Lexington County Court House - Lexington, SC (2007)
The historic town of Lexington, South Carolina is a direct descendent of the old Royal Township of Saxe-Gotha. This township was one of eleven Townships established in 1735 by the colonial government of King George II to encourage settlement of the backcountry in South Carolina and serve as a protective buffer between powerful Indian tribes to the west and the older settled plantations of the low country. The name Saxe-Gotha was in honor of the marriage of the British Prince of Wales to Princess Augusta of the German state of Saxe-Gotha.
The territory of colonial Saxe-Gotha covered most of present day Lexington County and was traversed by two important early Indian trails, the Cherokee Path which followed roughly modern U.S. Highway 378 and the Occaneechi Path, today U.S. Highway 1. These ancient trading paths and the highways that later developed from them have had an enormous impact on the historical development of the area.
Most of the early settlers came from various cantons, principalities, and city-states of Germany and Switzerland. Others came down from Pennsylvania and Virginia. Despite the disruptive Cherokee Indian War of 1760 and the Regulator unrest that soon followed, the township flourished as a largely self-sufficient area of small-scale farming operations. Major crops in the eighteenth century included corn, wheat, tobacco, hemp, flax, beeswax, and livestock.
During the American Revolution twelve (12) known skirmishes occurred in the area. Click Here to see all 12.
In 1785, Lexington County was established, changing the name from Saxe-Gotha to Lexington in honor of the Massachusetts Revolutionary War battle. The countys first court house was built at Granby, located just south of present day Cayce.
With the clearing of upriver lands for the spreading cotton culture, Granby became plagued with floods. The county seat was moved in 1818, when the present town of Lexington was laid out on a high, healthy sand ridge near Twelve Mile Creek. The town was known as Lexington Court House throughout the nineteenth century since in the first few years of its existence there was only the court house with few residences.
By 1861, when it was incorporated as a town, Lexington boasted a diverse population of lawyers, physicians, tradespeople, artisans, and farmers. There were then two churches, several schools, a carriage factory, a saw and gristmill, a tannery, livestock yard, tin and blacksmiths, and a weekly newspaper. The major crops of the surrounding countryside were mainly cotton, corn, sweet potatoes, and lumber. Lexington was not a marketing center for these staples, but did serve as a retail market for manufactured goods purchased wholesale by merchants in nearby Columbia.
In 1865, the town was virtually destroyed by occupying Union Army forces guarding General William Tecumseh Shermans western flank. The court house, county jail, and St. Stephens Lutheran Church were put to the torch as were most businesses and homes. The devastation and political turmoil of the period were weathered, however, by a frugal people willing to rebuild for a future without abandoning the ideals of their heritage.
The small farms with their varied crops and the lumber industry stabilized somewhat the economy of the area after the Reconstruction years. The completion of the Columbia & Augusta Railroad just after the Civil War and the construction of the Lexington Textile Mill in 1890 contributed greatly to the growth of the town itself. Disastrous fires in 1894 and 1916 on Main Street resulted in the construction of brick buildings, many of which are standing today.
The town of Lexington has continued to be the political center of Lexington County, one of the fastest growing areas of the nation. With new major highways passing nearby, the town continues to experience phenomenal growth. The people of Lexington are proud of their past and look forward to a promising future.
Lexington had its beginning on January 24, 1820 with the purchase of two acres of land for the establishment of a new court house and jail for Lexington County. The town was called Lexington Court House until 1895, when it was changed to simply Lexington.
* 1821 - First of four court houses in town, constructed of
wood, was built on the northwest corner of Main Street and N.
As Lexington Court House, the town was granted a U.S. Post Office on August 28, 1821, and its first Postmaster was Mr. John Meetze. On April 25, 1895, the name was officially changed to simply Lexington. Its Post Office has been in continuous operation ever since inception.