US Route 1 is the Town’s Main Street, running parallel to Interstate-20.
Our little town stretches 1.08 square miles… we are, as we say, the Small Town with a Big Heart.
The roots for the present-day town of Elgin trace back to 1899-1900 when the Seaboard Coastline Railroad was making its way across the midlands of South Carolina. The tracks came through the southwest corner of Kershaw County and workers were lodged in the first house that was built for them alongside the railroad, in the Blaney community which was called “Jeffers” at the time.
The community was first known as “Jeffers” with William Thomas Jeffers serving as postmaster at the turn of the century. Mr. Jeffers was instrumental in paving the way for Blaney’s birth as a prosperous town. Tents sprang up, water was drawn from the well at Mr. Jeffers home, a coffee mill was set up along side the Jeffers house, and with the help of his wife, Mr. Jeffers provided a little commissary for the railway workers to buy rations.
EVOLUTION OF BLANEY
The railroad depot was a pivotal source for the evolution of the community. The route came from northern cities to depots in Cheraw, Bethune, Cassatt, Shepherd, Camden, Lugoff and Blaney. As the rails progressed, this area was named “Blaney” for a New York banker by that name that had been instrumental in funding the railroad and was a vice-president of the railroad.
Communities with depots thrived with commerce, mail, freight, and passenger service. Schools, post offices, restaurants, stores, banks and churches were built or enlarged in these economic centers.
The Town of Blaney was chartered and incorporated on January 23, 1908. According to the Camden Archives, it is said that the population was 116. The 1910 census records the population was 115. In 1920, the population grew to 156 persons, and to 175 by 1930. The people of the Blaney rural community were primarily farmers who built up their lands, established new churches and grew their main cash crop cotton, grain and other vegetables. Some were merchants, grist mill operators, teachers, and some found new professions as railroad workers when the Seaboard Railroad made its way across the midlands.
Once Blaney was incorporated in 1908, a commission was issued by the Secretary of State of South Carolina to Jesse Thomas Ross, William Thomas Jeffers and James Belton Cooper empowering them to provide for the registration of electors within the Blaney limits of town, appoint managers for an election, and set an election date.
Instead of a Mayor, an “Intendant” was elected, along with four “Wardens,” whom we call today Council members. Reverend John Phillip Isenhower was elected Intendant. Elected as Wardens were James Belton Cooper, B.B. Crisp, R.W.J. Kennedy and T.M. McCaskill.
Jesse T. Ross, who was also the first postmaster of Blaney, owned a general merchandise store on Main Street, now called Church Street. J.T. Ross served as postmaster for 46 years. He also was a major contributor to Blaney Baptist Church, donating two acres of land to build the church and help organize its founding in 1903. He was later elected Intendent, serving 1909-1915.
A 1913 survey map of Blaney shows an area of 217.3 acres and locates Capitol Highway, Seaboard Railroad, Blaney Church, Blaney School and J.T. Ross’s post office/store.
THE ROARING 20S
The 1920s brought Prohibition, the end of wartime jobs, unemployment, and the boll weevil affecting nearly every cotton field in Kershaw County. As farmers tried to provide remedies to their cotton fields, nothing worked. Timber replaced cotton as a revenue source.
Having only used lanterns and gas lighting, it was a momentous time when electricity came to town in 1927. A line ran from Camden to Lugoff to Blaney. More rural areas had to wait until the 40s for power, and the only telephone was in town at Henry Ross’s Grocery Store.
BLANEY GROWTH & PROSPERITY
The 1930s kept Blaney alive in the farming business, but Main Street (now Church Street) was thriving with a new Hardware Store, Cafe, Shoe Shop, Grocery and Dry Goods Stores, Barber, Feed & Seed, Post Office, Doctors and Drug Stores. Hitching posts for horses were a plenty, blacksmiths, water mills for ground corn – all provided supplies and filled needs of residents of Blaney.
