(Clarendon County; 2000 pop. 4,025). Manning was established in 1855 to provide a central location for a courthouse in the newly created Clarendon District. It was named after a family that produced three South Carolina governors. The city is bordered on three sides by swamps and is near the junction of the Pocotaligo River and Ox Swamp, an area made famous in the Revolutionary War by General Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox.” During the Civil War, General Edward E. Potter raided Manning on April 8, 1865. Just before his arrival, one of Potter’s officers was shot and killed in the streets of town by a Confederate scout, which explains why some feel that Manning was treated more harshly than other towns in the area.
Following the war, Manning and the surrounding countryside returned to their economic mainstay—agriculture—and the town prospered. In the early twentieth century Manning possessed a tobacco market, a cannery, lumber mills, and cotton gins. By the 1920s the city added three banks, a private preparatory school, and a hotel. Manning became known as a place “matchless for beauty and hospitality.” The writer and broadcaster Walter Winchell, traveling through the area in 1939, wrote that Brooks Street in Manning was the “most beautiful street between Maine and Miami.” The city’s natural beauty was enhanced by surviving antebellum homes on wide streets lined with stately oaks. The Old Manning Library, built in 1908, with its unusual octagon-shaped interior and its high domed skylight is the only building in the city listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A bronze statue of “Amelia Bedelia,” the children’s character created by Manning author Peggy Parish, invites the community into the Harvin-Clarendon County Public Library next door.
Although agriculture remained the economic foundation of Manning throughout the twentieth century, its economy nevertheless underwent changes. At one time Manning’s biggest industry was its tobacco market, but slumping prices forced the closer of that market in 1931. The city aggressively pursued industrial development in the decades after World War II. By the end of the century, Manning boasted a fifteen-acre industrial park with plants producing auto bearings, textiles, timber, and stainless-steel transport tankers. The city offered tax incentives and other advantages, including comparatively low wages and excellent transportation, to attract companies.
At the start of the twenty-first century, a mayor and six-member city council governed city affairs. Five full-time and thirty-two volunteer firemen and fourteen police officers met safety concerns. Manning echoed the sentiments of former mayor John G. Dinkins, whose comments in a 1940 radio address still rang true to many modern residents: “The Town and County both hold many attractions for new settlers, and investors. It is a good place to visit, and a better place to live.”
Clarendon Cameos. Manning, S.C.: Clarendon County Historical Society, 1976.
Orvin, Virginia Kirkland Galluchat. History of Clarendon County, 1700 to 1961. N.p., 1961.