The Town of Edgefield was founded in 1785 and emerged in the early 1800s as a thriving trade center for surrounding farms. Much of the town was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The town square itself has been called a shrine to the agelessness of political, religious, industrial, cultural and social happenings in the community. The typical “old town” look of the square served as the backdrop for the 1996 remake of the movie That Darn Cat.
Symbols of history are everywhere in the square. A list of 10 South Carolina governors from Edgefield is printed in billboard fashion on the side of a building at the square’s entrance. That building houses perhaps the oldest still-operating grocery store in the county. A life-size bronze statue of native son Senator Strom Thurmond stands in the square facing the courthouse.
The present brick courthouse was constructed in 1839. The architect, Charles Beck, was an associate of Robert Mills, the best-known architect of antebellum South Carolina. Mills’s most famous building is the Washington Monument. A recent biographer says that, although Mills did non design the Edgefield County Courthouse, it is one of the best examples of Mills’s style.
The Edgefield Advertiser, the oldest newspaper in South Carolina, is located at 119-120 Courthouse Square. The paper is printed weekly and gives the local news for the citizens of Edgefield.
Offices for The Citizen News, a weekly newspaper created through the merger of three other country papers in 1982, is on the corner of the square. It had been under private ownership until December 1998 when it was sold to Community Newspapers, Inc. of Athens, Georgia.
Just off the square is the Old Edgefield Pottery building. Mater potter Stephen Ferrell is on site reproducing the alkaline-glazed pottery originally created in Edgefield County in the mid-1800s. Demonstrations and lectures on the tradition and techniques of the stoneware are available by appointment. The pottery shop is closed on Mondays.
Within walking distance of the square are four historical churches that are part of an annual Christmas tour portraying the birth of Jesus Christ in four vignettes. Irish stonecutters were brought to America in 1858 specifically to construct St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Buncombe Street. The Edgefield First Baptist Church (c. 1823) on Church Street has produced outstanding ministers, one of whom was the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Trinity Episcopal Church on Simkins Street, built about 1836, is on land donated by Edmund Bacon, whose home next door was built circa 1830. First United Methodist Church, at the corner of Bacon and Norris streets, is on property deeded in 1841 by the Rev. Joseph Moore. Moore, a missionary circuit rider for 65 years, is the only Revolutionary War veteran buried in Willowbrook Cemetery on Church Street next to Edgefield First Baptist Church.