Pendleton was once a small settlement in the wilderness, but despite its remoteness, it was home to many prominent South Carolinians who had the financial means to live anywhere they chose. Who were these people and why did they choose this small backwoods community as their home? Explore the upcountry heritage of Pendleton.
The first inhabitants of the northwestern part of South Carolina were the Cherokee. Their first contact with Europeans was with the Spanish in 1540 under Hernando DeSoto, and later, in 1566 when Juan Pardo led an expedition. In the late 1600s, traders from Pennsylvania and Virginia, and from Charles Town and settlements along the South Carolina coast, began trading with the Native Americans. Trading had its advantages, and as long as they were treated with respect, all was well. it wasn't until January 1760 that the Cherokee became enraged that they were being taken advantage of, by dishonest traders, and also became alarmed at the loss of their hunting grounds, that the Cherokee went to war. Lt. Col. James Grant of the British Army was sent to suppress the uprising. The war lasted almost two years. On December 18, 1761, a treaty was signed. This ended the Cherokee threat in the Upcountry for a period of time.
The war provided three South Carolinians with the experience they would later need, in defending the principles of democracy against British tyranny. Serving in a provincial regiment during the Cherokee War were William Moultrie, Francis Marion and Andrew Pickens.
Pickens married Rebecca Calhoun, became an Upcountry planter, and was considered a highly capable leader, who earned the respect of the Cherokee because he understood them. He was one of the most successful commanders in the Cherokee War. The Cherokee bestowed upon him the title of "Skayagunsta" or "Wizard Owl." This title was given only to the wise man or the medicine man of the village. The Cherokee thought Pickens had special powers, and they respected him and feared him..
While fighting the Cherokee, Pickens was also fighting the British. He was one of the most successful generals of the American Revolution, and fought in the first Revolutionary battle on S.C. soil at Ninety-Six. He played a major role in the Battle of Cowpens under General Daniel Morgan, when an outnumbered Patriot force routed British dragoons under Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton. After the war, he became interested in state government and served for 20 years in the legislature. He served on the committee that wrote the S.C. Constitution.