Orangeburg County, South Carolina
         
   

   

Year Established

County Seat

Population (2010)

1791 or 1800, depending on how you look at it

Orangeburg

92,501
 

First Settled

First Settled By

Significance of County Name

1735

Reformed Swiss, German Lutherans, English/Welsh, Scots-Irish

William, Prince of Orange
 

Other Significant Towns:

Cordova

Rowesville

Wolfton

Branchville

Bowman

Eutawville

Holly Hill

Santee

Click Here - To see how Orangeburg County evolved each decade - includes all the known towns and villages.

Click Here - To see the known battles/skirmishes in Orangeburg County during the US Revolution.

A History of Orangeburg County


In 1730, Governor Robert Johnson created nine townships in the interior of the Province of South Carolina to stimulate inland settlement. One of the townships was called Edisto Township located on the banks of the North Edisto River in south-central South Carolina. When the first group of settlers arrived in 1735 they requested that the name be changed to Orangeburgh Township. Their settlement became the town of Orangeburgh, later to be shortened to Orangeburg. Many of the original nine townships did not survive long past the American Revolution, including the neighboring Amelia Township, which was established at the same time as Orangeburgh Township in 1735.

In 1768, the District Act established seven new districts, with their own courts and records. The Orangeburgh District was first established as one of these seven new districts. At that time, Orangeburgh District incorporated the Amelia Township and the Saxe-Gotha Township along the Congaree River, as well as lands all the way to the Savannah River. Also in 1768, the Province established two new Parishes, and the newly-created Orangeburgh District fell into the new St. Matthew's Parish. In 1778, another new parish - Orange Parish - was created, and the town of Orangeburg and a good part of the Orangeburgh District was now in Orange Parish.

This seemed to all make sense to the locals. After the American Revolution, the new state of South Carolina once again reorganized its judicial system, but essentially left the "overarching" Orangeburg District (the "h" now gone) pretty much intact. However, the Orangeburg District was carved into four "new counties" - Orange, Winton, Lexington, and Lewisburg. As with many of the "new counties" that were established in 1785, these four new counties did not take root, nor were courthouses built or justices appointed.

In 1791, the state abolished the four "new counties" created in the Orangeburg District previously in 1785, however, the Orangeburg District remained intact with the same boundaries as in 1768. So, is this the "true beginning" of what we now know as Orangeburg County? Most historians seem to think so. Since South Carolina used the term "district" to mean two things - an "overarching" concept as introduced in 1768, but with no subordinate counties - and in 1785, the term "district" was used to be synonymous with "county" as used in other states at the time, however South Carolina kept the "overarching Districts" from 1785 to 1800 and some of these did include subordinate counties.

In the case of Orangeburg, it had once been a District, with no subordinate counties from 1768 to 1785, then it became an "overarching District" from 1785 to 1791, with four subordinate counties. However, with the 1791 elimination of all four subordinate counties, was it still an "overarching District" or merely a "district" in the "county" sense of things? We'll let the historians sort that one out.

In 1800, Barnwell District (county) was carved out of the large Orangeburg District (county), the first of several to follow over the next few decades. Lexington District (county) was carved out in 1894, part of Aiken County was carved out in 1871, and Calhoun County was carved out in 1908. So, the Orangeburg County that we have today has retained its current boundaries since 1908.


The settlers of Orangeburgh County and town were mostly German-Swiss, who began arriving in 1735 and continued to reach the district for several years before the movement ended. According to The Gazette (July 26), about 220 who had paid their passage were going up the Edisto River at government expense with provisions for one year. Each family head was to receive a lot and fifty acres in the township for each member in the family.

The lots in Orangeburgh had already been marked off and numbered and several streets had been named. In fact, there were seventeen streets including one running along the riverfront. The center was named Broughton for the Lieutenant Governor; others were named in honor of His Majesty's Council (Middleton, Broad, Wragg, Skein, Wright, Bull, and Fenwick). Amelia and Saxe-Gotha Streets were named for other townships. Russell Street was named for Capt. Charles Russell, commander of the Rangers, who protected the early settlers from both Indians and white outlaws.

In 1768, the Province was divided into seven precincts of districts, the third being called the Precinct of Orangeburg. It contained three townships: Orangeburgh (Orange Parish), Amelia (Parish of St. Matthews), and Saxe-Gotha (Lexington - 1804). Originally, the district included all of the present counties of Orangeburg, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun, Lexington, and the larger part of Aiken. It extended from the Savannah to the Santee and from Charleston and Beaufort districts to present day Edgefield.


Orangeburg County was first settled in 1704 by an Indian trader, George Sterling - in 1908, this would be in Calhoun County.

To encourage settlement, the General Assembly of the Province of South Carolina in 1730 made the area into a township in the shape of a parallelogram 15 x 5 miles. In 1735, a colony of 200 Swiss, German, and Dutch immigrants formed a community near the banks of the North Edisto River. The site was attractive because of the fertile soil and the abundance of wildlife. The river provided an outlet to the port of Charles Town for the agriculture and lumber products. The town soon became a well-established and successful colony, composed chiefly of small farmers.

