History of Clarendon County, South Carolina 

Clarendon County is rich in history, with historic names, noble deeds, and  notable natives. Clarendon has made notable strides with the passage of time and is noted for friendliness and hospitality. You are encouraged to join us as we move into the twenty first century on our walk through history.

Clarendon County has a name of historical significance, being named after Edward Hyde, the Earl of Clarendon, one time Lord High Chancellor of England and also one of the lord proprietors of the New World, a friend and supporter of King Charles II of England. This section of the Carolina colony was first known as part of Craven County in 1682. This region was then in St. Mark's Parish which had been formed in 1757. In 1785 a legislative act was passed which divided Camden District into 7 counties, one of which was Clarendon County. In 1792 Salem County was created from Eastern Clarendon and Claremont counties. In 1798 three counties, Clarendon, Claremont and Salem were combined to form Sumter District. A legislative act passed December 19, 1855, established the Clarendon District with the same boundaries as established in 1785. In 1868 district was changed to county.  Manning, the county seat and geographic center of the County, was initially chartered on January 28, 1861.

Many of the first settlers were Huguenots, meaning they were French Protestants who fled their own country between 1685 and 1787, to avoid persecution in France. Many of the early settlers came up the Santee River from coastal areas around the year 1700 and received land grants in our area. Some of the names are still with us, such as Cantey, DuBose, Gaillard, Des Champs, Richbourg, Lesesne, McFaddin, Guerry, Millette, Sprott, and Mouzon and others.

Historic Names 

Caroline Johnson

Caroline Johnson moved to Clarendon County after the Civil War. She is remembered as an entrepreneur who was able to amass over 300 acres of land, start a mercantile business and establish one of the first cotton gins in Clarendon. She was one of the first Black women to enter the business world. She donated land for a church and land for the Caroline Johnson Cemetery, near Wyboo Plantation, which remains today.

Rev. William W. Mood

Rev. William W. Mood was the pastor of the first Methodist church in Manning.  He was present when the business district and courthouse was burned in Manning at the end of the Civil War in 1865. Rev. Mood wrote a firsthand account of the destruction of the area. Rev. Mood is the uncle of Julia Mood Peterkin.

Julia Mood Peterkin

Julia Mood Peterkin won the Pulitzer Prize for the best novel of the year 1928.  She was raised in Manning by her grandfather, Rev. Henry M. Mood and her aunt and uncle, Mr. & Mrs. Issac Ingram.  She attended the Moses Levi Institute in Manning. Her prize winning book, “Scarlet Sister Mary” was published in October, 1928.

Peggy Parish

Peggy Parish was born in Manning, South Carolina on July 14, 1927. She developed a love for reading at an early age and, even as a child, enjoyed writing.  Peggy went on to write more than 11 Amelia Bedelia books. She also wrote a number of mystery novels, as well as arts and crafts books.

Reverend Joseph Armstrong DeLaine

Reverend Joseph Armstrong DeLaine (1898-1974) was a Methodist minister and civil rights leader. He received a B.A. from Allen University in 1931. DeLaine worked with Modjeska Simkins and the South Carolina N.A.A.C.P on the case Briggs v. Elliott, which became one of the five cases argued before the Supreme Court as Brown v. Board of Education. There were many families involved in the case of Harry Briggs Jr. v R.W. Elliott.  

The following citizens, along with others of Clarendon County, displayed persistence and courage as they took a stand against discrimination in South Carolina schools: Harry Briggs, Anne Gibson, Mose Oliver, Bennie Parson, Edward Ragin, William Ragin, Luchrisher Richardson, Lee Richardson, James H. Bennett, Mary Oliver, Willie M. Stukes, G.H. Henry, Robert Georgia, Rebecca Richburg, Gabriel Tindal, Susan Lawson, Frederick Oliver, Onetha Bennett, Hazel Ragin, and Henry Scott. 

The case was joined with similar cases and appealed to the United States Supreme Court; it was combined with other cases and known as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The ruling of the court in 1954 desegregated all public schools in the United States.

Elizabeth Peyre Richardson Manning

Elizabeth Peyre Richardson Manning (1794-1873) was the niece, wife, sister, mother, aunt and grandmother of six South Carolina governors. The town of Manning was named after her son, John Lawrence Manning. Elizabeth Manning was the niece of Governor James Burchell Richardson, the wife of Governor Richard Irvine Manning, the sister of Governor John Peter Richardson, the mother of Governor John Lawrence Manning, the aunt of Governor John Peter Richardson, and the grandmother of Governor Richard Irvine Manning.

Marion McKnight

Marion McKnight was born December 19, 1936, in Manning, South Carolina. This former beauty pageant contestant won the Miss America title in 1957. As an actress, Marian has appeared in numerous television shows and countless commercials. As a public relations director or spokesperson, Marian has represented such notable companies as Revlon, Evan-Piccone, Philco, and General Foods. She married actor Gary Conway in 1958. They have two children and are owners of the Carmody McKnight winery.

J.D. Warley

After the Civil War, Clarendon County had one Black senator, J.D. Warley. He was a minister and a farmer. He represented Clarendon County in the state House of Representatives (1870-1874) and the Senate (1874-1877). Rev. Warley also served as election commissioner, magistrate, trial justice, and chairman of the Clarendon County Republican Party. The end of Reconstruction brought about disenfranchisement in 1895. The Jim Crow Laws brought an end to Blacks in political office.

Notable Deeds

During the Battle of Nelson’s Ferry in August 1780, Francis Marion and his men rescued 150 prisoners and captured 23 of the British escort and Tory guides. At the end of the battle Cornwallis would never forget the name, Francis Marion. Marion’s name would become well known for his extraordinary exploits in the Revolutionary War.   

Six acres of land was deeded to the State of South Carolina by Captain Joseph Burgess on May 16, 1856 for our historic courthouse and a jail.  Court was held in the Clarendon County Courthouse for the first time on April 19, 1858.

John Isaac Ingram was known as "The Father of Clarendon County" because of his unwavering support of the new county.  He was a member of the House of Representatives from 1842 to 1848 and the Senate from 1848 to 1856. Dr. Ingram gave land for public use, including the Manning Cemetery.

Alcolu was established by D. W. Alderman.  He came to Clarendon County in 1885.He started in the lumber and mill business. He established the Paroda Railroad in 1906. By 1920 the Alcolu Line ran a passenger train from Alcolu to Olanta. Mr. Alderman and his sons also opened the most magnificent and up to date store for its time (1919).  The immense size of the store made it comparable to twenty of the average stores in Manning. The store had cash registers and telephones, an unusual occurrence for that time. Mr. D. W. Alderman was one of the pioneer lumber men of South Carolina and the president and founder of D.W. Alderman & Sons Company.

Dr. Charles Geiger led the effort to raise the funds needed for a hospital in Clarendon County in 1906.  It took approximately 45 years to bring about the realization of a hospital for the county of Clarendon.  The original planning board was chaired by F.E. DuBose.

Schools for Black students were supported by the Black churches in the area (Mt. Chapel, Liberty Hill, Spring Hill, Society Hill and many other churches). Julius Rosenwald committed large sums of money to build schools in Clarendon County.  Donations of land and labor by the families and community made it possible for the Rosenwald schools of Clarendon (Manning Training School, Alcolu, Jordan, Liberty Hill, Paxville, and Scott’s Branch High School) to be built. Levi Pearson filed the first suit that focused on the lack of transportation services for the Black students.  School buses provided transportation for the white school children.  The Black students had to walk miles to attend their designated school.  Levi Pearson filed a case in 1947 to dispute the disparity in services.  The case was dismissed on the technicality that Mr. Pearson did not reside in the district.

Clarendon County civil rights pioneers filed the landmark case of Briggs v. Elliott which paved the way for the Supreme Court (Brown v Board of Education) case that would end segregation in schools.  The parents of the Summerton students joined together to correct the disparity in the educational facilities.  The participants in the legal case faced economic reprisals and violence.  Many of the signers lost their jobs and their homes.  Billie S. Fleming, one of the leaders of the local N.A.A.C.P. was instrumental in providing assistance for the families.  The violence directed toward Rev. Joseph DeLaine and his family forced them to flee Clarendon County. Clarendon County did not make the changes in the school system at the time the  Supreme Court decision specified.  In the beginning of the 1970-1971 school years, the federal government forced South Carolina to dismantle its dual school system; South Carolina could no longer have a segregated public school system.

A civil suit was filed against the Klan because of the burning of Black churches in Manning and Greeleyville.  The suit was filed on behalf of the Macedonia Baptist Church and Mt. Zion AME Church.  The churches were burned by the Klan in 1995.  The pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church, Rev. Mouzon, was threatened by the Klan.  The churches were represented in court by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLE), our local State Senator, John Land and others.  The churches won a record judgment in 1998.  The judgment was reduced at a later date.

Notable Natives

Among the most distinguished native sons of Clarendon County are five of the six men from the Richardson and Manning families who served as governors of the State of South Carolina.  James Burchell Richardson (1802-1804), Richard Irvine Manning (1824-1826), John Peter Richardson (1840-1842), John Lawrence Manning (for whom the town of Manning was named) from 1852-1854 and John Peter Richardson (1886-1890).  One of the most historic graveyards in the region, the Richardson Cemetery was founded prior to the Revolutionary War.  Two former Governors (James Burchill Richardson, John Peter Richardson) are buried there.  This historic cemetery is owned by the Clarendon County Historical Society which operates the Clarendon County Museum and History Center.

