Hartsville has a long history of struggle, survival and prosperity

Hartsville Municipal Airport, 1932.

A view of Main Street, Hartsville, approximately 120 years ago.

The J.L. Coker store, located at the corner of 5th Street and Carolina Ave.

Hartsville City Hall, home to city administration offices, and city council chambers.

By Stephan Drew, Editor


Nestled in the heart of Darlington County, South Carolina, the charming town of Hartsville holds a rich history that stretches back centuries. From its humble beginnings as a small village to its present-day status as a thriving community, Hartsville has witnessed remarkable innovations and advancements that have shaped its growth. This article explores the captivating history of Hartsville, tracing its origins and highlighting the transformative developments that have propelled the town forward.

The history of Hartsville can be traced back to the early 19th century when European settlers arrived in the region. It was in 1760 when Thomas Hart, a prominent planter and politician, acquired land in the area, laying the foundation for the town’s establishment. The land was passed down through generations, and by the mid-19th century, Thomas E. Hart, the great-grandson of Thomas Hart, officially founded the town of Hartsville in 1845.

Hartsville’s early growth can be attributed to the development of agriculture and the strategic location of the town. The fertile soil of the region made it ideal for farming, with cotton becoming a significant cash crop. The construction of the Cheraw and Darlington Railroad in the 1850s further facilitated trade and transportation, connecting Hartsville to larger markets.

A crucial aspect of Hartsville’s development was its emphasis on education. In 1900, Coker College for Women was established by Major James Lide Coker, a visionary entrepreneur and philanthropist. The college not only provided higher education opportunities for women but also served as a catalyst for cultural and intellectual growth within the community.

The early 20th century witnessed a significant shift in Hartsville’s economy with the rise of the tobacco industry. In 1902, Major James Lide Coker founded the Sonoco Products Company, which initially focused on producing paper cones for the textile industry. However, the company soon transitioned into manufacturing paper products for the tobacco industry, becoming a leading player in the packaging industry.

Sonoco’s success played a pivotal role in shaping Hartsville’s future. The company became known for its innovation, developing groundbreaking packaging solutions that revolutionized the industry. It introduced the spiral-wound paperboard can, a cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative to traditional metal cans, which further expanded Sonoco’s global reach. Today, Sonoco operates in more than 85 countries and continues to be a driving force in Hartsville’s economy.

Hartsville takes pride in preserving its cultural heritage. The Hartsville Museum serves as a repository of local history, housing artifacts and exhibits that celebrate the town’s past. The Hartsville Historic District showcases beautiful architecture, with well-preserved buildings dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These preservation efforts have helped maintain the town’s unique charm and sense of identity.

In recent years, Hartsville has embraced technological advancements and positioned itself as an innovation hub. The development of the S.C. Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics and the establishment of the Hartsville Innovation Lab have fostered a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship within the community. These initiatives have attracted talented individuals and businesses, driving economic growth and diversification.

Hartsville has also taken significant strides in environmental stewardship. In 2016, the city embarked on an ambitious renewable energy project, installing solar panels on public buildings and implementing energy-saving initiatives. These efforts not only reduce the town’s carbon footprint but also position Hartsville as a leader in sustainable practices.

From its humble beginnings as a small village to its present-day status as a thriving community, Hartsville, South Carolina, has experienced remarkable growth and innovation. The town’s history is marked by the foresight and vision of its pioneers, who laid the foundations for education, industry, and cultural preservation. Through the endeavors of companies like Sonoco, Hartsville has become synonymous with innovation and excellence, playing a vital role in shaping the packaging industry. With a commitment to technological advancements, environmental sustainability, and preserving its rich heritage, Hartsville continues to pave the way for a prosperous future.

Author: Stephan Drew

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