Click Here for a more detailed discussion about the earliest settlers of Orangeburg. Thanks to Lynne Teague of the Orangeburge German-Swiss Genealogical Society for providing it in February of 2011.

The church played an important role in the early life of Orangeburg. The first church building was of Lutheran denomination but was later the Episcopal Church. The church building was erected prior to 1763 in the center of the village and was destroyed at the time of the Revolutionary War. A subsequent church building was used as a smallpox hospital by General Sherman during the war for Southern Rights.

The center of the original village was near what is now Broughton and Henley Streets, according to a marker there.


Orangeburg County and its county seat, Orangeburg, were named for William IV (1711-1751), Prince of Orange, the son-in-law of King George II. The name was first used in the 1730s for a township on the Edisto River. Orangeburg District was established in 1769, and from 1785 to 1791 it included four counties: Lexington, Orange, Winton, and Lewisburg. The district was reduced in size when Barnwell (1800) and Lexington (1804) districts were formed; parts of Orangeburg also went to form Aiken (1871) and Calhoun (1908) counties.

Swiss and German farmers moved into this region around 1735, and English settlers from the lowcountry followed. The battle of Eutaw Springs was fought there during the Revolutionary War on September 8, 1781; it was the last major battle of the war in South Carolina.

Large plantations using slave labor were established in Orangeburg in the nineteenth century, and the county became a major producer of cotton. Railroads arrived in the area early; Branchville became the first railroad junction in the state in 1840.

Union troops under General Sherman passed through Orangeburg in February 1865. Orangeburg County was the birthplace of historian Alexander S. Salley (1871-1961) and singer Eartha Kitt.


Listed by the federal agricultural department as one of the 26 best agricultural counties in the United States, Orangeburg County, named in honor of William, Prince of Orange, son-in-law of George II, organized in 1768, is a leader among South Carolina counties for its manifold and valuable field products. It is a coastal plain county in the southwest-central part of the state, the Edisto river bounding it on the south west, with an area of 1,131 square miles and a population, 1920 of 64,907, estimated in 1925 at 70,102. The white native born population is 22 060. The large negro population makes labor abundant.

The county has 131 miles of railroad and 14 accredited high schools.

The county began to have many settlers in 1735, when 161 Swiss came up from Charleston to occupy the fertile, virgin lands, and its people of today have the inheritance of their habit and tradition of thrift and industry. Only 129 of its current citizens are foreign born.

Orangeburg produced wealth in 1925 estimated by the national department of agriculture's statisticians at $15,000,000 value, of which $12,500,000 was farm crops and $2,500,000 from lumber and manufactured products. The county leads the state in the total value of crops and livestock production. For crops affected by frost the growing season is 245 days, but there are other crops which may be and are grown the full 12 months in the year.

In the report of the statistician of the agricultural department, Orangeburg is given the leadership of South Carolina counties in the production for 1925 of cotton and cotton seed, of corn, of oats, and of sugar cane.

The county was second in the production of peanuts and third in sweet potatoes. In ownership of mules on farms it ranked third, in horses first, in hogs first, and in milch cows fifth.

In the valuation of crops made by this report, cow peas, soy beans, velvet beans, and poultry products were not included, and Orangeburg County has taken a conspicuous part in the development of soy bean cultivation. In the same year 1925, more than 50,000 pounds of poultry were shipped in carload lots and considerable quantities in addition were shipped by express and sold directly to consumer. More pecans are grown in Orangeburg and in Calhoun, most of whose area was carved from Orangeburg, than in all the rest of South Carolina.

Scattered about this great county and situated on its steam railroads and improved state and county highways are the following 17 villages with their population in 1920:

Bowman, 733 ; Branchville, 1,814 ; Cope, 266 ; Cordova, 133 ; Elloree, 925 ; Eutawville, 285; Holly Hill, 522; Livingston, 159; Neeces, 289; North, 700; Norway, 474 ; Parler, 165 ; Rowesville, 425 ; Springfield, 798 ; Vance, 124 ; Woodford, 144 ; Bowyer, 87.

Branchville derives its name from the fact that when the South Carolina railroad was built in the early 1830s from Charleston to Hamburg, before the end of the decade the construction of a branch beginning at the village to Columbia was begun. Branchville is said to be the oldest railroad junction in the world.

The city of Orangeburg is the county seat.


Immediately above, published in "South Carolina: A Handbook," prepared by The Department of Agriculture, Commerce, and Industries and Clemson College, Columbia, South Carolina, 1927. Copyright not claimed.
Click Here to download a "Word" document containing another history of Orangeburg County, written in 1898. If anyone can identify the author, please contact me at the e-mail address shown below.

 


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