A History of Laurens, South Carolina

Laurens County Courthouse - Laurens, SC (2008)

The town of Laurens (known as Laurensville well into the nineteenth century) became the county seat of Laurens County and the first courthouse was erected in 1786. The current courthouse was built in 1840 and enlarged in 1857.


Historic Laurens has long been known for the people who live here - for its historic courthouse - and for its eclectic architecture.

Historic downtown Laurens dates to the mid-1700s. Five roads converged where the Public Square exists today. The Square served as the commercial, social, and religious center of the city. In 1980, the Square was included in the National Register of Historic Places for its unusually intact collection of architecture from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Laurens City Hall - Laurens, SC (2008)

Today, the Public Square offers tremendous opportunities for small businesses. Comprised of over 140,000 square feet of retail space, the Square stands as a significant shopping center for the community. The most intimate courthouse square in the state, downtown Laurens offers a unique sense of place. It remains the recognized heart of the town of Laurens and Laurens County.


The historic city of Laurens serves as the county seat. The first record of the town being officially called Laurens appears on a charter issued in 1873. Today, the area of the public square and most of the surrounding streets are officially recognized as the "Laurens Historic District," which has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The city of Laurens has approximately 10,000 residents and is governed by a Mayor/Council form of government.

The town of Laurens (known as Laurensville well into the 1800s) became the county seat and the first courthouse was erected in 1786. And by 1820, Laurens was known for its trade of tailor-made clothes, which is what drew Andrew Johnson, a future U.S. president, and his brother came to Laurens. They arrived in 1824 and established a tailor shop.

By 1840, the area was booming. The local landmark courthouse on the square was built that year and later enlarged in 1857. Businesses in the area included medical practitioners, a fancy confectionery and fruit store, carriage, buggy and wagon shops, tailoring establishments, building contractors, flour and corn mills, and 81 registered whiskey distilleries.


As Laurens C.H., the town was granted a US Post Office on October 1, 1795, and its first Postmaster was Mr. Lewis Saxon. On May 4, 1893, the US Post Office Department officially changed its name to Laurens. It has been in continuous operation ever since inception.

Laurens County's most famous resident went on to become Governor of Tennessee, Vice-President of the United States under President Abraham Lincoln, and upon Lincoln's assassination, the 17th President of the United States. While in Laurens, President Andrew Johnson owned and operated a tailor shop on the town square.

Originally located on the Public Square in Laurens, a replica of the historic shop is currently under construction in Laurens.


Dunklin House

Washington Williams built this house as a wedding gift to his daughter. One of the oldest homes in the city of Laurens, it now functions as a museum and is owned by the Laurens County Landmark Foundation.


Simpson House

Constructed in 1839 by Christopher Garlington, this house was once the home of South Governor William Dunlap Simpson.


The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany is the oldest church building still being used in the city of Laurens.


Bethel A.M.E. Church - Built 1910

Though Bethel's congregation organized in 1868, the present church ediface designed and constructed by Columbus White, an African American contractor - wasn't built until 1910. Of special interest are the imported stained glass windows.



© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved