The History of Marion
The area's natural resources and superb location attracted Native Americans as the first to settle in the area. Food, a natural corridor from the sea inland and other resources provided by the nearby Little Pee Dee and Great Pee Dee Rivers and a main tributary called Catfish Creek enticed the Pedee, Cheraw and Waccamaw Indians to frequent and stay in the area.
The area surrounding the present day City of Marion was next settled by English settlers migrating inland from the South Carolina coast in the 1730s and 1740s. Around 1754 a somewhat permanent settlement was established by John Godbold and others. By the late 1700's, the community of Gilesborough, named for landowner, surveyor and one of the area's first "judges," Hugh Giles, began to prosper.
During the American Revolutionary War, particularly from 1779-1782, family members from the area fought on each side of the American Revolutionary War, with Giles, and others as leaders of militia units, and Jesse Barfield and Macijah Gainey and others as leaders of loyalists troops. Sites near the center of today's City of Marion were skirmish sites for these opposing forces. To learn more about the Marion area's contributions during the American Revolutionary War, view this 22 minute video produced by the City through donations and stored on the HomeTown 8 Television Station website by clicking here.
In 1798, when courthouse districts were established in the new state, the county was named Marion in honor of Gen. Francis Marion, the notorious "Swamp Fox" of the Revolutionary War, under whom many local militia members served. Today, a statue honoring this hero of guerilla warfare stands in the City of Marion's square, one of many reminders that an exciting history remains vital to life in the City and County of Marion.
In 1799 Thomas Godbold Sr., prominent settler and landowner, laid out a village square, depicting lots for homes, businesses and government offices. The Village of Gilesborough gave rise to the City of Marion, which grew and prospered. Marion immediately became a center for justice, commerce and social activities. The county's first courthouse was completed in 1800.
In 1847, the city's name was officially changed to Marion and the present day courthouse was built in 1853. Situated across the square from the statue of Francis Marion, the city's courthouse square is one of the largest in the state. The Old Opera House, just off the square, was built in 1892 and houses a 300-seat auditorium used by various theater and arts groups, community and civic organizations and the United Fund of Marion County, Inc. The Marion Academy Building, built in 1886, is home to the Marion County Museum. These buildings, and others dated to the early 1900s, form the heart of the town of 7,000 residents.
Since a correspondent of The Nation, sent south to describe the area to its readers, reportedly wrote in 1865 that Marion is "a very pretty little village full of trees and gardens and light, elegant houses," it has retained his name as "the pretty little town" in South Carolina. Click here to see some of the pretty little historic homes in the city.
To learn more about the history of Marion, purchase the Marion Chamber of Commerce's booklet entitled Marion, South Carolina. Contact the Chamber at 843-423-3561 to learn how to order your copy.