General Waddy Thompson was born in Pickensville, Ninety-Six District, South Carolina—near Easley in present Pickens County—but he grew up in Greenville. He graduated from South Carolina College in 1814 when he was 16 and was admitted to the bar in 1819, beginning his practice in Edgefield, South Carolina. He married Emmala Butler, the daughter of one of the state’s richest plantation owners. About 1824, the couple moved to Greenville, where Thompson became involved in politics.
He served as member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1826 to 1829. In 1842, President John Tyler appointed Thompson as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Mexico, where he served from 1842 to 1844. He became friendly with Mexican president Antonio López de Santa Anna and succeeded in having 300 Texan prisoners freed. He eventually returned to Greenville and managed plantations in Edgefield and Madison, Florida. After his wife died in 1848, he married Cornelia Jones of Wilmington, North Carolina, and moved to Paris Mountain, where he owned 1,000 acres. By the time of the Civil War, Thompson had become a Unionist, but the war nevertheless ruined him. In 1866, he sold his Paris Mountain property and moved to his Florida plantation. The Florida legislature appointed him solicitor general of a circuit in 1868, but he died that same year while in Tallahassee, and was buried in the churchyard of St. John’s Episcopal Church there.
Mill magnate and visionary, Captain Ellison Adger Smyth began the Poinsett Club in Waddy Thompson’s former home on North Main Street as a men’s club in 1913. It was called the Poinsett Club from the beginning. When the Depression hit, the members closed the club in 1929. In 1933, some of the same members decided to start it up again and rented another home on Main Street. That didn’t work out, so in 1935 they leased Lewis Parker’s old home from Fred Symmes, which is where the Poinsett Club stands today.
Photograph courtesy of the Greenville County Historical Society