Chesterfield County, South Carolina

Year Established

County Seat

Significance of County Name

Population (2020)



Chesterfield County, VA
(See History Below)


Legislative Act Creating County

First Settled / By

County Evolution by Decade

Official County Website


1737 / Welsh Baptists

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Historical Post Offices

American Revolution

American Civil War

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Coming Later

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Airports in Chesterfield County

Maps of Chesterfield County

Books on Chesterfield County

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A History of Chesterfield County

John Craig House - Used by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman as his HQ

Chesterfield County was named after Chesterfield County in Virginia, which was named for the English statesman Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773). The county seat is the town of Chesterfield, but the oldest town in the county is Cheraw, which was settled around 1748. The county was formed in 1785, but until 1800 it was part of the larger Cheraws District. Welsh settlers from Pennsylvania and Delaware moved into this region in the mid-eighteenth century, and they were later joined by Scots-Irish and English. Cheraw was a center for transportation along the Great Pee Dee River, but most of the county is agricultural. Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's troops passed through this area during the American Civil War, briefly occupying the towns of Cheraw and Chesterfield. Cheraw State Park, founded in 1934, is the oldest of the state parks. Jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993) was a native of Chesterfield County.
Chesterfield County was formed by the County Court Act of 1785, when Cheraws District was divided into Chesterfield, Darlington, and Marlboro counties. Many textbooks will tell you that Chesterfield County was named after Lord Chesterfield, Philip Dormer Stanhope, a close friend of King George III; however, local tradition states that the Craig family, who originally inhabited the county seat, was influential in naming the county after the county from which they came, Chesterfield County, Virginia. Population grew slowly with Welsh, French Huguenots, Scots-Irish, Germans, and English moving in mostly from the other colonial areas.

On November 19, 1860, Chesterfield County held the first secession meeting in South Carolina. The ensuing war took its toll upon the state and the county. It is commonly known "that Sherman expected to exact vengence from the original secessionists, who, he said, bore a major share of the blame for the war." This he did, and on March 2, 1865, entered Chesterfield County with a vengence.

In Chesterfield, the county seat, the court house, jail, academy, and other buildings, were burned to the ground. In Cheraw, the business portion, except for one house, was also burned down. Cotton, crops, food, and livestock were either stolen or destroyed. In a letter during Reconstruction, Thomas Powe of Cheraw to Governor James Lawrence Orr, Powe brought that "every house in Chesterfield District, with the exception of two cabins, were visited by Sherman's soldiers and the bare mention of this fact speaks volumes."

Chesterfield County, a name transplanted from Pennsylvania and the old country, was organized in 1785 and was settled principally by Welsh, English, and Scots, has an area of 837 square miles and had in 1920, 31,969 inhabitants, estimated at 35,180 in 1925.

North Carolina, whence came ancestors of many of its people, is on the northern border; the Great Pee Dee River, its bottoms producing grain and its swamps rich in gum, oak, hickory, poplar, walnut, and ash, is its eastern boundary, and Lynches River and Cedar Creek, with rich alluvial lands, bound it on the east and south. The central part of the county is a large tract of typical sandhill land now coming into its own as the great South Carolina fruit, melon, and berry section.

The county is 35 miles across, the towns are situated around the border, and 150 miles of state sand-clay roads connect them. In the central section is a considerable area of only partly-developed land naturally adapted to cotton, fruit, grapes, and melons. This land can be bought at low prices.

In 1925, Chesterfield produced more than 30,000 bales of cotton. Here the boll weevil has never been as destructive as in the counties to the south, and thus far the cotton crop has never been a failure. The fruit, berry, and melon crop rank second. Chesterfield is the leading peach county of South Carolina, and close to Cheraw are the finest peach orchards in the two Carolinas. In the county are 2,000 acres bearing peaches, and the shipments for 1926 are estimated at 200 carloads. One hundred acres are in dewberries and grapes, which are being shipped all over the eastern part of the United States. Three thousand acres are in watermelons, and this crop is increasing rapidly and profitably. Seven carloads of chickens were shipped from the county last year.

Four railroad lines with 116 miles of trackage traverse every part of the county, situated twelve hours from Washington. The county has eight accredited high schools.

Of the seven thriving towns, the lively old town of Cheraw, which one time during the Revolution was the Capital of the State, is rich in historical interest. Here the British troops were stationed and in the old cemetery are buried soldiers of every war that the United States has taken part in. Down the streets of Cheraw, General Sherman fought the retiring Confederates, and Cheraw sent a company of the Thirtieth Division to help break the Hindenburg line [in WW-I].

Cheraw had 3,150 inhabitants in 1920, has 3,500 now, four large school buildings, ten churches, three cotton mills, an oil mill, an ice factory, and the largest veneer plant in South Carolina. The town owns its water-works, has available electric power in unlimited quantities, and has one of the smallest debts and lightest tax rates of any of the towns in the state. Near the town are two successful brick and tile plants and valuable kaolin deposits are close.

Chesterfield, the county seat, is in the northeast central part of the county, is on the Cheraw and Lancaster railroad, of which Cheraw and Pageland are the termini, and is a flourishing town of 856 inhabitants. Other towns with their populations are: Jefferson, 454; McBee, 417; Mount Croghan, 232 ; Pageland, 521 ; Patrick, 164 ; and Ruby, 290.

Chesterfield County has 535,680 acres of land, a million opportunities, and a warm welcome for newcomers. 

Immediately above, published in "South Carolina: A Handbook," prepared by The Department of Agriculture, Commerce, and Industries and Clemson College, Columbia, South Carolina, 1927. In the Public Domain. [with minor edits]


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