Cheraw | Olde English District

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Cheraw

Cheraw (c. 1740; 4.6 sq. miles; population: 5,524)

The South Carolina Jazz Festival is held in Cheraw each October

The Cheraw and Pee Dee Indians inhabited what is now Chesterfield County at the time of European settlement. Of Siouan stock, the Cheraws were the dominant tribe in the upper Pee Dee. The Cheraws migrated to this area in the late 17th century and maintained a well-fortified village on the river hill close to present day Cheraw. Wars and disease greatly decimated their population after a time, and around 1738 they joined the Catawba Confederacy. They left only their names and well established trading routes. By the time of the Revolutionary War, only a few scattered families of Native Americans remained in the area. Most of Cheraw's early European settlers were English, Scots, French or Irish. Two of the earliest of these were James Gillespie and Thomas Ellerbe who started a trading center and water mill at the Cheraw Hills around 1740. Welsh Baptists later made their way up river from the Society Hill area. Almost from the beginning African Americans were brought here as slaves. By 1750 Cheraw was one of six places in South Carolina appearing on English maps and was an established village with a growing river trade. Originally the town was called "Chatham" after William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham, but this never seemed to have had wide acceptance, and Cheraw or Cheraw Hill continued to be used interchangeably with Chatham. Cheraw has been the official name since the town's incorporation in 1820.

Citizens of Cheraw played a leading role in South Carolina's secession, and the town became a haven for refugees and a storage place for valuables and military stores during the Confederate War. In March of 1865, Cheraw played unwilling host to more of Gen. William T. Sherman's Union troops than any other South Carolina city. They found Cheraw "a pleasant town and an old one with the southern aristocratic bearing", and amazingly they left it that way. Although the business district was destroyed in an accidental explosion, no public buildings or dwellings were burned. However, the county courthouse in Chesterfield was burned and exact dates on many Cheraw buildings are unknown. Prosperity began to return by 1900 and many fine Victorian and Revival buildings are still in evidence here. Although the Great Depression hit this area hard, it did leave the wonderful legacy of Cheraw State Park and extensive other public lands. Cheraw in the 1960's began to diversify her industrial base, and today Cheraw is a prosperous town that takes pride in preserving her past while planning for the future.

Cheraw State Park Golf Course

Cheraw is home to the annual South Carolina Jazz Festival which celebrates Cheraw native, Dizzy Gillespie's birthday in mid-October with jazz performances and art exhibits in Cheraw's historic downtown. Cheraw State Park is home to one of the best 18-hole championship golf courses in the state. Cheraw’s Spring Festival a celebration of spring is held the first weekend in April with arts and crafts, Jubilation, Civil War reenactment, lantern tours, trolley rides, canoe floats, children's fair, petting zoo, Sunday car show and all day entertainment.  Many events are free. The Cheraw Chamber of Commerce hosts their sell out event—A Taste of Cheraw—in the Historic District in Mid-April.

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