First newspaper offers early look at life in town: Glimpses of Greenville with John Nolan

Recorded history begins around 3000 B.C. in Mesopotamia and Egypt when people began to write in cuneiform and hieroglyphs. We know more of their cultures, lifestyles and stories from what they wrote about themselves.

Settlers in the area of what is now Greenville also could write, but what we know of early life here is recorded more in government documents and occasional travelers’ accounts. A clearer picture of who lived here, businesses that opened, weather, events and other aspects of village life come when Greenville got its first newspaper.

The Greenville Republican was first published on July 12, 1826, just after the national celebration of Independence Day. The initial name of the “Village of Pleasantburg at Greenville Court House” had by now been long simplified to Greenville, though Greenville Court House continued to be used for mail and official documents.

This is the header for the front page of the first edition of The Greenville Republican on July 12, 1826. Photo courtesy of the author, John Nolan

In the first issue, we read an advertisement that J.H. Goodlett had just opened his clothing shop located between the courthouse, newly built on the east side of Court Square, and Dr. John Crittenden’s home on the northeast corner of Court Square. Goodlett sold ready-made clothing “of all kinds and of the best materials and workmanship” and also “hats of all kinds for men and boys,” and “fancy goods consisting of silks, laces, veils, ribbons, braids, gloves, hair powder, parasols … etc.”

Besides advertisements, another feature was a regular posting of a “list of letters” giving names of people who had mail to pick up at the post office. From this we can glean many names of people who lived in or were staying in Greenville at the time. The July 12 issue had such names as Col. Benjamin Arnold, Maj. Thomas Benson, Polley Cox, Miss Jane Davis, Rev. Z. Dawling, John Henderson, Wm. McKinney, Richard Pope, John Russell, States Rutledge, Thomas Slack, Street Thruston, William Ward and Issac Williams.

The next issue, on July 19, posts a notice that members of the Episcopal Church, led by Edward Croft as chair, elected new church officials: Joseph La Bruce, George Croft and Charles W. D’Oyley as vestrymen; John H. Goodlett and Henry Dreffsen as church wardens; and Joseph La Bruce, John H. Goodlett and Charles W. D’Oyley for the committee to solicit donations for the completion of the new church building.

On July 26, an advertisement for a “neat carriage and gig, likewise a pair of fine matched horses … together with a good saddle and gig horse,” was posted for sale by F.H. Macleod. Calls for regular militia muster were another regular feature of the paper, as we read in the same issue, “Pursuant to regimental orders, the members of the Greenville Artillery are hereby commanded to appear, armed, and equipped according to the law, at the Upper Regimented Muster Ground (Bruton’s old fields) on Wednesday, 2d of August next, at 11 o’clock a.m. precisely; for inspection and review by order of Capt. Berry.”

A July 12, 1826 ad for J.H. Goodlett’s clothing store. Photo courtesy of the author, John Nolan

The Aug. 2 issue tells of another early Greenville business, the Boot & Shoe Store of C. Hawks, located three doors north of the Mansion House. The ad says Hawks, “has lately received from the best manufacturing establishments in the United States a general assortment of boots and shoes.”

Beyond further local news such as notices of court cases of equity and also real estate or lodging openings, a notice from the Sept. 2 issue gives a fun and, perhaps, surprising ad for a school of dance being formed. The subscriber, A. Spencer, “respectfully informs the citizens of Greenville and its vicinity, that he will commence his school at Goodlett’s hall on Friday the 8th at 10 o’clock a.m. and will continue the same every other week (on Friday and Saturday).”

Though the majority of these early Greenville newspapers are filled with reprinted stories from big cities around the United States and Europe, items such as those above give wonderful insights into the daily happenings of the budding village of Greenville.

John M. Nolan is owner of Greenville History Tours ( and author of “A Guide to Historic Greenville, SC” and “Lost Restaurants of Greenville, SC.

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