Darlington is a city in Darlington County, in northeastern South Carolina. It is a center for tobacco farming. The population was 6,720 at the 2000 census (12,066 total population of Darlington Urban Cluster) and is part of the Florence Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is the county seat of Darlington County. Darlington, theorized to be named for the Revolutionary War Colonel Darlington, is known for its Darlington Oak and Spanish moss. Darlington County was named thus, by a governmental act in March 1785.
Darlington is best-known for Darlington Raceway, a superspeedway that is home to an annual NASCAR race. Darlington is also the site of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Hall of Fame.
The public square and the courthouse now sit in their present location because of an argument between two men, Colonel Lamuel Benton and Captain Elias Dubose, in the late 1700s. The tale goes that the disagreement began over whether the courthouse should be located in Mechanicsville or Cuffey Town, South Carolina. It was said that the two compromised, each beginning in their town traveling on horseback until reaching one another. The spot where they met is now the site of the Darlington public square and courthouse.
A fire in March 1806 destroyed the original courthouse. It was rumored at the time that an old woman was responsible for the flames in an attempt to burn papers connected to her coming court case. Between 1824 and 1825, it was rebuilt with brick due to a petition to build all buildings on the public square in brick to prevent the spread of fire.
No battles during the Civil War occurred in Darlington. One of Sherman's lieutenants, a former architect, was sent to burn down part of Darlington. When he arrived and saw a house that he had designed, he left the house and the rest of the town standing. The Federal troops burned down the depot, cotton platforms and railroad trestles in 1865. They also did some foraging. During this time, St. John's Academy was used as a hospital.
After the war, the town was occupied by troops, which were not withdrawn until 1871. By 1865, Darlington was the Headquarters for the Third Separate Brigade of the Military District of Eastern South Carolina and the Freedman's Bureau. In 1866, during the occupation, the worst fire to ever hit Darlington burned down the courthouse and the jail. It was rumored that drunken Federal soldiers were to blame.
As the South readied itself for succession, Darlington formed the Darlington Guards. When South Carolina seceded, they were the first called upon to defend Charleston. After their term of enlistment was over, the men returned to Darlington to reenlist in regiments going to Virginia. The Darlington Guards existed at this time for almost two years. They reorganized in later years and receive their own armory in 1893. Governor B.R. Scarborough called them to the scene of the Darlington Riot of 1894. They were the first in the state to volunteer for the Spanish American War in May 1898. They were also seen by President McKinley in Savannah, Georgia, before being sent to Cuba for occupation duties near Havana. After coming home, they continued to serve in the National Guard. In 1915 the group retired from service again only to be reinstated and sent to the Mexican border in 1916. After returning home, they found themselves caught in World War I. The last surviving member, Thomas W. Buchanan, died in 1984.
A famous native son of Darlington is baseball player Orlando Hudson, who won the American League Gold Glove Award in 2005 for his excellent fielding at second base for the Toronto Blue Jays.