EZ Home Search Guide to Living in Cherokee County, SC

Photos of Kings Mountain Military Park, Monument, Cabin in Gaffney, South Carolina

EZ Home Search Guide to Living in Cherokee County, SC

Are you interested in living in historic Cherokee County, South Carolina? Located in the Piedmont region, the towns here may be small, but they promise big adventures thanks to abundant outdoor recreation opportunities. Cherokee County is the only place in South Carolina with three national parks, all commemorating the region's pivotal role in our nation's founding.

As far as a place to live, Cherokee County is a place that won't be crowded anytime soon, as the population grows slowly. People that move here fall in love with the area, the friendly neighbors, and the rich quality of life. The county offers a reasonable cost of living with access to manufacturing jobs and a growing economy. If that sounds appealing to you, keep reading for more about life in Cherokee County.

About Cherokee County

Cherokee County sits on the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains as part of South Carolina's "Upstate" or "Upcountry" region. It shares its borders with North Carolina, plus York, Union, and Spartanburg counties. The Pacolet and Broad Rivers form part of the county's borders. 

The people here are proud of Cherokee County's role in history. That heritage is preserved in the three national parks. One, Kings Mountain State Park, is a popular destination in its own right. 

While Cherokee has significant cultural sites, perhaps its most famous landmark is the Peachoid, the peach-themed water tower in Gaffney along I-85. This iconic tower featured as a plot point in a hit television series on Netflix.

Getting around Cherokee County is easy because I-85 runs across the county from the southwest to the northeast. Highway 29 is another vital transportation corridor that mimics the same track as I-85. Two major airports are within a 40-minutes drive.

Residents enjoy an affordable cost of living. According to the Cost of Living Index, where a score of 100 represents the national average, Cherokee County posted a 71.4. South Carolina averaged 88.5. Its lowest scores were in housing (29.5) and transportation (71.4). 

Cherokee County History

Evidence of Native American occupation in Cherokee County dates thousands of years, but its most recent occupants are the county's namesake tribe, the Cherokee. The line separating Cherokee County from Spartanburg County was originally called the "Indian line," which separated colonial South Carolina from Indian territories. Pre-revolution, this was considered the frontier and pioneer territory. 

The borders here were controversial, with some surveys putting the lands in Craven County of South Carolina where others designated it as part of North Carolina. Territorial disputes arose on several occasions because two people would claim the same section of land with authority granted by two different states.

From 1800 to 1868, Cherokee County residents were part of Spartanburg, Union, and York counties. In 1868, an effort was made to create the new county, although it took 30 years of campaigning and efforts to convince residents to join the crusade to create Cherokee County. The lands were taken from Spartanburg and smaller parts of Union and York counties to establish Cherokee County in 1897.

The iron industry flourished from the 17th through the 18th centuries, with the Civil War ending iron production. Cherokee was in the heart of what was called the "Old Iron District." 

Cherokee County was a mostly cotton-growing region. Several cotton mills were built to support the industry, with WC Hamrick running five mills. Textile production was essential for the local economy during World War One and into the 1920s.

Over the years, Cherokee County has pivoted from cotton to fruit growing, particularly with apples and peaches. By the 1980s, Cherokee County was shipping nearly 35 million pounds of peaches out of the state. Today, fruit growing is embraced as an important part of the region's agricultural heritage.

Cherokee County Cities and Areas

Gaffney, the county seat, is known as the peach capital of South Carolina. This is a classic small town with lots of character, as evident in the famous Peachoid water tower. It has a classic commercial and residential historic district. Gaffney hosts events and festivals throughout the year. 

Blacksburg, nicknamed the Iron City, was established in 1888. It stands at the intersection of several rail lines along Highway 29. Blacksburg lies between Kings Mountain State Park and the Broad River, giving residents access to many outdoor activities. It's also only 45 minutes from Charlotte, North Carolina and Greenville, South Carolina. 

Cherokee Falls is an unincorporated community close to Blacksburg and a destination along the Broad River. It is one of the earliest areas of settlement in the Cherokee County area. 

Otherwise, much of Cherokee County remains rural, forested, and agricultural. 

