Somewhere northwest of Greenville - and people disagree as to its boundaries-is the section known as Berea. The first settlers came after the Revolutionary War when the rich soil in the area between the Saluda River and Paris Mountain began attracting farmers. The region's name reveals the piety of these early Scots Irish immigrants. A Baptist church chose that name in reference to the noble Bereans in the Bible (Acts 17) when it formed in 1843. By the late 1800s people were calling the whole area "Berea."
Beginning in the 1870s, children in Berea attended a one-room log cabin. Berea School, which eventually became Berea High School, opened its doors in 1885. It has become a focal point of community pride, yielding state Teacher of the Year Jim Mattos and Miss South Carolina Kimilee Bryant, who has gone on to fame as a singer on Broadway and in opera. Never home to a textile mill or other major industry, today much of Berea's farmland sports subdivisions and neighborhood businesses. It has stoutly resisted incorporation into the Greenville city limits and so has its own tradition of independence and local pride.
The Greenville County Library established the Berea branch on November 1, 1971, in a store front on Cedar Lane Road. Open on weekday afternoons, it was soon circulating more books than any other branch. Twice it expanded to include more rooms, but demand on the branches resources required still more space. Local resident Zed Jones came to the rescue by donating four acres on Highway 25 Bypass, and on April 26, 1998, a new building was opened. Of special interest at the branch are the Reading Train and a statue of a father reading to his child by Charlie Pate, a local artist.
Bainbridge, Judith. "Fast-Growing Berea Has Become a Place of Its Own," Greenville News, Feb. 7, 2007, City People, p. 2.
Voyles, Lloyd K. A History of Berea High School. Excerpted in Millennium History Project: The Stories of Our Schools. Comp. Debbie Willingham. Greenville, SC: School District of Greenville County, 2000. Pp. 16-19.