Moses Levi was one of the oldest settlers of the town.  He was born in 1827 in Bavaria, Germany.  He came here in 1856 and engaged in the mercantile business. His retail store was one of the first businesses established in the new town of Manning.  He was one of many who suffered financial losses during the Civil War. He persevered and rebuilt his business. He was one of the leading citizens of Manning.

Abraham Levi was born in Manning (1863).  He pursued his law degree at the University of Virginia and graduated from the Albany Law School.  In 1886 he commenced his law practice in Manning.  He served as president of the Bank of Manning.  Mr. Levi was involved in various financial institutions as an organizer and attorney.  He did a great deal to advance the industrial growth of the community.

The Levi Family gave funds to upgrade the library at the Moses Levi Institute and made it available to the public.  This donation started an intensive drive for funds to provide a town library.  The family continued to provide support to the Hannah Levi Memorial Library Fund.  Hannah Levi was one of the first settlers in Manning.  The library was constructed in 1910 and the building now serves as the Clarendon County Archives.

Althea Gibson was born in Silver, South Carolina on August 25, 1927.  When she was young, Althea moved with her family to Harlem, in New York City.  Althea Gibson was the first African- American tennis player to compete at the U.S. National Championships.  She was the first Black player to compete at Wimbledon in 1951.  She also broke racial barriers in professional golf. On Monday, August 26, 2019, a new statue of tennis pioneer Althea Gibson was unveiled at the opening day of the U.S. Open. The statue of Althea Gibson sits in front of Arthur Ashe Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.

Bertie Bowman was born in (St. Paul) Summerton in the 1930’s.  Senator Maybank made a speech and told the crowd to drop by and see him.  Bertie asked, “If I come to Washington, can I come by and see you, too?” Senator Maybank’s invitation to drop by and see him in Washington had an impact on Bertie.  Bertie had that speech in mind when he ran away and went to Washington.  Senator Maybank kept his word and made sure that Bertie had a job.  Bertie Bowman began his service to the federal government by sweeping the steps of the Capitol Building and ultimately became a major figure as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing Coordinator.

Pansy Ridgeway was the first female to run for a seat on the Manning City Council.  She served on the City Council from 1962 until 1970.  In 1970 she ran for and was elected as the mayor of Manning.  Pansy Ridgeway was the first female to hold the office of Mayor.  In 1986 she received the honor of being selected as the South Carolina mayor who made the biggest contribution to their city or town. Pansy Ridgeway served as mayor for seven consecutive terms.

John C. Land III, elder statesman, was born in Clarendon County in 1941.  He is descended from a family that laid down their roots here in the early 1860s.  John Land is an attorney and former Highway Commissioner.  John Land served two years in the House of Representatives and 32 years in the Senate. Senator Land was elected Senate Majority Leader in 1993 and served as Minority Leader beginning in 2000. He held his seat in the Senate for nine terms, from 1977 until 2012.

Dr. Sylvia Clark worked as a teacher, child welfare worker, school principal and Clarendon School District 2 superintendent. She was named as the Outstanding Elementary Principal for South Carolina in 1983 and South Carolina School Superintendent of the Year in 1994. Under her leadership, Manning Primary School was named a National Center of Excellence in 1984. Dr. Clark is also the author of "Shadows of the Past: An Illustrated History of Clarendon County, SC" and "If These Walls Could Talk: Manning Historic Buildings." Dr. Clark holds a B.A., M.Ed. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of South Carolina.

Reuben B. Clark (Paxville) was the first African American Magistrate to serve Clarendon County since Reconstruction.  He served as Magistrate for 17 years. In 1995, Judge Clark was awarded the state of South Carolina’s highest honor, The Order of the Palmetto by former Gov. Carroll Campbell.  Reuben Clark was a Charter Member in the Manning branch of the N.A.A.C.P.

Senator Kevin Johnson was Manning’s first Black mayor.  He represented Clarendon County in the South Carolina House of Representatives and presently serves as the Senator representing Clarendon, Darlington, Florence and Sumter Counties.

Beulah Roberts was the courthouse’s third Black employee in 1976.  She is the first county-wide African American elected official.  She is the first female Clerk of Court in Clarendon County.  She was appointed County Clerk in 1995 to fill a vacancy.  County Clerk Roberts was elected without opposition in 1996 and similarly re-elected in 2000 and continues to hold this post.

Hayes Samuel, Jr. served several terms as Clarendon County Coroner (2004 -2018).  He is the owner of Samuel's Funeral Home and an involved and active participant in organizations that support the people of Clarendon County.

Julia Nelson completed Senator Johnson’s term as Mayor of Manning when he was elected Representative and she was unopposed in the next election.  Julia Nelson is the first Black female to hold the position of Mayor in the City of Manning. Professionally, she is the Executive Director of the Sumter County First Steps program, where she has served since 2003.