Clarendon County is a place rich in history, known for its historic names, noble deeds, and notable natives. It is a friendly and hospitable community that invites visitors to join them on a journey through history. The county is named after Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, one of the lord proprietors of the New World, and was first known as part of Craven County in 1682. In 1785, it became one of seven counties when Camden District was divided, and in 1855, it became Clarendon District. The county seat is Manning, which was chartered in 1861.
Many of the first settlers in Clarendon County were Huguenots, French Protestants who fled their country to avoid persecution between 1685 and 1787. They received land grants in the area after coming up the Santee River from coastal areas around the year 1700. Some of the names of these settlers, such as DuBose, Gaillard, DesChamps, Richbourg, Lesesne, Guerry, Millette, Mouzon, are still prominent in the county today.
After the Civil War, J.D. Warley became the first Black senator in Clarendon County. He was a minister and farmer who represented the county in the state House of Representatives and the Senate. Caroline Johnson was an entrepreneur who started a mercantile business, established one of the first cotton gins in Clarendon County, donated land for a church, and founded the Caroline Johnson Cemetery.
Julia Mood Peterkin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, was raised in Manning by her grandfather, Rev. Henry M. Mood, and her aunt and uncle, Mr. & Mrs. Issac Ingram. Peggy Parish, the author of the popular Amelia Bedelia book series, was also born in Manning.
Reverend Joseph Armstrong DeLaine was a civil rights leader who worked with Modjeska Simkins and the South Carolina NAACP on the Briggs v. Elliott case, which was one of five cases that were argued before the Supreme Court as Brown v. Board of Education. The case was joined with similar cases and appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which desegregated all public schools in the United States in 1954.
Clarendon County is also known for its noble deeds. Francis Marion, also known as the Swamp Fox, was a hero of the Revolutionary War who rescued 150 prisoners during the Battle of Nelson’s Ferry in August 1780. The Richardson Cemetery, which was founded before the Revolutionary War, is the burial place of two former governors, James Burchill Richardson and John Peter Richardson.
The Levi family made contributions to upgrade the library at the Moses Levi Institute, which started an intensive drive for funds to provide a town library. The family also continued to provide support to the Hannah Levi Memorial Library Fund. Althea Gibson, the first African-American tennis player to compete at the U.S. National Championships and Wimbledon, was born in Silver, South Carolina.
Clarendon County has produced many notable natives, including five of the six men from the Richardson and Manning families who served as governors of South Carolina. Abraham Levi, who was born in Manning and graduated from the Albany Law School, did a great deal to advance the industrial growth of the community. Pansy Ridgeway was the first female to run for a seat on the Manning City Council and went on to become the first female to hold the office of Mayor. Senator John C. Land III served in the South Carolina House of Representatives and the Senate for 32 years.
Reuben B. Clark was a pioneer in Clarendon County, serving as the first African American Magistrate since Reconstruction. He held the position for 17 years, and in 1995, he was honored with The Order of the Palmetto by former Gov. Carroll Campbell, the highest award in South Carolina. Clark was a Charter Member in the Manning branch of the N.A.A.C.P.
Kevin Johnson was Manning’s first Black mayor and represented Clarendon County in the South Carolina House of Representatives. He presently serves as the Senator representing Clarendon, Darlington, Florence, and Sumter Counties.
Beulah Roberts, who started as the courthouse’s third Black employee in 1976, became the first county-wide African American elected official. She is also the first female Clerk of Court in Clarendon County. In 1995, she was appointed County Clerk to fill a vacancy and has been re-elected without opposition in 1996, 2000, and continues to hold this post.
Hayes Samuel has served multiple terms as Clarendon County Coroner since 2004. He is the owner of Samuels Funeral Home and an active participant in organizations that support the people of Clarendon County.
Julia Nelson completed Senator Johnson’s term as Mayor of Manning when he was elected Representative. She was unopposed in the next election, making her the first Black female to hold the position of Mayor in the City of Manning. Professionally, she is the Executive Director of the Sumter County First Steps program, where she has served since 2003.
Visiting Clarendon County is an opportunity to explore its rich history. The Clarendon County Historical Society Museum and the Clarendon County Archives are just some of the many treasures to be discovered along the county’s historic path.