HISTORY OF THE PEE DEE
"The first inhabitants of the Pee Dee Area were the Pee Dee Indians. In
1730 Robert Johnson the first Royal Governor of S.C. ordered eleven
townships to be created. Each would contain 20,000 acres, and each
man, woman and child who would improve 50 acres would receive the land
free. Welch immigrants from Pennsylvania settled in the Pee Dee area.
Settlement was slow so the government offered bounties to people who
would settle in the area.
The rivers in the area were used for transportation. Life in general was
frontier quality. It was a very remote area and isolated from the influence of
church and state. Crime was rampant. Lack of schools was a problem
also. It was written at the time, that the "lack of education lead to idle,
immoral lives- follow hunting, shooting, racing, drinking, gaming,and every
aspect of wickedness, more rude in manners than the savages around
Regulators were landowners determined to end the lawlessness. In 1768
Regulators and Militia clashed when Regulators seized two Militiamen.
Two were killed and after the fight all the Militiamen were lashed fifty
times. After the Regulator movement in 1768 the Royal Governor approved
a bill establishing a system of courts. In 1772 the first sheriff that was
appointed was P.H. Hatley.
The Petition of 1768 acknowledged the lack of education and in December
1777 a group met to form an organization to promote learning.. They
decided to educate young people in Latin and Greek, math and other
useful areas of learning.
Because marriages could only take place in Charleston or North Carolina,
many people lived together outside of wedlock. Someone wrote that, "they
quit each other at pleasure - swap wives and children, as they do cattle
and horses". In 1738 fifteen Welch settlers organized the Welch Neck
Baptist Church. They ordained their first minister in 1743. The Welch had
very rigorous standards. Members were excommunicated or suspended
from membership for such things as beating a neighbor, murder,
adultery,theft,swearing and drunkenness. The Welch church became the
mother of other Baptist churches in the Pee Dee. Ebenezer Baptist
Church began in 1774 and still exists today. Presbyterians entered the
Pee Dee in 1732. Hopewell Presbyterian Church in Claussen (nearby
Florence) was organized in 1770 and also is still holding church services.
The Pre-Revolutionary War period was quite prosperous. Cattle and
horses were sold to the Northern Colonies. Lumber was an important
product and the river system in the area was used to ship the lumber to
the coast where it was traded. Indigo (a plant that makes purple dye) was
brought in from the French West Indies. In only six years the colony
exported over 200,000 pounds of indigo.
The earliest record of slaves in the area was in 1748. By 1757 the number
of slaves was about 500 with a total population of 4,300. Most slave
owners did not own more than three or four slaves.
The Pee Dee area was not too involved in the events that led up to the
Revolutionary War because it was so isolated from the large population
centers. In 1774 William Henry Drayton was sent to the back country to
explain to the people how they were being oppressed by the British.
Events in 1775 led Royal Governor Lord William Campbell to flee in
September of that year.
Little happened during the war in the area until the fall of Charleston in
1780. On August 16,1780 Horatio Gates, sent by General Washington to
stop the British drive in South Carolina, was soundly defeated in one of the
fiercest fights of the war in Camden. A few days later a British unit taking
American prisoners from Camden to Charleston was attacked. The
Redcoats were over-powered and over 150 Maryland prisoners were freed.
In 1780 Francis Marion began his exploits that would link his name to the
Pee Dee. Because of his success in evading the British in the swampy
area of the Pee Dee, Francis Marion became known as the "Swamp Fox".
Fighting ended in the area on June 8, 1782.
In 1783 the cotton gin was invented and caused a dramatic effect on the
South. Soon one half of all U.S. exports was cotton. Darlington district
sold 13,000 bales in 1850. This dramatically increased the number of
slaves in the area. Land cost 50¢ an acre.
Henry Timrod lived on the plantation of Col. William Henry Cannon, who
constructed a school for Timrod to teach the plantation children in 1856
and 1857. This school is located in Timrod Park in Florence today. Three
railroads were constructed in the Pee Dee. All intersect in what is known
today as Florence.
Late in 1859 war fever mounted. The Darlington Guards were formed. This
unit consisted of 14 officers and 100 enlisted men. They were sent to
Charleston before the firing on Fort Sumter. The PeeDee Artillery and Pee
Dee Rifles were formed to fight in Northern Virginia and served in many
During this time the "Wayside House", a relief volunteer hospital, was
established in Florence, under the supervision of Dr, Theodore Dargan,with
62 volunteer workers, mostly women. Soldiers who died here were buried
in what is now called Mt. Hope Cemetery.
Confederate authorities selected Florence to receive Union prisoners from
Southern Georgia and other areas. Florence began to construct a prison
stockade on September 17,1864. With construction scarcely begun 6,000
prisoners arrived from Charleston. The prisoners were suffering from
smallpox, yellow fever, hunger and exhaustion. Residents feared prisoners
escaping so old men and teenage boys were recruited for guard duty.
Conditions were overcrowded and so bad that residents began to
complain. New leadership of the prison took place and conditions
improved but not before 2,802 prisoners died. During a routine examination
it was discovered that one of the prisoners was a woman disguised as a
man. Florena Budwin had disguised herself to accompany her husband to
war. They were both captured and sent to Andersonville where her
husband was killed. She was sent to Florence along with thousands of
other prisoners. When the discovery was made she was given a private
room and the ladies of Florence donated food and clothing. She died on
Jan. 25,1865, one month before all sick prisoners were paroled to the
North. Florena is believed to be the first woman service member to be
buried in a National Cemetery. By the end of February 1865 the Florence
Stockade was empty. By the end of the war the National Cemetery in
Florence had 2,322 soldiers buried in it.
This information is courtesy of the Florence Convention & Visitors Bureau.
us with your comments, suggestions, or
Copyright (c) 2000 Pee Dee Resource Conservation and
This page was last updated on Janurary 29, 2000