Bart Bishop, in collaboration with the Davenport family, is writing a history of the Davenports. This is the first installment of the series.
Back in 1937, as the story goes, Dan Davenport went to a dealership in Greer to buy a car. He was in dirty overalls from working at the Lumber Company, and no one would wait on him. That bothered him. So what did he do? He bought the dealership, which we know today as D&D Motors.
The Davenport Family has owned the dealership ever since. George W. (Skip) Davenport Jr. is the president today. The dealership made a name for itself in the early days selling to the community, including moonshiners in Tigerville, Dark Corner and the Glassy Mountain areas.
A beautiful English Tudor-style house sits on Randall Street, a street that runs through the center of downtown Greer. That house, together with an earlier house on the same site, has been the home of the Davenport family since they arrived in Greer nearly 150 years ago. The Davenport family, a staple of Greer and known today for owning the D&D Motors Ford Dealership on Wade Hampton Boulevard, arrived in the Upstate before Greer even had a name.
David Dee Davenport, born in 1844, left his home near Horseshoe, N.C., and started his mercantile business near what was then the Greer’s Station Railroad. Today, where David’s original General Merchandise Store was is now The Davenport, “a full-service event and reception hall,” according to its website, that does everything from “weddings and receptions, to corporate seminars and meetings.” Located on Trade Street, it is considered to be an Historic venue.
According to Greer’s official website, “Development toward the birth of the town occurred in 1873 when the Richmond and Danville Air Line Railway (now the CSX Railway) established a line between Atlanta and Charlotte.” The Greer family, of the Clan McGregor that trace their roots to Scotland through Ireland, had settled in what was then Duncan Creek, and a “station was built on land that belonged to James Manning Greer, and was named Greer’s Station.” When the town was incorporated in 1876, it was the Town of Greer’s, and stayed that way until 1976.
David owned a general merchandise store and would sell to people in the community and to those arriving on the train. Bit by bit he made money and would buy up land, becoming a driving force in the region.
He had the house on Randall Street built, and married Martha Ann West. They had two children, May and Malcolm Clifton. While May married into the Wood Family (of Wood Mortuary), Malcolm married Clara Marchant from Greenville, and they had five children together; Malcolm Clifton Jr., Constance, Martha, Luther M., and Daniel D. (Dan), the youngest. He was the father of Denby, George W. and Ellen Clare Davenport.
Although Malcolm Jr. spent most of his time in leisure pursuits and hunting, he died in 1916 of pneumonia after falling into a creek during one of his hunting trips. The widow Clara subsequently decided to have the original house torn down, and the one that stands today in its place, was completed in 1921.
Malcolm Jr.’s eldest daughter Constance married Oscar Earl Dooly from Miami, Fla., and moved down there. It was on a visit to Miami, in 1927, that Clara died of a heart attack. Dan, who was only 12 at the time, stayed in Florida to live with his sister. Eventually he started college at the University of Florida. It was while a student at the University of Florida that Daniel met Ellen Wiggins, a student at Florida State College For Women, an all female college until 1947 when it became Florida State University. They married after graduating from college on her 21st birthday, and moved to Greer to work and raise their family.
Dan’s oldest brother, Malcolm Jr., had lived in the house on Randall Street off and on for some years. Dan bought his sibling’ interest in the house and first went to work as a carpenter for the Greer Lumber Company in 1936. Due to an impairment, Dan never served in the military.
Dan’s three children all grew up in the house on Randall Street. Denby, the oldest, was born in a hospital in Greenville because Greer did not have one until after World War II. He went to the University of Virginia and then to the University of South Carolina Law School before returning to Greer, where he practiced law with Ansel and Harper Hawkins until he moved to Greenville in 1969 to continue the practice of law. Today Denby is retired, while brother George and sister Clare keep the family business going as Chairman and Service Cashier of D&D Motors.
In October the Davenport family plans to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D&D Motors.