In 1704, an Indian trader named George Sterling was the first to come to this area, which would become known as the Orangeburg District (so called for William, Prince of Orange, the son-in-law of King George II of England). In 1735, a colony of 200 Swiss, German and Dutch immigrants formed a community near the banks of the North Edisto River. The site was attractive because of the fertile soil and abundance of wildlife. The river provided an outlet to the port of Charleston for agricultural and lumber products. The General Assembly authorized the construction of a public road connecting Orangeburg and Charleston in 1737. The town soon became well established and successful, composed chiefly of small farms.
Today, Orangeburg serves as the county seat. It is the most populated city in the county. Arts and entertainment are important to the citizens of Orangeburg. The Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center, located in the Edisto Memorial Gardens, offers classes, workshops and performances for the community. Local artists exhibit in the art gallery, and their works are featured in the small gift shop.The critically acclaimed Orangeburg Part- Time Players, Children's Performing Arts Academy, Orangeburg Civic Ballet and renowned Henderson- Davis Players of South Carolina State University delight audiences with a variety of performances each year. Hillcrest recreation facility, owned and operated by the City of Orangeburg, offers a public golf course, tennis courts, soccer fields and baseball/ softball fields. This along with other playgrounds throughout the city, and tennis courts and picnic areas in the Edisto Memorial Gardens, provides ample recreational facilities for residents and visitors.
Orangeburg, the county seat and most populated city in Orangeburg County, showcases the great natural beauty of the area in its Edisto Memorial Gardens on the North Edisto River.
One of the Top 20 visitor attractions in South Carolina, the Gardens consist of 150 acres of azaleas, camellias, roses and other flowers spaced among giant oaks and century-old cypress trees. On display are some 4,000 plants representing at least 75 labeled varieties of roses. The site is one of only 27 test gardens in the U.S. sanctioned by All-America Rose Selections Inc.
During the summer months, children can cool off and have fun at the Edisto Memorial Gardens Spray Park and in the winter, the Children’s Garden Christmas light display is a wonderland with hundreds of thousands of lights on animated displays and in lighted trees.
Recreational facilities abound in the city, including playgrounds and Hillcrest recreation facility which offers a public golf course, tennis courts, soccer fields and baseball/softball fields.
Orangeburg is home to two historically black colleges and universities, Claflin University and South Carolina State University.
The city’s rich history began in 1704 when an Indian trader named George Sterling was the first to arrive in the area. Orangeburg was called “Edisto” until 1730 when the village’s name was changed to Orangeburgh, later Orangeburg, in honor of William IV, the Prince of Orange.
In 1735, a colony of 200 Swiss, German and Dutch immigrants formed a community near the banks of the North Edisto River. The General Assembly authorized the construction of a public road connecting Orangeburg and Charleston in 1737.
The second largest town in Orangeburg County, Bowman is located in the central part of the county and is known for its quality agricultural and dairy products. The Bowman Nature Park and the Bowman Inner Park feature picnic areas, walking trails, volleyball, basketball, tennis courts and meeting facilities.
The town is home to the Harvest Festival each September, featuring a parade, carnival rides, a fish fry, a talent show, a barbecue cook-off, music and street dances.
Bowman, incorporated December 13, 1903, was founded in 1887 by Samuel W. Dibble. The town was named for the family from whom the land for the town was purchased. In 1927, the state’s first certified motor carrier was established in Bowman.
Branchville, the “World’s Oldest Railroad Junction” (established 1838), is home to the annual Raylrode Daze Festivul which celebrates the town’s rich railroad history. The event features frontier shoot-outs, can can dancers, country music, arts and crafts and lots of good food. Many of the town’s former residents and family members return each year to enjoy the festivities and renew friendships.
The Branchville Depot houses a museum featuring antique railroad memorabilia, such as a telephone/telegraph office and a replica of the “first steam” locomotive.
The town has two playgrounds, a recreation center and combination football and baseball field. Water sports are also enjoyed on the nearby Edisto River.
