Named in honor of then Gov. Thomas Bennett, the town of Bennettsville was established in 1819 and quickly became the central hub and seat for Marlborough, later changed to Marlboro County.
In that year, the S.C. General Assembly, upon requests of Scots and English, who had settled in the county, and felt the courthouse would better serve them if located in Bennettsville, authorized the relocation of the courthouse from the eastern bank of the Great Pee Dee River to a more central location. A three-acre apple orchard located on a bluff above Crooked Creek was the selected site for the new courthouse.
The building was designed by South Carolina architect Robert Mills. Streets were then developed around the square, one of the state’s largest.
In 1852, the Mills building was replaced. The new building escaped burning when Sherman’s troops captured Bennettsville during the Civil War.
In 1884, another Second Empire style courthouse was erected on the site and is the central portion of the present building. Two story red brick wings and the present clock steeple designed by Bennettsville architect Henry D. Harrall were added during the 1952-1954 remodeling. The 1884 courtroom on the
second floor is said to be one of South Carolina’s most handsome.
The Confederate Monument on the square made Ripley’s “Believe it or Not” because it is said to have a Union Army field cap atop the Confederate soldier’s head.
In 1885, Duncan Donald McColl brought the first railroad, bank and textile mills to Bennettsville. The economy boomed during this “king cotton” era. Many late 1800 and early 20th century commercial and residential Victorian buildings were constructed at this time and still remain.
The city became one of the richest agricultural areas in the state. Because of this importance to its early history, the State of S.C. gave Bennettsville the designation of its first “G.R.E.A.T Town” (Governors Rural Economic Achievement Trophy).
Today, Bennettsville remains a small Southern town with a strong community feel and interesting architecture. Sidewalk and tree-lined streets are throughout the residential and commercial historic districts and are utilized by both runners and walkers, as is Lake Paul Wallace.
In 2005 and again in 2006, Bennettsville was awarded two grants through the S.C. Department of Commerce, making it possible for the façade restoration of more than one hundred downtown commercial buildings, the addition of the Bennettsville Visitor Center, and the award brought Charleston’s School of the Building Arts to town to instruct two six week classes on period window and brick restoration through the Bennettsville Restorative Arts Program.
The courthouse recently received a facelift as well as landscaping to include palmetto trees and a large fountain. Park benches were placed in resting areas throughout the courthouse grounds. A rainbow of colorful buildings surround the courthouse square.
Many folks seeking a small Southern town atmosphere in which to relocate are exploring Bennettsville as a landing spot. Commercial buildings and homes throughout town are undergoing restoration. Business start-up incentives are available through the Bennettsville Downtown Development for those interested in utilizing business space within the towns historic buildings. The Development’s motto for Bennettsville is, Celebrating a proud past and a promising future. www.bdda.org. The Marlboro County Economic Development is busy encouraging prospective industrial possibilities to call Marlboro County home www.marlborocountysc.org Marlboro County…Rich in history and community…It’s good to be home!
Take A Walk Through History: A self-guided walking tour of 31 plaqued historic buildings located in Bennettsville's Historic District. A sample of the the tour can be found at www.visitbennettsville.com