Originally inhabited by the Catawba, Cherokee and Waxhaw Indians, Lancaster's story began in the early 1750s when a vanguard of Scotch-Irish immigrants seeking inexpensive land and religious freedom moved into the area known as the Waxhaws (now northern Lancaster County) and established a settlement. A second colony was soon developed by English (Welsh), German and Scotch-Irish newcomers from Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania in southern Lancaster County.
Lancaster's name can be traced from fifteenth-century England, when the War of the Roses was fought between the House of Lancaster and the House of York, through their first settlement in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and down to the county that was established in South Carolina in 1785 with the red rose, the insignia of the House of Lancaster, as its emblem.
Our first court was held in the home of John Ingram, south of Heath Springs, but was later moved to Nathan Barr's Tavern. In 1795, a log courthouse was constructed on the corner of Main and Dunlap Streets; a two-story frame courthouse replaced it in 1802, and the town was named Lancasterville.
South Carolina native and Washington Monument architect Robert Mills designed the historic Lancaster County Courthouse in 1828. This hall of justice is a National Historic Landmark that continued to fulfill its court responsibilities until August, 2008, when an arson attempt severely damaged its roof, second and third floors. The 181-year-old building is now being restored as closely as possible to its original appearance, and is scheduled to re-open in 2010, possibly as a Lancaster County museum. Next door, a new Courthouse for Lancaster County is now under construction.
Robert Mills had been employed earlier to design the Lancaster County Jail in 1825, in use today as government offices. A walking tour of historic downtown Lancaster would also include the Old Presbyterian Church and Cemetery built in 1862; the home of Colonel Elliott White Springs, textile industrialist, which was built in 1825; and the site of Lancaster Academy, the county's oldest continuous public school, founded in 1799.
Charles Duke, astronaut and moon-walker, grew up in Lancaster, and actress/early Broadway star Nina Mae McKinney was a Lancastrian. Lancaster is also proud to have Dr. J. Marion Sims, known as the “father of modern gynecology,” as one of its favorite sons, along with William R. Davie, ambassador to France and founder of the University of North Carolina.
Lancaster's most significant battle involvement in the Revolutionary War began with Buford's Massacre, as British Colonel Tarleton devastated Colonel Abraham Buford's retreating forces in 1780. Later, the colonists were avenged when troops under the leadership of General Thomas Sumter defeated the British at the Battle of Hanging Rock. Both Major Robert Crawford and Major William Richard Davie participated in the battle. Andrew Jackson served as an aide to Davie.
During the Civil War, several buildings were burned and Lancaster was looted by General William Sherman's soldiers, who stabled their horses in the Old Presbyterian Church. General Kilpatrick's Union troops' five-day rampage of Lancaster County in March 1865 included an attempt to burn down the Courthouse by throwing turpentine bottles onto the roof. It was a futile attempt, but left scars on the courthouse steps while many probate papers burned. Wheeler's Calvary rescued the town from further damages.
Primarily agrarian for almost a century, the Industrial Revolution arrived in Lancaster with the opening of the Lancaster Cotton Mill by Colonel Leroy Springs in 1895. Crop diversification, cattle production, additional textile operations, brick and block manufacturing, all contributed to the changing economic base of the county in the early 1900s, and today the industrial base includes battery production, electrical and electronics products, steel fabricating, metalworking, plastic laminates, packaging materials, pressure part manufacturing, and nuclear power.
Town of Heath Springs
In the early 1800s, the Hanging Rock Mineral Spring became well-known for its “healing, bubbling springs” and in the 1850s the Hanging Rock Mineral Springs Inn began attracting people from many areas seeking the healthful mineral spring waters. Though Sherman's soldiers destroyed the inn during the Civil War, the area around the spring, known as the Heath Spring after its new owner, had begun to grow, and eventually a post office originally called the Heath Spring Post Office was established. Later a business firm from Lancaster opened in the area—the Heath, Springs and Company, and in 1890, the town of Heath Springs was incorporated, and the post office soon changed its name to Heath Springs Post Office.
Today the town of Heath Springs comprises around 1000 residents. Main Street includes a variety of businesses—a post office, bank, churches, a depot, medical offices and antique stores. Several commercial ventures and industries are located in the area.
Town of Kershaw
In 1887, the Southern Railroad, largely due to the efforts of Pleasant Plains resident James Welsh, established a station halfway between Camden and Lancaster. This led to other development of the area which was known as Welsh's Station. In 1888 Captain Welsh headed the movement to apply for a charter of incorporation for the new town whose name would be Kershaw, in honor of Major General J.B. Kershaw, a Camden attorney who participated in the Civil War and was taken prisoner of war in Massachusetts. Maj. General Kershaw had served in the State Senate, the U.S. House, and was appointed Judge of the Fifth Circuit until his death in 1894.
In the early 1900s Kershaw flourished as a prosperous farming/industrial community with turpentine distilleries, gold mining, a cotton mill and an oil mill. Haile Gold Mine continues to operate today. Kershaw's historic district, mostly residential, includes a number of the most beautiful Southern homes in the region, and its business district features a variety of unique shops featuring antiques, collectibles and pottery. Over 1900 folks reside in Kershaw.