Located in the southeastern tip of the county, Branchville was founded by one of the railroad companies. Its first geographical area encompassed the land within a mile of the railroad station. The town was incorporated December 23, 1858.
There are two theories on how the railroad junction got its name. The first settlement was at the branch of an old Indian trail which, leading from Charleston, split at a huge oak tree. One branch of the trail led toward Augusta, Georgia; the other branch veered north following the North Edisto River toward Orangeburg. Another supposition is that a colonial governor, Greenville Montague, took the “ville” from his name and put it with “branch” because the main center of the early settlement was beside Pen Branch. He named the town “Branchville,” or “village by the branch.”
Cope, located in the western part of the county, was founded in 1894 by a railroad company and named for Jacob Martin Cope, who willingly gave half of his farmland to develop a town around the new railroad station.
Vallentines Gin and Store on Cotton Avenue is one of the area’s landmarks. A vintage country store displays merchandise from the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. The cotton gin, adjacent to the store, remains in operation.
Fishing in ponds and the Edisto River, as well as hunting deer, dove, quail and other small game, are popular pastimes for residents.
The town is home to South Carolina Electric & Gas Company’s Cope Generating Station.
Located on a ridge between the north and south forks of the Edisto River, Cordova is believed to have gotten its name from the Atlantic Coastline Railroad Company when the railroad was completed in 1893.
The Cordova Community Senior Center features exercise machines, Wii games, a library and various activities for members.
The historic town of Elloree was founded in 1886. Elloree’s name comes from a Native American word meaning “the home I love.”
Downtown revitalization efforts started in 1996 have resulted in a lovingly restored area. One hundred-foot-wide Cleveland Street, which features brick crosswalks and is lined with flowering and hardwood trees, features antique shops, gift boutiques, arts and crafts shops, an auction house and restaurants in early 1900s buildings.
The award-winning Elloree Heritage Museum & Cultural Center is a must-see educational attraction. Here visitors will learn the rural history of South Carolina, which is recreated in an interactive setting with docents dressed in period clothing similar to that worn by farmers more than 100 years ago. The museum also features a Farm Wing and an art gallery of works by local artists.
Joe Miller Park and Lyons Park offer picnic tables and shady spots to relax among native trees and flowers. Every March, the town is the scene of the famous Elloree Trials horse races for thoroughbreds and quarter horses.
The town is also known for its Spring and Fall Art & Antique Festivals during which the sidewalks of Cleveland Street are lined with vendors.
Once known as Eutaw Village, the town of Eutawville got its name from the Catawba Indians, with “Eutaw” meaning “pine tree.” Pine trees are in abundance in the town that once served as an Indian summer village.
The bloody Battle of nearby Eutaw Springs on September 8, 1781 was significant because it marked the beginning of the American colonists’ taking back Georgia and the Carolinas from the British. It was the last major Revolutionary War battle fought in the South and five weeks after it, Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown. A portion of the Eutaw Springs battlefield, located on Lake Marion, is designated as a historic site and is open to the public year-round.
Chartered in 1884, Eutawville attracted planters along the Santee River who erected homes “inland” from the river during the summer to avoid mosquitoes.
The oldest church in the town, the Historic Church of the Epiphany, was constructed in 1849 and served as a “chapel of ease” for travelers and summertime residents of the village. It is now home to Epiphany Episcopal Church.
Today, the town holds the annual Eutaw Village Festival featuring a parade, carnival rides, beauty pageant, arts and crafts, children’s activities, food and an evening street dance with live music.
Recreational facilities include the town’s Eutaw Village Community Park.
The town’s proximity to Lake Marion lures newcomers for recreation and enjoyment of lake life.
Located in eastern Orangeburg County, the town of Holly Hill got its start from a road. The community that sprang up along the Old State Road eventually became Holly Hill, which at that time was part of Berkeley County. It was the area’s holly trees and the slightly hilly terrain that gave the town its name. Although it is not known when the town officially became known as Holly Hill, the Old State Road, which passes through the community, was under construction about 1823. It would serve as a direct line from Charleston to Columbia.
