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Summary of Laurens County involvement

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

Four important Revolutionary War battles took place in Laurens County. On July 15, 1776, patriot forces defeated a combined Indian and Tory attack on Lyndley’s Fort near Rabun Creek. At the Battle of Musgrove’s Mill, a force of rebels attacked British and Tory forces on August 18, 1780, and achieved a decisive victory at the end of a two-day battle. On December 29, 1780, a Tory detachment was defeated at Hammond’s Store near present-day Clinton. Near the end of the war, at Hayes Station (eight miles southwest of Clinton), Captain “Bloody Bill” Cunningham attacked a contingent of rebels and killed fourteen.

After the war, Ninety Six District became the chief governmental unit of the backcountry. In 1785 Laurens County, named for the statesman Henry Laurens of Charleston, was one of six counties carved from the district. To select a site for the county seat, a delegation met at the distillery of John Rodgers, near the present Laurens courthouse square. Tradition has it that the men, after imbibing freely, climbed the hill to a level area and chose the spot for the courthouse. More likely, however, the site was selected for its proximity to water and because five important roads connecting the upcountry converged at the point. A wooden courthouse, also used as a church and a schoolhouse, was constructed shortly afterward. An improved courthouse was built between 1837 and 1838 and enlarged in 1857 and 1911.

After the Revolution, the upcountry saw immigrants arrive from Pennsylvania seeking cheap land. By 1800 the population of Laurens County stood at 12,809, of which almost eighty-five percent were white. However, as cotton production expanded, the number of slaves increased. The district produced almost sixteen thousand bales of cotton in 1850. Ten years later the county population reached 23,858, more than half of which were slaves. Villages sprang up and briefly thrived during this period at Cross Hill, Waterloo, Princeton, Gray Court, Owings, Ora, and Mountville. However, they gradually dwindled. Laurens and Clinton became the dominant towns. Antebellum Laurens County was the home of Ann Pamela Cunningham, whose 1853 letter to the Charleston Mercury raised awareness about the deplorable condition of George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon, Virginia. Cunningham’s actions sparked the movement to restore this national historic site.

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