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The History of Rock Hill

Human habitation of the area began with settlement by the Catawba Indian Nation. They built their homes along the creek and river highlands and made their living by hunting, farming and fishing. Today, they are known for their pottery. Their influence on the area is still felt. Their trading path from Virginia into the region split after crossing the Catawba River. One path went west to the Lower Cherokee villages; the other, south to Saluda. Today the crossing and the trail are known as Nation Ford and Nation Ford Road.

Early white settlers came up from Charleston, SC and down from Pennsylvania through Virginia. The Germans, English, Welsh, Irish and French came and moved on, but the Scots-Irish stayed. Early settlement centered on Ebenezerville, currently the area of the Herlong and Ebenezer intersection. Residents built cotton plantations and bales of cotton were shipped downstream through Camden and on to Charleston where they were then shipped to the mills of New England and England for processing and weaving. Originally most of York County was part of North Carolina. A 1772, settlement set the boundary and called the area the "New Acquisition" of South Carolina.

Several Revolutionary War battles were fought on York County soil. The Battle of Huck's Defeat (or Williamson's Plantation) on July 12, 1780, was the first British defeat since the fall of Charleston some months earlier. The Battle of King's Mountain, an encounter between the Over the Mountain Men of Tennessee and the British forces, was fought on October 7, 1780 on land that straddles the SC–NC border in northwest York County.

In the 1840s the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad Company proposed building a railroad from Charlotte to Columbia, SC. Noise and pollution concerns from citizens caused the surveyors to locate the track about 2 miles east of the community near a rocky area that had been a landmark for travelers. It was labeled on the survey as "rocky hill". Opening on April 17, 1852, the original post office was called Ebenezer Depot. The name was changed to Rockhill on January 7, 1896, then to Rock Hill on February 20, 1912.

Following the Civil War, the early businessmen were merchants. They borrowed against their resources to stock the stores. When they turned a profit after the first season, they repaid their creditors and purchased a second season's stock. Banks and utilities soon followed. Instead of shipping cotton north to New England for processing, mills were opened. Included in the mix of business and industry were a buggy and carriage maker, tobacco processor, machine shops, iron works, cannery, furniture-maker and grist mills.

Early residents of Rock Hill attended religious services at a Presbyterian Church in Ebenezerville. When Pine Grove Academy opened, the Methodists borrowed the school building for semi–weekly services. Episcopalian and Baptist denominations opened congregations in members' homes. Black congregations were quickly organized following the Emancipation. Initial meetings were held in brush arbors. The first formal black congregation organized was Hermon Presbyterian in 1869.

Settlers valued an education to prepare for college or to be able to read the Scriptures. The SC General Assembly granted Ebenezer Academy corporate status in 1821. There is evidence that the school existed prior to that as Job Nelson was hired as principal in 1819. The school building was the second public building constructed in Ebenezerville. The school remained a private institution until the 1880s when the Rock Hill schools were organized.

The symbols of the city are the four "Civitas" statues on Dave Lyle Boulevard. Each of them hold discs that symbolize the four different industries in the city. The four Civitas statues located at the GateWay Plaza on Dave Lyle Boulevard were put up in April 1991. The 20-foot-tall (6.1 m) bronze statues were created by NY artist Audrey Flack. A fifth Civitas statue was placed in the City Hall Rotunda a year later. Rock Hill was home to the late Vernon Grant, a commercial artist best known as the creator of Snap, Crackle and Pop, the longtime cartoon mascots of Rice Krispies cereal. Grant also was known for his many depictions of Santa Claus. He created Glen the Frog, the mascot of Rock Hill's annual spring festival, Come See Me. His artwork is also celebrated during the annual ChristmasVille holiday festival. Rock Hill's Saint Anne School, founded by members of the Rock Hill Oratory, was the first integrated school in South Carolina.

Rock Hill was the setting for two significant events in the civil rights movement. In February 1961, nine African-American men went to jail at the York County prison farm after staging a sit-in at a segregated McCrory's lunch counter. The event gained nationwide attention because the men followed an untried strategy called "jail, no bail," which lessened the huge financial burden civil rights groups were facing as the sit-in movement spread across the South. This event received widespread national news coverage, and the tactic was adopted by other civil rights groups. They became known as the Friendship Nine because eight of the nine men were students at Rock Hill's Friendship Junior College. Later that year, Rock Hill was the first stop in the Deep South for a group of 13 Freedom Riders who boarded buses in Washington, D.C., and headed South to test the 1960 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court outlawing racial segregation in all interstate public facilities.

As late as the early 1990s, tribal land claims delayed development of residential and commercial properties in Rock Hill and surrounding York County. Since Federal recognition of the Catawba Nation in 1993, settlement of land claims has been rapid. The Catawba reservation is located a few miles southeast of Rock Hill.

York County honors its past with several Cultural and Heritage Museums, including Historic Brattonsville, the McCelvey Center and the Museum of York County.

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Education in the Rock Hill Area

Education in the Rock Hill area is of prime importance to the citizens of Rock Hill.  Below is listed some of the schools that a child in the City of Rock Hill may be assigned and their school reports, for private schools click here.  The first link is to the school's website and the second is to the school report card.



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