Cheraws District, South Carolina


Years in Existence

1st District Seat

2nd District Seat

1768 - 1800

Long Bluff


Significant Towns Established 1768 - 1800 





Click Here - To see how the Cheraws District evolved 1768 to 1800 - includes all the known towns and villages.

A History of the Cheraws District

In 1768, South Carolina eliminated all of the original counties and established seven new "Districts," with governmental seats in each district. From 1768 to 1785, these districts remained intact, however, the district seats did change some during that time-frame. After the American Revolution in 1785, South Carolina re-established the concept of counties and thirty-four (34) "new" counties were defined and established. Each of these new counties were "subsets" of, and subordinate to, the "overarching Districts" that had been in existence since 1768. Some of the newly-defined counties were abolished between 1785 and 1800, whereas other newly-defined counties were created during that period.

In 1785, three newly-defined "counties" were created wholly within the existing Cheraws District - Chesterfield, Darlington, and Marlboro - but, the overarching Cheraws District remained intact. At this time, the District Seat was relocated from the town of Cheraw to Long Bluff.

In 1800, South Carolina abolished all "overarching Districts" and essentially went with the county concept from that year forward. However, in 1800, all counties were now called "districts" and would continue being called districts until after the US Civil War. In 1868, South Carolina reverted back to the term "county" and this term has been used continuously since then.

The boundaries of the original Cheraws District remained the same from inception in 1768 until 1792, when the newly-defined Salem County was established and now included within the Cheraws District - those lands had previously been considered part of Camden District.

The first United States Census was taken in 1790 and each of the original seven Districts were enumerated within that census. By the 1800 US Census, all of the original seven Districts had been abolished and new counties (called districts at that time) were enumerated separately in that census.

Around 1700: The Cheraw Indians come to Cheraw. The tribe had come earlier to the Carolinas after being driven out of Virginia by the Iroquois. Their main village was on the present site of the town. The Cheraws were of Sioux extraction, and were an agricultural people. They were more powerful and warlike than the nearby Pee Dee Indians.

1730s: The first settlers come to the Cheraw area. The Welsh Baptist land grant in 1737 has the effect of forcing settlers already in the region to move further up the river. The earliest of these include English settlers, the Ellerbes and Youngs. The first slaves come with some of the settlers.

1730s: Almost all of the Cheraw Indians have left the region and joined forces with the Catawbas. A smallpox epidemic in 1738 decimates these tribes. Some of the Cheraws will remain with the Catawbas, others will go to live in the Lumbee River region of North Carolina.

1740s: Thomas Ellerbe opens a water mill near Cheraw. In 1743, James Gillespie moves further up river to Cheraw, and engages in shipping and planting.

1750s: Gillespie and famed patriot Christopher Gadsden conduct a shipping business on the Pee Dee River between Cheraw and Charles Town. Gadsden has a store near the present-day Country Club.

1760s: A Planters Society is formed. A French Huguenot, Claudius Pegues, comes to the area and settles on the east side of the river near the North Carolina line. Eli and Joseph Kershaw conduct a mercantile business under the name of Eli Kershaw and Company. The Kershaws lay out the original town. Eli Kershaw also owns at least one house (it is painted yellow) in Cheraw and a plantation. Their boundary markers will still be in place in the year 2000.

1760s: Increasing violence from lawless gangs of "robbers and banditti" leads to great frustration. There are no means to bring criminals to justice short of Charles Town. Prominent men, who come to be known as Regulators, take the law into their own hands.

1768: St. David' Parish is established. The Anglican Church is the state church in South Carolina, and the establishment of a parish gives the citizens the right to vote near home, to tax for the poor and sick, bind out orphans, and oversee the roads. A church building is to be erected in Cheraw, probably because it is something of an Anglican stronghold.

1768: The Circuit Court Act establishes the Cheraws Judicial District. There is a great fight over whether the courthouse will be erected at Cheraw Hill or at Long Bluff (now Society Hill). The commissioners state that "Cheraw Hill is at present, and has been for many years past the most public and the greatest place of trade upon Pedee River." The term "Cheraw Hill" distinguishes the town from the district.

1772: St. David's Church is almost complete and is in use - the last Anglican Church built by the English in South Carolina.

1774: The Kershaws were angered when the courthouse was erected at Long Bluff. They put some of their holdings up for auction. Tensions continue to increase between the backcountry, the coastal establishment, and the British Crown.

1775: The name Chatham appears for the first time in the Vestry Records of St. David's Church. Cheraw, Cheraw Hill, and Chatham will be used interchangeably until 1820. The term was to honor William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham, who was the great English defender of American liberties.

May 1776: The Cheraws Grand Jury writes a declaration of independence from England.

July 4, 1776: The American Declaration of Independence is signed in Philadelphia. War becomes inevitable.

1776-1779: Charles Town falls to the British. Many in this area just wish to be left alone, and the war is slow in coming to the region. A number of men are enlisted with the Whigs, especially Francis Marion's brigade, but a number are Tories. Much of the war is now being fought in the north. The British establish a line of garrisons at Cheraw, Camden, Ninety Six, and Augusta.

1780: The war comes to Cheraw with a vengeance. It is a true civil war, sometimes brother against brother. British Major James Wemyss come to Cheraw in May and September, burning and plundering. Major Archibald McArthur and the 71st Regiment use St. David's Church as quarters and a hospital during the summer. They build barracks near the church. A number of soldiers become ill with a fever (probably malaria). Three officers are buried in the churchyard. The enlisted men are buried in a common grave. General Gates passed nearby on his way to Camden.

Fall 1780: General Harrington moves in with his Continental Army troops. SC Governor John Rutledge moves the government to Cheraw. He will be in and out of Cheraw for the next six months.

Jan. 1781: General Nathanael Greene makes a camp of repose just across the river. General Green is now in charge of the Continental Army Troops in the south. This hard winter camp is the southern "Valley Forge." He receives news of the great victory at Cowpens with much rejoicing. His army will now move toward Guilford Court House, and the Patriots will soon have a great victory at Yorktown in Virginia.

1783: The Treaty of Paris finally officially ends the Revolutionary War. Freedom has come with great price to Cheraw. A number of men are dead or maimed, houses have been burned, crops and live stock have been destroyed. There is no longer a British bounty on indigo, which had been the main money crop in the Cheraws. The economy stagnates for a decade.

1785: The Anglican church is disestablished. St. David's Parish is divided into Chesterfield, Darlington, and Marlboro Counties.


© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved