The railroad contributed to the establishment of Rowland. When the railway was extended to this area from Florence, SC in 1888, the people from Plainview established Rowland, naming it for Colonel Alfred Rowland, a Confederate officer. Its first general store was owned by R. S. Bond. A post office opened in 1888 and the town was incorporated in 1889.

The railway depot, built in 1890 and remodeled in 1925, now houses the McMurray-McKeller Museum that includes period furnishings and displays of railroad and other historic memorabilia.

Nearby historic sites include the Ashpole Presbyterian Church, organized in 1796, Providence A.M.E. Zion Methodist Church founded in 1885, and the grave site of Robert Adair, a famous early resident. Dr. Adair, author, soldier, and explorer, wrote History of American Indians, published in 1775.

From its population of 72 in 1890, the town grew to 999 in 1940 and adopted the motto, "The town of a thousand friends". It was home to the county's first public library, established in 1903 by local residents each donating one book to its collection, housed in the office of the local dentist, Dr. C. H. Lennon.

Known as a farming community amid rich, productive farmland, Rowland's residents take pride in the agricultural heritage.

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