Do you have ancestors from Sumter, South Carolina, or an interest in the history of South Carolina? We’re happy to announce that we’ve added The Sumter Item and The Watchman and Southron to our archives, with issues dating back to 1881. The Watchman and Southron was a weekly (later a semiweekly) paper that was published through 1930 when it was absorbed by the Sumter Daily Item, which in turn became The Sumter Item.

The city and county of Sumter are named after Gen. Thomas Sumter, a Revolutionary War hero. South Carolina history is also closely tied to Civil War history. It was the first state to secede from the Union in 1860 and the state where the first shots of the Civil War were fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor in April 1861. It’s also the place where some of the last shots of the Civil War took place. The Battle of Dingle’s Mill was a Civil War skirmish that took place when Potter’s raiders confronted Confederate forces on April 9, 1865, in Sumter County. This fighting is especially noteworthy because the Civil War officially ended the same day, but the word of the Confederate surrender had not yet reached Sumter where fighting continued until April 25th.

The Sumter Item is the oldest continuously family-owned paper in South Carolina, and one of the oldest in the country. It has been run by the Osteen family for five generations and was started by patriarch Hubert Graham Osteen. The Osteen family has chronicled the changing news in Sumter over the decades.

When the first automobiles arrived in Sumter in the early 1900s, The Sumter Item reported on several attempts by residents to climb the courthouse steps in their new automobiles. After several accidents, city leaders realized that they needed to enact safety measures and speed limits.

Prohibition took effect in Sumter in 1916 (four years before Congress mandated Prohibition nationally). Despite impassioned arguments against the use of alcohol, some Sumter residents operated underground, producing liquor despite the constant threat of police raids.

In April 1924, a tornado with a path 135 miles long struck Sumter causing multiple casualties. The tornado destroyed buildings, burying people in rubble and carving a path that resembled “a forest after an artillery barrage.” 

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, The Sumter Item published a special edition announcing the attack. In the following days, Sumter was on a high state of alert. Soldiers stood guard over public buildings and a Sumter bridge. The Item kept residents informed about local soldiers serving in the war.

If you have ancestors from Sumter, search the pages of this archive for things like death notices or wedding announcements. The society columns are another place to search for colorful details about your family. Start searching the pages of The Watchman and Southron and The Sumter Item today on!

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24 thoughts on “New Papers From South Carolina!

  1. So happy to hear you are working on SC. Would love the Spartanburg County papers to be next on the list next!

    1. Thanks for your interesting news reports.No I don’t have any relatives in South Carolina but I have a friend I correspond with who lives there and a granddaughter who is a student at Converse University.

      1. Donaldson.
        I have them from prior 1600 in Rowan and Iredell Counties, North Carolina

    1. Have family from 1840 to current times in South Carolina. Especially around Greenville. Would love to see papers from that area.

  2. What were the African American Newspapers in Columbia South Carolina in 1880 to 1910 if any? My gggrandfather was very active in Columbia in that time period.

    1. Hi Robin, We have the The People’s Recorder (1893-1925) and The Southern Indicator (1903-1925). We are constantly adding new content so continue to check back for new additions.

  3. That’s good news! Are all years the Sumter Daily Item has run available in

    Is there any chance of getting “The State” newspaper in Columbia added?

  4. Thanks for showing this info . I was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1955 and also think have or had family there. I also have a letter like a brown paper bag color letter that has date of 1861 Arlington, Virginia and is signed by Robert E Lee . May be a copy but it is very old . If interested let me know i will send a pic .

    1. That sounds like a treasure! It would be awesome to upload an image of that to Ancestry and/or

  5. Im not from Sumter but im from a town called North not to far from Sumter. I do have a great great aunt who was born Lewis/Louis and married a Sumter.

  6. The name of Robert Tisdale was my uncle he served in the US army in the UK during WW11 where he met and eventually married my Auntie Phyllis they lived in Andrews SC where he was a farmer growing tobacco

  7. Thanks for the additions. It would be great to see Darlington County, SC newspapers too!

  8. Why is only such a limited time period available (2010-2020) for the major Columbia, SC newspaper, The State? This time period is not of much historical value. When will the full date range of published papers for The State be available.?

  9. What about newspapers in sumpter prior to 1881? My family goes back to early 1800s in Sumpter.

  10. I have been working on a history of the Sumter Little Theatre for about a year now. Though local resources and the Theatre’s archives were very helpful, this upload has literally opened the floodgates! I am overjoyed!

    Now, if I can just stop rabbit-holing into the delightful tidbits from the society pages, I may get a lot more work done!

    Thank you!

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