Native Americans exhibit at the Upcountry History Museum in Greenville

The history museum in downtown Greenville has an interesting exhibit about Native American tribes in the South Carolina Upcountry. Admission is $5 adults, $4 seniors, $3 children and students age 4 to 18 and free for children age 3 and under.

The Cherokees
“…The Great Buzzard flew all over the world…when he reached the Cherokee country, he was very tired, and his wings began to flap…wherever they struck the earth there was a valley, and when they turned up again there was a mountain.” Cherokee myth

“The males of the Cherokee…are tall, erect, and moderately robust, their limbs well shaped so as generally to form a perefect human figure…”
William Bartram, naturalist, 1791

18th century encounter with the Cherokee tribe

Early description of Cherokee men

Drawing of early Cherokee settlements in the Carolinas.

Cherokee settlements around 1250 AD

Cherokee village near Pisgah North Carolina 1250 A.D.

Over time the Cherokee settlements turned into towns that were more spread out and more advanced than earlier villages, as illustrated in the Tennessee’s Chota town layout below.

Cherokee town settlement

A look at a more developed prehistoric Cherokee town

Trade and war
In 1730, seven Cherokee warriors went to London to sign a treaty with the British government. They signed a trade agreement that will eventully build colonial fortunes for Great Britain. European traders obtained deerskins and sometimes slaves from the Cherokees. In the early 1700s, South Carolina exported 54,000 deerskins annually.

Cherokee come to England the early 18th century for a trade contract

Cherokee leaders travel to London in 1730 to establish a trade agreement


Native Americans became dependent on European manufactured goods, such as fabric, farming tools, hardware and weapons. They soon exhausted the deer population.

Mounting debt forced them to sell land in order to satisfy their creditors.

Treaties between the Cherokees and the Charlestown-based government limited European settlement in the Upcountry. South Carolina Governor James Glen secured treaties with Native Americans in 1743 that promoted trade and designated land for European settlement. However, as Piedmont region offered rich soil and clean water for farming, settlers ignored these treaties and moved into Native American land.

Native American artifacts from the Upcountry

Cherokee hunting and harvesting tools


In response, the Cherokees attacked the settlements in 1759. The following winter,
at Fort Prince George, the colonial militia killed hostages when Cherokee warriors stormed the fort.

After intese fighting a new treaty was signed creating a new boundary between Cherokee lands and European settlements.

During the American Revolution the Cherokees sighted with the British, hoping they would stop the advancement of the settlements. Patriot militia burned Cherokee towns and crops. On May 20, 1777 at DeWitt’s Corner, Outacite and other Cherokee leaders gave up their lands to the new American government.

The Catawbas
The Catawbas settled east along the Catawba and Wateree Rivers. They often fought with the Cherokees over precious Upcountry land. When the Europeans arrived the tribes agreed to a truce in order to participate in trading. Over time Catawba pottery became highly desired by European settlers who used it for cooking.

Catawba tribe artifact

Catawba peace pipe artifact

Once a distinct nation, by the 1730s, the Catawbas became an amalgam of different trives joined together from wars, settler incursion and disease. By 1760, war and smallpox ravaged the Catawbas to just about 500 people.

The Catawba in the Upcountry

Early drawing of a Catawba man

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Military war camps at the Upcountry history museum in Greenville

For over 200 years the Upcountry sent her sons and daughters to serve in the military and has provided a home for several training camps.

Uniform and personal items worn during WWI

Army uniform in WWI


The tradition started before the American Revolution, when militia troops trained at Fort Prince George.

Throughout the years residents understood the benefits of having troops nearby. Local businessmen sold land for camps, built houses, outfitted and entertained the soldiers.

Come camp payday, money “bounced from one merchant’s cash register to another.”

You can learn more about it at the Upcountry History Museum in downtwon Greenville. Admission is $5 adults, $4 seniors, $3 children 4-18 and free for children age 3 and under.

Disclaimer: historic data and pictures in this post are from the museum exhibits.

During the Spanish American War of 1898, horses were still the main mode of transportation. Sick soldiers recovered at Camp Wetherill in a hospital tent that had a wooden floor. Other places had tents with dirt floors that sometimes turned into mud when it rained.

Military training camps in the 19th century

Horses were the main way of transportation during the Spanish American War

Bootcamp humor – The unusual cold winter of 1898-1899 surprised soldiers from northern states who expected to lie around in the shade of palms trees and gorge on oranges and bananas.

Soldiers jokes on military training in the Upcountry

Guard duties humor

During World War I soldiers were required to shave to allow gas masks to fit properly. In 1901 Gillette developed the safety razor, a welcome improvement over the dangerous straight edge razor. The army bought millions of the new razor and blades for soldiers.

Army soldiers personal items

The first safe razor used by military personnel during World War I

The mess kit or “meat can” contained eating utensils and a frying pan that could be used as a plate. After the meal the utensils went back into the pan, the cover slipped on, and the handle slid across to secure it.

The mess kit used in the army

The multi-purpose meat can, frying pan and dinner plate for the WWI army soldiers

American soldiers used a Coupon Book containing one, two and five francs, to pay the French luxury tax on items purchased there. The Army Air Force published an Emergency Book with jungle and desert survival techniques to airmen deployed to the Pacific and Africa battle fronts.

WWII personal items carried by soldiers

World War I French coupons, Emergency manual and medals

During World War I, medical personnel at Camp Wadsworth took part in stretcher drills to learn how to care for casualties. Did you know? Camp Wadsworth sent out a call for dried peach pits which provided the carbon for gas masks filters.

Medical personnel doing stretch drills in the Upcountry

Medical drills at Camp Wadsworth during World war I

During World War II at Camp Croft, troops conducted war maneuvers and prepared for battle in the European and Pacific fronts in. Camp Croft also housed German POWs who picked peaches, fixed jeeps and cooked their own food.

Military exercises at Camp Croft in 1940s

Bombardment drills at Camp Croft during WWII

Women were able to serve their country as WACS (Women’s Army Corps), at Greenville Army Air Base during World War II.

Training camps for service women during World War II

Army women training in Greenville during WWII

More interesting things to see at the museum and surrounding areas:
• “Mud, Sweat & Cheers Football in the Palmetto State, 1889-Present”, a fun filled exhibit dedicated to over 120 years of football in South Carolina. Check out the heated Gamecocks – Tigers rivalry, the early days rules and legends and interesting collectible items.
Be a textile worker in the early 1900s (Greenville used to be the “Textile Capital of the World”)
• Be inspired by the impressive collection of paintings by Southern artists at the Museum of Art. Right now you will be delighted to see exquisite watercolor work by Mary Whyte and Andrew Wyeth. Admission is free.
• Enjoy the historic 1838 Kilgore-Lewis home and garden, one of the oldest and best preserved houses in the area. Admission is free.