William J. Snider, founder of Elloree, was born December 3, 1831, three miles from the present town of Elloree. His family had moved here in the early 1800s as had other English and German settlers who had been given land grants. Indian tribes of the Siouan stock also lived in the area, primarily along the banks of the Zantee or Serette (the Santee), which meant “the river” in their language. The settlers fought with Francis Marion and other patriots for our freedom and joined the Confederacy in 1860.When the war was over, they rebuilt, naming the town Elloree, which means “the home I love.”
Elloree did not just happen. It was the plan of one man, William J. Snider. Mr. Snider went to Charleston as a young man to learn the mercantile business and returned to the Elloree community around the close of the War Between the States. In the decade following the War, Snider built a small store at what is now the intersection of Main Street (Highway 6) and Cleveland Street, which led to the Santee River. It was a wooden structure located at the site of the current Post Office.
People came from as far away as St. Matthews, which was 16 miles away, to shop at Mr. Snider’s store. Hagues Landing on the Santee, which was 6 miles away, was where small boats and barges (called flats) brought in the goods and merchandise, hauling cotton and freight back to Charleston. The story goes that the barges would blow their whistles as they came up the river to Hagues Landing, and as the sound carried out to the farm houses along the way, the signal was sent to saddle up and get to Hagues or Mr. Snider’s for supplies or to ship freight.
Besides the country store, Snider owned and operated a ginnery, grist mill, saw mill, and large farm. In fact, he owned practically all of the land that the town now covers. So as business grew, the store was enlarged, and around 1886 he commissioned a map of the proposed town, laying out the streets one-half mile in every direction from the intersection of Cleveland Street and Highway 6. Lots were given for two schools and for churches. He then began selling lots to the settlers and the community continued its growth.
In the first census of the United States 1790, there were 54 family names recorded, and descendants of all of those families still live in or near Elloree. Finally, in 1886, the charter for incorporation was granted under the name “Harlin City,” after General John Harlin, who was to bring the railroad to the community. When he did not keep his promise, the name was changed to Elloree, by an act of the legislature. In 1887, the first town council was voted in with 30 votes being cast.
Through town records and other recorded histories of Elloree, we are told that the first streets were dirt and the sidewalks in the business district were wooden. Cleveland Street had asphalt laid in 1906. In 1890 kerosene lamps were installed, and in 1906 acetylene lights replaced them. Electric lights were installed in 1914.The first fire engine was purchased in 1893 and was propelled by manpower. In 1904 a new brick Guard House was built, and in 1900 Town Hall was constructed at a cost of $80.00. In 1909 the Elloree Telephone Company was formed, and in 1909 the first speed limit signs were posted at “5 Miles per Hour.”
In 1886 the first train moved through the town, and in 1911 four passenger and multiple freight trains ran daily. In 1911 the town had grown from one general store on the corner to more than 30 businesses, which included the first bank, which opened in 1904. By 1937 the businesses had doubled. In 1942, 2,364 acres of land were bought and Santee State Park was born. In 1926-27, the first bridge was built over the Santee River.
In September 1999, the town of Elloree completed a revitalization project, spending $1,200.000 renovating the downtown business area which encompasses the 2700 block of Cleveland Street. The project included the installation of new streets, sidewalks, and medians with brick trim, the addition of 36 shade trees, benches, landscaping, and new street lamps. New water lines, water meters, and storm drains were also added.
Approximately 19 downtown businesses have been sold to private investors, 13 of which were purchased and resold by the Town, and these are now being renovated to become homes to antique and specialty shops, art galleries, and cafes. With the extension of the town’s water lines along Cleveland Street to Santee State park, there are plans being discussed for new housing developments, inns, retirement communities, and other tourist related businesses.
In recent years, the town and its merchants have begun hosting numerous events, including the March Elloree Trials, April Pork Fest, October Arts and Antiques Festival, November Festival of Lights, and the December Small Town Christmas. This vibrant community is attracting visitors from across the state and has gained publicity as a family-friendly location for shopping and recreation.
Over the last 200 years, the Elloree community has grown from a two-rut dirt road to the river into a community which is becoming a tourist destination for golf, fishing, hunting, horse racing, boating, canoeing, kayaking, wildlife photography, camping, tennis, and shopping. The Elloree Heritage Museum, along with other entertainment venues being considered, will offer something for everyone. If history does repeat itself, you will not want to miss what is happening in this Southern, rural town on the west bank of Lake Marion.