The Holly Hill Depot was established about 1886 when rail service began in the town.
The Holly Hill Town Hall and the Holly Hill Police Department are located in the renovated facilities that once housed Holly Hill Middle School.
Holly Hill is the birthplace of NASA Astronaut Frank Culbertson, who retired from the space program after having piloted the space shuttle Atlantis and cooperated in experiments with the Russians aboard the International Space Station.
Due to its geology, the town is a major area for cement manufacturing.
Livingston was named in 1891 for Rufus Livingston, who gave right-of-way to the South Bound Railroad Company, resulting in the formation of the town. The railroad was an integral part of the town’s life. Residents could catch the 9 o’clock train to Columbia in the morning and return on the 6 o’clock that night.
Early enterprises in Livingston included a sawmill, a cotton gin, a grits mill, a wheelwright and a blacksmith.
The town has a new town hall and municipal building, along with a softball field, tennis court and lighted public walking track.
The area now known as the town of Neeses in western Orangeburg County was first settled by Torody Nece, who was given a land grant in 1770. The farming community settled by Nece was originally known as Silver Springs.
The closest settlement to Silver Springs was Ehney, located approximately four miles southwest. With the coming of the railroad in the late 19th century, Ehney was abandoned in favor of Neeses, and nothing remains of the settlement today.
The town’s post office was established on November 4, 1893, as Silver Springs Post Office, and its first one-room school was erected in 1897.
John Wesley Neese, a prominent merchant in Silver Springs and a descendant of Torody Nece, set the wheels in motion for the town when he sold a right-of-way to the South Bound Railroad Company in May 1891. In 1895, the South Bound Railroad Company sold its interest to the Florida and Peninsular Company, which completed the construction of the main line railroad.
In 1898, Neese built the town’s first depot and gave it to the railroad. The decision to change the name of the town to honor Neese reflected the respect townspeople had for him.
In 1903, Neese became the moving force behind actual incorporation of the town. Many shops were built along the railroad track in Neeses during the early 1900s. The town acquired a bank, a hotel, blacksmith shops, shoemaker shops, mercantile stores, ladies millinery shops, a cotton gin and a sawmill. In the early 20th century, a boll weevil invasion in the area devastated the crops of the local farmers and began a progression of bad luck in the community. The sawmill and cotton gin closed due to the crop devastation, the Bank of Neeses went under in 1924 and fires consumed much of the downtown area during this period.
The Neeses Farm Museum depicts farm life from the early 1800s. The museum was founded in 1976 by the late Ellen P. Chaplin. The town also has Boiling Springs, which has been flowing continuously since 1812 and is owned by the Livingston family.
The town sponsors a popular T-ball and baseball summer program for children and is home to the Thunder Valley Mudplex for mud, drag and go-cart racing.
Located near the northwestern border of the county, the town of North was incorporated in 1892. John F. North, the town’s first mayor; George W. Pou and Sampson A. Livingston donated 100 acres to create a rail depot and town on the South Bound Railroad Company’s new rail line. The town was named after Mr. North who was influential in bringing the railroad to the area.
Rail lines brought not only new citizens to North but also telegraph lines and the lucrative cotton industry. Passenger trains ran through North on their way to Columbia, Savannah, Miami and New York City. Two regular trains came through North every day, bringing in freight and goods and carrying out cotton and other products.
Until 1946, North was one of the best cotton markets in the area. Several gins outside town baled the cotton and large mills bid for the precious product at the town’s cotton platform.
The U.S. Air Force North Auxiliary Airfield is located just outside the town. The land for North Army Airfield was purchased between 1942 and 1945, and the field was built by the U.S. Army Air Force. Today, the Air Force holds practice cargo drops over the base. Planes, such as the C-17, fly from Charleston to North for training runs.
Norway was founded in 1891, but almost lost its name when the similarity between “North” and “Norway” nearly caused a train wreck. Railroaders began calling the small town station “Waynor” to avoid confusion.
