Rock Hill served as a refuge for Confederate families due to its location by a railroad far away from fighting along the coast. Reconstruction in the aftermath of the Civil War proved difficult. Staple and imported foods were scarce. The Yorkville Enquirer raised its price to $10 a year but would gladly accept a dollar’s worth of food as payment. Five to six years before the War Between the States began, an acre of land could sell for $6. Immediately after the war, a soldier came to stay a night in Rock Hill paid $20 for a bed, another $20 for a bottle of whiskey, and another $20 for supper at Jim Ratteree’s Hotel. Cadwalander Jones’ family began selling off tracts of land from their five square mile plantation in Mount Gallant to help their finances. At the end of the War, Rock Hill had 250 residents, three merchants (A. Freidheim, W. L. Roddey, and J. R. Allen & Company), two manufacturers (McCloud’s Blacksmith Shop and W. G. Finley Tanyard & Shoe Shop), small shops, grog shops, and was growing by no more than forty new citizens per year.
Captain A. D. Holler built the first two-story commercial building in Rock Hill. It was used as a furniture store, then a bakery, and the Holler & Anderson Buggy Company would begin in the rear of the building. The Gordon Hotel was built by David Gordon and would be recognized as the geographical center of Rock Hill as the village became incorporated as a town in 1870. The charter would define the corporate limits of Rock Hill as granite markers placed one mile in each direction from the Gordon Hotel. James Morrow Ivy came to Rock Hill in 1869 and established the J. M. Ivy & Company. He bought cotton at such a competitive price that farmers could afford to bypass Yorkville to sell their cotton in Rock Hill, which inevitably brought more business here. Cotton wagons would fill the square of Main Street, Caldwell Street, White Street, and Trade Street.
South Carolina, in 1868, saw the first organized group of the Ku Klux Klan in Yorkville. Reportedly, 80% of white males in York County would become associated with the Klan. Klansmen crowded the polls in Rock Hill in 1868 in an effort to keep African Americans from voting. Klan activities became violent with 11 murders and 600 accounts of whippings, beatings, and accounts of aggravated assaults charged to the Klan. A former editor for the Evening Herald states, “many scenes in the film The Birth of a Nation and the novel The Klansmen were based on actual events in York County.” In 1871, Ulysses S. Grant ordered several counties, including York County, to be put under martial law due to these acts of hatred.
In 1876, Wade Hampton III came to Rock Hill to campaign for the South Carolina Governorship. Along with the group of York County citizens who helped propose him for Governor, a mile-long procession escorted Wade Hampton to a street near the Gordon Hotel. This street has since been known as Hampton Street. After Hampton was elected Governor, Rutherford B. Hayes was elected U. S. President and, as promised, federal troops were removed from the state ending their occupation of South Carolina after the Civil War. Governor Hampton is also credited with the diminishing activities of the Klan in the state.
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