A History of Florence, South Carolina

Florence City & County Complex - Florence, SC (2008)

Seeded in a pine forest near the Pee Dee River, emerged a small village where three railroads converged. During the late1800s, families worked hard to build their homes and business into a vibrant community. As the pine trees were railed in and out of this small community, one man was busy building his career, becoming the President of the Wilmington & Manchester Railroad. By 1871, William Wallace Harllee had established himself as a prominent leader in this booming town. With such popularity, the town was named after his daughter, Florence.

Florence began as a railroad depot and an inn. The town started as a plot of 577 acres as a grant from the state. In 1859, Jerome P. Chase, a telegraph operator arrived and became a successful businessman, selling insurance and real estate and became known as the "Father of Florence." In 1860, the first map of Florence was created. Florence was a planned community with seven (7) streets and ninety-six (96) lots.

In 1888, the South Carolina General Assembly created Florence County, encompassing the towns of Timmonsville, Coward, and later Lake City (1912), with the town of Florence as its county seat. Two years later, the "City of Florence" was incorporated.

By the time the new county was created, the town of Florence was already home to three significant railroads in South Carolina. The first to arrive was the Cheraw & Darlington Railroad (C&D RR) in 1853. The Wilmington & Manchester Railroad arrived in 1854, which was leased to the Wilmington, Columbia, & Augusta Railroad (WCA RR) in 1870. In 1856, the Northeastern Railroad (NE RR) was completed to Florence. By 1898, all three railroads in Florence were acquired by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.

Being an important rail and transportation center, Florence grew into the twentieth century. In the late 1920s an airfield was created by Mayor H.K. Gilbert and it was known as Gilbert Field. World War II brought an Army Air Base to Florence's Gilbert Field and with it the growth of local industry. The Florence Army Air Corp served as a major training site during the war.


Jeffries Creek Park - Florence, South Carolina

Interest in the arts grew and led to the creation of the Florence Little Theater in 1923 and the Florence Museum in the 1930s and the Florence Symphony Orchestra in the 1940s. During the '40s, Florence was the largest rail station in South Carolina with 14 passenger trains and 48 freight trains passing through the city every day.

During the 1960s and the 1970s the construction of Interstates I-20 and I-95 in Florence further helped Florence to become a strategic transportation center and brought new growth in tourism.

The 1970s and 1980s were decades of economic growth in industrial complexes, service industries, and retail opportunities which continues. Florence is the hub of an eight-county region called the "Pee Dee." It is the center for business, health care, communications, education, retail sales, cultural opportunities, and recreation.


Established in Darlington District (county), Florence was granted a U.S. Post Office on July 27, 1853, and its first Postmaster was Mr. Samuel L. Muldron. In 1888, Florence County was created from Darlington and Marion counties, and the town of Florence was named the County Seat of the new Florence County. Its Post Office has been in continuous operation ever since inception.


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