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History and Facts of South Carolina Counties

South Carolina Counties – In 1629, King of England Charles I established the Province of Carolina, an area covering what is now South and North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.

In 1682, after the first hard years of settlement, the Proprietors ordered three counties laid out. Berkeley County, Craven County and Colleton County. Later, a fourth county, Granville, was laid out between the Combahee and the Savannah rivers. All were discontinued in 1769.

In 1769, Seven judicial districts created by South Carolina’s colonial General Assembly. In 1785, Forty counties created after the American Revolution.

The State of South Carolina was created as the 8th state on May 23, 1788. South Carolina has 46 Counties. The State of South Carolina is is bordered by Georgia and North Carolina.

South Carolina originally consisted of 7 districts at the time of the American Revolution. These parishes were Georgetown, Charleston, Beaufort, Cheraws, Camden, Orangeburg and Ninety-Six Districts.

In 1769 the first South Carolina counties were formed. They were OrangeburgGeorgetownCharleston and Beaufort Counties. The last county to be formed was Allendale County in 1919.

List of South Carolina County and District Formations


Old South Carolina Districts Map

Counties were established in the colonial period primarily for locating land grants, with most other governmental activities being centralized in Charleston. The growth of the back country led to the establishment of judicial districts throughout the colony, but low country areas continued to be identified primarily by their Anglican parish names. Following the Revolution, both district and county courts were established, but in 1800 most of the counties became districts. Finally, in 1868 all of the existing districts were renamed counties. New counties continued to be formed until the early part of the 20th century, with the most recent being Allendale in 1919.

Districts/Counties, 1800–present – There were 37 counties and 9 court districts that were all combined into 25 districts in 1800. In some cases, the borders of the new districts lined up with borders of districts that were created from 1785 to 1799. Other districts were completely new. Each of the 25 districts had the power of the highest local government level. They each kept records equally and had an equal status level. From 1800 to 1867, the districts were divided and some of them were expanded, eventually creating 30 different districts. The new constitution, which was created in 1868, changed all districts into counties.

Presently, there are 46 South Carolina counties. They can all trace their origins back to the 1800 district creation. In some cases, either record lineage or geographic lineage, or both, can be traced back to 1785. However, it’s very important to note that counties were not the highest local government form until 1800. Prior to that, either circuit court districts or county court districts held equal powers. So, both types of records must be researched.

There is an existing District/Counties chart/list that includes every county and district that has existed from 1800 until the present day. It also lists the circuit court districts from which each district was created. Some counties were functional before 1800. In those cases, the date of county formation has been noted. Each county’s courthouse may contain early records, but the starting dates for the records are the first marked for that record type. Record types include probate, court, and land records.

It is worth noting that the Civil War caused the complete destruction of many of South Carolina’s records. In other cases, only parts of certain records still exist. So, although a beginning record date may be listed, that doesn’t mean that all records from that time period still exist. Up-Country county residents often recorded records before local governments were established. So, some early records are still extant today.

Counties in Districts – The Circuit Court in South Carolina originally had 7 districts. However, those districts were divided, in 1785, into 33 counties. Some counties established interior courts at that point, and then they began keeping local records. It’s important to note that both the district seats and the county seats existed for an overlapping time period and each of them could perform actions on a local level. County government formation was temporarily put off in Georgetown, Charleston, and Beaufort. They never functioned as counties at all. It is also worth noting that, between the years of 1791 and 1799, the court system in 3 of the 4 counties in Orangeburgh District did not function either.

Many of the counties that still exist in South Carolina were geographically established from 1785 to 1799. However, they didn’t all have the same system of local governments, or the same system of record keeping. It took until 1800 for counties to become the highest local government level in the state. The chart called Counties in Districts, 1785-1800 lists all counties abolished and formed between 1785 and 1800.

Circuit Court Districts, 1769-1800 – In 1769, Circuit Court districts were created. Around 1772, they began holding actual court proceedings. To begin with, 7 districts existed. They were: Beaufort, Camden, Charleston, Cheraws, Georgetown, Ninety-Six, Orangeburgh. In 1791, Washington and Pinckney districts were added.

Townships – The provincial (royal) government created several acts. One of its acts was the 1731 Township Act. In 1761, authorization was given to create more townships. Eleven townships of 20,000 acres apiece were created by the act. Families from Europe were recruited by agents to come and settle in the newly created townships. Free transportation, free land, free provisions for a year, and other incentives were offered to get European families to come to South Carolina and settle. No records were created by the townships at all. However, townships were used in order to locate conveyances and grants. They were also occasionally used as tax districts.

