Cheraw, South Carolina

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Cheraw, South Carolina
Location of Cheraw, South Carolina
Location of Cheraw, South Carolina
Coordinates: 34°41′48″N 79°53′42″W / 34.69667°N 79.89500°W / 34.69667; -79.89500Coordinates: 34°41′48″N 79°53′42″W / 34.69667°N 79.89500°W / 34.69667; -79.89500
Country United States
State South Carolina
County Chesterfield
 • Total 4.6 sq mi (12.0 km2)
 • Land 4.6 sq mi (11.9 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.1 km2)
Elevation 167 ft (51 m)
Population (2000)
 • Total 5,524
 • Density 1,197.6/sq mi (462.4/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 29520
Area code(s) 843
FIPS code 45-13600[1]
GNIS feature ID 1247267[2]
Historic Town Hall in downtown Cheraw
The grave marker for a British soldier in St. David's Cemetery

Cheraw (/əˈrɔː/ chə-RAW, local /ʃəˈrɔː/ shə-RAW) is a town on the Pee Dee River in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, United States. The population was 5,524 at the 2000 census and center of an urban cluster with a total population of 9,069. It has been nicknamed "The Prettiest Town in Dixie." The harbor tug USS Cheraw was named in the town's honor.



At the time of European encounter, the original inhabitants of the area were the Cheraw and Pee Dee American Indian tribes. The Cheraw lived near the waterfall hill, near present-day Cheraw, but by the 1730s they had been devastated by new infectious disease inadvertently carried by the European traders. Survivors joined the Catawba Confederacy for safety and left their name in history. Only a few scattered Cheraw families remained by the time of the American Revolution. A few European settlers entered their territory in the 1730s, forced upriver when the Welsh came to claim the Welsh Baptist lands granted by the English government in the area around Society Hill. Many of the early settlers of the 1740s in Cheraw were ethnic English, Scots, French Huguenots, or Scots-Irish.

By 1750, Cheraw had become an established Anglo-American village with a growing river trade, one of the first inland villages. It was one of only six places in South Carolina that appeared on English maps. In the 1760s, Joseph and Eli Kershaw were granted the part of Cheraw that is now the downtown historic district. The Kershaws laid out a formal street system. By 1830 settlers lined all the streets with rows of elms. The Kershaws originally called the town Chatham, but people never accepted this name, continuing to call it Cheraw or Cheraw Hill.

American Revolution[edit]

There was a lack of organization and rule during the beginning of the 1740s in the backcountry of South Carolina. This lack of organization and unrest was an underlying cause of the resentment people of these areas felt toward the British Crown. In the Pee Dee area, planters organized a group called the Regulators to help bring order to the area. In 1768 the St. David’s Parish, the last Anglican Church built in South Carolina under King George III, was established to help serve the civic and religious needs of the Cheraw area. Later a Judicial District and courthouse were established to help deal with the problem of order. However, there was still much discontent with the ruling authority and in May 1776 the grand jury of the Cheraws District Two declared its independence from Great Britain.

Many area men played prominent roles in the American Revolution. They included Claudius Pegues, General Henry W. Harrington, the Ellerbe brothers, Philip Pledger, and Eli Kershaw. There was much unrest in the area during this time because Cheraw fell into part of the British strategic line of defense. This British strategic line of defense was where garrisons were built to control revolutionaries and to encourage loyalists. Other towns in this line of defense included Camden and Augusta. It also became a strategic point for the Americans. Military activity was especially heavy in Cheraw and surrounding counties from 1780-1781. During the Revolutionary war St. David’s Church was used as quarters for the South Carolina militia and as a hospital for the British troops under Major McArthur, who under Lord Cornwallis’s command. In December of 1780, just across from Cheraw, American commander General Nathanael Greene set up a “camp of repose" to rest and train his men.

Early 19th century[edit]

In 1819, the first steamboat came up river, and along with it a burst of prosperity because of expanded trade. Cheraw was incorporated as a town in 1820. The main crops from the Cheraw area were corn, cotton, tobacco, rice and indigo. Cheraw had the largest cotton market between Georgetown, South Carolina and Wilmington, North Carolina. Because of the cotton trade, the town boasted the largest bank in South Carolina outside of Charleston before the American Civil War. Despite a serious fire in 1835, by 1850 the town was prosperous center of trade.

Civil War[edit]

Leading up to the American Civil War, Cheraw citizens played a key role in South Carolina’s secession from the Union. On November 19, 1860 the first call for secession in a public meeting was made at the Chesterfield County Courthouse. John A. Inglis of Cheraw was in attendance. He later introduced the resolution for South Carolina to secede. Inglis was also named the chairman of the committee that wrote the document for South Carolina’s secession.

From the beginning of the war, Cheraw was known as a place for refuge and a storehouse for valuables. In March 1865, General William T. Sherman brought his Union troops to Cheraw for several days. One Union soldier said that they found Cheraw to be “a pleasant town and an old one with the Southern aristocratic bearing.” Sherman used this as a time to gain more control over his men. No private dwellings or public buildings in Cheraw were destroyed by Sherman and his troops. However, an accidental explosion of captured gunpowder at the river hill burned the Cheraw business district. The county courthouse in Chesterfield was burned in this event, resulting in the loss of many records. Thus, it is difficult to date many of the historic properties.

During the Civil War, St. David’s Church was used as a hospital by both the Confederate and Union armies. Some troops from both armies were buried there. The first Confederate Monument was erected there in 1867, a claim disputed by Romney, West Virginia. Originally, the monument did not mention the Confederate soldiers because the area was still occupied by Federal troops.

20th century to present[edit]

The Civil War caused great economic hardship in Cheraw, as it did in the entire South. However by the early 1900s, prosperity began to return to Cheraw. The Great Depression again brought change. Cheraw State Park and Sandhills State Forest were both founded in the 1930s. By the 1950s and 1960s the groundwork was laid for industrial growth. By the end of the 20th century, Cheraw had a balanced industrial base while maintaining its historic charm, architectural treasures and natural resources.

In addition to St. David's Episcopal Church and Cemetery, the Cheraw Historic District and Robert Smalls School are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[3][4]


Cheraw is at the fall line of the Pee Dee River. According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 4.6 square miles (12 km2), of which, 4.6 square miles (12 km2) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) of it (0.65%) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
2000 5,524
2010 5,851 5.9%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 5,524 people, 2,290 households, and 1,470 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,197.6 people per square mile (462.7/km²). There were 2,568 housing units at an average density of 556.7 per square mile (215.1/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 52.2% African American, 45.8% White, 0.4% Native American, 0.81% Asian, 0.31% from other races, and 0.54% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.80% of the population.[5]

There were 2,290 households out of which 31.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.4% were married couples living together, 25.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.8% were non-families. 33.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.96.

In the town the population was spread out with 26.5% under the age of 18, 7.6% from 18 to 24, 24.4% from 25 to 44, 22.7% from 45 to 64, and 18.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 78.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 70.7 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $21,897, and the median income for a family was $31,136. Males had a median income of $27,405 versus $22,003 for females. The per capita income for the town was $13,801. About 27.3% of families and 32.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 43.1% of those under age 18 and 21.9% of those age 65 or over.

Cheraw is the center of an urban cluster with a total population of 9,069 (2000 census).


Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  4. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Listings". Weekly List of Actions Taken on Properties: 3/03/14 through 3/07/14. National Park Service. 2014-03-14. 
  5. ^ "2000 Census Fact Finder". US Census. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Confederate War Sites: Cheraw, South Carolina, Cheraw Visitors Bureau, 2000.
  • Old St. David's Church, Cheraw Visitors Bureau, 2000.
  • A Guide to the Cheraw Historic District, Cheraw Visitors Bureau, 2006.
  • Cheraw and the American Revolution, Cheraw Visitors Bureau, 2003.

External links[edit]