Greenville County was Cherokee Territory before the Revolution. European settlers were forbidden to live here until 1777, when Native Americans were forced to cede this land to the new state. Most of modern day Greenville was hunting land used by the Cherokees, whose main villages were located in modern day Oconee County. A part of the Iroquoian nation, the Cherokees may have set up temporary summer camps along the banks of the reedy River. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Native American artifacts were found along the north bank of the river.
Vardry McBee purchased more than 11,000 acres around the reedy River from Lemual Alston in 1815. Although McBee lived in Lincolnton, North Carolina, he wished to develop his Greenville property, and in 1819 he built a brick corn mill on the south bank of the Reedy River. In 1829 he added a stone grist mill. The mills attracted farmers from miles around who brought their wheat and corn to be ground by miller Elias Alexander, McBee's brother-in-law, who lived in a cottage above the river. Both mills were dilapidated by the early twentieth century. The stone mill was dismantled to build the Gassaway Mansion in the mid 1920's. One wall of the brick mill remains and is visible from the spot you are now standing.
Richard Pearis, Greenville's first white settler, was an Irish adventurer who had settled in Virginia with his wife and family by the middle of the eighteenth century. He developed good trade relationships with the Cherokee, had a son by a Native American woman and in 1770 acquired the title to 100,000 acres of Cherokee land in what is now Greenville County. He set up his "Great Plains" Plantation with a trading post and grist mill on the banks of the Reedy River. Pearis was wooded by both Patriots and Tories when the American Revolution began. When he went with the British, Patriots burned his house, mill and store. He fled to the Bahamas and never returned to Greenville. Paris Mountain is named for him.
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