Historic Markers Across South Carolina

Law and Order in the Carolina Backcountry

Marker ID: NPS 
Location: At the Ninety Six National Historic Site on South Cambridge Street (State Highway 248), Ninety Six, SC
County: Greenwood
Coordinates: N 34° 8.669    W 082° 1.241
  34.14448333    -82.02068333


Law and Order in the Carolina Backcountry
— The Jail and the Courthouse —

The Ninety Six jail stood on this site and the courthouse was about 100 yards from it, near the Charleston Road. After the Revolutionary War, the jail fell into disrepair and its bricks were reused for other purposes. But from 1772, when it was completed, through the siege of 1781, the jail and nearby courthouse elevated this frontier town's status from a remote wilderness outpost to a place of law, order, and civilization.

Unlike colonial South Carolina's coastal communities, the early backcountry settlements were sparsely populated and had virtually no law enforcement. with the courts far away in Charleston, a vigilante group called Regulators emerged. Ninety Six was the center for the Regulator movement. By 1767 there were about 4,000 Regulators, whose self-appointed duties including tracking down bandits, punishing immoral women, and expelling vagrants.

The Regulator movement was replaced by a circuit court system in 1769, and by the time the courthouse was built a judge from Charleston came twice a year -- in April and November -- to hear cases and impose sentences. The buildings were also an important part of the town's defences during the Revolutionary War.

David Fanning, a Loyalists captured by Patriots, manage four impressive escapes from the Ninety Six jail, and described his last incarceration:
"I was chained and ironed as before, in the centre of a room, 30 feet square; forty-five from the ground, the snow beating in through the roof, with 4 grates open night and day. I remained in this state eleven days. I got my chains off in the night for the 12th." Once unshackled, Fanning loosened an iron bar from a window, pried a plank from the floor, and made his break from the lower level.

Erected 2009 by National Park Service.


More information:
NPS - Ninety Six National Historic Site
Wikipedia - Ninety Six National Historic Site
Wikipedia - Ninety Six, South Carolina