McCormick County: Gem of the Freshwater Coast
McCormick County was named or Cyrus McCormick, a 19th century agricultural equipment inventor, who purchased Dorn's Gold Mine (Town of McCormick) after the Civil War. While it is one of the last counties to be created in South Carolina in the 20th century, its history goes back to the earliest European settlements in the backcountry. French Huguenots (Protestants) settled in the area called New Bordeaux and one of the few structures from this period is the 18th century Guillebeau House located at Hickory Knob State Resort Park.
For the outdoors experience, there are many U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state campgrounds, access points to Thurmond Lake, and hiking and bike trails. Those who are looking for other pursuits should visit the "Book Town" of Willington, the art galleries at the MACK, and antiques and specialty shopping in the town of McCormick.
John de la Howe School
Founded in 1797 through the will of Dr. John de la Howe, the school continues to address the needs of children throughout the state. The Barn, built in 1931, serves today as an area country market.
Hickory Knob State Park
Located on the shores of the 70,000 acre Thurmond Lake, the park offers motel and cabin accommodations, campsites and a variety of outdoor activities including gold, tennis, trails, and boating.
Joseph Jennings Dorn Historic House
Located in the town of McCormick, this house was designed by J.C. Hemphill around 1917 and is the former home of J.J. Dorn, a local businessman and state senator.
J. Strom Thurmond Dam & Lake
Built for flood control, this is the largest U.S. Army Corps of engineers man-made lake east of the Mississippi River. It offers a variety of outdoor recreational activities including camping, picnicking, hiking, biking, fishing, and boating.
This 19th century community is a reminder of the role the railroad played in the development of rural South Carolina. It is being restored today as a "Book Town."
The McCormick Arts Council is located in the Keturah, a former 19th century hotel in downtown McCormick. Its galleries feature local artists and traveling exhibits.
The three-story mill is all that remains of a larger complex, which at one time included a steam-powered cotton seed oil mill and gin, a grist mill, and a related lumber yard.
This quaint town was once the center of business for this rural agricultural community.
MACK: McCormick Arts Council of Keturah
When local farmer and carpenter W.B. "Billy" Dorn, discovered gold in 1852, "Gold Fever" struck and within five years a thriving village with a post office called Dorn's Gold Mine, was established.
Although gold mining became less profitable after the War Between the States, Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the reaper and founded of international Harvester, invested in Dorn's Mine in 1867. Four years later, Cyrus purchased the Dorn Milling Company and 1,200 acres of land. To increase the profitability of the mines, McCormick used his influence to secure railroad connections to Augusta, GA and Greenwood SC.
Through his generosity, land was donated for construction of two churches and a school. By 1880, the settlement had a population of 200 and shortly thereafter Cyrus donated 40 acres to establish a town. The people of Dorn's Gold Mines chose to name their town "McCormick" for its benefactors, Cyrus and Nettie F. McCormick. The town was chartered in December 1882 with three unique features. It was (1) build over gold mine tunnels; (2) planned; and (3) the first village incorporated as a "dry" town in SC, prohibiting the sale of "spirituous or intoxicating" drink for 100 years.
McCormick, the county seat, declined when the agricultural economy was affected by the boil weevil, soil erosion, and the depression of the 1930s. The current Town Hall, built in 1938/39 as a WPA project, is located next to the first law office of J. Strom Thurmond, U.S. Senator. After WWII, timber, textiles, and tourism have provided our economic base.
Our visitors now come to hunt, fish, swim, golf, camp, and retire at nearby Lake Thurmond — but they no longer come by train. However, you will see freight trains as you stroll our streets built over gold mine tunnels.
From "Gold Fever" to a Real Town
"Frontier" McCormick vanished as new homes and businesses were established. The first commercial building was the Augusta and Knoxville railroad depot, built in 1882. The present station was constructed by 1912 and served as the passenger and freight depot for the community through much of 20th century.
When Cotton was King
The railroad was a great boon for surrounding farms whose number one cash crop was Cotton. The ease of railroad shipping resulted in the rapid growth of cottonseed oil production. Local investors raised funds through the sale of stocks to construct an oil mill at the northern end of Main Street. This mill later became the Dorn Grist Mill. One of the investors was a leading proponent for the formation of a new century.
Birth of a County
Hotels were built to handle "drummers" and the visitors form eight passenger trains a day. The McCormick Hotel, built as a temperance hotel in 1884, survived at least three fires that ravaged the town. It is located adjacent to the Hotel Keturah that was built in 1910 and has served as the home of the McCormick County Arts Council at the Keturah (MACK) since 1984.
The McCormick Messenger, an early weekly newspaper, was established in 1902 with the express purpose of advancing the campaign to form a new county. Fourteen years later, after much debate and litigation, McCormick County was carved from the three existing counties of Abbeville, Edgefield, and Greenwood.
Almost a Ghost Town
One hundred years after the town was formed, McCormick was included in a 1982 U.S. News and World Report article entitled "The Real Ghost Towns You Never See in Movies." Since then a great deal of time and money have been expended to return Main Street to its early 1900s appearance.