Cherokee County Job Market

The Cherokee County government is a strong supporter of local business and buying local. It seeks to create a business-friendly climate.

The top employing industries are manufacturing, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, and accommodation and foodservice. 

Service industry-related jobs were the top employers inside Cherokee County. Cherokee top employers based on their size include, but are not limited to, Brown Packing Company, Cherokee County Government, Dollar Tree Distribution, Freightliner Chassis Corporation, Hamrick's, Milliken & Company, Nestle Prepared Food Company, Suminoe Textile of America, and UPS Freight. 

The 2020 unemployment rate in Cherokee was 8.1%, the same as the United States average but higher than the state average. A decade ago, the unemployment rate was 16%, so job market gains have been made in the area. In 2019, before the pandemic, the unemployment rate was 2.9%.

The unemployment rate as of June 2021 in Cherokee County was 5.7%, which was above the South Carolina reported figure but under the United States average. 

A Cherokee County Community profile projected that the job market would increase by 11.4% from 2016 to 2026. The industries with the most anticipated growth were:

  • Transportation and warehousing.
  • Administrative and support roles.
  • Accommodation and food services.
  • Health care. 

Cherokee County Real Estate Market

Cherokee County real estate offers small-town living or rural estates located in the attractive Piedmont region of South Carolina. The most recent market data from July 2021 shows that the Cherokee region has been experiencing rising median sale prices. Year-over-year, the median sales price was up 21.8% to $182,650. However, inventory was down 33.3%. The months' supply for single-family homes was one month.

Constrained inventory played a role on the days on the market, which was down 15.6% for single-family homes. The median home was on the market for 73 days.

In terms of state property taxes, Cherokee County on average collects 0.63% of a property's assessed fair market value. It has one of the lowest median property tax rates in the country. The median property tax for Cherokee County was $524 per year for a home worth the median value of $82,700.

Cherokee County Population 

The number of people living in the area has slowly grown since the 1970s. The latest data about Cherokee County puts its residential population at 56,216 as of April 2020, a 3.3% increase over 2010. The population by 2030 is anticipated to be 67,350. 

Demographically, the age bracket with the most number of residents was the 45 to 49-year-old group, but the age distribution was relatively equal until age 65. The average age of a Cherokee County resident was 39.3 years old, according to the US Census Bureau. 

Around 76% of Cherokee County residents identified as white and 20% identified as black.

As of 2020, around 15% of residents had a bachelor's degree or higher. Another 30% had some college education. The median household income by 2035 was projected to be $37,345.

Cherokee County Education

The Cherokee County School District runs 19 public schools to serve around 9,000 students living in Cherokee County. The district operated nine elementary and primary schools, three middle schools, two high schools, and one alternative center. The top-rated public schools in the area are Blacksburg High School, Grassy Pond Elementary School, and Corinth Elementary School.

One private school, The Village School of Gaffney, was available for Cherokee County residents in 2021. 

Higher education is available at Limestone University, formerly known as Limestone College, a private Christian University in Gaffney. It was established in 1845 and today offers 57 undergraduate majors and four master's programs to its roughly 1,000 students. Its 22 athletics teams play in NCAA Division II. 

Spartanburg Community College runs a Cherokee County Campus. It is situated on 62 acres near I-85 in downtown Gaffney. Course offerings include general education courses and a transitional studies department that enables students to take prerequisite courses for transferring into a four-year degree. The campus also has associate's degrees and certificates, such as in Mechatronics and Radiation Protection.

Cherokee County Health Care

The Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System services Cherokee County residents. The nearest hospital facility is the Cherokee Medical Center, a 125-bed acute care hospital in Gaffney. The services it provides include Emergency Care, Endocrinology, Cardiovascular, Imaging, Orthopedics, Sleep Services, Urology, and Wound Care.

Cherokee County Things To Do

Cherokee County is a place abundant with outdoor recreation opportunities. While you may be thinking about rolling hills and the foothills of the mountains, Cherokee County has prolific freshwater access. Nine lakes are located in Cherokee County, all available for fishing, boating, and water recreation. That's in addition to the Pacolet and Broad Rivers that run through the county.

