Two-part series looks at Sumter's past


Today's look at Sumter's past is the first of two parts designed to provide readers with a glimpse of homes and businesses that are either no longer in existence or have been changed through renovation. This series takes the reader back to early Sumter, once known as Sumterville, and peruses its development.

According to Anne King Gregorie, Sumterville developed when "all other such courts in the state, the county courts of Claremont, Clarendon, and Salem were abolished, effective Jan. 1, 1800. These counties, however, were continued as election districts, while their territories were united into a new circuit court unit called Sumter District in honor of Gen. Thomas Sumter, who was then serving in Congress."

In 1855 the "ville" was dropped from the name and the (county) became known as Sumter. Cassie Nicholes relates that "even before the plan for the town was laid out, 1799, the General Assembly made provisions for a courthouse and gaol (jail) to be built for the Sumter District on land near the plantation of John Gayle, and until a courthouse shall be built, the court of said district shall be held at the house of the said John Gayle. " The original plat of the community showed only four streets: Broad (now Main), Sumter, Harvin and Liberty streets.

The village of Sumter continued to grow under the guidance of leaders who had visions of stability and expansion of the fledgling city. Several businesses, churches and homes were erected along with the building of parks and the expansion of streets. Many considered Sumter to be one of the more beautiful cities in the state, highlighted by its tree-lined streets and avenues. There appeared to an obsession with building schools and expanding the number of libraries located in the public and schools. Agriculture played a significant role in Sumter's growth as did the arrival of the railroads (1852).

"Sumterville was being seriously planned, as this had much to do with the hustle and progress, and as a result, the village in 1850 could boast of having 90 houses and a population of 840 persons, of whom 330 were slaves," according Gregorie.

As the village grew, residents began to see the need for fire and police departments, and by the late 1850s began to take measures to rectify these concerns. The city continued to address social, political, health and financial issues, which are important to the development of any community.

The articles and photos utilized in preparing this report were taken from Sumter Item archives. Information was also obtained from the "History of Sumter County" by Anne King Gregorie and "Historical Sketches of Sumter County" by Cassie Nichols. The photos selected for this article represent a wide range of topics and do not represent a specific time frame or subject matter.

Reach Item Archivist Sammy Way at or (803) 774-1294.