South Carolina Railroads - Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad


Year Chartered or Incorporated

Year Line Operational

Year Service Ended

Planned Starting Point

Planned Ending Point



Never in Ops

Never in Ops

Cincinnatti, OH

Charleston, SC
1836 - Reorganized and name changed to Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad.
The Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad was chartered in 1835 to construct a line from the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad to Columbia, SC, and ultimately planned to go to the Ohio River near Cincinnati, OH. In less than a year, it was reorganized as the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad. 

The business interests of Charleston were thinking of railway connections with the grain-growing, stock-raising regions beyond the mountains even before the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad was completed. One scheme was more daring than all the others, but it was thought to possess tremendous commercial possibilities for Charleston and the state of South Carolina, and consequently was advocated with great fervor.

Apparently, the first suggestion was made in 1827 or 1828 by E.S. Thomas, then of Cincinnati and formerly of Charleston. He advanced the idea of a railroad from Cincinnati across the mountains to connect with the recently chartered Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad.

The directors and agents of the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company gave encouragement to this idea. The directors saw such an idea not only in increased profits for their railroad, but the probable establishment of Charleston as one of the chief Atlantic cities for the imports and exports of the "Great West."

Company president Elias Horry attended a convention at Estilville, VA in June of 1831 to discuss the most useful route "to connect the trade of the Ohio River with the great valley of the Tennessee, and with the Southern States."

He went into some detail to show that railroad connections with the West was highly desirable to avoid the dangerous and expensive navigation of the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River, and that Charleston was better situated for extensive commerce than any other city on the sea coast from New York to New Orleans.

The Western and Atlantic Railroad Convention held at Asheville in Buncombe County, NC, on September 3/4, 1832 whereby twenty-eight (28) delegates from Tennessee and North Carolina met with delegates from South Carolina to discuss connecting the navigable waters of the West with the Atlantic, by a railroad up the French Broad River. Four resolutions were adopted at this early and critical railroad convention, the third resolution stated that the chairman should appoint for each of the states of Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina a committee which should be charged with all matters concerning the proposed railroad connecting the Western waters with the Atlantic. The fourth resolution provided that the respective committees be requested to correspond with each other, and to act in unison in regard to the interest with which they were charged.

The members from South Carolina appointed to this committee were Elias Horry, William Drayton, C.J. Colcock, J.R. Poinsett, Joseph Johnson, and Mitchell King - Chairman of the Convention. The chairman was directed to request the President of the United States to detail a competent engineer to make a survey of the railroad route proposed from Columbia, South Carolina, to the mouth of the Nolichucky River in Tennessee, and thence a survey of the French Broad and Holston rivers to Knoxville, Tennessee. President Andrew Jackson granted this request and Colonel Long, who had much experience in making surveys in this region, was detailed for the duty.

However, the states of Tennessee and North Carolina made no efforts towards this plan - it is most likely that these two states were more interested in improvements within their own states at the time. The matter was allowed to rest for two years. In the summer of 1835, a movement in the town of Cincinnati, OH led to new rounds of discussions between its citizens and the citizens of Charleston.

The folks in Cincinnati had done their homework. They demonstrated via a written report that Charleston was by reason of her geographical position the proper and natural oulet and shipping port of the rich valley of the Ohio River. Their contemplated route to Charleston would place "Cincinnati 340 miles nearer the seabord than by the New York route, 240 miles nearer than by Philadelphia, 40 miles nearer than by Baltimore, and 170 miles nearer than by Mobile."

The city of Charleston responded by creating a new committee to begin a dialogue with their counterparts in Cincinnati. Members were: Robert Y. Hayne - Chairman, James Hamilton, James G. Holmes, Judge Colcock, John Robinson, S.P. Ripley, Ker Boyce, Alexander Black, Charles Edmonston, Mitchell King, H.W. Conner, John Stoney, Thomas Bennett, B.J. Howland, and J.N. Cardozo.

The "lure" was the difference in commodities brought forth from the two different regions such that trade would be mutually profitable. The great products of the South were cotton and rice, which could only be produced with slave labor. The West produced grain and meat in great abundance, mostly by free labor, and on the cheapest terms. However, this internal trade was small compared to the foreign trade to which the connection would lead.

The South Carolina General Assembly met in December and passed an Act authorizing surveys to be made for a railroad between Cincinnati and Charleston, and they appropriated $10,000 to cover these expenses. However, the other states failed to cooperate in the survey. The South Carolinians were only able to make a minute survey only in the mountain sections of the proposed route and a general reconnaissance of the remaining easier sections.

The United States government provided engineers that did perform several surveys along the projected routes and they came up with several alternatives, which were summarized and presented to the South Carolina committe in July of 1836. The first proceeded by Winnsboro, Chester, and York, passed the western declivity of Kings Mountain and extended on to the Reedy Patch depression of the Blue Ridge. The second followed up the valley of the Broad River to some point near the junction of the Pacolet River, then followed one of the ridges on each side of it leading to a junction of the Green and Broad rivers and there united with the "passage of the Blue Ridge, either by the Reedy Patch or by the Green River, and Butt Mountain." The third ran up by Newberry, Laurens, and Greenville, and after passing Greenville crossed from the head of the Reedy River into the valley of the Middle Saluda and united with the Fall Creek route across the Saluda Mountains and the Blue Ridge.

In event that Aiken was selected at the southern end, a line could be located by Edgefield to the junction of the Reedy River with the Saluda River. This line would take the ridge between the two streams, proceed by Greenville, and unite with the Fall Creek pass of the mountains, or it could be located entirely on the west side of the Saluda River until it entered the middle fork of that stream and ran into the Fall Creek pass.

The report added that other routes might be found to be better, but this would require a more precise survey and firmer decisions as to the desired approach, with one exception. They were positive that the Allegheny Mountains could be passed by but one route, and that was along the French Broad River.

The committee digested these recommendations along with other data that it had collected from various sources and came up with a preliminary estimate for the project's total cost - $11,801,946. This estimate included the assumption that double track would be required for the entire length of the railroad.

The South Carolina General Assembly passed and Act chartering the Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road Company, with capital stock set at $6,000,000. The books for subscriptions were to be opened on the third Monday of October in 1836 at numerous places in the states concerned. Provision was made to have the books opened in Indiana also. A subscription of $4,000,000 was made requisite for the organization of the company.

The company was given the power to construct one or more tracks which should pass through Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina so as to form a continuous line between Cincinnati and Charleston. All the states were prohibited for a period of thirty-six (36) years from authorizing the construction of a railroad within twenty miles of the proposed line.

North Carolina and Tennessee responded favorably and in due time granted charters corresponding closely with that of South Carolina. But people in Kentucky offered considerable opposition. The legislature of that state was willing to accede to the passing of the road through the state to Cincinnati, but it demanded that the interest of her own citizens and commercial towns be protected, and required the road to pass through Lexington and to branch both to Louisville and Maysville. It further demanded that Kentucky be given six members on the board of directors instead of three as had been provided for in the acts of the other states.

The charter with most of these provisions was finally adopted, and the name of the company thereafter became the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road Company. The South Carolina General Assembly passed the Act making this new charter effective on December 21, 1836.

Excerpted with edits from "Centennial History of South Carolina Railroad" by Samuel Melanchthon Derrick, 1930.

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