St. James-Santee Parish, the region that surrounds present-day McClellanville, was incorporated into the Church of England in 1706 and was the first parish organized outside of Charles Town. The area, however, was settled as early as 1685, primarily by French Huguenots. By the time the parish was incorporated, there were both French and English families in the area.
The richly endowed region lent itself to an agrarian economy — indigo, rice, and cotton and by 1735 homes of architectural significance could attest to the prosperity of the parish. The name St. James-Santee Parish became synonymous with rice plantations, homes of architectural grandeur, and culture.
Today, the mansions at nearby Hampton Plantation (ca. 1735-50) and Hopsewee Plantation (ca. 1739-40) are open to visitors. Hampton, situated on Wambaw Creek, was the home of the Horry and Rutledge family and Hopsewee, on the North Santee River, was the home of Thomas Lynch, III signer of the Declaration of Independence. The old parish church, near Hampton, was built in 1768. “Brick Church,” as it is called by locals, also welcomes your visit.
In the latter part of the 18th Century summer places were established as much for social purpose as for health. In St. James-Santee Parish there were settlements on Cedar Island, Murphy’s Island, at the end of Seven-Mile-Road and Honey Hill. The whole, except Honey Hill, eventually merged into what was to become McClellanville, a picturesque situation of pines, palmettoes and live oaks opening onto a great sweep of salt marsh broken by a network of tidal creeks.
The land on which the village was built was formerly two tracts, that of Archibald James McClellan and a Mr. Matthews that was bought by Richard Tillia Morrison, the dividing line being present-day Oak Street. These two plantation owners sold lots along Jeremy Creek to some of the rice planters of the Santee region and a small summer resort soon developed. The village was nameless for some years. It was finally agreed that the name should be McClellanville for the oldest settlers, the McClellan family.
Over the years the village would become known for growing a great variety of produce, the distillation of salt during the Civil War, timber harvesting, the production turpentine and tar, and in recent years, harvesting of its famous Bull’s Bay oysters, clams and shrimp.
In the late 1930’s the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge was established to protect the islands, bays, and marshlands that form the coastline at McClellanville; while the Francis Marion National Forest was developed to manage the surrounding woodlands. Learn about the nearby forest and the wildlife that inhabits it by visiting the Seewee Environmental Visitor Center on Highway 17, south of McClellanville.
Though ravaged by numerous storms, McClellanville retains its quaintness and charm. It is today a self-sufficient village of schools, historic churches, beautiful homes, a few shops and docking facilities which attest to an economy now largely dependent upon the sea rather than the land.