McCormick, South Carolina, (population 2,600) was incorporated in 1882, and, with the formation of McCormick County in 1916, became the county seat. It is a classic courthouse town, serving rich agricultural lands extending in all directions. Folk art and cultural traditions remain strong within this region.
McCormick was a significant place in the history of the hunt for gold in the United States. William Burkhalter Dorn searched for gold in South Carolina for nearly 15 years before finding the mother lode in Peak Hill. The 1857 settlement known as “Dorn Gold Mines” eventually became the present-day city of McCormick.
During the Civil War, Dorn was a secessionist and “reportedly at his own expense, outfitted an entire Confederate Army Unit and volunteered many of his slaves to work on coastal fortifications.” After the war, Dorn was left with few funds. Cyrus McCormick of Chicago, inventor of the reaper, invested in the Dorn mines in 1867 and bought them for $20,000 in 1871. In order to encourage a rail spur into the area, McCormick purchased stock in the Augusta and Knoxville Railroad and the Savannah Valley Railroad and purchased the railroad terminal site in McCormick. The railroad brought prosperity to McCormick with increased commerce and an outlet for farmers to export cotton and poultry.
The gold mines became unprofitable in 1883; then a fire destroyed much of the town’s business district in 1884. But McCormick was rebuilt and flourished during the turn of the century, adding banks, churches, and retail businesses. The Dorn Mill complex was a principal industry for the town. The mines in McCormick were operated by several different companies over the years. During both World Wars, manganese was mined in McCormick. The mines lay dormant today, and are now used as a tourist attraction.
In 1988 more than six million people visited McCormick and the surrounding state parks. The lake created by the region’s hydroelectric dam continues to rank among the top 10 most popular Corps of Engineers projects in the nation. Development of the surrounding rural areas of McCormick led to the creation of a retirement community known as Savannah Lakes Village.
McCormick hosts an annual weekend event called the Gold Rush Festival which includes spinning, quilters, bee keepers demonstration, gold panning, pottery, basket weaving, and dancing. During the festival, tours of the town’s historic sites are conducted. McCormick also showcases its downtown with Friday night “Art Trots” encouraging the town businesses to stay open later in the evening for visitors to stroll through stores and enjoy refreshments at the art galleries.
Designated a Preserve America Community in February 2010.