Lancaster County, South Carolina

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Perry-McIlwain-McDow House


Lancaster County Neighborhoods

Lancaster County administrative offices are located at 101 North Main Street, Lancaster, SC 29720; phone: 803-416-9300.

Beginnings [1]

Three place names in present-day Lancaster County — Catawba, Waxhaws, and Indian Lands — come from the two major Indian tribes which inhabited the area before and for some time after its permanent white settlement. The Catawbas had created a confederacy, governed by a king, by about 1700 and had sane degree of social, cultural, and political affiliation with the Cherokees, Waxhaws, and other tribes. They had extensive trade relationships with white traders, first from Virginia and later from Charleston, and often served as the mediators between the traders and other tribes. Although the Catawbas were never as numerous as the Cherokees or Creeks, by the middle of the eighteenth century the colonial South Carolina government considered them to represent a nation rather than a tribe. Both the South Carolinians and the British cultivated their good will, with the result that the Catawbas sided with them in their disputes with the French and other tribes. Smallpox epidemics and various inter-tribal war weakened the Catawbas to the extent that they had only two hundred members by 1800. Many of them moved to present-day York County or to North Carolina, where reservations were established and where some of their descendants live today. The Waxhaws were a small tribe closely associated with the Catawbas.

The earliest white inhabitants of present-day Lancaster County were Scots-Irish Presbyterians from Pennsylvania, who named the area after Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. They arrived in the northern portion of the county, in the area now known as the Waxhaws, about 1745. Among the inducements to settlement in South Carolina were the promise of new land and a desire to avoid the frequent disputes with Indians which had occurred in Pennsylvania. One of the earliest institutions established by the first Scots-Irish settlers was Waxhaw Presbyterian Church, which was founded in 1755; the church cemetery was listed in the National Register in 1975. By the 1760s the colonial government actively encouraged white settlement along the North Carolina-South Carolina border. With the Catawbas weakened by disease and war, and lessened in influence, it was hoped that new inhabitants would help protect the frontier.

There were no established towns in present-day Lancaster County before the American Revolution, and most of the rural settlements were in the areas closest to North Carolina. From the beginning there were disputes between North and South Carolina over their respective boundaries in the area, and land grants were made by both colonies. Camden District, one of the seven judicial districts created in 1769, included this area. Lancaster County was created in this district in 1785, and included most of present-day Kershaw County, which was created in 1791. When the judicial districts were abolished in 1800 the county became Lancaster District. Its northern boundary, however, was not finally established until the North Carolina-South Carolina boundary dispute was resolved in 1813 . An 1813 cornerstone marking the boundary between Lancaster County, South Carolina and Union County, North Carolina was listed in the National Register in 1984. In 1868 districts were replaced by counties as the major political subdivision in South Carolina, and the district became Lancaster County once more.

  1. J. Tracy Power, Historian and Frank Brown III, Architectural Historian, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources of Lancaster County, S.C., nomination document, 1989, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.


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