When northern Greenville County was still Cherokee country during the Revolutionary War, hardy settlers moved in to set up farms. In 1794 a wagon road leading from Knoxville and Asheville into Greenville was completed, which allowed drovers from Tennessee to bring their animals to market. They would stop near modern-day Travelers Rest, where inns provided a place to sleep and pens to keep the cattle. Churches, a post office (1808), a high school (1883), and the "Swamp Rabbit Railway" (1888) helped establish the town. Well-to-do Charlestonians would come to escape the unhealthy summer heat by staying at establishments like the Spring Park Inn. In the late 1800s some ill feelings in the area moved residents of the northern part to establish their own town, which they named "Athens," but after the turn of the century it faded and the town was reunited.
The twentieth century brought several industries, most notably textile mills. The population has grown along with the rest of the county, but the town has remained a cohesive community with a sense of its history. Plans for the revitalization of the downtown area are under implementation and promise a rich future.
In the early 1900s Mrs. Thomas Coleman operated a small public library in her home near Travelers Rest. Beginning in 1927 the bookmobile began visiting the town each week. More was needed, so on November 21, 1961, a branch of the library opened in three upstairs rooms provided by the Savings and Loan on Main Street. The Greenville County Library supplied the books and a librarian, who was there three days per week. A decade later it moved to more roomy quarters in a storefront down the street. Eventually, however, limited parking and a deteriorating structure made the need for a new building urgent. Funds flowed in from the community, including a large donation from the Sargent Foundation. The local garden clubs raised money to install a "Southern Reading Garden" complete with sculpture of a child reading a book by local artist Zan Wells. The new Sargent Branch, which opened on September 22, 1996, is the only branch in the northern part of the county and so serves patrons as far as the North Carolina border.
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