Florence is the largest city in South Carolina, United States. This 1997 All-America City finalist, with its historic homes and medical center towers, came together to form a cultural center for the northeastern portion of South Carolina. Florence is the primary city of the “Pee Dee” region of South Carolina, an area that includes the eight counties of northeastern South Carolina along with sections in southeastern North Carolina.
Florence is at the intersection of I-95 and I-20, approximately halfway between New York City and Miami, Florida. The city is located 80 miles east from the state capital Columbia, 70 miles west from Myrtle Beach and 110 miles southeast of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Though Florence was part of one of the original townships laid out by the Lords Proprietors in 1719, it was slowly and thinly settled until the coming of the railroads. Prior to them, the Pee Dee River was the route of most commerce.Early settlers practiced subsistence farming and produced indigo, cotton, naval stores and timber, which was shipped downriver to the port at Georgetown and exported.
In the mid-19th century two intersecting railroads were built, The Wilmington and Manchester, and the Northeastern. Gen. W. W. Harllee, the president of the W & M road built his home at the junction, and named the community Florence, after his daughter.
During the Civil War the town was an important supply and railroad repair center for the Confederacy, and the site of the Florence Stockade, a prison for Union prisoners of war. Many of the prisoners died during the latter years of the war, and the burial ground adjacent to the stockade was to become the Florence National Cemetery, which continues to be a national burial ground for veterans of all wars since.
The Civil War also brought to prominence Henry Timrod, also known as The Poet Laureate of the Confederacy, who taught at a schoolhouse on the Cannon Plantation nearby.
After the war, Florence grew and prospered, using the railroad to supply its cotton, timber, and by the turn of the century, tobacco.
During the 20th century Florence grew into a major medical center, of far greater importance than its size. Industry grew, especially after World War II, when Florence became increasingly known for textiles, pharmaceuticals, paper, manufacturing and in addition to agricultural products, which makes it the hub for business in the northeastern portion of South Carolina.