US1, Cheraw, SC to Camden, SC | Olde English District

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US1, Cheraw, SC to Camden, SC

Travel Notes for US 1, Cheraw, SC to Camden, SC

You are traveling on US 1, American’s first national highway. It was completed in 1931 at Cheraw which was near the mid point of the roadway. The South Carolina section is part of the Jefferson Davis National Highway, named for the President of the Confederacy in response to the Lincoln Highway in the North. From time to time you will see granite markers proclaiming this along the road. The route follows an old Indian trail. On parts of it traveled Gen. Gates to the Battle of Camden, Gen. Lafayette on his triumphant return to American, and Union soldiers under Gen. William T. Sherman who were much less welcomed visitors.

US 1 travels along the fall line, a sand hills ridge that stretches from Pinehurst, NC to Columbia to Aiken and Augusta. Long known for a healthy climate, this ridge supports some of the earliest resorts in the Southeast and is known for historic towns, golf resorts, horse races and hospitality.

The old town of Cheraw grew up on the banks of the Great Pee Dee, and is, like Camden, one of the oldest towns in South Carolina. Cheraw has a city limits population of 5,524. Cheraw was an important center for trade from about 1740 on. The economy was largely based on trade and agriculture until the 1950’s when the town put in the infrastructure necessary for modern industry. Cheraw now has a good industrial mix. Brochures and information are available at the Visitors Center at the Cheraw Chamber of Commerce, 221 Market Street on the south side of the Town Green. As you leave town you will pass INA Bearing Company, Stanley Tools, which makes all of its screw drivers here, Cheraw Yarn Mills, and Carolina Canners, makers of Pepsi products.

Continuing on what is now both US 1 and 52, a few miles further brings you to Cheraw State Park. The main entrance is now located on US 52 South but the old entrance, now closed, was on US 1. Cheraw State Park is the oldest and was for many years the largest of South Carolina’s State Parks. The initial acreage was bought with the nickels of Cheraw school children in the depth of the depression. The park now has 7,500 acres, picnic areas, a championship 18 hole golf course with a full-service pro shop, camping and group camps.

Adjacent to the park’s 52 entrance is Cheraw Country Club, an old southern course which also welcomes out of town players.

Continuing south, about 7 miles from Patrick, you will see the Cheraw Fish Hatchery on your left. The Hatchery raises largemouth and smallmouth bass, sunfish, channel and blue catfish in 31 ponds.

You will soon see signs for the H. Cooper Black Field Trial Center. Sporting dog events are scheduled for most of the year, but there are also equestrian trails throughout the site, barns and camping facilities.

Your next landmark is the village of Patrick which evolved when the railroad built a depot here and named it for one of their officials. Notice the 1900 depot on your right. With a population of 364, Patrick’s economy is still based on timber, although many residents work in nearby towns. Believe it or not, pine straw rustlers are a big problem in this area. Patrick celebrates with the Pine Straw Festival.

A few miles further brings you to Sand Hills State Forest which was originally purchased by the Federal Government during the depression to restore worn out soil. Forest Headquarters will be on your right. The Forest has 46,000 acres of pinelands, 13 fish ponds, picnic and camping areas and hiking, mountain bike and horse trails. When you reach the Ruby/ Hartsville Highway, on your right you will see the turn for Sugar Loaf Mountain. This fascinating geological “mini” mountain is the remnant of the oldest mountain chain in North America. Picnic shelters, a lake and nature trails make this the most popular spot in the forest. It is particularly pretty in May when the mountain laurel (Kalmia) is in bloom.

In the sand hills, the areas with the poorest soil support long leaf pines with an understory of turkey oak. Turkey oak leaves turn bright red in late fall and make the woods seem to glow. Slightly better soil supports slash pine with black jack, scrub oaks and dogwoods in the understory. Naval stores, pitch and turpentine were produced here for centuries, and the lumbering industry was important for many years.

Four miles from McBee, on your right, you will see Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center. The Refuge has 46,000 acres and is home to numerous endangered species. At headquarters you can pick up maps detailing the auto tour route, hiking trails, observation towers and photography blinds. Visitors may see wild turkey, deer, fox squirrels, wood ducks and red cockaded woodpeckers.

McBee is the next town. McBee has a population of 715. McBee (both syllables are pronounced equally) is also named for a Seaboard Railroad official. The town came into being when lots for the new town were auctioned off at barbecue in 1900. Peaches are a major crop here. There is a peach stand in the orchard on the northeast side of town on US 1 and a larger peach themed shop and fruit stand just south on Hwy. 151.

McBee’s old train deport is now a library and museum; turn right at the light and go to the railroad track. It will be on your right. The largest employer is AO Smith, a manufacturer of water heaters.

You enter Kershaw County at Lynches River. You will pass through Bethune, known for pottery and clay, and Cassatt, also named for a Seaboard Railroad Official when the line was built just after 1900. Bethune celebrates in the spring with the Chicken Strut Festival.

You now enter Camden, South Carolina’s oldest inland town. Camden is known for history, horses and hospitality.

© Sarah Spruill