Marion County, South Carolina
         
   

   

Year Established

County Seat

Population (2010)

1798

Marion

33,062
 

First Settled

First Settled By

Significance of County Name

1735

Welsh Baptists

Francis Marion - Swamp Fox
 

Other Significant Towns:

Mullins

Nichols

Zion

Pee Dee

Britton Neck

Sellers

Gresham

Blue Brick

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

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

A History of Marion County


Marion County Museum - Old Academy Building

Originally part of Craven County, one of the first three counties designated in the Carolinas in 1664, this area was so thinly settled as to be of little importance to the new Colony until the early 1700s. The population increased by the settlement of French Huguenots along the Santee River in the early 1700s and Craven County was allowed two representatives in the General Assembly.

The Circuit, or District, Act of 1768 divided South Carolina into seven jurisdictional districts: Charleston, Beaufort, Orangeburg, Georgetown, Camden, Cheraws, and Ninety-Six; with present-day Marion County part of Georgetown District. In 1785, these seven districts were further divided into counties. Georgetown District was divided into four counties: Winyah, Williamsburg, Kingstree, and Liberty. The name of Liberty County was changed in 1798 to Marion District (county).


Marion County, or Marion District, as it was then called, embraced at that time all of its present boundaries, and, in addition, a part of what is now Florence County, on the west side of the Great Pee Dee River, this being relinquished by Marion County in 1898 when Florence County was formed. Marion County also contained all of present-day Dillon County, which seceded from Marion County in 1910.

The first known settler in the area was John Godbold, an Englishman, who landed at Georgetown in 1735, and came prospecting through the wilderness until he found a spot that suited his fancy, about a half-mile south of the present county seat, the town of Marion. The trail that he followed from Georgetown became the road which was used by the first colonists, and is now part of the State Highway.

Soon after John Godbold's arrival, a colony of Englishmen arrived and settled within twenty miles of his cabin. With names such as Britton, Davis, Giles, Fladger, Richardson, and others, this group founded a settlement they called Britton's Neck, and built a brick church there, one they named All Saints. Also in 1735, another group of Englishmen, including such names as Gibson, Murfee, Crawford, and Saunders, settled close by and built a second church, Prince Frederick's Church, and named their settlement Sandy Bluff. Malaria, or something more sinister, must have hit Sandy Bluff because it was soon abandoned and no trace of it remains.

In 1736, Nathaniel Evans and his wife, both who belonged to the Welsh Neck colony in Cheraws District, which had come down from Pennsylvania, took up up land on both sides of Catfish Creek, locating their home six miles north of present-day Marion. Evans' land grants date from 1746 to 1772, and include an aggregate of 1,100 acres of fertile farm lands.

During the Revolutionary War, this area was so sparsely populated that there was no military unit assembled, though there were many soldiers in both the Continental Army and in partisan bands, the most famous, of course, was General Francis Marion (where the county name came from), also called the Swamp Fox. This area suffered far more from Tory hordes than from the British regular army. The battle of Bowling Green and the battle of Blue Savannah were fought by General Marion and his men against these Tories.

In 1800, Marion County was created and the commissioners selected present-day Marion as their county seat, building it from ground up on land provided by Thomas Godbold, grandson of John Godbold. The first frame courthouse was erected in 1800 and used continuously until 1823, when it was replaced by a brick structure. This second courthouse soon proved to be too small, and the current courthouse was completed in 1854.

In the War of Northern Aggression, Marion County rallied to the support of the Stars and Bars. Nathan George Evans, a graduate of West Point and from Marion County, was appointed Brigadier General by President Jefferson Davis, and he won distinction on many battle fields.

Agriculture has always been the mainstay of Marion County. In the late 1800s, tobacco overtook cotton as "king," and the city of Mullins attracted many warehouses where the crop is brought to market and sold.


Marion County and its county seat, the town of Marion, were named for Revolutionary War general Francis Marion (1732-1795), known as the "Swamp Fox." In 1785, Liberty County was created as a part of Georgetown District; renamed Marion, it became a separate district in 1800. Parts of Marion later went to form Florence (1888) and Dillon (1910) counties. English settlers moved up the Great Pee Dee River into this area in the eighteenth century. During the Revolutionary War General Marion's men fought several skirmishes with the British here before retreating to their camp at Snows Island. In the twentieth century, Marion County became a major tobacco growing region. Writers Virginia Durant Young (1842-1906) and Gwen Bristow (1903-1980) were natives of Marion County.
In 1785 Georgetown District was divided into the counties of Winyah, Kingston, Williamsburg, and Liberty:

Winyah became Georgetown County
Kingston became Horry County
Williamsburg became Williamsburg County
Liberty County became Marion County.

Prior to 1785, all records were filed in Charleston and copies are generally available at the South Carolina Archives in Columbia (SCDAH). Between 1785 and 1800, however, records for Marion County were filed in Georgetown, and there is a gap in the records for this period as the Georgetown Courthouse was burned.

In 1798, when courthouse districts were created in South Carolina, the name "Marion District" was first used, honoring General Francis Marion of Revolutionary War fame. Marion County was created in 1798 from Georgetown District, one of the original districts created in 1769.

In 1888, Florence County was carved out of part of Marion County.

