1790 –

Aside from its role as the seat of Lee County government, Bishopville has also served as a business and cultural center throughout its existence.

(Lee County; 2020 pop. 2,948). Bishopville, the Lee County seat, traces its origins to prehistoric days, when two Indian trails crossed near the future center of the town. European settlement began in the late eighteenth century when William Singleton purchased a 465-acre tract from a Daniel Carter in 1790. Singleton and his wife, Frances, operated a tavern at the intersection of the two roads, which travelers dubbed Singleton’s Cross Roads. William died in 1798, and Frances operated the log cabin tavern until her death in 1820. The following year the Singleton family sold the property to Dr. Jacques Bishop, who operated a general store from 1821 to 1837 under the name of C. C. Campbell and Co. During this time Singleton’s Cross Roads was rechristened as Bishopville. The first population count appeared during the vote for nullification (1830), which recorded 106 votes for and 11 votes against. By 1850 the village contained twelve stores. A sawmill appeared in 1880 and inspired construction of the Bishopville and Sumter Railroad. The Seaboard Air Line extended its main line from McBee to Bishopville in 1887, and the town was incorporated the following year.

Education in Bishopville began in 1803 when John Fraser built the first public school in the village. The Bishopville Academy was chartered in 1839 and operated for the next ten years. Despite these promising educational foundations, Bishopville did not establish its first permanent library until 1943.

The first Bishopville newspaper, the Bishopville Leader, appeared in the spring of 1902 and was followed the same year by the Lee County Vindicator. Within six months the two newspapers merged to form the Leader and Vindicator. In 1920 W. J. Strickland bought the newspaper and renamed it the Lee County Messenger. The Lee County Observer evolved from the Messenger in 1982.

Aside from its role as the seat of Lee County government, Bishopville has also served as a business and cultural center throughout its existence. Two blocks of Main Street are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Opera House (ca. 1900), which originally served as the county courthouse, was later restored for use as a community cultural events center. In 1994 Bishopville opened the South Carolina Cotton Museum, a center to preserve and present the cotton heritage of the town and Lee County.

Gregorie, Anne King. History of Sumter County, South Carolina. Sumter, S.C.: Library Board of Sumter County, 1954.

Lee County Bicentennial Commission. Lee County, South Carolina: A Bicentennial Look at Its Land, People, Heritage & Future. N.p.: Reeves, 1976.

Lee County Chamber of Commerce. Lee County, South Carolina: Past and Present. Dallas, Tex.: Taylor Publishing, 1992.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Bishopville
  • Coverage 1790 –
  • Author
  • Keywords the Lee County seat, William Singleton, Singleton’s Cross Roads, Seaboard Air Line, John Fraser, Bishopville Academy,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date February 27, 2024
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 19, 2022
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