Williamsburg County, South Carolina
         
   

   

Years in Existence

County Seat

Population (2010)

1785-1798, 1804 to Present

Kingstree

34,423
 

First Settled

First Settled By

Significance of County Name

1732

Scots-Irish, French Huguenots

Prince William, Son of King George II
 

Other Significant Towns:

Hemingway

Stuckey

Lane

Rhems

Cades

Warsaw

Salters

Greeleyville

Click Here - To see how Williamsburg County evolved each decade - includes all the known towns and villages.

Click Here - To see the known battles/skirmishes in Williamsburg County during the US Revolution.

A History of Williamsburg County


Williamsburg County Courthouse - Kingstree, South Carolina


Williamsburg County was probably named for King William III of England (1650-1702). Scots-Irish and French Huguenot settlers began moving into this part of the lowcountry around 1732, and in 1736, Williamsburg Township was laid out on the Black River in the vicinity of the settlement of present-day Kingstree. This area was part of Prince Frederick Parish, which in turn was part of Georgetown District. In 1804, Williamsburg became a separate district (county), with the seat at Kingstree.

A small part of Williamsburg later went to form Florence County in 1888. During the Revolutionary War many of General Francis Marion's men hailed from this area, including Major John James (1732-1791). The battles of Black Mingo (September 28-29, 1780), Mount Hope Swamp (March 1781), and Lower Bridge (March 1781) were all fought in Williamsburg County. In later years the county has remained primarily an agricultural region. Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Joseph L. Goldstein grew up in the town of Kingstree.


Williamsburg County, located in the southern tip of the Pee Dee River, holds treasures of historical interest dating back to the early 1700s.
In 1730, Governor Robert Johnson proposed a "Township Plan," marking the beginning of Williamsburg County. This plan was proposed to stimulate the economy of the province to provide protection for coastal settlers. The township, which was laid out on the bank of the Black River, was named Williamsburg in honor of the Protestant King, William of Orange.

Williamsburg Township's success was largely attributable to the raising and processing of indigo. From indigo, came wealth and prosperity to the area. Hemp, flax, and Holland were other fine quality products introduced in the 1730s.

A settlement, existing on Black Mingo (later referred to as Willtown), had a "Meeting House" for dissenters in what later became Williamsburg County. In 1736, the first Williamsburg Presbyterian Meeting House was built. This "Meeting House" was the mother church for a wide area embracing several states.

In 1780, after the fall of Charles Town, the nucleus of "Marion's Brigade" was formed in this area. On August 27, 1780, the "Battle of King's Tree" took place and it was at this time that Major John James turned his group over to Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox. The fighting consisted of rear-action skirmishing, but heavy losses were substained. British Major James Wemyss, under orders from Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, burned the Indiantown Presbyterian Church down.

The battles of Black Mingo (September 28-29,1780), Mount Hope Swamp (March 1781), and Lower Bridge (March 1781) were all fought in Williamsburg County.

In 1823, Robert Mills, a native of South Carolina and a nationally known architect, designed the Williamsburg County Courthouse. In 1883, a fire gutted the second story, but the massive brick barrel arches protected the public records in the first story.

Williamsburg, the first settlement, later was named King's Tree because the King reserved for his own use all white pines. In 1886, King's Tree became known as Kingstree. Kingstree became the county seat of Williamsburg County.

Years following the Revolution, Williamsburg County quickly prospered. Since then, Williamsburg County has become famous for its wildlife and hunting preserves. It has truly become a "Sportsman's Paradise."

Thorntree, the plantation home of James Witherspoon (1700-1768), was built in 1749. After the death of James Witherspoon, Thorntree became the home of Gavin Witherspoon, the son of James and Elizabeth Witherspoon. During the American Revolution, British Colonel Tarleton, with one hundred British dragoons and a large number of Tories under Colonel Elias Ball, encamped at the plantation of Gavin Witherspoon, south of the lower bridge, on Black River, early in August 1780.

As a restoration project, Williamsburg Historical Society relocated Thorntree to the city limits of Kingstree in order to provide police and fire prevention. For future generations, as well as for the present, the Historical Society desires to preserve and restore this early architectural structure.

Back in 1737, the courthouse grounds, located on Main Street in Kingstree, was designated the parade ground in the original survey of the town of Kingstree. The grounds served as the muster ground for the local militia during colonial and Revolutionary times. The Williamsburg County Courthouse, designed by Robert Mills, was built in 1823. Robert Mills, a nationally known architect, was a native of South Carolina.
In 1883, the second story of the Courthouse caught fire, but realizing that the 30-inch walls were fireproof, the building was soon repaired. The courthouse was enlarged in 1901 with an addition of a substantial fence to give a good park to the town and to keep horses and cattle out of the square.

