Preserving our local history has always been important to many people in Cherokee County. Because of their interest in local history and culture, a group of forty-four concerned citizens met at the Colonial Restaurant on Cherokee Avenue and organized the Cherokee Historical & Preservation Society on May 1, 1969. The Society was incorporated as an eleemosynary organization in June 1969 with one hundred fourteen members. Dr. Bobby Moss presided over the meeting and the first slate of officers were elected: Jack Blanton, President; J.W. Wright, Vice-President, and Betty V. Stone, Secretary-Treasurer. A Constitution and By-Laws were presented and adopted at the meeting, beginning the journey of the Cherokee Historical & Preservation Society, Inc
The young Society began plans for the state’s tri-centennial celebration in 1970 and the national bicentennial celebration in 1976. By providing commemorative items, such as coins, ashtrays, and books, CHAPS worked for Cherokee County to be designated as a Bicentennial Community and support for the establishment of a National Overmountain Victory Trail project was a focus of efforts. During the 1970s, CHAPS supported the efforts of its membership in the publication of local history books including, Cherokee County Through the Lens of June H. Carr, The Journal and Genealogy of Michael Gaffney, The Old Iron District, and A History of Limestone College. Projects to find and record all available cemetery marker stones, identify and list items on the National Historical Register, and the placement of official South Carolina Historical Markers at significant sites around the county were initiated and continue.
During the next three decades, CHAPS has participated in many projects and offered numerous educational opportunities, such as the creation of the Gaffney Residential Historic District, a Downtown Historic Business District, maps of county cemeteries and historical locations, videos of historical sites, publishing the Cherokee County Pictorial, cleanups at the county’s Furnace Mill site, Beaverdam and Mulberry Church restorations, and tours to Smith’s Ford, Dillsboro, Cooperville Iron Works, etc.
In 1992, a property transfer resulted in the moving of the 1887 Possum Trot Schoolhouse from its original location. Clemson University donated the structure and Hamrick’s Inc. generously permitted the use of their nearby land for its use as a living history site.
In 1999 CHAPS members voted to purchase the historic Central Elementary School building and property. Through the support of members, local residents, area businesses, and local and state governments, a Grand Opening Gala of the Cherokee County History & Arts Museum was held on May 17, 2008. Since then, CHAPS has continued the renovation and expansion of the facility and is currently fundraising for interactive children’s STEM rooms, sports hall of fame, archives, research areas, and additional exhibit and rentable spaces. With thousands of visitors each year, the Museum has come to be a top destination for the community.
In 2001, the old Gethsemane Methodist Church Cemetery was donated to CHAPS and the site was dedicated as the Vinson Blanton Burying Ground during the annual Overmountain Victory March on October 7, 2002, having fifty-five gravesites of several local families, including veterans of the American Revolution.
CHAPS took on the cause of the preservation of Fort Thicketty, site of a 1780 standoff between Patriots and Loyalists during the American Revolution, with the purchase of the property in 2014. Since then, CHAPS, through much local and state support, has undertook the process of rehabilitating the cabin and surrounding grounds in an effort to preserve this important part of our local, state, and national history.
Make plans now to visit the Museum during February to see our collection of exhibits, artifacts, and stories related to Black History Month. Also, be sure to complete our Black History Month Scavenger Hunt, fun for the entire family!