In 1910, Dillon County was carved from Marion County.

Researchers should be aware that there have been two Marion Counties in South Carolina:

Marion County (Georgetown District) was formed as Liberty County in 1785 but did not function. It was revitalized as Marion District in 1798. Many deeds from the colonial period are recorded in the deed books of this county after 1800. This area was partly in the former parishes of Prince Frederick and Prince George. An unusual series of tax lists 1808-1835 survives for this county.

Marion County (Charleston District) was one of the counties which never functioned. It was formed in 1785 in Charleston District, and corresponded roughly to St. John's Berkeley Parish. Any records pertaining to this area will be in the Charleston County records.


The area was first settled by the Pedee, Cheraw, and Waccamaw Indians. Native Americans were attracted to the many resources provided by the nearby Little Pee Dee and Great Pee Dee Rivers. English settlers followed, migrating inland from the South Carolina coast, and by the late 1700s, the communities that eventually became Marion, Mullins, Nichols, and Sellers began to prosper.

In 1798, the county was named Marion in honor of General Francis Marion, the notorious "Swamp Fox" of the Revolutionary War. Today, a statue honoring this hero of guerilla warfare stands in the city of Marion's square, one of many reminders that an exciting history remains vital to life in Marion County.

The county courthouse, built in 1853, and still in use today, is situated across the square from the statue of Francis Marion. The Old Opera House, located nearby, was built in 1892. Today, it houses a 300-seat auditorium used by the Mullins Playmakers theater group, various community and civic organizations, and the Marion Chamber of Commerce.

The Marion Academy Building, built in 1886, is home to the Marion County Museum and site of the original Harvest of the Arts Festival celebrating the area's quality of life. The Marion Foxtrot Festival pays tribute to the city's heritage with concerts, an arts and crafts fair, storytellers, tours of historic buildings, and more.

In Mullins, the old Train Depot serves as headquarters for the Greater Mullins Chamber of commerce and the annual award-winning Golden Leaf Festival. This two-day celebration of the area's past, present, and future features entertainment, crafts, tennis and golf toumaments, a beauty pageant, and a 10-K run.


Organized in 1798 from a part of old Craven county, Marion County is named for General Francis Marion of Revolutionary fame who in impenetrable river swamps so successfully eluded the British that they nicknamed him the Swamp Fox. This historic sobriquet clings to Marion. Situated in the coastal plain, with 529 square miles area, Marion County's population was, in 1920, 23,721, and estimated in 1925 at 25,921. The Great Pee Dee River forms the west and south boundary lines; Little Pee Dee and Lumber rivers are its eastern limit, while Dillon county, cut from Marion, bounds it on the north.

Particularly an agricultural county, Marion County's level surface gives unusually large open fields sometimes numbering hundreds of acres; terracing is unnecessary and the use of tractors easy. These ample fields are invariably backgrounded by wooded areas which afford cheap drainage and conserve moisture as well as add definite beauty to the rural landscape.

Mild climate and evenly distributed rainfall adapt Marion to a wide range of farm products. Cotton, tobacco, and corn are its principal crops through versatility of Marion's soil, which ranges from sandy loam to clay with the former predominating, is evidenced by a woman exhibiting at the county fair 240 products and byproducts from one farm.

In yield of tobacco an acre Marion leads the state, its average being 670 pounds, and in total production of tobacco it ranks fifth.

The average growing days from late spring to killing frost are 240; this allows two crops to be raised on the same land; corn after oats, or tobacco followed by peas. Trucking could be profitable. Conditions favor raising cattle, hogs, and poultry.

Marion's annual timber cut approximates 67,000,000 board feet with a capital employment of $2,500,000 and 1,200 employees to who annual wages of $1,000,000 are paid.

Three large brick mills run successfully. Further excellent brick-clay deposits exist.

Tests have shown that the waters of the Little Pee Dee River afford excellent paper mill possibilites, the year-round water supply being suitable and ample. Small gum and pine are conveniently available for such a business.

The Atlantic Coast Line's main line and a branch of the Seaboard furnish railroad faciliites, with a total of 75 miles. An automobile coastal highway from New York to Florida traverses Marion.

Marion County possesses state farmed fishing and good hunting grounds. Nearness to the coast where duck and large game abound increases this pleasant sportsmen's pursuit.

For her best crop, her future citizens, Marion efficiently cares both physically and educationally. A county health unit composed of a doctor and two nurses has promoted better health among children, while excellent schools, including seven accredited high schools, offer every child its inherent right to an education.

Marion, the county seat, a lovely old town of paved streets, numbered 3,892 inhabitants in 1920. Three large lumber mills outside the corporate limits would swell that total. Marion's grass-carpeted, tree-shaded public square has the beauty and dignity of some university campus. Strong churches, sound banks, a cotton mill, an oil mill, schools of which she is justly proud, the first tax-supported public library in the state, are among Marion's assets.

Mullins, the second town in size, has 2,379 people, an up-to-date hospital and in 1925 ranked first among tobacco markets in South Carolina, selling nearly 16,000,000 pounds. There are several smaller towns.

Good land may be had at reasonable prices on easy terms. Both Marion and Mullins chambers of commerce will gladly assist prospective buyers.


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. 

 


© 2013 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved