While McColl became a transportation, ginning, and marketing center for eastern Marlboro County farmers, the establishment of McColl Manufacturing Company in 1892 supplied additional growth. By 1896 this mill processed fifty bales of Marlboro County cotton daily and employed three hundred workers, who lived in cottages erected on mill land.
(Marlboro County; 2020 pop. 1,943). McColl is Marlboro County’s second-largest town, located in the eastern part of the county near the North Carolina border. In 1884 local landowners T. B. Gibson and John F. McLaurin attracted the South Carolina and Pacific Railway by offering to build a depot and subscribing to stock in the company. Stores, residences, and warehouses appeared in quick succession, as did Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches. The community that developed around the depot was eventually named after Duncan Donald McColl, a banker and entrepreneur from nearby Bennettsville and president of the South Carolina and Pacific Railway. Many years later the original rail line was acquired by Marlboro County and operated as the Pee Dee River Railway.
While McColl became a transportation, ginning, and marketing center for eastern Marlboro County farmers, the establishment of McColl Manufacturing Company in 1892 supplied additional growth. By 1896 this mill processed fifty bales of Marlboro County cotton daily and employed three hundred workers, who lived in cottages erected on mill land. More mills followed. Established next were Marie Mill in 1898 and Iceman Mill in 1901, making McColl the county’s most industrialized town in the state. In 1903 these mills combined with Bennettsville Manufacturing Company to form Marlboro Cotton Mills. During this period of growth McColl attracted storekeepers, cotton merchants, physicians, druggists, theaters, grocers, barbers, and hotels. Many Main Street buildings constructed during this era survived into the next century. However, with the decline of the textile industry, McColl’s mills became used principally as warehouses.
Education in McColl began with the creation of the McColl Academy in the mid-1880s. In 1904 the school relocated to the site of the new McColl Graded School. In 1999 McColl Elementary / Middle School opened a modern facility on the site of the original school building. Several former residents of McColl went on to achieve national acclaim, including Jim Tatum (National Collegiate Athletic Association football coach of the year at the University of Maryland); the 1945 Heisman Trophy winner, Felix A. “Doc” Blanchard; and the professional baseball player Chester Martin. Other McColl natives include White House Chief Steward, the author Preston Bruce, and the contractor Sherwood Liles, whose Tidewater Construction Corporation built the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Complex. Entering the twenty-first century, McColl possessed an excellent school, vibrant churches, active civic and literary clubs, and a resurgence of business activity with new retail and service establishments along U.S. Highways 15 and 401.
Kendall, Jerry T. Bennettsville Cotton Mill. Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Company, 1998.
Marlboro County, South Carolina: A Pictorial History. Bennettsville, S.C.: Marlborough Historical Society, 1996.
Rogers, John B. History of the McColl First Baptist Church, 1772–1972. Columbia, S.C.: State Printing, 1972.
Thomas, J. A. W. A History of Marlboro County, with Traditions and Sketches of Numerous Families. 1897. Reprint, Baltimore: Regional Publishing, 1971.