Old Darlington District Genealogy 
Chapter of The South Carolina 
Genealogical Society

History of
Darlington County, South Carolina

Hartsville Genealogical Research Library
114 South Fourth Street
(mailing address P.O. Box 175)
Hartsville, SC 29551-0175


"The settlement of what is now Darlington County began in earnest after 1736 and 1737 when the province of South Carolina set aside a vast area of land for the Welsh Baptist of Delaware. This Welsh Track bordered on both sides of the Pee Dee River. Soon after the first settlers began to arrive they constituted the Welsh Neck Baptist Church. This church was first located on the north side of the Pee Dee River, opposite present-day Society Hill. For almost thirty years settlers concentrated on the banks and small tributaries of the Pee Dee River. Beginning in the 1760's and continuing into the 1770's other groups slowly made their way into present-day Darlington and were granted lands on Lynches Creek (River), Jeffries Creek, and a host of other watercourses. These later settlers included descendants of French Huguenots, Scott-Irish, and the English.

For three decades following the arrival of the first settlers, local government did not exist for the citizens of the area. All deeds, estate settlements, and other legal matters had to be taken to Charles Town to be recorded. In 1769, by an Act of the Assembly, Cheraw District was established as a Judicial District. A courthouse and goal were built at Long Bluff (near present day Society Hill) and were operational by late 1772.

After the Revolutionary War, in 1785, Cheraw District was divided into three counties, Marlborough, Chesterfield, and Darlington. Darlington County was bounded by Cedar Creek, the Pee Dee River, and lynches Creek (River). To this day there is uncertainty concerning why the county was named Darlington. A new county seat was established near the center of the county, Darlington Court House. After 1798 the designation "county" was changed to "district." In the 1868 South Carolina Constitution, the designation reverted back to county.

Florence County was created out of parts of Darlington and Marion Counties in 1888. Darlington County lost additional territory in 1902 when Lee County was created."

(This history was copied out of "Darlington District, S.C. Cemetery Survey Volume One," compiled by members of The Old Darlington District Chapter of the South Carolina Genealogical Society. Copyright 1993.)


HARTSVILLE "The first settlement in this part of the Pee Dee section began about the year 1760. The names of the first settlers are not known, but the Dalrymples, the Kilgores, the Prestwoods and the Goodsons lived here at an early date, some on the south and others on the north side of Black Creek. Later there came into this community, Mr. Isham Linton, Capt. Thos. E. Hart, the Wrights, Mr. Joseph Norwood and the Ellises.

Mr. Linton's lands were sold to Mr. D. S. Law. After the Confederate War this place came into possession of Capt. E. W. Cannon.

Col. T. C. Law owned a large plantation. As a farmer he was distinguished for producing on his farm most of the food and supplies that were needed for his family and slaves...

...Captain Hart bought another plantation. He owned all the land nearby except the land that later became the Cannon and Law property.

He then began a store. This store was near his home and it was the first store in the community.

He and the helpers on his plantation built his home. Captain Hart carved the mantels in his home. The Hart home is the beautiful house at Kalmia Gardens.

...(Capt. Hart) died when he was only 47 years old. His wife (Hannah) and children lived at the home place for many years.

...(Captain Hart's) son John L. Hart cleared the land for the town in 1846. He cut down trees that were in the way and divided some of the land into lots...

...Hartsville's Oldest House was built by Captain John L. Hart, Son of Captain Thomas E. Hart, in 1846. It is now ...located on Home Avenue near the First Baptist Church.

...Hartsville's first mill was a carriage factory owned by Captain John L. Hart. He also owned a saw mill, a store, post office and several residences.

...Major James Lide Coker was a native of Society Hill. His father was a prosperous farmer and merchant. He gave his son the plantation at Hartsville. In 1857 this son came to Hartsville to make his living by farming. He believed that farming could be done in a scientific way. He spent a year at Harvard trying to learn a better way to farm his land. The war between the states soon came and broke into his plans.

The military training he received at the Citadel was a result of more service to his country. He organized and became captain of the Hartsville Light Infantry. He distinguished himself in the Virginia and Tennessee campaigns. After he was wounded he had to return home.

In 1864 he was sent to the Legislature. Here he introduced the first bill ever presented in South Carolina for a free public school...

Young Major Coker, shattered in health and fortune went to work on his plantation. He had nothing left but the land as Sherman's army had burned and destroyed everything."

(Excerpts from HARTSVILLE OUR COMMUNITY by Lucile Boswell Neely. Copyright 1954)


The Major had married Susan Armstrong Stout of Alabama, in 1860. They had ten children. James Jr., Francis, David William, Thomas, Charles, Margaret, Hannah, Jennie and Susan.

"He began a store in 1865. This store was J. L. Coker & Co. In 1881, he organized the Bank of Darlington; and 1884 he built his own railroad, the Hartsville Railroad.

He and his son James organized the Carolina Fiber Company in 1890 and the Southern Novelty Company in 1899. These companies became Sonoco Products Company..."

(Excerpts from RECOLLECTIONS OF THE MAJOR-JAMES LIDE COKER 1837-1918 published by the Hartsville Museum 1997)


To learn more about Sonoco's history and the history of the Coker Family see: SONOCO


"The first school building was built of logs. It stood on the bank of Black Creek near Kalmia Gardens. It had one window without a sash, two doors, and a clay chimney. There were no desks. The seats were benches without backs.

The children had to go to school early in the mornings and did not go home until sunset. They carried their dinner in tin buckets and drank water from a well. On cold days, the children sat in the chimney corners.

Mr. John Krimminger was the first teacher. He was very strict with the children...The pupils were young and old. Some of the pupils going to the first school were T. H. Law, John Kelly, George King, Jim Hudson, Rube Hay, John Dalrymple, Sam DeWitt, Jack Seegars, and Prudy Shirley.

The second schoolhouse was built in the Baptist Church yard in 1847. The land was given by Colonel T. C. Law...The school term ran all year with two weeks vacation at Christmas and two weeks in the summer...

The first teacher at this school was Mr. James McRae. Among the first students to attend this school were the Harts, Norwoods, Blackwells, Laws, Dalrymples, Kings, Wrights, Ellises, McIntoshes, Robertsons, and Kilgores...

...Mrs. Josephine Lawton Patterson and Miss Vivian Gay (Mrs. J. L. Coker, Jr.) taught at the second school.

Before the public school began, Mrs. L. Z. Hicks conducted a private school in her home for a few years. Among her pupils were Dr. J. W. Beasley, Mr. Frank Miller, Mrs. Mary Miller Byrd, Miss Mattie Miller, and Mr. Richard McInvaile.

The third school building was built at the end of Home Avenue in 1902. The land was given by Major Coker and a brick building was built.

This year, 1902, the school became a public school." Sixty six pupils and three teachers were in attendance that first year. (Web Manager's note: The building was used as the Administration building years later when new schools were built. The superintendent's office was there for years. It still stands and hopefully will be preserved.)

(Excerpts from HARTSVILLE OUR COMMUNITY by Lucile Boswell Neely Revised, 1965. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 65:28210)

Old Darlington District Chapter of S.C.G.S.
P.O. Box 175
Hartsville, SouthCarolina29551-0175