South Carolina Education - Oconee County

Year County Established

County Webpage Herein

County Seat Webpage Herein

1868

Oconee County

Walhalla
 

Walhalla, in what was Pickens District until Oconee County was created in 1868, was founded by the German Colonization Society of Charleston in 1850 and boasted as many as 500 German settlers by 1855. The first school offering instruction in English opened in a frame building on Church Street between mid-1850 and late 1852. It was described in January 1853 as "a good English school on the square attended by twenty German Children."

Prof. G.H.D. Cramer was the first teacher at this elementary school for younger German children. In late 1853, St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church was formally organized with Rev. Carl F. Bansemer as its first pastor and as professor at the English school. Bansemer was also professor of a classical academy founded in 1857. When he left Walhalla in 1860, Prof. Cramer resumed teaching at the English school and remained until his death in 1874.

[Note - when first opened, the English School was in the Pickens District. In 1868, it was in Oconee County.]

This fully-accredited Lutheran-controlled college was chartered by the General Assembly of South Carolina on December 20, 1856. Dr. John Bachman, noted divine and naturalist, was the first president of the board of trustees. The college was used as a Confederate hospital and a U.S. garrison. It removed to Walhalla in 1868 but returned to Newberry in 1877.

[Note - this marker is in Newberry County. The college existed in Walhalla from 1868 to 1877, when it returned to Newberry,]

Newberry College, founded in 1856, moved here from Newberry in 1868 and remained in Walhalla until 1877, returning to Newberry for the opening of the 1877-78 academic year. The Lutheran college struggled during the Civil War and its aftermath as enrollment dropped and debts mounted. in 1869 it sold its main building and other property in Newberry at auction to pay its significant debts.

Walhalla, with a large community of Germans who were primarily Lutherans, was chosen as a suitable home for the college, which retained the name Newberry. Under Josiah P. Smeltzer (1818-1887), president 1861-77, the college first occupied a building at Main and College Streets and then one at College and North Broad Streets. In 1877 the Synod of S.C. and Adjacent States voted to move it back to Newberry.

On March 4, 1872, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to charter the Walhalla Female College in Oconee County, named sixteen (16) trustees. The charter was for an indefinite period or until repealed by the legislature.
On December 20, 1881, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to incorporate Adger College in the town of Walhalla in Oconee County, named twenty-seven (27) trustees, and exempted all teachers and students from road duty in the town of Walhalla and the remainder of Oconee County. On December 22, 1883, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to amend the charter of Adger College to allow current trustees to elect replacements when a vacancy arises, and to define what a quorum will be.
On December 24, 1887, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to establish a new special school district in Oconee County, to be known as the Coneross School District, named three (3) trustees, and authorized voters to decide upon an additional special school tax not to exceed two (2) mills on real and personal property. On December 20, 1888, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to completely repeal the Act of 12/24/1887.
Also on December 24, 1887, the South Carolina General Assembly passed another Act to establish a new special school district in Oconee County, to be known as the Seneca Graded School district in the town of Seneca, named five (5) trustees, and authorized voters to decide upon an additional special school tax not to exceed five (5) mills on real and personal property. On December 22, 1888, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to amend the Act of 12/24/1887 by redefining the boundaries of the Seneca Graded School District. On December 24, 1892, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to repeal the Act of 12/24/1887, to be effective on January 1, 1894.
On November 27, 1889, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to accept the bequest of Thomas Green Clemson, who had died on April 6, 1888 and left 814 acres at Fort Hill, SC, in Oconee County, for the purpose of establishing and maintaining an Agricultural and Mechanical College.
On December 23, 1889, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to provide initial and annual funding for the Clemson Agricultural College in Oconee County. The Act also authorized the use of up to fifty (50) convicts from the State Penitentiary to construct buildings or in the preparation of grounds for the college.

Clemson University was founded in 1889 as the Clemson Agricultural College of S.C., with its origins in the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 creating public land-grant colleges. It was established by a bequest from Thomas Green Clemson (1807-1888), noted scientist, agriculturist, and son-in-law of John C. Calhoun, whose plantation at Fort Hill formed the core of the new college campus.

Clemson, intended to be "a high seminary of learning" to advance scientific agriculture and the mechanical arts, opened in 1893 as a military school and was sometimes improperly known as Clemson A&M College. It became a civilian co-educational institution in 1955, then became Clemson University, reflecting its modern and expanded mission, in 1964.

