Richard Pearis, one of the first documented (if not the first) white man to settle in what is now Greenville County was an Irishman from Virginia with a sordid history and past. The local stories and ‘legends’ about Pearis tend to paint a less than romantic picture for one of the earliest landowners in Greenville County. Pearis married a Cherokee woman and eventually became very close with the Cherokee Indians who were indigenous to the area. Pearis and the Cherokee continued to work out trades and deals which granted Pearis more and more land in the region. Eventually his land holdings would reach or even exceed 10 square miles – more than 1,000 acres. Land records confirm that Pearis constructed a plantation in the area which included a store, gristmill and even a sawmill.
The land that Pearis owned included what is known today as “Paris” Mountain. The mass amount of land sales by the Cherokee prompted the superintendent of Indian affairs, Jonathon Stuart, to write a letter to the Cherokee chastising them for selling so much land to Pearis.
Legend has it that Pearis was captured during the Revolutionary War (he sided with the British) and was held captive in Charleston for several months. After the war and upon his return home he discovered a completely destroyed plantation and in a modern day movie-like twist he left his family to fend for themselves as he secured his own safety with passage to the Bahamas. Pearis ended up purchasing land in the Bahamas and remained there until his death in 1794.
The land the Pearis family owned became known as “Pearis” Mountain and eventually the name shortened to “Paris”.
The earliest use of the mountain by the city of Greenville would come years later, when in 1888, the city began to use Paris Mountain as a water source. The city built multiple lakes (Lake Placid, Mountain Lake and Buckhorn Lake) and dams to be used as part of the Greenville City Water System reservoir. The Paris Mountain reservoir system was used extensively until the Table Rock reservoir was constructed and put into service in the late 1920s.
Beyond a water supply, the area provided residents and tourists with a popular resort location, Altamont Hotel. The hotel was constructed on the summit of the mountain and was primarily used by wealthy Charlestonians who preferred the cooler mountain air to the hot and humid summer climate. However, the trek from downtown Greenville to the hotel took almost two hours to complete and the terrain was rough and ragged. The hotel also lacked the modern convenience of running water and quickly went out of fashion, closing its doors in 1898.
The property the resort occupied was sold to N.J. Holmes who created a religious college at the location. First known as the Altamont Bible and Missionary Institute, the college later became known as Holmes Bible College, which is still in operation today – though not on Paris Mountain. The building that housed the resort and then the college was destroyed by fire in 1920.
The state park on Paris Mountain was constructed during the 1930s as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” The Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) created Paris Mountain State Park and Camp Buckhorn’s construction followed in 1936. Camp Buckhorn offers visitors a lodge and 10 cabins for overnight stays, accommodating up to 40 people. (The main lodge underwent renovation in 2011.)
Today, Paris Mountain State Park is a popular destination for local residents and visitors alike. The state park offers a 40-site family campground with a mix of tent and RV sites. Camp Buckhorn is a group facility located on Buckhorn Lake at the north end of the park. Lake Placid, a 15 acre lake, is the park’s main spot for boating and fishing. North Lake, a larger lake located in the park is reserved especially for fisherman – with no boating allowed.
The Paris Mountain area is beautiful with wooded green spaces and miles and miles of views, including stunning views of downtown Greenville. The views and wooded seclusion feel of the area makes it a popular “in town” escape for everyday living.
By the numbers:
- 1 of 16 South Carolina state parks built as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal”
- 1 monadnock — Monadnock is a mountain that rises up out of otherwise flat land
- 15 miles of trails
- 4 lakes: Lake Placid, Mountain Lake, Buckhorn Lake and Reservoir #3 (also known as North Lake)
- 1 swimming area, open during summer months
- 1 Park Center explaining how Paris Mountain supplied Greenville with water years ago
- 39 paved campsites, 13 of which offer tent pads
- 5 trailside camping sites
- 6 picnic shelters – all are available for rent
- 1540 acres of ‘green space’ park land
Historical Texts and Items:
As reported in the “Beautifying and improving Greenville, S.C.: a report to the Greenville Municipal League”, a report prepared by landscape architecture firm Kelsey & Guild of Boston, MA for the Municipal League of Greenville, SC 1907.
“Much of Greenville’s Future Welfare depends on the proper preservation in a natural state of this remarkable mountain (including ‘Piney Mt.) which rises abruptly out of the surrounding plateau 2,000 ft. above sea level. As the unfailing source of a pure water supply its value is inestimable, and the water from its slopes should be forever protected from pollution. As a natural sanitarium and pleasure resort for the people of Greenville, its true value will only be known when it is made easy of access to all by fine drives, and possibly a trolley line.
Proper Restrictions would make possible a greater number of summer cottages on leased land. Improved grades on existing reads are needed and carefully located extensions would further unfold the matchless panorama of charming piedmont plains, valleys and wooded hills, with ever beyond the piling peaks and ranges of the great Blue Ridge Mountains, grand and inspiring. Luxuriant growths of Mountain Laurel, Azaleas and other rare shrubs cover the mountain sides with a riot of verdure and bloom in season.
Apparently Paris Mountain has been under wise management so far, as indicated by the yet undamaged condition of the forest, and the care used in building roads and cottages. Such solicitude must vanish under divided ownership Paris Mountain Should Become a Public Reservation under vigilant municipal or state administration.”