Some sixty years after the first permanent settlement in South Carolina, a group of English settlers sent out by the Lords Proprietors, landed in Georgetown and moved up the Pee Dee River to the junction of the Little Pee Dee River about half way between Georgetown and the present town of Marion. Among these families were Brittons, Davis, Flaglers, Giles, Graves, Tyler and others. About the same time, and maybe on the same ship from England, came Captain John Godbold. Captain Godbold was a retired English sea captain who moved farther up the Big Pee Dee and settled on Catfish Creek. The creek is southwest and very near the present city limits of Marion.
During its early colonial years the area was part of Craven County. When Craven was divided, this segment of land was placed in Georgetown District. In 1785 another division was made and the name "Liberty" was used for a short time to designate this area.
A commission was appointed by the South Carolina Legislature to locate the site for the court house. Court was scheduled for the first Monday in March 1800. The court house was not complete, so court was held in a log building on Colonel Hugh Giles plantation about two miles below Marion. The section was called Gilesboro or Gilesboro Court House for some time after.
The Commissioners appointed to select the site for the Court House were offered land by several land owners in the vicinity, including land of Col. Hugh Giles, but they chose and accepted four acres from Thomas Godbold, a grandson of Captain John Godbold. The present Court House was erected in 1854 and it is the third Court House on or near the same site.
General Francis Marion
On December 17, 1847, when by an act of the South Carolina Legislature a charter was issued to the town, its official name was given as "Marion". The name honors General Francis Marion a hero of the Revolutionary War.
During the Revolutionary War, the people of Marion County were divided in their loyalties. There were ardent Patriots under Col. Hugh Giles, Capt. John Dozier, Capt. Stephen Godbold and others. Maj. Micajah Ganey and Capt. Jessee Barfield led the Loyalists. Before the end of the war, most of the Loyalists had pledged allegience to the colonists due to the activities of General Francis Marion in the area. The Revolutionary battles in the county were Portís Ferry, Blue Savannah, and Bowling Green.
During the War Between the States, Marion County was spared damage from Shermanís troops due to the Big Pee Dee River being at flood stage. The troops were unable to cross the river. The county fully participated in the reconstruction, and in 1876 there were Red Shirt organizations in every township.
Marion County had several periods of growth. With the building and completion of the Wilmington to Manchester Railroad in 1854, business and transportation improved. Gen. W.W. Harllee was the first President of the Railroad and the town of Florence, located to the west of Marion, was named for his daughter. The second president was Col. William S. Mullins for whom the town of Mullins was named.
In 1888 a part of the west side of the county was given up to help form Florence County and in 1910 the upper part of the county was lost to form Dillon County.
In Marion, a former agricultural economy based on cotton and tobacco has become more diversified with large factories producing such varied products as automotive components, luxury sailboats, custom model emergency vehicles and distribution centers. As the town changes in many respects, it has been able to retain its attractive appearance. Townspeople are universally pleased and justifiably proud when travelers refer to Marion as "that pretty little town we go through on the way to the beach".