History of Sumter County South Carolina

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Sumter County, SC, and its County seat, the City of Sumter, were named for Revolutionary War General Thomas Sumter (1734-1832), who was a resident of the area.

Sumter County has changed its name and boundaries several times. In 1785, Claremont County was formed as a part of Camden District; a part of the County was later split off in 1791 to form Salem County. Claremont, Clarendon, and Salem counties were combined into Sumter District in 1800.

Clarendon was once again split off in 1857, however, and another small part of Sumter County went to form Lee County in 1902. This part of the state began attracting English settlers from the lowcountry and from Virginia in the mid-eighteenth century. The area known as the High Hills of Santee, a narrow ridge along the Wateree River, was famous for its healthy climate and rich soil.

Sumter County eventually became a leading agricultural and industrial region. During the Civil War, General Edward Potter's Union troops raided the area, and a skirmish was fought at Dingle's Mill on April 9, 1865. Confederate General Richard Heron Anderson (1821-1879) was a Sumter resident, as were opera singer Clara Louise Kellogg (1842-1916) and educator Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955).

In 1908, Morris College, a four year liberal arts college was established in Sumter by the S. C. Education and Missionary Convention.  Today, the College is fully accredited and is a vital part of our community.

In 1941, Shaw Air Force Base was established near Sumter, and it continues today as an active duty fighter base.

Until 1984, Sumter County had an “at large” system under which only one member of County Council was black, while the population of Sumter County had and continues to have a slight white majority.  In 1984 a “single member” district arrangement for County Council electoral districts was adopted which resulted in three of the seven members elected to Council being black.  Prior to the “at large” form of Government, dates not included, County Government was managed by the local legislative officials from Columbia.

Because of its growth in the 1990's, Sumter is designated a "Metropolitan Statistical Area" (MSA)


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