Tying Past to Present

From the Revolutionary War to “Sin City,” from secret banking to baseball, explore the unique history of the Greenwood and the Hodges community with local history buff Chip Tinsley.

watch the video
Chip TInsley is a lover of history,

especially local lore. “​​I'm really passionate about the Hodges area and its part in the development of Greenwood County. My family has been here since the late 1800s,” he says. 

In 1900, the city of Hodges was booming; it was bigger than the city of Greenwood, with hotels, saloons and two cotton gins, one of which was on the land that Chip’s grandfather cleared for their family home.

The Beginnings

The Calhouns, forebearers of both Chip Tinsley and Greenwood’s Self family, were one of the earliest families in this area, arriving in the mid 1700s. Catherine Calhoun was the grandmother of future South Carolina senator and Vice President John C. Calhoun. Catherine was one of 23 settlers killed in the Long Cane Massacre of 1760. Her granddaughter, Anne was captured and lived among the Cherokee for more than a decade before being returned to the family after negotiations in 1772. Her father had recognized her by a scar on her leg. 

Dr. E.R. Calhoun, one of the area’s first physicians, built one of the first homes on what is now the square in Greenwood. He also owned the Riley Hotel, one of three in the town. Dr. Calhoun learned that a railroad would be built in Laurens County and had the idea to find a way to bring the railroad to Greenwood.  “He gathered the men that had the means to do it; they had meetings and they came up with the money.” He is buried in Magnolia Cemetery near the square in Greenwood.

“He was also one of the first people who saw the need for growth for Greenwood, that you put the town, their needs above yours, to better the town and better the community,” he says of Calhoun. “Greenwood was really built on two things. And one was the railroad. And the second was textiles. The development of Greenwood now is aggressive, forward-thinking and positive, an inclusive area that tries to continue that same feeling and thought process into the future.”

The history of Hodges is tied to Francis Salvador, a British politician from the ​​Sephardic Jewish community of London. When the family lost its fortune in the collapse of the East India Company, Salvador came to America to rebuild their lives on a massive parcel (7,000 to 10,000 acres) of the family’s land in South Carolina. The first Jew elected to an American colonial legislature, the only Jew to serve in a revolutionary colonial congress, Salvador threw himself into the American fight for independence. He fought with courage on the front lines, and at age 29, became the first Jew to die for the American cause.

Before his death, he had sold the property where Hodges now sits to Major John Hodges, father of General George Washington Hodges.  Gen. Hodges built a cabin, which still stands, in 1822, the first home in Hodges. His grandson, Bob Hodges, who developed the bank, was the next inhabitant of the home, adding large porticos and a porch. Gen. Hodges and his father are buried in the Hodges’ private  family cemetery.

The Tabernacle Community

Before there was Greenwood or Hodges, there was the Tabernacle community. An early example of a planned community, a group of Methodists began an education-centered village built around the Tabernacle Methodist Church. Later moved and renamed Mount Ariel, the community included an academy and Masonic Female Collegiate Institute. 

The church, schools, store and homes of Tabernacle are all gone today. The only remnant is the cemetery, an important historic site where three generals and a number of Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers are buried. 

Mount Ariel was later renamed again, this time called Cokesbury in honor of Methodist bishops Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury. As a college town, Cokesbury thrived for many years and became important in educational circles. It was also home to the forerunner of Allen University (now in Columbia) one of the first Black colleges in the area. The beautiful Cokesbury College building is now a popular event and wedding venue, with restored interior and formal gardens.

Welcome to Party Town

When the option was offered, Cokesbury chose not to have the railroad run through their community.  “Hodges said, ‘Oh, we'd love to have the railroad,” Chip says. “Hodges thrived, grew, became extremely prosperous.”

Not only did Hodges grow, its reputation grew as well, and it came to be called “Sin City” or “Hell Hole.” 

“It was said that in Hodges you could get every form of sin that you wanted once you disembarked from the train. And once you got back on, you could go about your merry way,” Chip says.  “There was dog racing, horse racing, chicken fights. There were supposedly brothels, card games, and at least six or more saloons. We are told that every form of debauchery could be found here in Hodges.”

One apocryphal story goes that a very inebriated young man got on the train, too drunk to say where he wanted to get off. The conductor said, “Just put him off in Hell.” So they dropped him off in Hodges.

In addition to the racier forms of entertainment, there was Textile League baseball, which produced several legendary major league players, including World War II hero Lou Brissie. After an artillery barrage shattered his leg, Brissie refused to let doctors amputate because it would end his baseball career. He returned to play, in a leg brace, for Connie Mack in Philadelphia.

Doing Things Their Own Way

Once, when the main telephone line to the town was accidentally cut, someone asked the mayor when the line would be fixed. According to Chip, the mayor was in no hurry to make the repairs. “We've kind of enjoyed having the peace and quiet,” he told his constituents.  

The old jail in town is something of a mystery. “It’s a little bit bigger than a portajohn. And we can't find any records of anybody that actually was put in that old jail,” Chip says. “I'm told that the only people put there were the occasional drunks. You can imagine some of the things that might have gone on during those long nights of debauchery here.”

Chip’s great-grandfather Bob Hodges joined with others to develop the Bank of Hodges. ”When President Roosevelt demanded that the banks close on the banking holiday during the Great Depression, the Bank of Hodges is the only bank we know of in the state, and maybe the union, that did not close,” Chip tells. “Now, the front door—they locked. But the side door, that everyone else knew about, stayed open. It was always known as the bank that never closed, and business continued on day after day after day.” While the bank eventually closed in the last few years, the building, complete with bank vault, has been preserved as the town hall.

“Hodges has always had its own way, its own pace and its own way of seeing and doing things,” Chip says.

Read 'The Good Life On The Lake' >>
Long Cane Horse Trail

This 26.7 singletrack trail is a wooded ride for horses and mountain bikes, with several loops, a historic cemetery and the original “Charleston Road.”

Hodges Spring Festival

This popular annual event features live music, carnival rides, games, food, craft vendors and all kinds of family fun.

Tabernacle Cemetery

Visit one of Greenwood County’s most historic cemeteries, where many prominent figures form the past are buried.