Religion has played an important part in the lives of the people of Edgefield County. In the 1760's, the great evangelist Daniel Marshall, came to this area and established Big Stevens Creek and Horn's Creek Churches. In 1826 Edgefield Baptists, together with others from around the state, established Furman Academy and Theological Institution, the forerunner of Furman University and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The Edgefield church later came under the leadership of the Rev. William Bullein Johnson who became the founder and first president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Other denominations, including Methodists, Episcopalians, and Catholics, were established here in the antebellum period.
After the War Between the States, a remarkable former slave, Rev. Alexander Bettis, provided inspiring leadership for the freedmen, and established over forty churches throughout Edgefield and Aiken Counties. These churches were organized into the Mount Canaan Association and, with their combined resources, Bettis Academy, a school for the African American youth of the region, was established in 1881. Another prominent African American educator from Edgefield County was Dr. Benjamin Mays, the mentor of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From early in the 19th century and throughout the antebellum period, Edgefield County was noted for its superior schools, including the Edgefield Village Academy, the Blocker Academy, and the Edgefield Female Academy. Later, from 1894 to 1913, the South Carolina Co-Educational Institute, located in the Town of Edgefield, was recognized throughout the southeast for its academic excellence.