on the Reedy River.
Founded by partners Ebenezer Gower and Thomas Cox, their business which specialized in the manufacture and production of functioning carriages soon became one of the most successful companies in the town of Greenville. By 1851, the company added on to its repertoire with a dry goods store as well as a partnership with HC Markely in 1853 which further expanded its operations. By 1856, the Greenville Coach Factory below the Potomac that had sold carriages worth up to eighty thousand dollars. Furthermore, by the last decades of the nineteenth century, production in this complex, had out sourced all other production carriages became a need for citizens throughout the region even during the course of the Civil War that happened in the 1860s. The factory continued to manufacture carriages well into the initial years of the 20th Century under the name of the Markley’s Carriage Factory after partner H.C.Markley who joined in 1853. However, by the year 1911, the automobile industry had begun to overtake the demand in the transportation industry and therefore the new owner Mr. Markley sold the company after seventy six years in business. Following the downfall of the carriage production industry, by the year 1925 the factory was reopened this time with the production of mayonnaise as Mrs. Eugenia Duke bought out the company with the success of her recipe for mayonnaise two years prior.
The product of Mrs. Duke’s mayonnaise soon became a beloved New South brand that was sold in grocery stores throughout the south. By the year 1929 however, Duke sold the factory to C.F. Sauer of Richmond, Virginia but while he now held ownership, he continued to operate the company under the name of “Duke.” It was during this time that grocery store promotions featured several sales pitches to help sell Dukes product such as impressive pyramids of Duke’s Mayonnaise in grocery stores, clean cut attractive middle class white salesmen and women posing with bottles of Duke’s mayonnaise. The campaigns to get the product sold emphasized taste, convenience, efficiently and more importantly “purity” as it tried to appeal to the white population particularly stay-at-home mothers. “Labeling a food product with a southern touchstone of the white Confederate past was a savvy move for market-conscious manufacturers and advertisers who recognized the monetary value of good story.” When all was said and done, the product of Duke’s mayonnaise was as much a social product as it was a popular condiment. After 29 years of operating in the complex on the Reedy River, the company opted to move production to a much larger facility off Lauren’s Road in 1955 and by 1958 the entire Reedy River complex had been abandoned.
Following the end of its run in heavy industry, the Reedy River Complex remained vacant until 1979 when the US Department of the Interior nominated to designate the complex on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, now called the Wyche Pavilion, the remains of the complex now serve as a restaurant called the “Founder’s Room,” as well as a place to hold special events including weddings, festivals, parties and outdoor concerts. In addition to special events, the pavilion is a place of the arts as a member of the Peace Center for the Performing Arts in which the Shirley Roe Cabaret Theatre hosts performances. While the complex may not still be useful in terms of its use in industry, it continues to remain as an important piece of the community of Greenville that not only brings its’ residents together but also reminds them of their community’s past and the developments which were made throughout the ages.
 Greenville: The History of the City and County in the South Carolina Piedmont, Archie Vernon Huff, pg.8.
 Greenville: The History of the City and County in the South Carolina Piedmont, Archie Vernon Huff, pg. 10.
 The Editable South: The Power of Food and the Making of an American Region, Marcie Cohen Ferris, pg.195.
Ferris, Marcie Cohen. The Edible South: The Power of Food and the Making of an American Region. Colombia, SC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.
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Huff, Archie Vernon. Greenville: The History of the City and County in the South Carolina Piedmont. Colombia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1995.
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Wallace, Emily. “Duke’s Mayonnaise: The Southern spread with a cult following.” lLast modified November 5th, 2013. Accessed May 6th, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/dukes-mayonnaise-the-southern-spread-with-a-cult-following/2013/11/04/90f508a2-40e5-11e3-a624-41d661b0bb78_story.html.