Cherokee County is home to several state and national parks that attract visitors throughout the year. Three parks have their roots in the Revolutionary War. These parks host several annual events that celebrate Cherokee's Revolutionary War history. 

Draytonville Mountain and Whittaker Mountain are located inside Cherokee County, one of three mountain peaks located in the area.

Residents do have access to golf courses with stunning views. These include the Cherokee National Golf Club, Country Club of Gaffney, and Chesney Country Club. The last two are 9-hole courses. 

South Carolina Peach Festival was started in 1976. Today it is a 10-day festival that draws people from all over to celebrate the delicious fruit. It has a car show, live music, and of course, lots of peach-themed dishes.

Cherokee County Local Attractions

For those seeking arts and cultural attractions, start with the Cherokee County History and Arts Museum. The museum has over 2,000 items exhibiting everything from the Revolutionary War period to more modern events in County history. Among its buildings is a historic pioneer school.

Another destination is the Gaffney Visitors Center & Art Gallery, located in the town's historic post office. The center is home to the Cherokee Alliance of Visual Artists (CAVA), which runs a gallery with rotating exhibits created by local and visiting artists. There's also a working studio so you can see art in the making. 

There are two military-related sites inside Cherokee County. One is the Kings Mountain National Military Park, the site of a pivotal American Revolutionary War battle; it was the first major Patriot victory after Charleston was invaded. The other is Cowpens National Battlefield, a Revolutionary War site commemorating where Daniel Morgan and his army turned the tide on the British forces. 

The third national park is part of the Overmountain Victory Trail, which runs through Cherokee County. This 330-mile trail stretches through four states tracing the route used by the Patriot militia during the Kings Mountain campaign of 1780. 

Stop by the iconic Peachoid, one of Gaffney's and Cherokees County's most famous landmarks. It made an appearance on a hit TV show and was featured in a novel. 

The Cherokee Speedway is an exciting destination. This dirt track hosts races throughout the season, including the Carolina Clash, a Super Late Model Series race.

Cherokee County Dining

The majority of the dining options are located near Gaffney. You will find classic chain restaurants like Firehouse Subs and Cracker Barrel, but you'll have access to local restaurants throughout the downtown and surrounding area. Some are family-operated venues that have been in operation for years. Here's a sampling of what you can find to eat in Cherokee County: 

  • Daddy Joe's Beach House BBQ & Grill, classic southern cooking in a relaxed atmosphere 
  • Clock of Gaffney, a diner-style venue with Greek and American Cuisine 
  • Carolina Cafe, a locally owned business established in 2005, it's about three miles from the Cowpens National Battlefield and serves hand-cut steaks right off the grill.
  • Harold's Restaurant has been in the historic downtown Gaffney area since 1932. Their famous chili burgers have been featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. 
  • Boston Annie's is a Gaffney local favorite serving subs, salads, and sweets for breakfast and lunch. 

Cherokee County Shopping

Cherokee County has an excellent place if you enjoy hunting for antiques. Two places to check out are the Black Horse Antique Shop and Pieces From The Past Antiques. You can browse the stores in Gaffney or at the flea markets and farmer's markets that happen around the county.

If you enjoy hunting for a good bargain, then you'll want to stop at the Gaffney Outlet Mall. Here you will find 75 designer outlet stores featuring fashion, sportswear, children's clothing, housewares, and specialty items.

Historic downtown Gaffney is a commercial district with various retailers ranging from freshly brewed coffee to antiques to fashion items. Just off of Limestone Street and Frederick Street, the historic Durwood's General Store and Gibson's Variety Shop have unique homemade items. 

The Gaffney Station Farmers Market sells fresh produce and other agricultural products depending on the season, such as firewood, Christmas trees, honey, and ornamentals. The market also has two farm-to-table dinners each season. 

Living in Cherokee County

Cherokee County life is rich in history yet connected to the modern world around it. The residents are proud of their roots and their role in American history. Many of the parks and the events celebrate the county's unique heritage. Residents embrace all Cherokee County has to offer, from the home-grown restaurants to the affordable cost of living.

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