Cheraws District Map - c.1775
For nearly sixty years after the first settlements at Charles Town, the area which is now Darlington County was a heavily-timbered pine forest land, inhabited only by a few small Indian tribes, of whom the Cheraws were the most dominant.
Until the early 1730s, no white man had attempted to establish a home this far into the backcountry along the upper Pee Dee River; one of the first of whom we have any record was one Murfee, who cleared a plantation on the Pee Dee River somewhere in the vicinity of what is known today as Pocket Landing. He was soon joined by an influx of Welshmen from Pennsylvania and Delaware.
In all effort to induce settlers to come to this area of South Carolina, the colonial government, in 1736 and again in 1737, set aside two immense grants of land extending for miles along both sides of the Pee Dee River, for the exclusive use of the Welsh Baptists in Delaware who were contemplating removal to this province. The entire length of Darlington County bounding on Pee Dee River lies within the limits of these two old Royal Grants.
The Welshmen came and started the nucleus of a new civilization in the wilderness, developing new institutions of their own, with little further aid or guidance from the Royal Government. At first, they congregated in the bend of the river opposite the present town of Society Hill, in what is now Marlboro County, where they had founded the Baptist Church of Christ at the Welsh Neck in 1738. The surnames of those constituting this church were James, Devonald, Evans, Harry, Wilds, and Jones.
From this bend in the river - called the Welsh Neck - the Welshmen cleared new lands up and down both sides of the Great Pee Dee River, first cultivating flax and hemp, later indigo, and raising cattle. Cheraw bacon was a popular item in the Charles Town markets of colonial days. During the several decades immediately prior to the American Revolution, the original Welsh domain was peacefully invaded by English, Scots-Irish, French Huguenot, and German Palatine settlers from other regions. From the inevitable intermarriages that followed, the strict Welsh Baptist identity was eventually lost.
The first village in the entire area and for many years the only village within what is now Darlington County, sprang up on a bluff on the west aide of Pee Dee River, across from the original settlements and church in the Welsh Neck. By 1760, this important trading post and boat landing had come to be known as Long Bluff. It was chosen as the site for the court house after the original Cheraws District was created in 1769. In this court house, in 1774, a Petit Jury Presentment of grievances against the British Crown is among the earliest and boldest declarations of rights in the thirteen colonies. Long Bluff continued to be the seat of justice and commerce throughout the tragic days of the American Revolution.
Although the Revolutionary War inflicted severe casualties in lives and property, recovery was not unduly protracted, probably due to the natural increase in population plus the influx of many new settlers from North Carolina.
In 1777, a group of prosperous planters of the area formed the St. David's Society to promote the cause of education; little was done during the war, but with the return of peace, a schoolhouse - St. David's Academy - was erected on the first hill beyond the river, about one mile from the village of Long Bluff; a few years later, the Welsh Neck Baptist Church removed from the east side of the river to a lot on the hill, adjacent to the Academy.
A new community began to grow up around the academy and church, and was named Greeneville in honor of Major General Nathanael Greene of the Continental Army. The old village of Long Bluff was eventually abandoned in favor of the new village on the hill, which soon changed its name to Society Hill obviously in honor of the Academy of St. David's Society which dominated the hill. Society Hill, with its old, respected and influential Baptist Church; its Academy boasting tutors of the highest caliber; and its Library Society soon became the unchallenged cultural center of the Pee Dee Region, a title it held for generations.
In "The Statutes at Large of South Carolina - Volume IV," Pages 649-651 provide "An Act for Establishing a Fair and Markets in the Town of Greeneville, at the Long Bluff, on PeDee River," which was passed by the South Carolina General Assembly on March 8, 1785. Click Here to view the entire Act as provided herein.