County fairs were organized by the county to encourage communities to bring their handiwork, arts, canning, and baked goods. The Blaney fair of 1930 was “standing room only” with more turn out than expected, boosting the spirits of all in attendance.
U.S. Highway #1 made its way to the area 1931, running from Canada to Miami, linking states along the way, crossing and re-crossing the Seaboard Railway through Kershaw County. It threaded through Main Street of Blaney southward to Columbia.
President Franklin Roosevelt traveled by train frequently and made a stop in Blaney in the mid-thirties. Hundreds of people showed up at the depot to greet him. Children got out of school and farmers left their fields to come cheer because they were recipients of seed loans established by President Roosevelt, helping them survive through the tough times of the depression.
With President Roosevelt in his second term, October 16, 1940 became known as Draft Registration Day. Kershaw County registered and drafted men, called up for duty to serve in the Army. The Blaney area and U.S. Highway #1 lay within the mock battle area, covering 80,000 acres in the county. Money spent by the military fueled a recharge of the economy of Kershaw County, with one notable benefit of a more securely structured bridge. President Roosevelt also led the Rural Electrification Program, which finally brought electricity to the more rural parts of Blaney community.
Once President Roosevelt formally declared war against Japan in 1941, the county responded with a surge in volunteers for military duty and civil defense responsibilities. The Blaney community worked together to do their part with providing pulpwood, schoolchildren collected waste paper, and businessmen in town worked their crews overtime to meet war-time needs. By 1943, the town of Blaney had almost no men left to draft for war, when the drafting age was amended to include 45-65 year-olds. More women stepped up to the plate, handling town responsibilities and “holding down the fort” at home.
After the war, blacktop paving projects included U.S. Highway #1 from Lugoff to Blaney and on to Columbia. The first mechanical cotton picker in the county made its presence in 1948. Modern times were approaching with new steel railroad trestles, and striking glass storefronts. The GI Bill of Rights presented veterans with educational opportunities, housing loans and the post-war economy took off. New homes were purchased with appliances, new cars scooted around town, schools were forging a new and better path, and Kershaw County was changed.
The total population in 1960 was 100. Tremors of growth came about in late 1961 and 1962. State Sen. John West, who was also the Blaney Town Attorney, was in his second term and had not been able to bring any new industry to Kershaw County. He talked with his friend – Gov. Fritz Hollings, and soon he was put in touch with the management of the Elgin National Watch Company of Elgin, Illinois.
West took the Elgin team to the Blaney area and they were impressed with the availability of large tracts of land and the proximity to Columbia, where they felt they would find a good labor market. Local residents began working up incentives to bring the company to Blaney.
After the ground-breaking in 1962, there was move to change the name of the town to Elgin, with Mayor E.C. Potter, Sen. John C. West and E.T. Bowen leading the way. A special election in October 1962 was set to legally decide the issue. While there were some community members not in the voting, majority ruled to change the name and a certificate of amendment to the original charter of Blaney was issued.
The Elgin National Watch Company plant was dedicated in March 1963 and more than 200 people had jobs there – the majority of them women. With the new watch company in town, came the need for a municipal water upgrade. The town received an Economic Development grant under the new JFK administration and The Elgin Water Department was formed. The jobs and prosperity the company brought to the community were short-lived, however. In 1966, the company declared a huge loss in sales and it was determined they could no longer compete with foreign manufactured watches. Early in 1967, the company suffered layoffs and by September the bad news of closure was made public. The plant was sold to B.F. Goodrich, a tennis shoe manufacturer. In 1979, Engineered Products Group, producing V-belts, took over the property. In 1986, HBD Industries came to town and set up shop there.
EARLY BLANEY – ELGIN SCHOOLS
After the Blaney School burned in 1956, it was replaced by another school in 1958 in the middle of town where Town Hall had been built. In 1972, the high school moved to Lugoff as Lugoff-Elgin High School and middle school students now reported to Wateree Middle School. In 1986, elementary students were now in a new Blaney Elementary School on Smyrna Road in Elgin. Old school buildings, after years of deterioration, were demolished in 2004 and were rezoned as downtown commercial property lots.