[Clemson Agricultural College was in Oconee County when first established. In 1959, the man-made Lake Hartwell was completed and Clemson Agricultural College was then in Pickens County.]

On December 23, 1890, the South Carolina General Assembly passed a Joint Resolution directing the State Treasurer to securely invest the funds from the Thomas Green Clemson bequest and to pay out the interest earned thereof to the Board of Trustees of the Clemson Agricultural College annually.
Also on December 23, 1890, the South Carolina General Assembly passed another Act to reorganize the University of South Carolina into three branches: the South Carolina College in Columbia and Claflin College in Orangeburg - both under one Board of Trustees, and the South Carolina Military Academy (the Citadel) in Charleston under a Board of Visitors. The Experimental Station and the Mechanical Department connected with the University of South Carolina are to be transferred to the Clemson Agricultural College as of July 1, 1891.
Also on December 23, 1890, the South Carolina General Assembly passed a Joint Resolution to require the State Penitentiary to supply up to 100 more convicts, above the fifty (50) already authorized by the Act of 12/23/1889 above, to assist in the construction of the Clemson Agricultural College.
On December 24, 1890, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to divide certain Federal Funds provided for the Endowment and Support of colleges for the benefit of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts equally between Claflin Agricultural College (colored) and Clemson Agricultural College (white).
Also on December 24, 1890, the South Carolina General Assembly passed another Act to authorize the sale of a certain building in the City of Columbia, with the lot on which it stands, known as Agricultural Hall; that four-acre lot in said city known as the Fish Pond tract or lot; that tract of land known as the Experimental Farm at Columbia, with the personal property belonging thereto; that certain farm and tract of land, containing two hundred and twenty-seven 21-100 acres, in the County of Darlington, known as the South Carolina Agricultural Farm and Station in Darlington County, together with the personal property thereon and appertaining thereto; and that certain tract of land in Spartanburg County, near the City of Spartanburg, containing 14 4-100 acres, more or less, with the buildings and with the personal property thereunto belonging, known as that part of the South Carolina Agricultural Farm and Station situated in Spartanburg County. That the proceeds of such sale or sales, whether in money or securities, shall be turned over to the State Treasurer, to be by him held subject to the draft or order, as the case may be, of the Trustees of the Clemson Agricultural College, for the use of the said Clemson Agricultural College, to which college the said proceeds are hereby appropriated, except for the Darlington County Farm and Station and property - the funds shall be distributed to Darlington County and Florence County for general county use. On December 24, 1892, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to amend the 12/24/1890 Act, by repealing the sale of the Agricultural Hall in the city of Columbia, if not already sold - Clemson now has sufficient funds to complete its construction.
Also on December 24, 1890, the South Carolina General Assembly passed a Joint Resolution to authorize the School Commissioner of Oconee County to apportion the income of the school fund for said County for the fiscal year 1890-91 amongst the new School Districts thereof in proportion to the number of children of the school age residing in each District, which number it shall be the duty of the School Trustees in the respective Districts to ascertain and report to the School Commissioner in time for him to make his usual annual apportionment.
On December 22, 1891, the South Carolina General Assembly passed a Joint Resolution to authorize the State Treasurer to convert all indebtedness now held by him and which was turned over to him as a part of the Clemson bequest, and that when he shall have received the money on same that he invest the same in Brown Consols bearing interest at six per cent, per annum.
Also on December 22, 1891, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to prohibit the manufacture or sales of spirituous liquors, or malt liquors, wines, bitters, or bitters of which spiritous liquors form an ingredient, within ten miles of Clemson Agricultural College.
On December 20, 1892, the South Carolina General Assembly passed a Joint Resolution to appropriate $50,000 for the completion and equipment of Clemson Agricultural College, hopefully by Spring of 1893.
On December 24, 1892, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to authorize the Trustees of the Clemson Agricultural College to prohibit the sale of goods or to license the sale of goods on school property, and to hire peace officers or policemen, who may arrest at any time any and all parties guilty of disorderly conduct or of any violations of the laws of the State and carry them before the nearest Trial Justice for trial.
On January 4, 1894, the South Carolina General Assembly passed a Joint Resolution for the State Penitentiary to provide fifty (50) convicts to support construction at Clemson Agricultural College, to provide fifty (50) convicts to construct a new colored male facility at the State Insane Asylum, and to provide one hundred (100) convicts to support the construction of the Winthrop Normal and Industrial College of South Carolina.
Also on January 4, 1894, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to authorize Clemson Agricultural College to purchase the tract of land adjoining said college, which is currently owned by Miss Lee, and not to pay more than $10,000 for said land.
On December 17, 1894, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act for the State Penitentiary to provide thirty-three (33) convicts to the Clemson Agricultural College to help finalize the buildings at the college, and to provide thirty-five (35) convicts to the State Lunatic Asylum in Columbia to make bricks to finalize the new building.
On January 5, 1895, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to provide pupils of the free public schools in Abbeville County, Oconee County, and Pickens County with text books and other school supplies at cost.
On March 2, 1897, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to authorize the Board of Trustees of Clemson Agricultural College to grant free tuition to such competent and deserving youths of this State as may be unable to pay the same, and the said Board of Trustees shall prescribe such rules and regulations as may be proper to confine the enjoyment of this privilege to those whose necessities require it.
On February 16, 1898, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to regulate the election of trustees for the Clemson Agricultural College.

