How the McDaniel family came to prominence in historic Greenville
When Keziah McDaniel and her five-year-old son, James, moved to Greenville County in 1785, they began a dynasty.
They initially lived with their father, Benjamin Griffith, an immigrant from Wales, in Laurel Creek, about eight miles east of the town of Greenville. James married Mary Austin, the daughter of nearby landowners, in 1808, and the McDaniel family was well on its way to becoming large landowners.
they moved to the town of greenville in 1852 and by the 1860s owned nearly 3,000 acres in greenville county. and they continued to buy and sell more land in the years after the war.
In 1868, the family sold several hundred acres around their former farmhouse to Willis Butler. it became the heart of the town of mauldin when the railway arrived twenty years later.
they also owned acres near golden grove and substantial property around the parkins brothers mill, as well as 160 more acres near conestee, but most of their land was located near the greenville courthouse along of augusta road.
this is where the first james (1780-1853) made his home. both a public man and a large landowner, he had been quartermaster-general during the war of 1812 and was always called “general” ever since. he was elected sheriff in 1828 and again in 1834 and then was a clerk of the court.
when he died in 1853, benjamin perry wrote that “he was the only man I ever knew who defeated his enemies with kindness.”
his eldest son, james a. (1815-1871), was briefly a militia officer and thus became “el mayor”, and his grandson, another James A. (1845-1922), joined the Confederate Army at age 15, served for several months before his age was discovered and he was discharged. when he turned 17, he rejoined the csa forces. (Some sons were not named James or William.)
youngest son william a. (1818-1886), was sheriff of greenville from 1852 to 1856 and town clerk and treasurer during reconstruction. His brother, John, was a former police chief and a sheriff during the civil war. William A.’s son, William B. (called Benjamin) held that position from 1891 to 1895 and again from 1898 to 1909.
In addition to their civic responsibilities, the McDaniels were farmers. On now-shady streets between Augusta Road and Squire Cleveland’s Grist Mill, they grew corn, sweet potatoes, and white potatoes, and tended a small herd of cows. his property also included over a hundred acres south of augusta road.
after the death of william a., his widow, frances, and their three children, james, stella, and w. Benjamin, lived on the west side of what was beginning to be called McDaniel Avenue at its intersection with “Cleveland’s Mill Road.” Ben, his youngest son, lived there with his wife and his daughter, Annie (later Newman), for the rest of his life.
His home was an elegant neo-Gothic residence that is said to have been torn down and moved to the location of the former ambassador to Mexico, Waddy Thompson’s Paris Mountain Estate.
Eldest son James, his wife, Nora, and son, William C. (carroll) lived in a simpler but solid farmhouse further south on mcdaniel, near what would soon be crescent avenue.
in 1894, w.b. She divided his land between his sister, Stella (who had married Clarendon County landowner H. B. Tindal), James, and Annie. In 1910 he retired from his job in the city and began selling off some of its large remaining acreage, creating lots on Jones and Crescent avenues and even selling some properties on McDaniel avenue (long the sole property of McDaniels).
two years later, the greenville mountaineer commented that “the large tract of land, known as the mcdaniel property, which lies between furman college and the residence of t. Q. donaldson, (on crescent avenue) has been regularly laid out on lots, ranging in size from half an acre to three or four acres. in addition to jones avenue, which runs from cleveland street to augusta road, several other broad streets have been laid out parallel to jones avenue, and also several cross streets. in a few years there will be pretty avenues and tempting walks in that part of the suburbs. They are close to the city.”
However, development was slow, as McDaniel Avenue stretched only from Augusta Road to Cleveland Street. in 1898, he reached the swampy land along the river. the section from cleveland street to east mcbee, “a rough and rutted road to be avoided in the rain” was not laid out until about 1910.
the advent of the automobile brought new subdivisions along augusta street (cagle park, katanah, cherokee park, and augusta circle, among others), the paving of augusta road, and, after 1921, the country club neighborhood of David Traxler. it also made the mcdaniels’ land more desirable.
in 1918, for example, j.a. who had bought 111 acres south of augusta road (originally part of the birnie estate) from his brother, divided the land into five lots (mcdaniel village shopping center is on one part) which he quickly sold.
while w. b. sold several dozen lots on jones avenue before her death in 1928 on her 78th birthday, it was her daughter annie and her husband john newman who probably accounted for most of the development of the area. In 1928, Newman announced with great fanfare the development of McDaniel Heights on 31 acres of land stretching along Cleveland Street, including 33 lots on McDaniel, Newman, Belmont, and Cleveland Streets.
Lots were expensive, ranging from $1,500 to $5,000, but they were close to the main street and had all the amenities: telephone, electricity, water, gutters, garbage collection, and (mostly) paved streets. mcdaniel avenue had just been paved over, obviously to the delight of car enthusiasts who, according to the greenville news, mistook it for the daytona speedway.
The project also included seven acres set aside for an apartment complex and a new street, Ben, which was not developed until the late 1940s. Initial sales were slow, lots were expensive, and were not scheduled in the The timing was right, so the new man completely renovated his house on the corner of (recently named) newman street.
Annie Newman’s cousin, William C. (carroll) and his wife also helped change the neighborhood. After two years at Furman, Carroll had briefly worked for the Greenville Piedmont before becoming a real estate agent. he began in 1913 buying and selling land in poor neighborhoods, both black and white: nicholtown, city view, and the north end of pinckney street. He had married Helen Brown of Belton, a major heiress in her own right (the McDaniels married well.)
Although he had sold many lots on Jones Avenue, he died young in 1931; helen mcdaniel supported herself and her two young daughters for many years by selling land around her home. In the early 1940s, she owned Carrroll Lane, Ben Street, and 24 lots at the north end of Belmont and Newman streets.
Although McDaniel Heights advertised lots at greatly reduced prices “to keep up with the times,” the Newmans decided in 1938 to build the apartment complex originally envisioned a decade earlier. The McDaniel Heights Apartments, completed in the fall of 1939 for $300,000, were 64 “modernist” apartments for “discerning renters.” (They were converted to condominiums in 1977.)
in 2002, the four house posh mcdaniel oaks, located on the site of the house at the corner of carroll lane and mcdaniel avenue, was the last project on the family’s sprawling acres.