Marlboro County, South Carolina

Year Established

County Seat

Significance of County Name

Population (2020)



John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough


Legislative Act Creating County

First Settled / By

County Evolution by Decade

Official County Website

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1737 / Welsh Baptists

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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 Marlboro County

Maps of Marlboro County

Books About Marlboro County

Genealogy Sources

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A History of Marlboro County

Marlboro County Court House - 1884

The county of Marlboro was established on March 2, 1785 and in 1800, it was called Marlboro District. It was named for John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, whose Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England, was a gift to him from Queen Anne. Marlboro District was carved from the over-arching Cheraw District. In 1868, Marlboro, Chesterfield, and Darlington districts (and all other districts) became counties.

When Marlboro District was created, legislation required that each district select a site and erect a court house and jail. The site chosen for Marlboro's first court house was on the banks of the Great Pee Dee River near Gardner's Bluff. A few years later, it was moved a short distance inland and near the north bank of Crooked Creek where it crossed the old River Road. The county's first town was named Winnfieldville, then Carlisle. Its presence is no longer noticeable except for a granite marker denoting the location of the first court house as being at that location.

As the county's population grew away from the river, settlers requested that a more central location for the court house and jail be secured. In December of 1819, the SC General Assembly authorized the removal of the court house from the river to a more-central location along the old stagecoach road. This was on a high bluff above Crooked Creek. That location was the beginning of our current county seat, Bennettsville.

During the mid-nineteenth century, communities throughout the county began around churches, principal roads, and at the county's most famous mineral springs, Blenheim. Planters and farmers continued to find Marlboro District's loamy soils excellent for farming.

As the American Civil War was waning, Marlboro County was host to every unit of General William Tecumseh Sherman's Union Army when it left Cheraw, crossed the Great Pee Dee River, and traveled through this county in route to its final engagement in North Carolina.

Bennettsville was captured on March 6, 1865, by Major General Frank P. Blair, commanding general of the Union Army's 17th Corps. While here, General Blair used the historic Jennings-Brown House as his headquarters. Today, this home is part of the Marlboro County Historical Museum complex.

Although some frame buildings, warehouses, and a few downtown structures were burned, Marlboro County's court house was spared, giving this county one of the state's oldest complete set of county records.

D.D. McColl brought the first railroad to the county during the 1870s, the first bank during the 1880s, and cotton mills to McColl and Bennettsville during the 1890s and early years of the twentieth century. The arrival of the railroad did a great deal to lead development of the county as it made it possible to transport Marlboro-grown cotton to markets and mills far from her borders.

During this time, McColl, Clio, Tatum, Blenheim, and Bennettsville grew with mercantile stores, doctors' offices, and grocery stores. Postal service improved drastically and schools were built all across the county.

During the first quarter of the twentieth century, more growth occurred as the national and state economies blossomed. Marlboro sent her sons to fight in both World War I and World War II. As World War II loomed, a primary flight training base, Palmer Field, was built and opened just west of Bennettsville. Cadets from across the nation came and obtained their primary flight training here.

In later years the base was converted into the home of Powell Manufacturing Co., Inc., an internationally-known leader in manufacturing of farming equipment, tobacco harvesting, and bulk curing equipment. Powell remained in operation until 2002.

Adjacent to Powell, in 1989, the state built a minimum-maximum security prison, Evans Correctional Institution, home of 1,200 inmates. The institution was named for U.S. Senator Josiah J. Evans of Society Hill, who was born in Marlboro County.

During the 1940s, 1950s, and the 1960s, Marlboro County attracted numerous industries giving employment to farm workers being idled by mechanized and scientific farming methods.

During the 1950s, Crooked Creek was dammed on the northern edges of Bennettsville to form Lake Paul A. Wallace. This lake is divided into three parts: a swimming and boating side with a one-mile skiing channel; grassy sunning terraces; and white sandy beaches for swimming. Across a diversion dike is the larger fishing and sailing portion which is stocked with fish and fertilized and managed by SC Wildlife Department.

It is said to be the world's largest man-made controlled fishing lake. The third portion of the lake lies north of Beauty Spot Road and is the reservoir for the city of Bennettsville's water system as well as a waterfowl refuge with Canada Geese, ducks, coots, mergansers, and herons in residence. A three-mile walking trail is located around the eastern shore and across the diversion dike of the lake.

Marlboro County currently operates under a Council/Administrator form of government divided into eight separate districts. Each district is represented by a council member elected by the citizens of that district. The Chairman and Vice-Chairman are elected each January by the council members from the eight districts. The Chairman has full voting rights. Regular council meetings are held the second Thursday of each month.

