It is alleged that the county name originated from a statement made by General Cornwallis when he declared “How Fair These Fields” during the British occupation of the area in 1780-81. The house Cornwallis stayed in during the occupation is still standing and has been continuously used as a residence since that time.
Several years before the Revolution, Richard Winn from Virginia moved to what is now called Fairfield County. His lands covered the present site of Winnsboro, and as early as 1777 the settlement was known as “Winnsborough”.
The village was laid out and chartered in 1785 upon petition of Richard Winn, John Winn and John Vanderhorst. John, Richard, and Minor Winn all served in the Revolutionary War. Richard was a General and he is said to have fought in more battles than any Whig in South Carolina. John was a Colonel.
In December 1832 Winnsboro was incorporated as a town to be governed by an intendant and wardens.
The most prominent architectural feature of Fairfield County is the Town Clock in Winnsboro. South Carolina’s General Assembly authorized Winnsboro’s town fathers to build a market house that “shall not be of greater width than 30 feet” to allow 30 feet of wagon travel on either side. The narrow building was modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia and built on the site of a duck pond. A clock was added in 1837, and the building has since been known as the Town Clock. Residents boast the clock is the longest continuously running clock in the United States.
The County Courthouse, across from the Town Clock, has watched Winnsboro’s daily activities since 1823. Designed by South Carolina architect Robert Mills, the courthouse houses records dating as far back as the middle 1700s.
Fairfield County has numerous churches, some of which have existed for over 200 years. Perhaps the most famous church, built in 1788, is the Old Brick Church, where the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod of the Carolinas was organized in 1803. A note penciled on the wall of the Old Brick Church is testimony to a Union soldier’s regret at the church’s floor boards being taken up to build a crossing over the nearby river for General Sherman’s troops.
The early settlers in the mid-1700’s brought cotton to the County, and it remained the main crop until depletion of the soil and boll weevil called the industry to a halt in the 1920’s. Granite deposits in the County led to the early development of quarrying. Winnsboro blue granite, “The Silk of the Trade,” is used worldwide in buildings and monuments.
The excellent hunting and fishing that the Indians enjoyed still exist today. Fairfield County, with an abundance of deer and wild turkeys, is a focal point for sportsmen.