Bill Greenlee

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Bill Greenlee (1870? - 1972) was a former servant of Thomas Green Clemson who continued to be a local personality and character until his death in 1972.

From Mary Katherine Littlejohn's "Tales of Tigertown" (1979), pages 5-7:

"If time at Clemson could be turned back to about 1883, we might see the elderly Thomas G. Clemson, Esq., driving an open, two-wheeled buggy down the shady avenue from his beloved Fort Hill homeplace to the large wooden gate at the 'big road' (where Sikes Hall now stands). Heavy clusters of pale blue berries on the lower limbs of the red cedars (said to keep out malaria) that lined this quarter of a mile almost touched his wide-brimmd, shallow-topped, black hat. With young Bill Greenlee, just a shirttale of a boy, beside him in the buggy Mr. Clemson was going calling on his neighbors. They traveled at midday so shadows from the cedars wouldn't fall across their heads. 'A shadow from a red cedar was a forecast of death.' Turning left into the big road (Old Greenville Highway - ed.), the travelers passed a large broomsedge field (Bowman Field) and continued down the hill to the bottomlands of the Seneca River where Mr. Clemson commented with pride about the four acres of rice being cultivated there. They then approached Ravenel Bridge, a welcomed and remarkable wooden, covered structure that had replaced an old flatbottomed-ferry. The handsome new bridge was built by a French master craftsman who used wooden pegs in place of nails and decorated the bridge with carved gables at each end of the roof. Crossed beams in the walls of the bridge admitted sunlight in patterns on the floor and allowed a view of the swirling, current-filled, reddish-brown water below. Sometimes, after a rainy spell, the water appeared as thick as pudding.

"Bill comforted the horse as the two travelers entered the shaded inside of the bridge. 'Easy boy. You're a fine horse, and you gotta act like one. You ain't no poor man's horse.'

"On the opposite side of the Seneca River, Miss Yow collected a toll from Mr. Clemson. She was a strapping woman raised among the Cherokee Indians who had once camped on the Keowee side of the river. She opened the gate to let the buggy pass, muttering to herself because she couldn't always understand the Hon. Thomas G. Clemson's 'kinda foreign way of talking.' Someone had told her he talked like an Englishman; she also heard he spoke to his dog in French. Friendly like, Miss Yow showed the aristocratic old gentleman the ripe blackberries growing on bushes near her small cottage that was shaded by silver maple trees along the riverside. He listened kindly as she told him the blue jays called to her in clear words, 'Cheer-o-kee.'

"Continuing their journey, Mr. Clemson complimented young Bill for his special talent with horses. He had given Bill a picture book about raising horses because Bill seemed naturally possessed with this talent. While still a small tyke living at the Andrew Lewis place, San Salvador, located west of Lewis Road, Bill had won first prize in a riding contest at the South Carolina State Fair. He had weighed less than one hundred pounds at the time and was not eligible to participate until his papa was allowed to tie gunshot around his waist, giving him needed weight. [Reference: L. C. Hamilton, "Uncle Bill Greenlee Active at 93", The Messenger, November 19, 1964.] Past 'spooky hollow' and up the hill to Seneca Plantation, Mr. Clemson and Bill pulled into a shady spot near the white columned Georgian home overlooking the river. Bill noticed Mrs. H. E. Ravenel's horseapples were ripe; he knew this fine lady could make a mighty tasty pie. If he complimented her cooking, he would be rewarded. And, minding the horse would be more pleasant. By coming inside the home for the pie,Bill might also 'drop a little bit' on the conversation. Mr. Clemson had come to tell his neighbors about his plan to give Fort Hill - his 'hallowed spot' - to the State of South Carolina for the location of a scientific school.

"On their return trip to the Fort Hill place, young Bill 'gently jogged the remembers' of Mr. Clemson. Their buggy was in need of repair.

"'Never mind,' Mr. Clemson cautioned. 'We must save our money for the new college that will be built at Fort Hill. One day, Bill, you may study there.'"