Cheraw, South Carolina, (population 5,525) started as a trading village established around 1740 after the Cheraw Indians had abandoned the region. Cheraw’s location at the head of navigation on the Great Pee Dee River made it an important point of trade. During the Revolutionary War, Cheraw was part of the British strategic line of defense and was considered important by both the British and Americans. The Revolution left the area devastated. After the war, real growth did not resume until 1819, when the first steamboat arrived in Cheraw.
Cheraw played a role in South Carolina’s secession, and the town became a haven for refugees during the Civil War. In March of 1865, the business district was destroyed in an accidental explosion, but the rest of Cheraw was spared. Cheraw was destitute after the Civil War, but prosperity returned around 1900. The completion of US Highway 1 and the Cheraw State Park helped spur growth during the 1930s. In the 1960s, new infrastructure helped draw new industry to the town.
Built in 1774, the Old St. David’s Church has played a major role in the history of Cheraw. The church served as a British hospital during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, with many soldiers buried in the cemetery surrounding Old St. David’s. The town of Cheraw assisted the Chesterfield County Historic Preservation Commission to stabilize the roof at Old St. David’s. This project helped preserve the property and maintain its historic character so that tourists and residents can continue to enjoy its storied history.
An annual Civil War reenactment takes place during the Cheraw Spring Festival. The reenactment includes more than 100 individuals, with the major attraction being the reenactment battles. During the spring festival, other events include a Civil War lantern tour and a Confederate church service in Old St. David’s Church. In honor of jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie, a Cheraw native, the town hosts the South Carolina Jazz Festival annually in October.
Cheraw is a stop on the South Carolina Cotton Trail, which highlights the role of cotton in the economy of South Carolina. Cheraw also is a part of the Carolinas’ Backcountry Revolutionary War Trail. This tour highlights sites in both North and South Carolina that explore the involvement of the backcountry in the Revolutionary War.
Designated a Preserve America Community in October 2009.