(Chesterfield County; 2000 pop. 2,521). Pageland is situated on a sand ridge immediately adjacent to the clay hills of the Piedmont. These soil types made farming possible, though arduous. From the early years, mineral production was also important. Pageland was primarily settled by English, German, Welsh, and Scots-Irish from Pennsylvania, Virginia, or surrounding South Carolina counties. Reece Shelby seems to have been the first to receive a state land grant in the Pageland area in 1788. Around the same time, Irish native John Blakeney came to the region and built a trading post by 1815. For most of the nineteenth century the settlement was known as Blakeney’s Crossroads or Old Store Township. In 1857 the place was sufficiently important to obtain a post office.
During Reconstruction tax sales placed a great deal of property on the auction block, and much of it was purchased by a man named Fox for New England speculators. After backlash to the blatant land grab, Fox disappeared and most of what became Pageland was purchased by Messrs. McGregor, Maynard, Godfrey, and Sowell.
Real growth occurred here after the coming of the railroad from Cheraw. In 1904 the Chesterfield and Lancaster Railroad reached Old Store, which contained only a handful of dwellings and stores. Realizing what the railroad would mean, residents renamed the community Pageland in honor of Adolphus High “Captain Dolly” Page, president of the railroad. Page’s father-in-law, a civil engineer, laid out lots in the village. In 1907 the Chesterfield Land and Development Company auctioned these lots at a public sale.
Pageland received its charter in January 1908, with a population of 157. By 1910 there were drug, furniture, clothing, and general stores. There was also the Pageland Buggy and Wagon Company, and the Pageland Manufacturing Company made furniture and building materials. A livery stable, a hotel, and a school were built that year. The following year Pageland boasted a newspaper, a second hotel, and a bank, and the population had increased to around 800. Like many boom towns, Pageland acquired a reputation as a rather rough place, leading to the enactment of a curfew in 1912.
In 1920, although the principal agricultural product remained cotton, melons and peaches were gaining in importance. Pageland billed itself the “Watermelon Capital of the World” and became well known for these melons. In 1951 Pageland began a Watermelon Festival in July that attracted thousands of visitors annually.
By the 1980s years of out-migration from the farms caused growth in the area to stagnate. Downtown appeared to be dying. In 1987 the town committed to the state’s Small Towns Program, which substantially improved the appearance of the business district. With the arrival of a Wal-Mart distribution center and the explosive growth of nearby Charlotte, Pageland saw major changes in the 1990s with new businesses, restaurants, and major road improvements.
Gregg, Alexander. History of the Old Cheraws. 1867. Reprint, Greenville, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1982.
Smith, Beth Laney. The Voices of Pageland. Charlotte, N.C.: Laney-Smith, 1997.