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.
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.
List of South Carolina County and District Formations
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.
|County||Created||Created From||Named For||County Seat||Notes|
|Abbeville County||12 Mar 1785||Ninety-Six District||The town of Abbeville, France||Abbeville|
|Aiken County||10 Mar 1871||Barnwell, Edgefield, Lexington, and Orangeburg Counties||In honor of William Aiken (1779-1831), founder of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company||Aiken|
|Allendale County||06 Feb 1919||Barnwell and Hampton Counties||In honor of P.H. Allen, first postmaster of the new county||Allendale|
|Anderson County||20 Dec 1826||Pendleton District||In honor of Robert Anderson (1741-1813); a politician, a colonel in the state militia during the American Revolutionary War, and surveyor from South Carolina||Anderson||Also called Washington District at one time|
|Bamberg County||25 Feb 1897||Barnwell County||In honor of Francis Marion Bamberg, Confederate general in the American Civil War||Bamberg|
|Barnwell County||24 May 1785||Orangeburg District||In honor of John Barnwell (1748-1800); South Carolina State Senator and was a major in the South Carolina militia, where he was a prisoner of war during the American Revolutionary War||Barnwell|
|Beaufort County||24 May 1769||1769 Judicial District||In honor of Henry Somerset (1629-1700), 1st Duke of Beaufort; a colonial proprietary landowner||Beaufort||The district contained Prince William Parish, St. Luke Parish, St. Helena Parish, and St. Peter Parish|
|Berkeley County||31 Jan 1882||Charleston County||In honor of William Berkeley(1605-1677); a colonial governor of Virginia and one of the Lords Proprietors of the Colony of Carolina||Moncks Corner|
|Calhoun County||12 Mar 1908||Lexington and Orangeburg Counties||In honor of John C. Calhoun(1782-1850); a U.S. Senator from South Carolina and states' rights advocate||St. Matthews|
|Charleston County||24 May 1769||Charleston District||In honor of King Charles II of England (1630-1685)||Charleston||District was formed in 1769 and includes the old St. Philip Parish, St. Michael Parish, Christ Church Parish, St. Andrew Parish, St. John Colleton Parish, and part of St. James Santee Parish|
|Cherokee County||25 Feb 1897||Spartanburg, Union, and York Counties||Cherokee Native Americans||Gaffney|
|Chester County||24 May 1785||Camden District||Chester, Pennsylvania||Chester||Camden District but was later moved to Pinckney District and became a separate district in 1800|
|Chesterfield County||24 May 1798||Cheraws District||In honor of Philip Dormer Stanhope (1694-1773), 4th Earl of Chesterfield; an Enlightenment-era scholar, government official, and member of the British House of Lords||Chesterfield|
|Clarendon County||24 May 2019||Sumter County||In honor of Edward Hyde (1609-1674), 1st Earl of Clarendon; an English statesman and a colonial proprietary landowner||Manning|
|Colleton County||24 May 2019||Charleston County||In honor of John Colleton (1608-1666); a colonial proprietary landowner||Walterboro|
|Darlington County||24 May 1785||Darlington County||The town of Darlington, England||Darlington||Until 1800, Darlington County remained a part of the Cheraws District|
|Dillon County||05 Feb 1910||Marion County||In honor of J.W. Dillon, the founder of the Wilson Short Cut Railroad||Dillon|
|Dorchester County||25 Feb 1897||Berkeley and Colleton Counties||The town of Dorchester, Massachusetts||St. George|
|Edgefield County||24 May 1785||Ninety-Six District||Either its location on the edge of the state or for Edgefield, Norfolk, England||Edgefield|
|Fairfield County||24 May 1785||Camden District||The county's fair fields, as described by colonial governor Charles Cornwallis||Winnsboro|
|Florence County||22 Dec 1888||Clarendon, Darlington, Marion, and Williamsburg Counties||In honor of Florence Harllee, wife of Wilmington and Manchester Railroad founder W.W. Harllee||Florence|
|Georgetown County||24 May 1769||1769 Judicial District||In honor of King George II of Great Britain (1683-1760)||Georgetown|
|Greenville County||22 Mar 1786||Washington District||In honor of Nathanael Greene(1742-1786), a major general of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War||Greenville|
