A History of Kingstree, South Carolina

Williamsburg County Court House - Kingstree, SC (2008)

One of the early and important actions of the Royal Government was the Township Act of 1730; additional townships were authorized in 1761. The first Act authorized nine townships containing 20,000 acres each, and agents were sent to Europe to recruit families as settlers. The families were offered inducements such as free transportation to South Carolina, free provisions for one year, and free land. The townships neither created nor kept records; their functions were solely geographical. Townships, like parishes, were used for some tax districts and appeared as locators in grants and conveyances.

Williamsburg Township was established and first settled in 1735 by Scots-Irish from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland. It was located where the three present-day counties of Williamsburg, Florence, and Clarendon meet, along the confluence of the Lynches River and the Great Pee Dee River in southeastern South Carolina.

Back in 1737, the court house 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 War times.

The Williamsburg County court house, 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 court house caught fire, but realizing that the thirty-inch walls were fireproof, the building was soon repaired. The court house 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.

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 Charlestown, the nucleus of "Marion's Brigade" was formed in this area. On August 27, 1780, the battle of Kingstree 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 substained. 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 8, 1781) and Black River Bridge (aka Lower Bridge) (March 14, 1781) were all fought in Williamsburg County. For all known battles and skirmishes in Williamsburg County during the American Revolution - Click Here.

In 1823, Robert Mills, a native of South Carolina and a nationally known architect, designed the Williamsburg County Court House. 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 for the making of sailing masts. King's Tree became known as Kingstree, which became the county seat of Williamsburg County upon its creation.

Years following the American 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."

In 1768/9, the Royal Colony of South Carolina passed the District Act and eliminated all references to the old counties and townships with respect to governmental organization. The parishes remained intact, and even two new Parishes were established in 1768 - St. David's Parish and St. Matthew's Parish.

What had been Williamsburg Township was now part of the much larger overarching Georgetown District and the township included parts of St. Stephen's Parish, St. David's Parish, St. Mark's Parish, and Prince Frederick's, Winyah Parish, but the districts were not truly functional until around 1772, right before the American Revolution.

Immediately after the American Revolution, the newly-independent State of South Carolina redefined its internal districts in 1785 and recreated a new version of "counties" quite unlike the mostly-ambiguous and unsurveyed counties that existed prior to 1769. In 1791, South Carolina once again redefined its districts to now include the specific newly-created counties. In 1800, South Carolina decided to rename all existing counties as districts, and the larger term for "overarching District" was now obsolete - no more aggregation of counties into a large district.

During all of this, Williamsburg Township ceased to exist. In 1785, the county of Williamsburg was created within the once-again newly-defined Georgetown District, but because of the well-entrenched Parish system this county, along with many others failed to take hold. From 1791 to 1799, Georgetown District was one big district with no counties functioning. In 1800, Georgetown District was once again sub-divided into counties, which were now retitled as "districts" and the larger multi-county district of Georgetown was no longer in use. Williamsburg District was recreated in 1804 with virtually the same dimensions as the earlier Williamsburg County of 1785.

To get an idea of where the Williamsburg Township had been during the Royal Period, find a map of South Carolina and look for Williamsburg County - the heart of the Williamsburg Township was located where the present-day town of Kingstree is situated

Kingstree was granted a U.S. Post Office on January 1, 1805, and its first Postmaster was Mr. Robert Frierson, Jr. It has been in continuous operation ever since inception.
Click Here to view / download a 1737 plat of Kingstree prepared by Deputy Surveyor Anthony Williams.
Click Here to view / download an 1801 plat of Kingstree prepared by Robert Frierson based on the above.
Click Here to view / download a 2017 map of Kingstree, SC. Adobe PDF file. Fairly large.

© 2019 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved