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The Industrial Heritage of Adam Carruth and his Gun Factory at CNP

In November 1801, Adam Carruth and Lemuel Alston purchased 213 acres of land, which was part of a 313-acre tract originally transferred to David Reid Evans in 1784 as a South Carolina Land Grant.


Shortly after Carruth and Alston acquired the property, they constructed a dam across the Reedy River at a place known then as Laughteries Shoals, but the purpose of that original dam was unknown.  Likely it was used to power a small grist mill or lumber mill.

 

On February 17, 1813, Alston sold his half ownership to Carruth, making Adam Carruth the sole owner of the property.  This 213-acre parcel, at the very northern edge of the present Conestee Nature Preserve (CNP) land south of the old City landfill and the west to east run of the Reedy River, was the site of his musket manufacturing operation, which became known as the South Carolina Armory, the Carruth Armory, or the Carruth Gun Factory.


Subsequent deeds to this property identify it as the “Gun Factory Tract” or the “Carruth Old Place.” The distinctive shape of the parcel, and the fact that it included a reach of the Reedy River, was what made it possible to determine its location.  Previous to about 2015, the location of the Gun Factory was unknown.


A satellite map of Conestee Nature Preserve indicating the former location of Carruth's Dam.
Carruth's Dam was located in a bend on the river now visible from an observation deck on CNP's red trail.

Carruth apparently established the Gun Factory in 1814 or 1815 to manufacture arms for the States of South Carolina and Georgia, but in 1816 he received a contract to manufacture a large number of muskets for the U.S. Army. After borrowing a significant amount of money, it is believed that Carruth produced over 2,000 muskets at the Gun Factory. Apparently, however, there were a number of disputes between Carruth and the government over the quality of the weapons produced. Adam Carruth lost his business and went bankrupt, and in 1824 he lost the property as well. Carruth’s Gun Factory was likely the first real industry in Greenville County.  One of the muskets produced at the Gun Factory is on display at the South Carolina Museum of History in Columbia, and the Upcountry History Museum in Greenville also has one of the Carruth muskets in its collection.

 

The official U.S. Census for Greenville County in 1820 shows Adam Carruth as a head of household with 80 persons living on his property.  This was presumably a small village of 80 persons which included the staff to operate the Gun Factory.  Based on the relatively steep hillsides on the 213-acre property on the west and south sides of the river, it is believed that the village supporting the Gun Factory was located on the north side of the Reedy River, on land now occupied by the capped City of Greenville landfill.  Presumably the construction of the old landfill covered what ruins may have remained of the village.


Subsequent to Adam Carruth’s bankruptcy and death in 1824, his gun factory site changed owners several times. In 1824, 1837, and 1842, the Greenville County Sheriff and Court system handled transfers of the property ownership in response to three different lawsuits.  There were three separate recorded deeds, each noting that the land in question included the site of Carruth’s Gun Factory. 


At least one of the subsequent owners, Andrew Patterson, rebuilt the dam and constructed a paper mill on the site.  Following Patterson’s bankruptcy in 1842, the Greenville County Court sold the now 850-acre tract to Benajah Dunham, including a “… paper mill, an excellent saw mill and blacksmith shop, together with a good dwelling house and all necessary outbuildings.”


Dunham reopened the paper mill and opened a book bindery at the site. When he sold the property in 1852 to the Greenville Manufacturing Company, of which he was president, it included a total of 840 acres, which not only included Carruth’s original Gun Factory site but essentially all of today’s CNP north of Marrow Bone Creek and the Pine Lake Circle subdivision.

 

In 1843, while he owned the paper mill at what is now CNP, Benajah Dunham served as the City of Greenville’s first mayor. Including Dunham, three different mayors of Greenville owned significant portions of CNP land in the 27 years between 1843 and 1870. During this entire period, there was significant industrial development at the site of Carruth’s Dam and Gun Factory. As late as 1885 there was still an 11-1/2 -foot-high dam, likely wooden, located at the site of Carruth’s original dam. It, along with a paper mill and saw mill, were owned by then former Mayor of Greenville W.R. Jones. Evidence of all this 19th Century industrial activity at CNP is totally absent today.


The location of Carruth’s dam and the gun factory itself have been verified through an 1890 deed for a 50-acre tract from C.C. Jones to Liddie Morgan, which records in the deed itself that these 50 acres are “…known as the Paper Mill Tract.” In addition, the existence of Laughteries Shoals, the site of Carruth’s original dam, have been located by probing the sediments in the Reedy River at the suspected location of the shoals and dam.  They have been located beneath about five feet of sediment at the bottom of the river at the very upstream end of Lake Conestee when it was first filled after the construction of the existing Conestee Mill Pond Dam, which was constructed in 1892.

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