Small Town Spotlight: Cheraw

Published by: SCNHC     Categories: Day Trips

Nicknamed “The Prettiest Town in Dixie”, the small town of Cheraw embodies a certain southern charm that comes only with being a bustling river town on the forefront of South Carolina history.

Cheraw was first visited by Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto in 1540 and was named after the Cheraw Native American tribe. By 1738, the Cheraw population was significantly decreased by a smallpox epidemic, after which the survivors joined the Catawba and Lumbee tribes.

The 1730s saw an influx of European settlers, and a trading post was established soon after. In 1768, two brothers were granted land and laid out the town in a grid pattern. This land is now the Cheraw Historic District and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Cheraw is optimally located along the banks of The Great Pee Dee River, which served as a link between the town and the other trading centers throughout the state. Consequently, Cheraw played a role in both the American Revolution and the Civil War while also becoming one of the largest cotton markets and the site of one of the largest banks outside of Charleston.

Today as you walk down the streets of Cheraw, you can witness evidence of the role it has played in American history and take a tour through the centuries of changing architecture. Below is just a sampling of Cheraw’s captivating buildings and areas.

The Town Green: The site of the town’s famous Dizzy Gillespie statue, the Town Green is the perfect place to witness this small town’s character and get to know the locals.

Theatre on the Green: This theatre was a favorite of the famous jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie, and rumored to have been his place of employment when he was a teen. Today it serves as a performing arts center for the town.

Cheraw Town Hall: Located on the corner of Market and Second streets, Cheraw’s town hall was constructed in 1858. The double staircase on the exterior of the building is believed to have been designed by Christopher Werner of Charleston.

Hartzell House: Located at 143 McIver Street, the Hartzell House was used as General Sherman’s headquarters during the Civil War. It is believed that Cheraw played host to more Union troops than any other city in South Carolina.

Market Hall: For over 175 years this building has stood on the corner of Market and Second streets. It has been home to innumerable transactions and is one of Cheraw’s most well-known buildings due to the steeple that was designed by Conlaw Peter Lynch in 1837.

The Great Pee Dee River: This river flows for over 203 miles and is the perfect place for a day in the sun. Throughout the year, this area is used for many recreational activities including bird watching, hiking along the river, kayaking and fishing. Located near the river is St. David’s Episcopal Church, which is said to have served as a hospital to both American and British troops during the Revolution.

Before you visit Cheraw...check out the town website for tips on what to do and even download a self-guided brochure of the area!