|Greenwood County||02 Mar 1897||Abbeville and Edgefield Counties||In honor of Greenwood Plantation, the home of John McGee, the county's largest landowner||Greenwood|
|Hampton County||18 Feb 1878||Beaufort County||In honor of Wade Hampton(1752-1835); a major general during the American Revolutionary War, a Congressman from South Carolina and once the nation's wealthiest citizen||Hampton|
|Horry County||19 Dec 1801||Georgetown County||In honor of Peter Horry (1743 or 1747-1815); a brigadier general in the state militia during the American Revolutionary War||Conway|
|Jasper County||30 Jan 1912||Beaufort and Hampton Counties||In honor of William Jasper (1750-1779), a sergeant in the American Revolutionary War. He was mortally wounded in the 1779 Siege of Savannah||Ridgeland|
|Kershaw County||24 May 1798||Claremont, Fairfield, Lancaster, and Richland Counties||In honor of Joseph Kershaw, one of the county's pioneering settlers||Camden|
|Lancaster County||24 May 1798||Camden District||Lancaster County, Pennsylvania||Lancaster|
|Laurens County||12 Mar 1785||Ninety-Six District||In honor of Henry Laurens (1724-1792); an American merchant, slave trader, and rice planter from South Carolina. He was president of the Second Continental Congress. He was captured at sea by the British, and imprisoned for several years in the Tower of London during the American Revolutionary War||Laurens|
|Lee County||25 Feb 1902||Darlington, Kershaw, and Sumter Counties||In honor of Robert E. Lee(1807-1870); served in the Mexican_American War and the commander of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War||Bishopville|
|Lexington County||24 May 2019||Orangeburg County||Battle of Lexington, opening skirmish of the American Revolutionary War||Lexington|
|Marion County||24 May 1785||Georgetown County||In honor of Francis Marion (1732-1795); a brigadier general during the American Revolutionary War and known as "The Swamp Fox"||Marion|
|Marlboro County||02 Mar 1785||Cheraws District||In honor of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722); an English general, diplomat, and confidant of monarchs||Bennettsville|
|McCormick County||19 Feb 1916||Abbeville, Edgefield, and Greenwood Counties||In honor of Cyrus McCormick (1809-1884); inventor of the mechanical reaper and founder of International Harvester||McCormick|
|Newberry County||24 May 1785||Ninety-Six District||Either possibly Newbury, Berkshire, England, or from early settlers' notion that the landscape was as "pretty as a new berry" or for a trade post was located here and it was 96 miles from Columbia||Newberry|
|Oconee County||24 May 1868||Pickens County||Oconee Native Americans||Walhalla|
|Orangeburg County||24 May 1769||1769 Judicial District||In honor of King William V of Orange (1748-1806)||Orangeburg|
|Pickens County||24 May 2019||Pendleton District||In honor of Andrew Pickens (1779-1838); a lieutenant-colonel in the War of 1812 and Governor of South Carolina||Pickens||At one time called Washington District|
|Richland County||24 May 1799||Camden District||The county's rich soil||Columbia|
|Saluda County||24 May 1896||Edgefield County||Saluda River||Saluda|
|Spartanburg County||24 May 1785||Ninety-Six District||In honor of "Spartan Regiment" of the state militia, which was the key force for victory at the Battle of Cowpens in the American Revolutionary War||Spartanburg||From 1791-1799, it was part of Pinckney District|
|Sumter County||24 May 1798||Claremont, Clarendon, and Salem Counties||In honor of Thomas Sumter (1734-1832); a soldier in the Colony of Virginia militia; a brigadier general in the South Carolina militia during the American Revolutionary War, a planter, and U.S. Senator from South Carolina||Sumter|
|Union County||24 May 1798||Ninety-Six District||Union Church, the first Christian place of worship in the area||Union|
|Williamsburg County||24 May 2019||Georgetown District||In honor of King William III of England (1650-1702)||Kingstree|
|York County||24 May 1798||Camden District||York County, Pennsylvania||York|
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
- 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
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: