In the early 1800’s, settlers in Conestoga wagons were passing through what was to later become Travelers Rest in increasing numbers. Roads were becoming more common and livestock “drovers” herded horses, mules, cattle, sheep, and hogs from Kentucky and Tennessee to markets in South Carolina(1).
All these travelers needed places to rest along their long journeys and stores and taverns sprouted up to meet their needs. One of these spots was north of the modern day Travelers Rest, on what is now highway 25. A Mr. and Mrs. William Bishop operated an inn that allowed the drovers to sleep indoors while their animals were kept outside in a nearby pen(2). Stopovers such as this gave rise to the colorful, if not too imaginative, name of Travelers Rest.
Although records are a bit limited on the subject, it is known that Joseph Independence Coleman (the father of George Coleman) was the town Marshall in the Travelers Rest of 1891, making him possibly our first known peace officer and the forerunner of the TRPD. Mr. Coleman operated a store on the corner of the Buncombe Road and Little Texas Road and a jail was built in the back of the store(3).
After Travelers Rest was incorporated for the second time, a permanent town hall was built on Poinsett Highway, near the Bank of Travelers Rest, in 1961. Quarters for the two-man police department were included, and one police car was purchased for the two officers, J.P. Smith and T. Preston Duncan.
These simple times would not last long, however. During the Coleman administration of 1963, the city’s first four-way traffic light was installed at the intersection of McElhaney Rd. and Geer Highway (where Sunrift Adventures sits today), “thus improving the flow of traffic through the town proper which had only the light at the intersection of Buncombe Road and Geer Highway heretofore.” In order to meet the city’s increasing needs, the TRPD grew to three officers and two patrol vehicles(5).
Today the Travelers Rest Police Department, housed in the City Hall building that was completed in 2018, is manned by 23 sworn Full-time Police Officers, 8 sworn Reserve Police Officers, and a handful of volunteer SC constables, using a fleet of 25 patrol cars and 4 bicycles. Our facilities include a state-of-the-art CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) communications center with 5 full-time communications specialists, a Records Clerk, an Accreditation Manager, a five-cell prisoner holding facility with a DataMaster breath alcohol content measuring device, and our own evidence storage facility.
The TRPD provides 24-hour patrol coverage for the city in two 12-hour shifts. Along with the uniform patrol unit we have a Sergeant Investigator dedicated full-time to investigations, a School Resource Officer stationed at the Travelers Rest High School and Gateway Elementary School, an Investigator assigned to the Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) Multi-jurisdictional Task Force and an Animal Control Officer that handles some Codes Enforcement, Property and Evidence, and Community Relations. The TRPD takes a proactive approach to law enforcement by working together with the community to solve problems at their root.
All indications are that the next decade promises to be a period of incredible growth for Travelers Rest and just as we have since 1891 the Travelers Rest Police Department will grow to meet the city’s needs.
1 Archie Huff, Greenville: The History of the City and County in the South Carolina Piedmont (1995) 65.
2 Huff, 65.
3 Mildred W. Goodlett, The History of Travelers Rest (1966) 34.
4 Goodlett, 178.
5 Goodlett, 180.