“Black Mingo” comes from Black Mingo Creek, which is a tributary from the Black River in western Georgetown County. It derives its name from mingo or minko, the Chickasaw word for chief. This area was a special hunting ground and a center of the eastern Chickasaw in colonial times. The creek drains communities around Indiantown (named in reference to the Chickasaw tribal headquarters), Nesmith, and the communities of Rome and Rose Hill.
The lower region is a deep tidal river, navigable by colonial-era ships to the former community of Willtown (AKA Rhems), about halfway up the length of the creek. This village once did a thriving business exporting agricultural products such as indigo, which was grown in the area and exported to Britain for use as a dye. After the American Revolution, the British market was closed to American exports, and the resulting loss of commerce led to the dwindling of the Willtown community.
Further adding to our store’s namesake was the legendary Battle of Black Mingo during the American Revolution. It took place in September 1780 in the vicinity of Dollard’s Tavern near Black Mingo Creek not far from Willtown, and was lead by the legendary General Francis Marion.
In August of 1780, the British began constructing a small fortification at Black Mingo and placed a large number of troops there. Francis Marion knew all about the small fort and the garrison. On September 14, 1780, he assembled his troops at the Snow’s Island Camp about 15 miles away and proceeded in the night to Willtown, the only place where he could ford the Black River since Shepherd’s Ferry was too near the British stronghold.
General Marion crossed the bridge over the Black Mingo at Willtown in the night and the noise his cavalry made warned the British at the Red House, and they came out to meet his forces. A sharp engagement ensued in which 71 Patriots under General Marion were killed and 74 British were killed, including the British commanding officer Colonel John Coming Ball. Within a few hours, half of the soldiers on both sides were wounded.
At daybreak, the British retreated into their fortification and remained. General Marion held his ground and kept up almost a continuous fire on the entrenched British for two days, when they embarked in their boats and proceeded for Georgetown, taking away their wounded but leaving their dead.
General Marion buried his 71 dead in the field on the left side of the road about 500 yards going south from Shepherd’s Ferry. He interred the British dead at the Red House about one mile further south on the same side of the road. Marion took possession of Colonel Ball’s horse which he renamed Ball and rode throughout the remainder of the war. He also learned a tactical lesson: he reportedly never again crossed a bridge intending surprise without first laying blankets down on it.
The defeat at Black Mingo ended the British plans for a string of fortifications in the Georgetown District at that point in time, and was another turning point for the South Carolinians.