Marlboro County was named for John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722), one of the greatest commanders in British military history. He was a great strategist and a shrewd diplomat who led English and allied armies in important victories over the French, most notably at Blenheim (1704), Ramillies (1706), and Oudenaarde (1708). He played a key role in thwarting the designs of Louis XIV. One of his descendents, Winston Churchill, also played a prominent role in European history in the twentieth century.

The county name was originally spelled Marlborough, but it was later shortened. The county was created in 1785 as a part of Cheraws District, and the county seat is Bennettsville. Welsh Baptists from Delaware settled in an area of the county known as Welsh Neck around 1737, and they were later joined by English and Scots-Irish settlers. Cotton growing made this a wealthy part of the state prior to the American Civil War. The town of Blenheim was also known for its mineral springs. General William Tecumseh Sherman's troops passed through the county in 1865, briefly occupying the town of Bennettsville. Some famous Marlboro County natives are United States Congressman and diplomat Robert Blair Campbell (1791-1862), United States and Confederate Congressman John McQueen (1804-1867), and children's advocate Marian Wright Edelman.

Captain Zachariah Jordan Drake, in 1889, in Marlboro County, produced 255 bushels of shelled corn, 239 bushels crib cured, on an acre, winning the prize offered by the American Agriculturist. That was and is the world's record, but Marlboro's great fame is as a cotton county, one of the two or three highest acreage production in the United States.

Forty odd years ago when people began to talk about "intensive farming," Marlboro County planters translated the phrase into practice, they adopted high fertilization as their method, and they were years ahead, perhaps a decade or two, of cotton farmers elsewhere. "The economic surveys of the Department of Agriculture show that in normal times in any well-established farming area where fertilizers are used the farmers who use the most fertilizers are the ones who on the average are making the highest profits," wrote A. G. Smith in the World's Work three years ago, and he uses Marlboro, where are the "highest yields of cotton, the highest priced lands and as prosperous farmers as any part of the whole Cotton Belt," as evidence of the truth of his statement.

Named for the English Duke of Marlborough, the county, organized in 1785, is bounded on the west by the Pee Dee River and borders North Carolina, Dillon, Darlington, and Chesterfields counties in South Carolina, lying between North Carolina and the sea. Of its soils, 26 per cent are the Norfolk type, 16 Marlboro, 7 Congaree first bottom, and 4 Coxville. Its growing days are 220. The area is 519 square miles and the population, 1920, was 33,180, estimated, 1925, at 35,309. The county has one hundred miles of railroad and five accredited high schools. Firstrate topsoil roads of the state and county systems connect all parts, and along the western border paralleling the Pee Dee River runs the Jefferson Davis highway, principal route from Washington to Florida, crossing the river by a steel bridge into the town of Cheraw in Chesterfield County.

Marlboro County is in every way progressive. It has always been a distinguished county of strong men of individual qualities of leadership.

Since nearly two hundred years ago, the region was settled by sturdy Welsh Baptists and reinforced a little later by numbers of hardy, keen-wined Scots, it has constantly given notable men to the political and industrial history of South Carolina. Its records are rich in curious stories and romantic traditions, as those of "Mason Lee's Will," "Baron Poellnitz," and the "Bodiford Murder Trial," of which Duncan D. McColl has written in "Sketches of Old Marlboro."

When the General Assembly in 1892 enacted the dispensary law, by which the state operated the intoxicating liquor traffic for fourteen years, Marlboro County, which was already "dry," by a special act, was the one county (at the instance of its senator, the late W. D. Evans) excepted. Marlboro, therefore, is the historic prohibition county of South Carolina, no intoxicating liquors having been legally sold within its limits except in the days of negro scalawag government. In that period, one negro mysteriously disappeared, and that was the nearest approach to a lynching in the county's history.

Marlboro County's first court house was placed about 1785 near the Pee Dee River in a village called Carlisle, long ago deserted.

Nearly half a century later, the courthouse was moved to Bennettsville, now the county seat, a flourishing little city of 3,197 inhabitants in 1920. Other towns are McColl, 2,129; Clio, 1,009; Blenheim, 234; and, Tatum, 176.

The seven cotton mills in the county, one in Bennettsville and six in McColl, are all owned by the Marlboro Cotton mills. They have 46,000 spindles, and a mercerizing plant is included in the group. Two important lumber plants are operated in Bennettsville. Both Bennettsville and McColl have lately paved their principal streets and the two towns have seen an unusual amount of residence construction in recent years.

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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