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Why is everything in this city named after a Swamp Rabbit?

A look back at the Swamp Rabbit Trail’s history, before it was the greenway we know today, holds the answer.

Old photo of the Swamp Rabbit Train

Meet the Swamp Rabbit Train. | Image from Greenville County Library System

Whether you’re new to our city or born and raised here, you may have wondered what Greenville’s obsession is with a little creature known as the Swamp Rabbit. Everything from our hockey team to restaurants + breweries seems to be named after this cotton-tailed creature. But we promise you, it didn’t always used to be like this.

Fifteen years ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find anything in this city named for the Sylvilagus aquaticus. That’s because in 2009 the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail first opened to our community and has continued to develop into the multi-use greenway system we all know and love today. Many of the other “Swamp Rabbits” you’ll find around our city are due to the popularity + proximity of the trail.

So why was this recreational path named the “Swamp Rabbit Trail” in the first place? The SRT follows along the historic rail bed of the Greenville and Northern Railway popularly nicknamed “the Swamp Rabbit.”

GVL_Swamp_Rabbit_Trail_Extension_JUNE2023

A trail we know and love. | Photo by The City of Greenville

Almost prophetically, Charles David, a journalist for The Greenville News wrote about the railroad in the 1920s: “You may name your boy Percival, Algernon, or Montmoressi, but if some chap at school dubs him ‘Sorrel Top,’ ‘Bully,’ or ‘Buster,’ the nickname will stick and his real name [be] forgotten. So it has been with this little railroad . . . . [‘The Swamp Rabbit’ name] continues to the exclusion of the longer and higher sounding one.”

Despite lofty ambitions, this short railway, part of the greater Carolina, Knoxville & Western Railroad (CK&W), was actually only slightly longer than the current Swamp Rabbit Trail at 23 miles. Funding ran out for the project in 1899 + a plan to revitalize the effort in 1907 also failed. Throughout its history, the Swamp Rabbit rarely carried passengers and was mostly used to haul lumber and later agricultural products and chemicals from Greenville to around the Marietta area.

So, hop along with your day + share this history with some bunny in Greenville who needs to know.

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