Winnsboro | Olde English District

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Winnsboro (c. 1785; 3.2 sq. miles; population: 3,599).

In 1780 Lord Cornwallis spent a hard winter here after the defeat of the British and Loyalists at Kings Mountain. At that time, the village of Winnsborough, as it was called, had about 20 dwellings. Winnsboro was incorporated as a town in 1785. By the time Eli Whitney's cotton gin was patented in 1794, Fairfield County was well on the way to becoming one of the biggest producers of upland cotton in the state. In 1830 Richard Cathcart built this imposing townhouse in Winnsboro to enjoy the amenities of the bustling town life away from his country cotton plantation.

Various sites in Winnsboro

An early cultural impetus for the growth of the village of Winnsboro was the founding of the Mt. Zion Society in Charleston in 1777. Several well-known Charlestonians joined with Winnsboro's founding fathers to set up a preparatory school in this healthy upland environment. The establishment allowed not only the sons of wealthy low-country families to prepare for furthering their educations at the College of South Carolina, Harvard, and other early universities, but also for the schooling of the "up-country" children. By the early 1800s, Mt. Zion College had attracted as students the sons of many notable South Carolinians who would become leaders across many fields in our young nation and state. In 1848, then well-known educator Catherine Ladd and her artist husband purchased the Richard Cathcart home and set up a boarding school for the education of young ladies. The Winnsboro Female Institute would become a counterpart to Mt. Zion College, and girls from many other places came to learn both the cultural and academic masteries necessary to develop ladies of social standing. The Winnsboro Female Institute closed just as the rumblings of war preceded South Carolina's secession from the Union in January of 1861. Mrs. Ladd converted her efforts to the formation of the Soldiers Aid Association to support the cause. After the war, Mrs. Ladd became a leader in bringing arts to the community, writing and publishing her poetry and plays in national magazines, and conducting theatrical and musical productions to help the townsfolk survive difficult times.