Three Swiss German families settled in the area on large land grants from King George II of England in 1735. since the head of each family was named "John," the settlement became known as "John Town."
The Battle of Dean's Bridge (Revolutionary War) took place here in 1787. Seventeen Tories were buried in an unmarked grave. Settlers were very successful in the lumber industry after the ware and built spacious mansions. Tragedy struck during the Civil War as Sherman's troops burned many homes. Several churches were organized: (1802) Dean Swamp, (1812) Rocky Grove, (1876) Sardis and (1888) Salley Baptist. Dempsey Salley was a member of the South Carolina Legislature and was responsible for bring the railroad through town. He also is credited with the incorporation of the town. The settlement of "John Town" became "Sally" on December 19, 1887. The spelling changed to "Salley" in 1935.