Williamsburg County -- A Recipe for the Good Life
Williamsburg County, located in the southern tip of the Pee Dee, holds treasures of historical interest dating back to the early 1700’s. In 1730, Governor Robert Johnson proposed a "Township Plan," marking the beginning of Williamsburg County. This plan was proposed to stimulate the economy of the province to provide protection for coastal settlers. The township, which was laid out on the bank of the Black River, was named Williamsburg in honor of the Protestant King, William of Orange.
Williamsburg Township’s success was largely attributable to the raising and processing of indigo. From indigo, came wealth and prosperity to the area. Hemp, flax, and Holland were other fine quality products introduced in the 1730’s. A settlement, existing on Black Mingo (later referred to as Willtown), had a "Meeting House" for dissenters in what later became Williamsburg County. In 1736, the first Williamsburg Presbyterian Meeting House was built. This "Meeting House" was the mother church for a wide area embracing several states.
In 1780, after the fall of Charles Town, the nucleus of "Marion’s Brigade" was formed in this area. On August 27, 1780, the "Battle of King’s Tree" took place and it was at this time that Major John James turned his group over to Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox. The fighting consisted of rear-action skirmishing, but heavy losses were sustained. British Major James Wemyss, under orders from Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, burned the Indiantown Presbyterian Church down.
The battles of Black Mingo (September 28-29,1780), Mount Hope Swamp (March 1781) and Lower Bridge (March 1781) were all fought in Williamsburg County. In 1823, Robert Mills, a native of South Carolina and a nationally known architect, designed the Williamsburg County Courthouse. In 1883, a fire gutted the second story, but the massive brick barrel arches protected the public records in the first story.
Williamsburg, the first settlement, later was named King’s Tree because the King reserved for his own use all white pines. In 1886, King’s Tree became known as Kingstree. Kingstree became the county seat of Williamsburg County. Years following the Revolution, Williamsburg County quickly prospered. Since then, Williamsburg County has become famous for its wildlife and hunting preserves. It has truly become a "Sportsman’s Paradise."
Explore Williamsburg County and discover one of the most beautiful areas of South Carolina, where history echoes in the fine architecture and new memories are waiting to happen.
Thorntree, the plantation home of James Witherspoon (1700-1768), was built in 1749. After the death of James Witherspoon, Thorntree became the home of Gavin Witherspoon, the son of James and Elizabeth Witherspoon. During the Revolution, Tarleton with one hundred British dragoons, and a large number of Tories under Col. Elias Ball, encamped at the plantation of Gavin Witherspoon, south of the lower bridge, on Black River, early in August 1780. As a restoration project, Williamsburg Historical Society relocated Thorntree to the city limits of Kingstree in order to provide police and fire prevention. For future generations, as well as for the present, the Historical Society desires to preserve and restore this early architectural structure.
BLACK RIVER HISTORY
The Black River flows through the Coastal Plain of South Carolina. The headwaters originate in Lee County south of the town of Bishopville and the river flows southeasterly through the heart of Williamsburg County on its 150 mile trek to the Atlantic Ocean. The Native Americans who occupied the area before the colonial era called the river the Wee Nee. Several businesses in the area still use this name.
Black River is a free-flowing black water river shouldered by a ribbon of dense, undisturbed swamp forest. This ribbon of wild and undeveloped land provides high quality habitat for a variety of plant and animal species including some rare, threatened and endangered species such as American chaffseed and the swallow-tailed kite. The water has a dark inky black color due to chemicals known as tannins leached from the cypress trees and the surrounding swamps. This river has many curves, white sandbars, and seldom flows over 5 miles per hour. It draws fisherman from all over for its bounty of bream, red breasted sunfish, largemouth bass, and catfish. It is also an excellent river for leisurely float trips for wildlife watching or nature photography.
In 1999, the Williamsburg Hometown Chamber Quality of Place Committee requested that the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) consider the Black River for inclusion in the State Scenic River Program. In the Spring of 2000, DNR staff initiated an eligibility study of the Black River in Clarendon, Williamsburg and Georgetown Counties. Public meetings held in October 2000 revealed significant local interest for conserving the unique and outstanding resources of the Black River. The Williamsburg, Clarendon and Georgetown County Councils adopted resolutions of support for the designation. In June 2001, a 75-mile segment of the Black River became South Carolina's seventh and longest State Scenic River. This scenic river segment begins at County Road #40 in Clarendon County, and extends southeast through Williamsburg County to Pea House Landing at the end of County Road #38 in Georgetown County, South Carolina.
The residents of Williamsburg County are proud to have South Carolina’s longest State Designated Scenic river running through the heart of their community and are dedicated to its preservation and protection for future generations.
A following poem about the river was written by a native of the area under a pen name:
The Lazy River
by Marion Hill
There flows a lazy river
in this place that I call home.
Through swamps of ancient cypress
it does meander and roam.
Beneath the moss covered canopy
her waters gently flow,
as steady as the old hall clock
with its pendulum to and fro.
It is an arduous journey
across the coastal plain.
Often just at a snail’s pace,
but always without refrain.
It’s not a straightforward trip,
not by any means,
but one of winding bends,
and of many varied scenes.
Yet slow but steady
she’s resigned to this pace,
to the sea, to the sea
for seldom does she race.
What ancient secrets
do her waters really hide,
these tea stained waters
on the way to the tide?
If the waters could speak
from the time of their birth,
what stories would they tell,
of our dark, fertile earth?
Perhaps of ancient peoples
who upon her did subsist,
drawing food and nourishment
from the deep, dark abyss.
Maybe of ancient travelers,
who plied against her flow,
to seek new virgin lands
unsure of where the path would go.
They put their faith in the river
and the fertile land she revealed.
They settled their families upon its banks
and a covenant with God they sealed.
So as I stand in silent wonder
upon the ancient banks.
I gaze upon her darkness
and give to the Lord my thanks.
For it is much, much more
than simple water going to the sea;
its the heartbeat of our existence…
a part of you and me.
For in each and every one of us,
pumping through our veins,
there’s the essence of this river,
so lazy, yet always without refrain.
Williamsburgh Historical Museum
Williamsburg HomeTown Chamber, 131 N. Academy St., PO Box 696, Kingstree, SC 29556
phone: 843.355.6431 fax: 843.355.3343 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
website last updated 11.7.13