Due to efforts of Judge Phillip H. Stoll, the courthouse was remodeled in 1954. The courthouse had been enlarged by adding a three-story wing at the back, giving the building its present T-shape.

One of the first impressions that Williamsburg County offers to people entering the area is the beauty of live oak trees. The trees, many of which line the streets of Kingstree, are an important part of the local heritage and Southern charm. While Kingstree's history is most often associated with the white pine that gave the town its name, today the emphasis is turning to the many live oak trees that are part of the town's beauty and charm.


Thorntree House

Williamsburg County is rich in history, with several locations and building noted on the state and National Register of Historic Places, including the County Courthouse, designed by Robert Mills.

Historic districts within the county include the Clarkson Farm Complex, covering 99 acres off U.S. Highway 52, 1.5 miles south of the intersection with U.S. 521 near Greeleyville. The New Market includes what is known as the McDonald-Rhodus-Lessens House located five miles south of U.S. 521 on U.S. 52.

The Kingstree Historic District includes much of downtown Main Street and surrounding blocks including 48 buildings within 100 acres, with businesses and homes dating back to the early 1800s. The oldest and most popular is Thorntree House, located on S.C. 527 (Nelson Boulevard) near the new Kingstree Recreation Park. This residence built by James Witherspoon dates back to 1700-1749.

These include the Brockinton-Scott House located at 221 W. Railroad Ave is a residence that is still privately owned. The Heller, M. F., House, also known as Arrowsmith House or Old Methodist Church Parsonage is located at 405 Academy Street. The Pressley, Colonel John Gotea, House, located at 216 Academy Street, is also known as the Pressley-Hirsch-Green House; Green, Wylma M., House. The Scott House, located at 506 Live Oak Street, is also known as the Scott-Hauenstein House.

Other historic sites in the county include The Salters Plantation House, located on State Road 97 at Salters, was added to the state registry in 2000 and dates back to the early 1800s, with seven buildings on 83 acres.


Loyally in 1932, the descendants of Scots Presbyterians will celebrate the coming of their forefathers to Williamsburg County in search of religious freedom. Williamsburg, in the lower pine belt, "the gate to the Santee section" was named for Prince William, son of George II, was organized in 1804, has an area of 927 square miles and a population of 38,539, estimated in 1925 at 39,058. Kingstree (population 2,074) is the county seat and other towns with their population are: Greeleyville, 645 ; Hemingway, 371; Lane, 308; Trio, 149; Johnsonville, 271. The county has 79 miles of railroad trackage and the number of accredited high schools is five.

Williamsburg is, first of all, agricultural, but great forests of pine and hardwood make lumbering profitable. There are numerous building supply companies and plants associated with the lumber industry. Cotton is the principal crop but the county is a leader in producing tobacco. Kingstree is an important tobacco market, truck growing employs numbers of people and beans, strawberries, and green peas are among the crops that grow abundantly from the rich loamy soil.

The county is well and generally, not thickly, settled throughout it, borders by a population notably law-abiding, faithful to religion and good morals.

Winters are never severe and nearness to the Atlantic coast, from which ocean breezes blow, tempers constantly the summer heat. There are few weeks in the year when it is not comfortable to let fires go out and leave windows open.

The county is famous for its hunting and fishing. Deer, found in the forests, and duck, bobwhite, squirrels, and opossums are abundant. The redbreast and bream of Black river, ("Wee Nee," the Indians called it), are fish beloved of gourmets, and warmouth, trout, and many other varieties are abundant.

At some seasons bass fishing in Black River is a great source of profit. The region is eminently healthy, as the statistics prove, and old notions to the contrary have been completely dissipated.

Hydroelectric power is available in all parts of the county and Florence, Charleston, and Sumter are cities and markets within easy reach. The coastal highway, the paving of which is already planned, will run through Kingstree and the noble bridge spanning the Santee River has placed the county in close touch with Charleston. The bridge over Black River, near Kingstree, is shown in the picture.

The county is not fully developed. Fertile lands at low prices are abundant and there is no end to the crops they will produce.

Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and Episcopal churches are found in numerous villages and settlements.

Kingstree has a flourishing consolidated high school, and a well-equipped hospital. In Kingstree is a swimming resort attracting people from other counties and furnishing keen enjoyment for the home folks.


Immediately above, published in "South Carolina: A Handbook," prepared by The Department of Agriculture, Commerce, and Industries and Clemson College, Columbia, South Carolina, 1927. Copyright not claimed.

 


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