History of Clarendon County

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The Name Clarendon

Clarendon County has a name of historical significance as it is named after Edward Hyde, the Earl of Clarendon. He was friend and supporter of Charles II of England, and was at one time Lord High Chancellor of England and also one of the lord proprietors of the New World.

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The Divisions of the Districts and Counties

This section of the Carolina colony was first known as part of Craven county in 1682, and in 1769 the colonial general assembly divided the colony into 7 judicial districts, each with its own courthouse and county officers. This region was then in St. Mark's Parish which had been formed out of Craven County in 1757. St. Mark's Parish was set up in what was then Camden district. In 1785 a SC Map legislative act was passed which divided Camden District into 7 counties, one of which was Clarendon. Clarendon County was defined as "beginning on the Wateree at Person's Island, thence by the widow Grymes' plantation strait to Lynch's Creek, then along Santee River to the beginning." In 1790 Clarendon County had 2 representatives and shared one senator with Claremont County (which included Sumter County). In 1792 Salem County was created from Eastern Clarendon and Claremont counties. In 1798 these 3 counties (Clarendon, Claremont and Salem) were combined to form Sumter District. Another legislative act passed December 19, 1855, established the Clarendon District with the same boundaries defined in the Act of 1785.
The post office was established June 25, 1856. The "Sumter Watchman" of April 21, 1858, reported that court was held in Clarendon County courthouse for the first time April 19, 1858, with a large number of lawyers in attendance. Then the State Constitution of 1868 changed the name from district to county. The town of Manning, which is the county seat, received its charter January 28, 1861, by an act of the legislature, and was rechartered by the Secretary of State March 15, 1904. In 1898 there were 18 townships listed which included: Douglas; Sandy Grove; New Zion; Midway; Plowden Mill; Harmony; Sammy Swamp; Manning; Mt. Zion; Brewington; Calvary; Fulton; Concord; Friendship; St. Paul; St. James; Santee; and St. Mark. [Map showing districts]
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Creation of a County Seat

Just after the re-establishment of Clarendon County in 1855, Captain Joseph C. Burgess was selected to determine the geographical center of the county so that a courthouse village could be built. The center fell on the east side of Ox Swamp, about a mile east of the present courthouse. However, enough suitable land was not available at that spot, so the commissioners, who had been charged with the responsibility of locating the county seat, decided on the site where the present courthouse stands. Captain Burgess deeded to the state six acres, which provided sites for the courthouse and jail, in addition to streets 75 feet wide on four sides.
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The First Settlers

Many of the first settlers of our county were Huguenots, meaning they were French Protestants who fled their country between 1685 and November 1787, in order to avoid persecution in France because of their religious beliefs. In general, they were some of France's finest people, whose only crime was their religious convictions. Many of these early Huguenot settlers of the Colony of Carolina had land given to them by the King of England along low country rivers and streams. They took their religion seriously, for in fact that is why they came in the first place. They left not only their native country but also their property and professions for the opportunity offered to live in peace and to worship according to their beliefs. Many had to leave under cover of darkness to avoid bodily harm, even death, because government soldiers had been quartered in their homes to watch them.
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Some Prominent Names

Some of the most prominent names in Clarendon County today such as Cantey, DuBose, Gaillard, Des Champs, Richbourg, Lesesne, McFaddin, Guerry, Millette, Sprott and Mouzon have their origins with the early settlers who came up the Santee River from coastal area in the 1700's with land grants. Counted among the most distinguished native sons of Clarendon County are five of the six men from the Richardson and Manning families who served as governors of the State of South Carolina. James Burchell Richardson served from 1802 to 1804; Richard Irvine Manning served from 1824 to 1826; John Peter Richardson served from 1840 to 1842; John Lawrence Manning (for whom the town of Manning was named) from 1852 to 1854; and John Peter Richardson, from 1886 to 1890.
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The Santee Indians

John Lawson, an English trader and explorer wrote of the Santee Indians of this area in 1701. In his writings he spoke of the friendliness and hospitality of the Santees. Examples of their ways of life and customs can still be found in and around their burial and ceremonial mounds. One of these is located at Fort Watson near the Santee riverbed. In 1711 the Santee Indians joined the settlers to fight the Tuscarora Indians of North Carolina, but in 1715 the Santees joined the Yemassee Indians in a war to destroy the South Carolina settlers, and they almost succeeded. The few Indians left at the end of that war moved up the river to join the Catawba Indians, leaving no Santee Indians in our county.
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Revolutionary Battles

Five Revolutionary War battles or engagements took place in our county prior to the existence of the county seat of Manning and are made recognizable by historical roadside markers. The town of Manning came into existence 75 years after the Revolution. This area was bounded on three sides by swamps and the rest was pine forests with underbrush. It was General Francis Marion's strategy to surprise and strike the British forces and then disappear into the swamps. British General Lord Cornwallis sent one of his top officers to try to catch Francis Marion and they chased him to the edge of our Ox Swamp and then turned back in disgust, with the comment that the devil himself could not catch that fox. From then until now, General Marion is known in history as the "Swamp Fox."   [See Clarendon County Murals]
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