Fort Mill, South Carolina is a city with a captivating past. It takes its name from a colonial-era fort constructed by the British and a grinding mill near Steele Creek. The Catawba Indians were the first inhabitants of the area, and Scots-Irish settlers began arriving in the 1750s and 1760s. Thomas Spratt and his wife Elizabeth were some of the first settlers in the area, and their descendants still live there today. The Kingsley housing estate in Fort Mill was designed with a historic look, even though the buildings housing restaurants and offices are new.
The smokestack rises 30 meters from this corner of Fort Mill, just off Interstate 77 and about 13 kilometers south of the state line. Fort Mill has long benefited from its geographical location and access to major transportation routes, from Nation Ford Road and the Catawba River to the Charlotte, Columbia and Augusta Railroads (now Norfolk Southern), U. S. Highway 21 and Interstate 77. At present, the Fort Mill area is home to major employers such as Piedmont Medical Center, Black and Decker, Daimler, Domtar, Lash Group, LPL Financial and Atrium Health.
After the formation of the Fort Mill Manufacturing Company in 1887, Fort Mill grew to become an important textile manufacturing center. The Close family (whose members declined to be interviewed for this story) are descendants of Samuel Elliott White, who founded Fort Mill Manufacturing Company in 1887 and was its first president. As the industry weakened in the United States and the region began to expand, the family increasingly thought about turning part of their 7,000 acres in York County into a new economic engine for Fort Mill. It is now the fulcrum of what the Close family and the company they own, Clear Springs Development, envision as an economic launching pad for Fort Mill and York County: a 660-acre mix of retail businesses, apartments, hotels, restaurants, offices and even hospitals that may induce companies considering moving to the Charlotte area to look south.