A History of Granby, South Carolina

c.1909 - Granby Cotton Mill

European settlement of this area began around 1718 when the British established a trading post on the Congaree River, which eventually became the town of Granby. Beginning in the 1730s, many German, Swiss, and Scots-Irish immigrants moved into the area and established small farms. Granby was the leading town and county seat of Lexington County for many years, but the growth of Columbia across the Congaree River contributed to Granby's decline, and the county seat was moved to the town of Lexington in 1818.

A Trading Post was established by James Chestnut and Joseph Kershaw at Granby Village in 1765. Granby was an important river trading market (established long before Columbia) on the Congaree River. With the eventual growth of Columbia as the state capital, Granby gradually declined as a community.
Most of the early settlers came from various cantons, principalities, and city-states of Germany and Switzerland. Others came down from Pennsylvania and Virginia. Despite the disruptive Cherokee Indian War of 1760 and the “Regulator” unrest that followed, the township flourished as a largely self-sufficient area of small-scale farming operations. Major crops in the eighteenth century included corn, wheat, tobacco, hemp, flax, beeswax, and livestock.

During the American Revolution several skirmishes occurred in the area. Fort Granby was in the possession of Loyalists and beseiged unsuccessfully on February 19, 1781 by Brigadier General Thomas Sumter. Lt. Colonel Henry Lee captured Fort Granby on May 14-15, 1781. The Battle of Tarrar Springs was fought nearby on November 16, 1781.

In 1785, Lexington County, South Carolina was established, changing the name from Saxe-Gotha to Lexington in honor of the Massachusetts Revolutionary War battle of 1775. The county’s first court house was built at Granby, located just south of present day Cayce. With the clearing of upriver lands for the spreading cotton culture, Granby became plagued with floods. The county seat was moved in 1818 when the present town of Lexington was laid out on a high, healthy sand ridge near Twelve Mile Creek.

The Congaree River has always provided transportation to the upcountry, up to the rapids at the junction of the Broad and Saluda rivers. This location had proven to be a natural spot for a trading center as early as 1718 and the town of Granby had developed on the western shore of the Congaree River by 1748.
Soon after the fall of Charlestown on May 12, 1780, the British forces in South Carolina established military posts in various parts of the state and began a vigorous campaign for the complete conquest of the state. One of these posts was established at "the Congarees," as that section of the state around about Friday's Ferry on the Congaree River had been known ever since the Congaree Indians had vacated the lands there in the early days of the eighteenth century. At first these lands were referred to as "the Congaree's lands" and gradually the apostrophe and the word land were dropped in writing the name of the section.

The village of Granby was located in "the Congarees" and nearby was a large country store conducted by Chestnut and Kershaw. The British seized this store building, threw up earthworks and dug trenches about it, built a powder magazine, and otherwise equipped it as one of their fortified posts. This was officially styled by them "the post at the Congarees." On February 19, 1781, Brigadier General Thomas Sumter appeared before this post and laid siege thereto. On the 21st, Francis, Lord Rawdon's army appeared on the opposite bank of the Congaree River, having marched from Camden to the relief of the post; in the face of these superior numbers Brigadier General Sumter had to abandon the siege, but not before he had blown up the magazine and destroyed a quantity of provisions in, sight of Lord Rawdon's army.

After the American Revolution, the store and house came into possession of Major Daniel Tateman, who had married Ann Geiger of the "Congarees"; Major Tateman having died, his widow married Captain William Rea. Elizabeth Rea, a daughter of this couple married February 25, 1817, James Cayce. About 1834, the Cayces came into possession of the old house. Several years later it was sold under foreclosure proceedings and was bought in by Campbell Bryce, who later left it to his son, John Bryce, for life. John Bryce, about 1880, disposed of his life interest to R. W. Gibbes Cayce. A few years later, Bryce died and his surviving sisters and the heirs of his deceased sisters came into possession. These various interests have been disposed of and the old house, the only building of the time of the Revolution remaining in the vicinity of Columbia has been acquired by firm of Weston and Brooker.