Located on the western edge of the county, Norway annually celebrates its farming heritage with the fun-filled Cotton Festival, where visitors can learn about the history of cotton from seeds to clothing through educational exhibits.
Renovations are ongoing to restore Norway’s 1920s-era Old Willow High School to include town offices and a museum of local artifacts and history.
The area is known for its hunting and fishing, as well as water sports on the South Edisto River.
In 1876, Rowe’s Pump was incorporated as a town. Rowe’s Pump, named in honor of a General Rowe. was established when the rail line was laid from Branchville to Orangeburg. A large water tank with steam driven pumps and a wood shed supplied fuel to the wood-burning locomotives traveling the route.
The town’s name was legally changed to Rowesville in 1889.
Rowesville is perhaps best known for Cattle Creek Campground, a site for religious camp meetings which thrived under the leadership of Bishop Francis Asbury in the late 1700s and continue to this day.
The town has a community center and a children’s park.
The town of Santee in northeastern Orangeburg County is situated adjacent to Lake Marion. The town started out as a crossroads beside the Santee River. Santee received its name in the 1930s from an Indian word meaning “the rivers.”
With U.S. Highways 301 and 15 running through it, the village began to grow. The Santee River was dammed in the 1940s to supply hydroelectric power, as part of the rural electrification efforts initiated under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal during the Great Depression. When the flooding of the Santee Cooper Lakes was completed in 1940-41, the area attracted new business interests, primarily related to tourism.
The area boasts two of the state’s best golf courses, Santee National Golf Club and the Lake Marion Golf Course.
The Santee Conference Center was completed in 2009.
Lake Marion, the largest lake in South Carolina, is known for its big fish and abundant wildlife. The state fishing record for largemouth bass (16.2 Ibs) was set at this lake. Other fish that abound are striped bass, white perch, white bass, crappie, channel catfish, Arkansas blue catfish, shellcrackers, bream and chain (jack). Other wildlife that call Lake Marion home include deer, fox, squirrel, turtle, dove, turkey, alligator and various species of duck, hawk, eagle, egret and osprey.
Visitors can enjoy fishing, boating, hiking and other outdoor adventures at nearby Santee State Park, bird watching at the Santee National Wildlife Refuge or revisiting history at the Santee Indian Mound and Fort Watson on the north side of the lake.
Chartered in 1887, the town of Springfield is located in the western corner of the county.
The town is home to the annual Governor’s Frog Jump and International Egg Strike.
The restored 1929 Springfield High School, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, now serves as a welcome center, exhibit room, artisans’ center, library and staffed visitor’s information center.
Incorporated in 1887, the town of Vance in eastern Orangeburg County traces its history to 1766 when it was known as Vance’s Ferry. The town is named for Sir William Vance, who built a ferry on the Santee River. The town was moved a few miles from the river because of the mosquito-infested swampland, dropping the “Ferry” from its name as a result.
Vance is home to the Friends and Family Center, and it has a walking trail and basketball courts at its recreation center.
Access to the Santee Cooper Lakes is less than five miles away, and some of the best peaches in South Carolina are grown around Vance.
No one knows for sure how the town of Woodford got its name. There are two stories about its origin, one being that a man named Woodford, somehow connected with the South Bound Railroad, contributed to the establishment of the station in return for the naming of the town after him. The most logical story of how it got its name is that the railroad station was established for the purpose of the loading and shipping of wood, which was a very important industry at that time.
The town of Woodford was established on the lands of the Robinsons and the Gissendannerss by an act of the state General Assembly, approved December 22, 1891. The charter was to have taken effect immediately after approval by the assembly and to remain in force for a period of 30 years or until amended or repealed.
This act was introduced to the General Assembly upon a request to the Secretary of State by a petition signed by 21 citizens of the town.
In 1902, the General Assembly passed an act providing for the incorporation of towns under 1,000 population. This was done by popular vote of the citizens in March 1906.