In the 18th century, Edgefield County had largely a subsistence economy in which the settlers consumed what they raised. Beginning around 1800, following the invention of the cotton gin, planters began to grow cotton, which became an extremely profitable cash crop. During the antebellum period, "King Cotton" created a Plantation Society based upon slave labor. The wealthiest planters erected imposing homes both on their plantations and in the Village of Edgefield.
After the War Between the States, cotton production continued to increase sharply until the early 1920's. Edgefield County, like most of the South, became a "one-crop"economy, in which all life revolved around the cultivation of cotton.
In the early 1920's, the boll weevil arrived in Edgefield County devastating cotton yields. This tiny insect triggered an extended decline in cotton production, causing a dramatic outmigration from the county's farms and depressing the local economy for nearly half a century.
Although peaches have been grown in Edgefield County since the 18th century, the first commercial crop was produced by William Gregg in the 1850's. With the decline of cotton in the 1930's, a number of farmers on "The Ridge" began to cultivate peaches on a commercial scale. By the late 1960's Edgefield County's peach production had become nationally significant.
Forestry has always been an important part of the county's economy. In the period after the decline of cotton, hundreds of thousands of acres in Edgefield County returned to woodlands, much of it for the commercial production of pine trees.