The Seneca Institute (later Seneca Junior College) educated African American children of this region from 1899 to 1939. It was founded and sponsored by the Seneca River Baptist Association, which in 1898 acquired eight acres here. The first home of Seneca Institute, a frame three-room building, was built in 1899. Its first principal, Dr. John Jacob Starks (d. 1944), served here 1899-1912 before serving as president of Morris College and then Benedict College.

Seneca Institute taught academic courses to primary and secondary students and industrial courses as well to secondary students. Its campus featured a two-story frame classroom building, a two-story frame boys’ dormitory, and a two-story brick girls’ dormitory and chapel. Though it expanded its curriculum to become Seneca Junior College in 1930, it struggled through the Depression and finally closed in 1939.

On February 19, 1900, the South Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to authorize the Clemson Agricultural College to construct, maintain, and operate its own railroad between the college and Calhoun Station on the Atlanta & Charlotte Air Line Railway, which had already been absorbed into Southern Railway. The Act also authorized the college to construct and maintain tramways, macadam roads, electric roads, and such other highways within the incorporation as the Board of Trustees may deem expedient for the improvement and development of said college.
 
 
 
 
 

Tamassee DAR School, founded by the S.C. Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in 1919, was established in an area described as “remote but accessible where the need was greatest.” It has long met the needs of children and families in crisis from the southern Appalachian Mountains. The S.C. Cottage, the first building on campus, was built by volunteers.

At first a boarding school for girls and a day school for boys, Tamassee offers academic, vocational, and citizenship training. As a partner with the Oconee County School District, it served as an elementary and high school until 1965 and has since been an elementary school. The National Society of the DAR began funding the school in 1921 and continues to support its programs.

This school, often called Retreat Colored School, was built in 1923 for the African-American students in and near Westminster. A two-room, two-teacher, elementary school, it was built by local builder William Walker Bearden of Oakway at a cost of $2,300. It was one of more than 500 schools in S.C. funded in part by the Julius Rosenwald Foundation between 1917 and 1932.

This public school replaced a one-room private school established by Pleasant Hill Baptist Church about 1870. About 50-60 students a year, in grades 1-7, attended Retreat Colored School from 1923 until it closed after the 1949-50 school year. The school was sold to Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in 1950. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.

West Union Graded School, also known as West Union Grammar School or West Union Elementary School, was built here in 1923-24. In 1922, trustees purchased 4 acres from Marvin Phinney for a new school to replace an earlier frame building. This two-story brick school was ready for the opening of the 1924-25 school year with Jerome Douglass as its principal and 5 teachers for about 100-150 students in grades 1-6.

Miss Clara Smith taught here for more than 40 years, from the mid-1920s until the school closed in 1969. She usually taught two or more grades a year and was also West Union's last principal form 1949 to 1969. The town of West Union purchased the school from the Oconee County School District in 1969, leasing it back to the district for office space 1971-1981.

Oconee County Training School, which educated the African American children of this county from 1925 to 1955, was the successor of the Seneca Colored Graded School. This school, also known as OCTS, was founded in 1925 with Rev. B.F. Stewart as its first principal. Funded by local taxes and the Peabody Fund, it was built with 8 classrooms and later expanded to 26 classrooms, for students in grades 1-11 1931-1947, and grades 1-12 1947-1955.

Oconee County Training School taught both academic classes and the trades, and added teachers and offered new classes as it grew during the 1930s and 40s and especially after World War II. More than 700 students attended OCTS between 1925 and 1955, and its last graduating class was its largest. The main building here later housed East End Elementary School 1955-1970 and the Seneca Preschool 1972-1992.

 
 
 
 
 


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