Parishes – The Church of England became the official church supported by South Carolina in 1706. From that point on, 25 parishes were created in the state. From that year until 1778, they formed districts for the purpose of taxation and each district also kept vital records. From 1716 onward, those parishes were also used for the purpose of determining elected representatives. Although useful as conveyance and grant locators, parishes didn’t always replace counties for that purpose. So, some records of conveyances and grants mention one, some mention the other, and some actually mention both.

Proprietary Counties – In 1682, South Carolina was first divided into proprietary counties. Those counties were Colleton, Berkeley, and Craven. In 1685, Carteret was added. However, in 1708, it was renamed Granville. These counties were created for geographical reference only. They didn’t keep any records. They were used as reference points for land grants, and used to determine militia duty. Until 1716, they were also used for the purposes of determining elected representatives. In 1769, circuit court districts took priority over proprietary counties for judicial purposes. However, the counties were still used as reference points on maps and grant-like documents until they were completely replaced by other counties in 1785.

List of South Carolina Counties

South Carolina is divided into 46 counties.

List of Old Former / Extinct South Carolina Counties

South Carolina has counties that no longer are in existence. A lot of these counties were established and disbanded within the 19th century; county borders have modified very little since 1900 in the vast most of states.

The below South Carolina counties no longer exist:

?? County, South Carolina

Created ? from ?. It was abolished ? and re-established as ? County on ?.

  • Bartholomew County Formed in 1785 From Charleston District (Extinct)
  • Berkeley County Formed in 1682 Proprietary “County”, Extinct
  • Claremont County Formed in 1785 From Camden District
  • Colleton County Formed in 1682 Proprietary “County”, Extinct
  • Craven County Formed in 1682 Proprietary “County”, Extinct GranvilleFormed in 1684 Proprietary “County”, Extinct
  • Granville County County Formed in 1785 From Beaufort District (Extinct, never functioned)
  • Hilton County Formed in 1785 From Beaufort District (Extinct, never functioned)
  • Kingston County Formed in 1785 From Georgetown District (Early version of Horry County)
  • Lewisburg County Formed in 1785 From Orangeburg District
  • Liberty County Formed in 1785 From Georgetown District (Early version of Marion County)
  • Lincoln County Formed in 1785 From Beaufort District (Extinct, never functioned)
  • Marion County Formed in 1785 From Charleston District (Extinct, never functioned)
  • Orange County Formed in 1785 fromOrangeburg District
  • Pendleton County Formed in 1789 From Indian land (Extinct, never functioned)
  • Salem County Formed in 1791 From Claremont and Clarendon (Extinct)
  • Shrewsbury County Formed in 1785 From Beaufort District (Extinct, never functioned)
  • Washington County Formed in 1785 From Charleston District (Extinct)
  • Winton County Formed in 1785 From Orangeburg District
  • Winyah County County Formed in 1785 From Georgetown District (Early version of Georgetown County)
  • Pendleton County Abolished when divided into Anderson and Pickens District in 1826. Records are located in Anderson County
  • Winston County Functioned from 1785-1800. The remaining records (1785-1791) are in Barnwell County. Renamed Barnwell District in 1800

Map of South Carolina County Boundary Changes from 1747 to 1987

This Interactive Map of South Carolina Counties show the historical boundaries, names, organization, and attachments of every county, extinct county and unsuccessful county proposal from the creation of South Carolina from 1747-1987.

Fun Facts about South Carolina Counties

County Name Facts

The County names:

  • 0 of them named for Native American words or people,

Counties by Year

In 1769 the first South Carolina counties were formed. They were OrangeburgGeorgetownCharleston and Beaufort Counties. The last county to be formed was Allendale County in 1919.

  • ? County was the first county created on ?.
  •  The last county to be formed was ? County on ?.

Facts for County Size

  • ? County (000 sq mi) is the largest county in South Carolina.
  • ? County (000 sq mi) is the smallest county in South Carolina.

Facts for County Population (2017 Est.)

  • ? County (000) is the most populated county in South Carolina.
  • ? County (000) is the least populated county in South Carolina.

Facts for South Carolina Counties and Cities

South Carolina’s 10 largest cities (2010) are:

  1. Birmingham (000) is in ? County and ? Counties
  2. Columbia, Charleston, North Charleston, Rock Hill, Greenville, Sumter, Florence Spartanburg, Goose Creek and Aiken