HISTORY OF KINGSTREE
Williamsburg County, located in the southern tip of the Pee Dee, holds treasures of historical interest dating back to the early 1700s. 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 1730s. 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.
Back in 1737, the Courthouse grounds, located on Main Street in Kingstree, was designated the parade ground in the original survey of the town of Kingstree. The grounds served as the muster ground for the local militia during colonial and Revolutionary Times. The Williamsburg County Courthouse, designed by Robert Mills, was built in 1823. Robert Mills, a nationally known architect, was a native of South Carolina. In 1883, the second story of the Courthouse caught fire, but realizing that the 30 inch walls were fireproof, the building was soon repaired. The Courthouse was enlarged in 1901 with an addition of a substantial fence to give a good park to the town and to keep horses and cattle out of the square. Due to efforts of Judge Phillip H. Stoll, the Courthouse was remodeled in 1954. The Courthouse had been enlarged by adding a 3 story wing at the back, giving the building its present T-shape.
One of the first impressions that Williamsburg County offers to people entering the area is the beauty of live oak trees. The trees, many of which line the streets of Kingstree, are an important part of the local heritage and Southern charm. While Kingstree's history is most often associated with the white pine that gave the town its name, today the emphasis is turning to the many live oak trees that are part of the town's beauty and charm.
HISTORY OF BLACK RIVER
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.
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.
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.