Highway 9 through Chesterfield County | Olde English District

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Highway 9 through Chesterfield County

Travel Notes for SC 9 beginning at the western end of Chesterfield County near Pageland and continuing to Cheraw, SC.

You are traveling along South Carolina Highway 9 which runs east-west from the coast to the mountains. This section of SC 9 passes through the piedmont with its rolling hills. Hwy. 9 at this point is lined with numerous wildflowers. In the spring the red fields are red sorrel or “sour weed” the stems of which are pleasantly sour and sometimes used in salads. The fields of blue are a tiny blue flower called “toad flax” which resembles real flax at the flowering stage. The bright blue is bachelor’s button and the bright pinks are wild flocks. Dogwoods grow wild on the edges of the woods and the bright yellow vine is yellow jessamine, the South Carolina state flower.

In late spring and early summer the tall white flowers are Queen Anne’s lace or wild carrot. Yellow Black Eyed Susans also appear.

In the fall, the tall yellow spikes are “crotalaria” or rattle box, an oriental plant gone wild, or they may be golden rod. The pale lavender daisies are wild asters, and sunflowers also abound.

As you progress into Chesterfield County you eventually enter the sandhills, a twenty to thirty mile wide strip separating the piedmont from the coastal plains. The sandhills make up a large portion of Chesterfield County. The sand hills were considered “healthy” because they were dry and supported fewer of the mosquitoes which cause malaria. The winter resorts of Pinehurst, Camden and Aiken all fall along this line of hills. Because these hills only support pine barrens, this area was sparsely settled. The small towns in these hills did not really grow until the timber industry and railroads came shortly after 1900.

Chesterfield County was established from St. David’s Parish by the Counties Act of 1785. Since many settlers came from Chesterfield County, Virginia that is probably the origin of the name. Originally the name came from Lord Chesterfield, who was something of a rake and noted for writing letters to his son on etiquette and giving his name to a sofa and coat style.

The first town you come to is Pageland, pop. 2,521. Pageland was named for Adolphus High Page, nicknamed “Captain Dolly” who brought the Cheraw and Lancaster railroad to the town in 1904. Before then, Pageland was called “Blakeney’s Crossroads”. Pageland is the “Watermelon Capital of the World” and has been holding an annual Watermelon Festival in mid-July for more than forty years. This is a good time to watch a parade or show off your skill at watermelon eating and seed spitting. In the summer watch for the low growing watermelon vines in the fields. Soybeans are the major cash crop here, and cotton is also grown in the area. The soybean leaves turn a brilliant yellow in the fall.

Several buildings are made of a local stone including the Pageland Gym, which will be on your right as you enter town. This was constructed by the WPA in the 1930’s. The old Blakeney Hotel, a white brick building on the left, was an old railroading hotel.

While agriculture is still important to Pageland, the industries here include textiles, fabricated metals, electrical equipment, lumber products and a major distribution center. Pageland is increasingly coming into the orbit of metropolitan Charlotte and is growing rapidly. Downtown Pageland is part of the “Small Towns” program and is working to restore building facades to the charming period in which they were built.

(10 miles east)

Mt. Croghan has a population of 140 within its city limits and was supposedly named for a French Revolutionary War officer, Major Croan, who camped here on his way to the battle of Camden. Mt. Croghan is one of the oldest communities in Chesterfield County. It was heavily damaged by Gen. Sherman’s Union Army in 1865 and really only began to recover in the last few decades. Still heavily agricultural, Mt. Croghan does have some manufacturing.

From here to Cheraw you will be following the same route that Union Gen. William T. Sherman took in March of 1865 on his famous march of destruction across South Carolina.

(3 miles east of Mt. Croghan)

Ruby, with a population of 250, was once a farming community, but now 80% of her citizens work in industry. The largest employers are Gerrard Tire Company and Tri-State Motor Transit Company. Originally known as Flint hill, the arrival in 1902 of the Cheraw and Lancaster Railroad caused the settlement to be moved down the hill to meet the tracks, creating what came to be known as Ruby. Ruby is supposed to have been named for the postmaster’s daughter.

