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Chesterfield Town

Chesterfield Town Hall is located at 112 Main Street, Chesterfield, SC 29709; phone: 843-623-2131.

Beginnings [1]

The Town of Chesterfield, with a population of 1,451, is the county seat of Chesterfield County in northeastern South Carolina adjacent to the North Carolina line. Bordering on the area where the Piedmont intersects the Coastal Plains, the terrain of the county is characterized by rolling hills. Agriculture has historically been the economic base of the area, but manufacturing has increased greatly in the last three decades. Between 1950 and 1960 the number of persons in Chesterfield County employed in manufacturing surpassed the number employed in agriculture. The county, however, remains a rural area with the town of Chesterfield serving as a center for commerce and county government. According to tradition, the town of Chesterfield was designated the county seat of Chesterfield County soon after the creation of the county in 1785. However, the older and larger town of Cheraw, situated on the Great Pee Dee River, was the main trading center for the county, and by ca. 1826 Chesterfield contained only about 100 inhabitants, twelve houses, and two stores.

In his geography of the state, published in 1832, Thomas P. Lockwood described Chesterfield as "a handsome little place, with a fine brick courthouse and jail. He reported that the town, with a population of 395, was located in an agricultural area.

Writing in 1925, W. D. Craig described the town as he first visited it in 1845. He estimated that the population was about 300, 50 whites and 250 blacks. Chesterfield served as a manufacturing center for the surrounding area; it contained an iron foundry, a fur hat factory, a blacksmith shop, a factory that made gins, a cabinet shop, a tannery, shoe and harness shop, a wheelwright shop, and a ginnery.

Chesterfield remained a village through the nineteenth century. On 2 March 1865 General William T. Sherman entered Chesterfield with the Twentieth Corps of the left wing of his army. Sergeant Rufus Mead, Jr. described the town as a "little dirty town of about 20 houses, hotel, courthouse and jail.

The town grew after the establishment of the Chesterfield and Lancaster Railroad around 1900, which opened up a better means to trade with Cheraw and the rest of the state. The population of Chesterfield, which was 308 in 1900, more than doubled to 618 in 1910 and had increased to 856 in 1920. In the first decades of the twentieth century Chesterfield remained an agricultural trading center, largely dependent on the cultivation of cotton. By 1930 the population of Chesterfield was 1,030. Most of the properties located within the two historic districts included in the Historic Resources of Chesterfield nomination were constructed between 1900 and 1930 and reflect the growth Chesterfield experienced during this period.

Architectural development in Chesterfield followed the general pattern of settlement and economic development of the community since the late eighteenth century. Only the more substantial of the antebellum buildings have survived, and architectural analysis of that period is restricted by this limited survival. The John Craig House, ca. 1795-1798, probably the oldest surviving house in the city limits, is a hall-and-parlour frame farmhouse with Federal style interior woodwork. West Main Street, ca. 1825, is a representative central-hall framehouse, although it has been substantially altered. The Austin-Craig House, built in 1858, is the only known antebellum house in Chesterfield that diverges from the traditional farmhouse forms; the building's asymmetrical form, steep gables, bargeboards, and oriel windows indicate a distinct adaptation of the picturesque character of Gothic Revival cottage architecture. Such a conscious attempt at architectural style appears to have been rare in Chesterfield prior to the Civil War. The city did have a substantial courthouse, which was built ca. 1825, and was of brick; this building is believed to have burned in 1865. Judging from the surviving antebellum buildings, the town of Chesterfield was probably comprised of frame farmhouses, facing the main street, with extensive farmlands behind. Brick buildings, like the courthouse, and attempts at fashionable architecture, like the Austin-Craig House, were rare. No commercial buildings from the antebellum period appear to have survived, nor have any antebellum churches been identified.

  1. John Wells, Mary Watson, S.C. Department of Archives and History, Miss Leo Hough, Mrs. Sarah Farmer, Chesterfield Survey Staff, Archives and History, Historic Resources of Chesterfield, 1982, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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