In 1999, Leslie Stover School opened, accommodating an overgrowth of students from the Smyrna Road school. With the growing population and new school, much needed sewer lines into town were considered. After much consideration, easements were granted in 2005. The new sewer line led to an economic boom for Elgin. In 2008, the new Lugoff-Elgin Middle School was constructed.
A TOWN OF PROGRESS
In 1971, under Mayoral leadership of Charlie Wray Wooten, council voted to install street signs. A telephone was installed in Town Hall and in 1973, the first woman was elected to Town Council.
Soon to follow was trash collection, health clinics at Town Hall, establishment of a zoning commission, and new bridges constructed improving road travel.
ATTRACTIONS OF ELGIN
The Blaney Drag Strip opened in 1968, sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association. It was known as the only quarter mile NHRA sanctioned strip in South Carolina. Great races were hosted at the Drag Strip in its prime, bringing in a lot of attention and money into the community. It closed in 1985 and was turned into Blaney Hills mobile home subdivision, adding much needed affordable housing.
In 1976, in an effort to put the “town on the map,” the Town of Elgin held the first Catfish Stomp. 600 gallons of fish stew was served up, feeding folks from all over. The first stew chef, Ross Boulware, established the unique taste that would keep people coming back year after year. Another essential for the festival is the annual Christmas Parade, that started a year before the Stomp. The tradition continues today on the first Saturday in December with classic fish stew, fried fish, a Christmas parade, all complete with bands and floats, enjoyed by thousands of people every year. Proceeds from this annual event benefit the Elgin Police Department Toys Roundup and Caring Hands Foundation.
Potter Community Park, on the corner of Green Hill Road and Main Street in Elgin, is dedicated to town’s beloved fallen Deputy Ernest C. “Chris” Potter. Potter Community Park hosts many town events, including the Catfish Stomp.
Facts tell us that White Pond has been on the map since the 1800s, and serves as a local landmark. This natural pond is said to have sprung up, believed to lack sufficient “in-flow” with no visible inlet or outlet. Legend says it is “bottomless” and in times of drought it is often low or dry. It resides on White Pond Road. President Dwight D. Eisenhower has fished this pond and archaeological teams have visited White Pond for excavations and soil tests to try to discover its heritage.
Reminders of the old name remain in Blaney Elementary School, Blaney Baptist Church (one of the first churches organized), and Blaney Fire Department.
Town Hall now sits in the heart of town with so much history around its walls. As you cast your eyes around Main Street, you now see grocery stores, restaurants, laundry and cleaners, beauty shops, auto stores and more opportunities than our fore-fathers could have dreamt about.
On January 23, 2008, the Town of Elgin celebrated their Centennial Anniversary, honoring the traditions of culture of the past with a well-fitting theme, “History and Heritage.” The Centennial clock in all its glory now resides in the courtyard of Town Hall, “Centennial Park”, a magnificent focal point for Main Street. A mural depicting Blaney-Elgin’s development was painted on the side of the oldest building in town in March 2008.
Through growth, the 2010 latest census population of Elgin is reported as 1,311.
This page contains known town history, but also contains information retrieved from beloved Elgin Historian, Author, and Council Member, Madge Black Strickland’s book “A Sand Hills Revelation.” Her special book takes us for a walk back in history of Blaney and Elgin. You can pick up a copy at Town Hall.
2020 CENSUS INFORMATION: population total 1,311
South Other Race: 32
Two of More Races: 29
Hispanic or Latino: 77
Not Hispanic or Latino: 1,234
Under 18: 368
18 & Over: 943
Total Housing Units: 521
Occupied Housing Units: 484
Owner-Occupied Units: 420
Owner-Occupied Population: 1,113
Renter-Occupied Units: 64
Renter-Occupied Population: 198
Housing Units with Minors: 185
Vacant Housing Units: 37
For Rent: 5
For Sale: 18
Occasional Use Housing: 0