Society Hill, the ‘mother’ of Darlington County
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
What makes Society Hill special? We asked Melissa Burch, president of the Long Bluff Historical Society (named after the area’s original name) and a new member of Society Hill Town Council.
“Everything in Darlington County, historically, stems from Society Hill,” says Burch, who moved to the area from North Carolina in 2013. “It’s the mother of everything else.”
“The families that formed the (original) community were the movers and shakers of their time,” says Burch. “They had influence. They had money. They were literally the crème de la crème.”
With fewer than 500 people living in the town limits, Society Hill today is the smallest municipality in Darlington County. It’s also believed to be the oldest community in Darlington County.
The Society Hill area originally was settled by Welsh colonists from Delaware and Pennsylvania; the area came to be known as Welsh Neck and Long Bluff.
It was cotton planters from Long Bluff who formed the St. David’s Society to promote education, eventually resulting in the building of a new school, called St. David’s Academy. Around 1785, Welsh Neck Baptist Church was established, and up rose a village around the school and church. (The name Society Hill apparently refers to the St. David’s Society.)
“The impact the town had before the Revolutionary War was tremendous,” says Burch, whose group publishes a quarterly newsletter about the town’s history. (Find issues of the newsletter at longbluff.com.)
One of the most famous names to emerge from Society Hill is Maj. James Lide Coker (born 1837) — founder of Sonoco Products Co. in Hartsville and Coker College, now Coker University.
When Burch looks at Society Hill today, what does she see? “It’s a small, charming South Carolina town with a huge, valuable historic contribution to the entire state. … It’s steeped in history and tradition.” As someone who is “Southern to the bone,” Burch says she can’t help but love it.