NEWBERRY — If you stop by City Hall or the Newberry County Chamber of Commerce in downtown Newberry, you will probably see pamphlets and brochures with the phrase “Historic Downtown Newberry.” Such phrases can also be seen on billboards coming off the interstate in Newberry.
But what is so historic about the quaint town of Newberry? That’s the question Assistant City Manager Matt DeWitt, along with visitors and some long-standing residents, have asked themselves about the town.
To clarify to not only Newberry residents but those visiting downtown, DeWitt said they have now added historic markers in various locations to clearly explain why Newberry is so historic in nature.
Community Square, Vincent Street Park, and Rosemont Cemetery are the newest locations where these markers can be found.
The markers were granted through the S.C. Department of Archives and History’s Historic Marker Program which is overseen by the State Historic Preservation Office.
Previous markers already in place are in front of Oakland Mill, at the previous site of the West End Cotton Mill, and at the former site Mollohon Mills where the City’s Kendall Park now stands.
DeWitt said that with these markers, if residents or visitors are enjoying downtown or other locations in Newberry, they’ll be able to see how each location came to be while learning a little history along the way.
“Our goal was that people would have the opportunity to stop and read what is so historic about our town,” DeWitt said.
For example, the marker in front of Community Hall reads:
“Newberry County was one of six counties created from Ninety Six District in 1785. In 1789 John Coate donated two acres here for a courthouse and public square. When additional land was surveyed the town was laid out in 25 one-acre squares of four lots each. Originally called Newberry Village and later Newberry Court House, the town was first incorporated in 1832. Its population grew dramatically after the Greenville and Columbia RR reached here in 1851.”
The back of the marker continues by explaining how the buildings and locations surrounding Community Hall such as the Newberry Opera House and Newberry College came into existence.
What most of Newberry might not know is that Vincent Street Park, the second newest location for a historic marker, used to be a hospital. Named People’s Hospital, it was the first and only hospital for African Americans in the county from 1937 until Newberry County Memorial Hospital was desegregated in 1952.
People’s Hospital was founded by Dr. Julian Edward Grant, who practiced medicine in Newberry County for more than 50 years.
According to the marker in Rosemont Cemetery, notables buried there include a governor who was later a U.S. Senator, several state senators and representative judges, ministers, doctors, and soldiers of wars from the American Revolution to the present.
“We hope that through the addition of these historic markers, and others to follow in the future, that our residents and visitors alike will get a better understanding of just that,” DeWitt said. “Newberry is truly a historic place with a heritage all its own and if we don’t share our story, then who will?”