Stop 1:

Morgan Monument

Morgan - 1881

Image courtesy of the Spartanburg County Public Libraries

Although President Garfield backed out at the last minute, governors and congressmen from across the nation visited Spartanburg to mark the occasion of the centennial of the Battle of Cowpens and dedication of the Daniel Morgan Monument. Some 20,000 visitors were here for the event at a time when the town’s population had barely reached 3,000.

It’s 1781. The scattered settlements of the wild Carolina frontier are less than a generation old and deeply fractured by partisan politics. As Loyalists and Revolutionaries contend for dominance in a bitter civil war, the British Army’s southern strategy seems on the cusp of success. 

Then the tide turns and with General Daniel Morgan at the lead of a mixed army of militiamen and regulars, the Patriots clinch a major victory at the Battle of Cowpens, just to our northeast. Within a year, the British Army has been defeated and the American revolutionaries have won the war. Ever since, the victory at Cowpens has remained a major part of our regional identity, recognized since 1881 by this monument at the center of our town square. 

When the monument was dedicated during the centennial anniversary of the battle, it was an event of national significance. The nation was still deeply scarred by the Civil War and visionaries saw the monument as a way to emphasize national unity. Take a moment to read the inscriptions and you’ll understand how the monument is as much about post-Civil War politics as it is about the Revolutionary War. 

Locals are also likely to tell you that for all the times the monument has been moved, it would be better off with wheels. Although originally located in its current spot, it spent from 1960 to 2005 at the far upper end of the square, and various far-fetched proposals would have had the monument all over the county.  

Morgan Square - 1884

Image courtesy of the Spartanburg County Historical Association

This photograph from 1884 shows Morgan Square when it still was just a big open lot. Visitors to the courthouse stocked up on provisions while they were in town, visiting specialty shops that lined the square. This is the earliest photograph of downtown.

Aerial Photo of Downtown Spartanburg - 1927

Image courtesy of the Spartanburg County Public Libraries

This aerial photo shows downtown soon after the opening of the Spartanburg Memorial Airport. At that time, automobiles had yet to change development patterns. Note the farm fields stretching onwards only a couple of miles from Morgan Square.

Audio: Stop 1 - Morgan Square