Fountain Inn: “The Place Where the Past and Present Coexist in Harmony”
Known as the sole town embracing the name of Fountain Inn in the nation, this area’s history spans all the way back to the mid-1700s with the inhabitation of the Cherokee Indians. During the years of the Revolution, the Cherokees were driven out of the area due to the trouble that was caused by the tribe. New settlers, many of whom were Revolution veterans, established residence in the area, with others quickly following. Soon, the old Indian trails were transformed into stagecoach routes, with what would shortly after become the town of Fountain Inn established directly along the routes linking the cities of Asheville, Charleston, Columbia and Greenville.
The town earned its moniker from an old stagecoach stop located on the route between Greenville and Columbia. The inn, which featured a beautiful fountain, drew in travelers in search of a warm, comfortable place to rest along the expeditions. The inn became a popular point for those journeying along the stagecoach route. Though it no longer stands in the community, the old stagecoach inn’s locale can be reached one-mile from City Hall. The original site houses a historical marker relating the inn’s story.
The town was officially chartered on Christmas Eve in 1886. By this time, Fountain Inn encompassed a post office (established in 1832), a two-room schoolhouse and just three stores, owned by the Holland family, the Cannon family and the Kellett family. Interestingly, residents in the area almost named the town “Cannonville” in honor of the Cannon family and their large contribution to the building of the town. The town continued to grow over the decades and is still developing to this day.
Widely celebrated commercial artist Art Frahm made Fountain Inn his home for 20-plus years. Frahm is best recognized for his creation of the old gentleman adorning boxes of Quaker Oats oatmeal and the girl portrayed on the bottles of Coppertone Suntan Lotion.
Robert Quillen, an internationally known humorist and syndicated writer, made this community his home as well, initiating The Fountain Inn Tribune in 1911. Fountain Inn is also the hometown of two past Miss South Carolina’s – Peggy White Nickson, who took the crown in 1968, and Wendy Willis, who was given the crown in 1998.
But, perhaps most notably, Fountain Inn hails as the birthplace of the famous Clayton Bates, known to most as Peg Leg Bates. At the age of 12, Bates endured the loss of his left leg in a machine accident, but that did not stop him from living out his dreams. Having enjoyed dancing and entertaining since he was a young child, Bates utilized his unique situation, leading him to become a famous dancer with such signature moves as the Imitation American Jet Plane. The more popular Peg Leg Bates became, the more he was demanded – not only did he perform on the Ed Sullivan Show more than 25 times (more than anyone else), but he also appeared before the king and queen of England. The day before his death, Bates returned to Fountain Inn to receive “The Order of the Palmetto,” the state’s most prestigious award.