History: 1700's & Earliest Settlers

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, the Native Indian tribes living in what is now South Carolina included the Bear River Indians, Cape Fear Indians, Catawba, Cheraw, Cherokee, Chowanoc, Machapunga, Moratok, Natchez, Occaneechi, Santee, Saponi, Shakori, Tuscarora, and the Waccamaw tribes. See YouTube videos on the History of Native American Indians.

  • In 1566, the colony of Santa Elena was established in South Carolina by the Spanish.

  • In 1670, the first English settlement was established in South Carolina at Albemarle Point on the Ashley River.

  • In 1682, Craven county within the Carolina colony included the area now known as Clarendon county.

  • Clarendon county is named after Edward Hyde, the Earl of Clarendon, friend and supporter of King Charles II of England. At one time he served as the Lord High Chancellor of England. He was one of the lords proprietors to whom the King gave all the land in this part of the American colonies.

  • In 1701, John Lawson, an English trader and explorer wrote of the Santee Indians of this area. 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 mounds at Fort Watson near the Santee waters.

  • 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.

  • In 1721, South Carolina officially became a Crown Colony. Sir Francis Nicholson was appointed the first royal governor of the colony.

  • In 1757, St. Mark's Parish was formed out of Craven county. It contained the area of land that would eventually become known as Clarendon county.

  • In 1769, the colonial general assembly divided the occupied part of the colony into seven judicial districts, each with its own courthouse and county officers. St. Mark's Parish was put in Camden district.

  • The American Revolutionary War began in 1775 when local militias clashed with British troops at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. By the end of 1775 rebels had seized control in all thirteen colonies and on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence. In 1778, the British shifted their attention to the southern colonies, recaptured Georgia and South Carolina for the Crown in 1779 and 1780. In 1781, British forces suffered a major defaeat at Yorktown, Virginia. The defeat broke Britain's will to continue the war. Limited fighting continued throughout 1782 until the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, officially ending the war and recognized the sovereignty of the United States of America.

  • A number of Revolutionary War battles or engagements took place in Clarendon county. They included the Battle of Half Way Swamp took place December 1780. Various other battles that took place in the general area are the Battle of Richbourg’s Mill, the Battle of Nelson’s Ferry, the Battle of Fort Watson/Santee Indian Mound, and the Battle of Tearcoat.

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'. There is now a Swamp Fox Murals Trail which consists of historical landmarks depicting the American Revolution and the exploits of General Francis Marion.

  • In 1785, a legislative act was passed which divided Camden District into seven counties. One of them was Clarendon county.

  • South Carolina was admitted to the Union on May 23, 1788. South Carolina was the 8th State to join the United States of America.

Many of the first settlers of Clarendon county were Huguenots, French Protestants who fled their country between 1685 and 1787 in order to avoid persecution in France because of their religious beliefs. Many of these early settlers came up the Santee River from coastal areas around the year 1700 and received land grants in the area. Some of the names are still with us, such as DuBose, Gaillard, Des Champs, Richbourg, Lesesne, Guerry, Millette, Mouzon, and others.

  • In 1790, Clarendon county had two representatives and shared one senator with Claremont County, which included neighboring Sumter County.

  • In 1792, Salem County was created from Eastern Clarendon and Claremont counties.

  • In 1793, the Santee Canal was constructed to facilitate the transportation of settlers goods inland. The canal was closed early in the 1850 as the railroads made the canal obsolete.

  • In 1798, three counties - Clarendon, Claremont and Salem - were combined to form Sumter District.

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