History of Orangeburg District South Carolina

The initial settlers in the Orangeburg District were sparse, consisting mainly of Indian traders and random grazers who pursued the untamed grasslands for their cattle herds. The first recorded instance of land ownership belonged to Henry Sterling, a trader who claimed a piece of Lyon’s Creek in 1704. Later, in 1732, John Hearn became the first to settle in what is now Orangeburg City, his property including the current Fairgrounds. The deed for Hearn’s lands was documented on May 28, 1735.

The terrain between these pioneering settlers and the coast was almost impossible to navigate, consisting of dense undergrowth and swamps. As a result, potential settlers were deterred by the isolation of the region.

In an attempt to motivate more settlers, the General Assembly, with royal approval, declared eleven 20,000-acre townships in 1730. These were shaped as 15 x 5 mile parallelograms along the main rivers, such as the Pon Pon or Edisto. The name Orangeburgh Township was given by Lieutenant-Governor Thomas Broughton to honor William IV, Prince of Orange, who was married to Princess Anne, King George II of England’s daughter.

The majority of the Orangeburgh District and town settlers were German-Swiss, beginning to arrive in 1735. This influx of settlers lasted several years. As reported by The Gazette (July 26), approximately 220 settlers who had paid their way were transported up the Edisto at the government’s expense, provided with supplies for one year. Each family leader was given a lot and an additional fifty acres per family member.

The plots in Orangeburgh were already outlined and numbered, and several streets were named, totaling seventeen, including one that ran along the river. The central street was named Broughton after the Lieutenant Governor, while others were named after the King’s Council members (Middleton, Broad, Wragg, Skein, Wright, Bull, and Fenwick). Amelia and Saxe-Gotha Streets were named after other townships, and Russell Street was named after Capt. Charles Russell, who commanded the Rangers that safeguarded the early settlers from both Indians and white outlaws.

In 1768, the Province was divided into seven districts or precincts, with Orangeburg becoming the third precinct. It encompassed three townships: Orangeburgh (Orange Parish), Amelia (Parish of St. Matthews), and Saxe-Gotha (Lexington – 1804). Initially, the district included present-day counties of Orangeburg, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun, Lexington, and most of Aiken. The district stretched from the Savannah to the Santee and from the districts of Charleston and Beaufort to what is now Edgefield.

1 thought on “History of Orangeburg District South Carolina”

  1. Hi,
    I am hoping to find out any information on Benjamin Odom (might be Sr. or Jr.) he was born in about 1744- I think in Barnwell County or Orangeburg District. If can’t who would you suggest might be able to solve or find a solution to this mystery.

    Thank you
    Darren Wright

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