William E. Rose & Rose's Hotel
by Louise Pettus
William E. Rose, 1813-1892, was a self-made man. Born in Langley, Buckinghamshire, England, he had only a little education when he landed in New York, aged 11. Without "friends or fortune" the boy made his way to Albany where he obtained an apprenticeship as a silversmith. Rose's employer lost his business before the boy was trained so he found a job with a large iron establishment where he worked several years.
Hearing of Tredegar Iron works in Richmond, Va., Rose worked there and then drifted off to several iron works in Pennsylvania. When Rose was 27 and had saved enough money to go into business for himself, he heard of an iron works he could lease in South Carolina. The lease on the Spartanburg Iron Manufacturing Company expired in two years. Rose then secured a two-year lease on the Cherokee Iron Works which was followed by a six-year stint as manager of the High Shoals Works in Lincoln County, N. C.
In the year 1852 Rose abandoned iron manufacturing and moved to Yorkville, S. C. where he purchased a hotel building he named for himself. Rose's Hotel, located on South Congress street, became Yorkville's number-one hotel. The handsome chandeliers were often commented on by visitors. Dances were frequent in the elegantly furnished main floor. Rose's Hotel was a three-story structure with a veranda. There was a livery stable attached, not only to care for the guest's horses, but had horses for rent. A hotel omnibus carried people to nearby Sutton's Springs and other attractions. Carriages carried people from the depot free of charge. Rose's Hotel was in walking distance of the courthouse and housed many of those from out-of-town who had reason to appear in court. Attorneys and circuit-riding judges were housed there as well those who came to testify during the major sessions. Charlestonians made Yorkville a favorite summer resort as they attempted to escape the fevers of summer in the low country.
From the balcony of Rose's Hotel, the Confederacy's secretary of war, John C. Breckenridge, addressed the citizens of Yorkville at the time of Jefferson Davis' flight from Richmond. When Union troops occupied Yorkville during Reconstruction, they chose to make the hotel their headquarters and placed the 7th Cavalry in the building. After the withdrawal of federal troops in 1876 the building returned to hotel use until the World War II era. Rose became superintendent of the King's Mountain Railroad in 1860 and president of the railroad in 1864. His presidency lasted only a year.
When it became obvious that the Confederacy was losing the war, Rose left Yorkville to return to the iron business in North Carolina. The new position was unsatisfactory. Rose was soon back in Yorkville. At the end of the Civil War, South Carolina was occupied and power shifted from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party backed by Federal troops. Rose affiliated with the Republican Party and was elected to the state sene from York County. He served from 1868 to 1872. When elected to the SC Senate in 1868 Rose moved his wife and children to Columbia where he purchased the Congaree Hotel property which he managed until his death in 1893.
Rose wished to be buried in Yorkville beside 8 of his deceased children--5 sons and 3 daughters. When the Charleston, Cincinnati and Chicago (3 C's) train arrived in Yorkville with the body, there was an escort of prominent Yorkville citizens waiting. Following a funeral service in the Episcopal Church, Rose was buried in Yorkville's Rose Hill Cemetery.