Ruby celebrates that name with the “Jewel City Jubilee” in September. This truly home grown festival is considered especially fun by those who like to participate in a parade as well as watch one.

(7 miles east)

Chesterfield is a courthouse town. Established as the county seat by the South Carolina Legislature in 1785, Chesterfield grew slowly until 1900 when the Chesterfield and Lancaster railroad came to town. Take Business 9 into town.

As you go down West Main Street, you will come to a large house set well back from the street on the left. This is the Dr. Thomas Lucas House, built in 1868. Dr. Lucas earned enough from the Union occupation forces to build this residence.

Just before you get to the new courthouse, on the left, Gothic Revival Austin Craig House was completed in 1858 for a lawyer from Pennsylvania. According to legend a slave kept this house from burning when he told the Union soldiers it belonged to a Yankee. Most of downtown Chesterfield is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The old Chesterfield County Courthouse at the end of the commercial area was built in 1884. A monument on the grounds marks the site of the first secession meeting which was held on Nov. 19, 1860. This meeting called for South Carolina’s withdrawal from the Union. The town suffered mightily for her part in the resulting war. In March of 1865, almost the entire town was burned by Union general W. T. Sherman’s troops including the courthouse which had been designed by Robert Mills of Washington Monument fame. Its 1884 replacement now houses the Chesterfield Visitors Center, which includes the Chesterfield District Chapter of the SC Genealogical Society, the Chesterfield County Historical Society Museum, the Chesterfield Arts Alliance and the Chamber of Commerce. Next door, the old neoclassical Bank of Chesterfield, built in 1908, now houses a restaurant. Just opposite, the old county jail was built in 1885.

To the right of the courthouse stands the John Craig House completed in 1798 by the town’s first settler. This was Sherman’s personal headquarters and is the oldest building in the town. Chesterfield celebrates its “Olde Towne Celebration” in late September. Chesterfield has a diversified economy that includes government services, agriculture and industry.

(13 miles east to Cheraw)

As you approach Cheraw you see more of the sandhills. The area with the poorest soil supports long leaf pines with an understory of turkey oak. Turkey oak leaves turn bright red in late fall and make the woods seem to actually 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. Pine straw is now a valuable resource.

The sand hills are perfect for golf courses such as those at Pinehurst, and golf course development is growing here. A first class public course was completed in 1992 at Cheraw State Park. This park of 7,300 plus acres is the oldest in the South Carolina State Park system.

As you approach Cheraw, near the airport, you are in the area known as “Gopher Hill.” This was the site of some of Cheraw’s summer homes. The wealthiest families came here to escape the “night air” closer to the river. The real problem, of course, was mosquitoes. These summer homes were all destroyed by Sherman’s army and never rebuilt.

Cheraw, population 6,000 is the largest town in the county, and one of the oldest in South Carolina. Cheraw was an important center for trade and business 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. Although recent outsourcing has caused major problems, Cheraw still has an excellent industrial mix. The largest industries are textiles, fabricated metals and machinery.

As you come into Cheraw, you will see Northeastern Technical College and one of the two INA Bearing plants in Cheraw on the right. This German company makes industrial bearings. Cheraw is growing rapidly in this unincorporated area.

Closer in on your left is Highland Industries. Highland is a Japanese firm that makes air bags, seat belt webbing and protective material. They are very generous corporate citizens and have planted flowering cherries here and at several other locations in Cheraw.

You are entering Cheraw on Market Street, part of the original 1768 plan for the town by Eli Kershaw. Notice the numerous churches and antebellum buildings that line this street. Cheraw’s Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and contains more than 50 antebellum buildings and numerous Victorian ones. A free self guiding brochure to the district is available at the Cheraw Chamber of Commerce. (We hope you will stop and visit us in Cheraw. Step on guides for the district are available by prior arrangement and the Town Green and Old St. David’s Church are popular sites. There are several restaurants large enough to handle groups as well as fast food restaurants for a quick stop.)