South Carolina November 16, 2022
South Carolina Just Wouldn’t Be The Same Without These 9 Charming Small Towns
Being one of the thirteen colonies that first formed the United States, South Carolina is teeming with history … and small towns that have played crucial roles in the history of our state. Now, the term “small town” is often used for towns that don’t technically fit the definition of a small town set by the U.S. Census Bureau of an incorporated area with 5,000 or fewer residents. Most of this list of small towns that define South Carolina falls within those parameters.
McClellanville is part of a greater area that was first known as the St. James-Santee Parish region, first settled as early as 1685 primarily by French Huguenots. It was the first parish organized outside of Charles Town, now known as Charleston, where the first successful South Carolina settlement ended up after moving from Albemarle Point on the Ashley River. Thomas Lynch III, one of the Declaration of Independence signers, lived in the mansion at Hampton Plantation where rice was cultivated from the colonial period through the end of the Civil War. It was also a place where planters in the area would come to enjoy cooler coastal breezes. Charming oak-lined streets are characteristic of McClellanville today. Visit
The Village Museum's Facebook page
to learn much more about McClellanville's place in South Carolina history.
McClellanville, SC 29458, USA
2. Pawley's Island
Settled in the early 1700s by families of rice planters who owned plantations on the nearby rivers, Pawley’s Island was a retreat away from the river area for “mosquito season.” It still serves as a retreat for those looking for a more carefree, laid-back pace of life. The Pawley’s Island Chapel was built in 1947, has served different purposes through the years, has survived hurricanes, and has been remodeled, leveled, and rebuilt.
3. Sullivan's Island
Captain Florence O'Sullivan, a former Irish soldier and one of South Carolina’s first colonists, was stationed as a lookout on Sullivan’s Island in the 17th Century, which was just the beginning of the island's importance for the military. A quarantine station was built in 1707 and served as the primary line of defense against infectious disease via newly arriving immigrants in Charleston, primarily African slaves. The island also became the site of a major Revolutionary War battle, The Battle of Sullivan's Island, and was involved in the first shots of the American Civil War.
Sullivan's Island, SC, USA
In 1740 after Cheraw Indians abandoned the area, Cheraw was established as a trading village. Its location at the head of navigation on the Great Pee Dee River made it an important point of trade. It also served an important purpose during the Revolutionary War, used by the British as a strategic line of defense. It played a role in South Carolina’s secession and then was a haven for refugees during the Civil War. The Old St. David’s Church was built in 1774 and was used as a British hospital during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Many soldiers are buried in the cemetery surrounding the church. As of the 2020 census, Cheraw had just surpassed the 5,000-person small-town maximum population mark.
5. Rockville - Wadmalaw Island
Rockville was established in 1784, although initial settlements were much sooner, and is located on the southern end of Wadmalaw Island. This area was a summer escape for Southern planters and has become important to the tea industry and southern sweet tea tradition, with 127 acres devoted to growing tea plants for American Classic Tea. In addition, the first sailing regatta was held by planters in 1890 in Rockville, a tradition that has lived on ever since. It is the oldest continually held regatta in North America, having celebrated its 130th year in 2020. Hosted by the Sea Island Yacht Club the first weekend in August each year, it is a private event.
Established in 1785 by settlers interested in its agricultural potential, Chesterfield was where the first secession meeting in South Carolina was held in 1860 at the courthouse, leading up to the Civil War. Sadly, the area paid dearly for this when General William T. Sherman occupied the town and burned its public buildings, including the courthouse. The building pictured in the center is the structure that replaced it. That prior building had been designed by the architect who drew the plans for the Washington Monument. Today, it houses the Visitor's Center, the Chamber of Commerce, a gift shop, a museum, an art gallery, the Genealogical Society, First Steps, and a conference room. Although Chesterfield is one of the poorest regions in the country, its community remains rich in historic resources, which it works to preserve and help revitalize the downtown area.
Chesterfield, SC 29709, USA
Edgefield’s location gave it a unique place in South Carolina’s history, as a part of the Great Wagon Road that brought settlers through from the North, while the Federal Road took travelers into the West. The town is also known as “The Home of Ten Governors,” with nine governors in the 1800s having ties to Edgefield and J. Strom Thurmond from 1947-1951. One of those governors served two terms, hence, "ten governors." If you want to raise a leader, perhaps consider living in Edgefield!
Settlers came to the area in 1833 due to an abundant supply of drinking water and transportation. Being one day’s journey by train between Charles Town and Hamburg, Blackville became the overnight stop for the railway, which gave the town a train depot. When the depot was no longer needed for transportation purposes, it was moved and restored to serve as
the community library, so beautiful it looks like it's straight out of a book lover's dream
. The area thrived as a marketing and transportation hub until the Civil War when, much like Chesterfield, a lot of the town was burned down by General Sherman. Many of the former slaves remained in the area after the war and began a system of farming known as "sharecropping." The agricultural industry flourished and Blackville was at one time called the "cucumber capital of the world." In recent years, Mennonite settlers moved from western states and have contributed to the community with crafts, delicious food, and from their strong faith.
William Burkhalter Dorn came to the area in 1857 searching for gold. The settlement was known as “Dorn Gold Mines” but eventually became present-day McCormick. As a secessionist, Dorn outfitted an entire Confederate Army Unit and volunteered many of his slaves to work on coastal fortifications. It’s said he did this at his own expense, leaving him with few funds after the war. A Chicago financier invested in the Dorn Mines in 1867 and bought them in 1871. He then purchased railroad stock, the Savannah Valley Railroad, and the railroad terminal site in McCormick. This brought prosperity to McCormick with increased commerce and an outlet for farmers to export cotton and poultry. The gold mines became unprofitable in 1883, but the town holds an annual festival, the McCormick Gold Rush Festival to celebrate this part of the town’s history. You can also pan for gold at its Heritage Gold Mine Park.
With roughly three-fourths of the state comprised of small towns, this is certainly not an exhaustive list of all of our significant charming small towns. Are there any that you feel should have been included? Please share with us in the comments and be sure to mention why our state wouldn’t be the same without it! Address: Cheraw, SC 29520, USA Address: Chesterfield, SC 29709, USA Address: Edgefield, SC 29824, USA Address: McClellanville, SC 29458, USA Address: McCormick, SC 29835, USA Address: Pawleys Island, SC, USA Address: Sullivan's Island, SC, USA Address: Rockville, SC 29487, USA
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