Elgin | Olde English District

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Elgin (c. 1832; 1 sq. mile; population:  1,311).

Elgin, once home to the famous watch manufacturer

The roots for the present-day town of Elgin trace back to 1899-1900 when the Seaboard Coastline Railroad was making its way across the midlands of South Carolina. The tracks came through the southwest corner of Kershaw County and workers were lodged in the first house that was built for them alongside the railroad. As the rails progressed, this area was named “Blaney” for a New York banker by that name that had been instrumental in funding the railroad and was a vice-president of the railroad.

The Town of Blaney was chartered and incorporated on January 23, 1908. We do not know who the first mayor was, but records dating back to 1927 show that the town had an “Intendant” instead of a mayor and four elected “wardens”. We do know that Jesse T. Ross, who was also the first postmaster, owned the first business establishment there.

Tremors of growth came about in late 1961 and 1962. State Sen. John West, who was also the Blaney Town Attorney, was in his second term and had not been able to bring any new industry to Kershaw County. He talked with his friend – Gov. Fritz Hollings, and soon he was put in touch with the management of the Elgin National Watch Company of Elgin, Illinois.

West took the Elgin team to the Blaney area and they were impressed with the availability of large tracts of land and the proximity to Columbia, where they felt they would find a good labor market. Local residents began working up incentives to bring the company to Blaney. Eventually the name was changed from Blaney to Elgin.

The plant was dedicated in March, 1963 and more than 200 people had jobs there – the majority of them women. The jobs and prosperity the company brought to the community were short-lived, however. In September of 1967 the company announced it was no longer able to compete with foreign manufactured watches and they were getting out of the business.

Reminders of the old name remain in Blaney Elementary School, Blaney Baptist Church, and Blaney Fire Department.