Leon Few: Walking Encyclopedia of Northern Greenville County History since Nov. 11, 1913
Greenville County Council declared his 100th Birthday Leon Few Day in Greenville County back in 2013. The framed Proclamation was presented by Councilman Joe Dill who knew Few from Dill’s childhood and attended Blue Ridge High School with his sons Benjamin and Neves Few.
A few hours with Leon Few became a living history lesson. This writer spent a memorable Saturday morning with Few and former Travelers Rest Mayor Mann Batson searching for the ruins of the home of the man who founded and operated the first textile plant in Greenville County. Few had visited the home when it was occupied. We found the chimneys and foundation in some deep woods not far from what is now Berry’s Mill on SC Highway 14 north of Greer.
The Few family has a proud history and Mr. Leon knew all about it.
He traced his family history back 142 years before his birth which was on November 11, 1913, when his great, great grandfather, James Few participated in the “War of Regulators” uprising in the 17 May 1771 battle of Alamance County, N.C. The colonists regulators fought against corrupt British colonial officials. Governor Tryon’s Royal Militia defeated the Regulators, and James Few, who was captured, refused to pledge allegiance to the King of England and was summarily executed.
In November 1771, William Few, son of James, was born in Orange County, N.C. William and his mother fled N.C. to Georgia where William grew to maturity.
In 1787 Leon Few’s great grandfather William Few learned that the former Cherokee lands were open for settlement in Upstate South Carolina. He moved his family to what is now known as the Blue Ridge section of Northern Greenville County, acquired property and settled along the South Tyger River.
William Few married Susanna Tubb, built a pioneer home, cleared land for crops, and reared thirteen children.
It was in Leon’s great grandfather’s home that the roots of Few’s Chapel Methodist Church were planted. The William Few home became a welcome place for Christian meetings and worship. This tradition was carried forward by Leon’s grandparents, Ephraim and Amanda Few.
In 1874 Leon’s father Ignatious Few and Uncle Benjamin Few and Ephraim Few gave two acres of land on which to build Few’s Chapel Methodist Church. The building has undergone many changes, expansions, and modernizations through the years. The Few family and their neighbors continue to support the church.
As a child, Leon played in the ruins of an older log Few’s Chapel. He attended grades 1 through 4 at Few’s School started by his grandmother Amanda Few to educate community children. He attended Lenore Elementary School in grades 5 through 8, and graduated from Mountain View High School in 1932. In 9th grade, Leon had proven himself to be a mature, dependable student and was assigned the duties of driving the 1928 Chevrolet school bus.
During the Great Depression, Leon Few farmed cotton, grew peaches, and bought cattle for an auction company. He opened a small country store in O’Neal selling food, feed, and farm supplies including John Deere tractors. During this time he developed a reputation of being very good at horse-trading. When milk and butter became a valuable commodity in World War II, he closed the peach orchards and opened a dairy. After World War II the government restricted cotton acreage issuing allotments. This made more land available for cattle grazing.
For several years, Leon served as Superintendent of Greenville County’s O’Neal “Chain Gang” Prison Camp. He managed as many as 100 inmates and 17 guards. He organized the inmates into teams to carry out many community projects. Along the way, Leon and his loving wife Emma Peace Few (now deceased), raised two sons, Neves and Benjamin. Both reside in the Blue Ridge community.
Several friends had spoken at the 100th birthday party. They underscored the fact that Mr. Few had earned a sterling reputation for honesty, integrity, compassion and service to his community.
Leon Few was remarkably strong physically and mentally sharp. He obviously inherited some desirable genes from his historic ancestors. However, he had also demonstrated that a positive attitude, clean living and a close-knit loving family can contribute to productive living and longevity.
Leon Ferguson Few, 103, widower of Emma Grace Peace Few, died December 27, 2016 at his home.
A native of Greer, son of the late I.F. and Tessie Neves Few, he was a farmer, a former prison superintendent, a local historian, grocery store owner who was a descendant of William Few who signed the constitution. Mr. Few was the oldest member of Fews Chapel United Methodist Church.
Surviving are two sons, Neves Few (Lavenia) of Greer and Ben F. Few (Debbie) of Greer and six grandchildren.
Mr. Few was predeceased by his three brothers, Lawrence Few, George Few and Palmer Few and one sister, Louise Few Leverette.
Funeral services were held 2:00 p.m. Friday, December 30, 2016 at Fews Chapel United Methodist Church conducted by Rev. Dave Wilmer, Rev. Richard McAlister and Rev. Don Hope. Burial followed in the church cemetery.
Visitation was held at Fews Chapel United Methodist Church the same day.
Memorials may be made to Fews Chapel United Methodist Church, 4000 North Highway 101, Greer, SC 29651 and online condolences may be made at www.thewoodmortuary.com.