Major Burnet (Aid-de-Camp) to General Marion



I am directed by Gen'l. Greene to inform you of the surrender of Fort Granby; five pieces of iron Ordnance, nineteen officers and three hundred and twenty nine privates fell into our hands. The army will march this morning on the route to Ninety-Six. The General has directed General Sumter to continue at this post to command and organize the militia. You will be pleased to continue to harrass the enemy and to receive General Sumter's orders. You will also arrange your Brigade with expedition, and be in readiness to co-operate with this army, should an opportunity offer.

I am, with great respect,

Your most obd't. humble servant,

J. BURNET, Aid-de-Camp

On the 15th day of May, the post was surrendered to Lt. Col. Henry Lee, commanding a 1egion of Americans. He reached the post before dawn and began to erect a battery in the edge of the woods to the west thereof. The morning was foggy, which enaabled the Americans to finish their battery before it was discovered by the British. A six-pounder was mounted in the battery and, as soon as the fog dispersed, fire was opened on the British works. The garrison consisted of 19 officers and 329 men, commanded by Major Andrew Maxwell of the Prince of Wales American Volunteers. As the piece of artillery opened fire, the infantry advanced and took possession of desirable ground without opposition, cutting off a part of the British pickets. Just then Lt. Colonel Lee called upon Maxwell to surrender, which he did after some parleying.

On July 1, 1781, Major General Nathanael Greene, on his way from Winnsborough to overtake Lord Rawdon, reoccupied the post. It was never reoccupied by the British.

Extract of a Letter from Ad'jt. Gen. Williams to Maj. Pendleton, Aid-de-Camp to Genl. Greene

CAMP HILLS, SANTEE, July 16, 1781.

Dear Pendleton:

After you left us at Ninety-Six we were obliged to retrograde as far as the cross roads above Winnsborough. Lord Rawdon's return over Saluda induced the General to halt the army, and wait for intelligence respecting his farther manoeuvres, and hearing a few days after that his lordship was on his march to Fort Granby, our army was ordered to march towards that place by way of Winnsborough. Before we could arrive at Congaree, Lord Rawdon retired to Orangeburgh; and as he had left a considerable part of his army at Ninety-Six, Gen. Greene detached the cavalry and light infantry to join Gen. Marion, and endeavor to intercept Col. Stewart, who was on his march from Charlestown with the Third Regiment, &c., consisting of about three hundred, conveying bread, stores, &c., of which Lord Rawdon's troops were in great want. Stewart, however joined his lordship at Orangeburgh; and Gen. Greene, from the information he had received, was encouraged to expect success from an attack upon the British army at that post. Accordingly he collected his troops, and called together the militia and state troops under Gen's. Sumter and Marion (Gen. Pickens being left to watch the motions of Col. Cruger). A junction of the whole formed a very respectable little army, which marched to a small branch of North Edisto, within four miles of Orangeburgh, where we halted, and lay the 12th instant from about nine o'clock in the morning till six in the afternoon.

"Gen. Greene reconnoitred the position of the enemy, and found it materially different from what it had been represented. The ground is broken, and naturally strong, from the Court-house (which is two stories high and built of brick), to a bridge four or five hundred yards distant, the only pass over the Edisto within many miles. The general had every reason to believe what he had soon afterwards confirmed, that Col. Cruger had evacuated Ninety-Six, and was on his march to join Lord Rawdon, which might possibly be done before we could force his lordship (if he could be forced at all) to a general action, the issue of which was not certain. These considerations induced the General rather to offer than give battle. The enemy declined the opportunity, and put up with the insult. Gen. Greene, therefore, ordered our troops to retire in the afternoon to Col. Middleton's plantation, from whence we have proceeded by slow easy marches to this place, and not without leaving behind sufficient detachments to intercept their convoys from below, and to create such a diversion at Monk's Corner, Dorchester, &c., as will very probably oblige his lordship to march to their relief. Indeed I am encouraged to hope that the garrison at Charlestown will not be undisturbed. Mischief is meditated against them in other quarters; and I sanguinely trust the issue of this campaign will permanently fix the exalted idea the world has justly conceived of the eminent abilities of our General, and secure durable advantages to the country."

Granby was granted a U.S. Post Office on March 12, 1808, and its first Postmaster was Mr. John Hart. It was permanently closed prior to 1832 (exact date unknown).

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