Kershaw County, South Carolina

Year Established

County Seat

Significance of County Name

Population (2020)



Colonel Joseph Kershaw


Legislative Act Creating County

First Settled / By

County Evolution by Decade

Official County Website

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1732 / English/Welsh

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Historical Post Offices

American Revolution

American Civil War

Significant Education Events

Alphabetical / Date Started

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Coming Later

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Airports in Kershaw County

Maps of Kershaw County

Books About Kershaw County

Genealogy Sources

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A History of Kershaw County

Kershaw County Library - Camden Archives and Museum

Kershaw County was named for Joseph Kershaw (1727-1791), an early settler. Originally part of the Camden District, Kershaw County was formed in 1791 from parts of Claremont, Lancaster, Fairfield, and Richland counties. The county seat is Camden, which is the oldest inland city in South Carolina. This site was settled around 1732 by English traders and farmers who moved inland from Charles Town. During the Revolutionary War, the British occupied Camden from June of 1780 to May of 1781. Fourteen battles took place in the area, including the battle of Camden (August 16, 1780) and the battle of Hobkirk Hill (April 25, 1781).

Kershaw County later produced six Confederate generals: Joseph Brevard Kershaw (1822-1894), James Chesnut (1815-1885), James Cantey (1818-1873), Zack Cantey Deas (1819-1882), John Bordenave Villepigue (1830-1862), and John Doby Kennedy (1840-1896). Union troops under General William Tecumseh Sherman burned parts of Camden in February of 1865.

Mary Boykin Chesnut (1823-1886), who chronicled the Civil War in her diaries, was a resident of Kershaw County. Statesman and financier Bernard M. Baruch (1870-1965), labor leader Lane Kirkland (1922-1999), and baseball player Larry Doby (1923-2003) were also born there.

Kershaw County, one of the north-central counties, formed from old Craven County, was organized in 1791 and named for Colonel Joseph Kershaw, a Revolutionary War leader and one of the founders of Camden. Its limits remained intact until 1902, when a small part on the eastern side was cut off and incorporated into the new county of Lee. It has an area of 673 square miles, or 430,720 acres. The population of 29,398 (census 1920) is 12,284 native white, 17,065 colored, 49 foreign born.

The northern part belongs to the Piedmont Plateau, red hills, red clay subsoil, with out-croppings of a superior granite, and productive of a fine texture of cotton. The middle region is in the Sand Hill or Upper Pine Belt, a part of the old Coastal Plain, well adapted to the culture of the peach and the grape, and, under improved methods, making good staple crops. Its winter climate is mild but not enervating. It is dry and health-giving. The southern part is in the river terrace or flood plain region, with level, rich alluvial soil, subject to occasional overflow in the river valleys; here the largest and best plantations are found, including the model State Farm.

There are 18 distinct soil types, the principal ones being the Congaree or First Bottom (five per cent), the Norfolk sands (47 per cent), the Georgeville (eight per cent), and the Cecil clays (11 per cent).

Cotton is the chief crop, but corn, wheat, oats, and other grains are successfully grown. The weather bureau reports that, over a period of 28 years, the number of growing days is 245. The average annual snowfall (three inches) is almost negligible.

The Wateree River on the west and Lynches River on the east, with their subsidiary streams, afford ample drainage and water power. The fall line of the Wateree, a few miles above Camden, is the site of one of the great distributing stations of the Southern Power company.

The main line to Florida of the Seaboard Air Line traverses the county, northeast to southwest; the Southern Railway crosses the center, north to south; the Atlantic Coast Line has a spur from Camden to Sumter.

The principal towns are Camden, one of the famous winter resorts of the South, population in 1920, 3,930; Kershaw, partly in Lancaster county, 1,022; Bethune, 299; Blaney, 156; Westville, 135.

There are seven accredited high schools in the county.

Camden was the most important town commercially in the upcountry before the coming of the railroad. It was a center of activities in the Revolutionary struggle, two notable battles having been fought in its environs and 14 engagements within a radius of 30 miles, six within the present confines of the county.

Kershaw County troops have fought in every American war. Six generals of the Confederacy were born in Camden: Major-General Kershaw, and Brigadiers Cantey, Chesnut, Deas, Kennedy, and Villepigue.

Of the 78 Congressional medals bestowed for conspicuous gallantry in the World War, six were awarded to South Carolinians, two of them to Kershaw county boys, Richmond Hobson Hilton and John Cantey Villepigue.

Kershaw has also given to the state, Brevard, Withers, Stephen D. Miller, McWillie, Kershaw, Chesnut, Kennedy, and others conspicuous in its civil annals.

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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