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South Carolina History An Aid to Genealogy

South Carolina the Colony

The Colony Begins to Change Itself

District/Counties History

South Carolina the Colony

South Carolina 4 County MapMany early settlers of the area were English, Dutch, Quakers, & Huguenots primarily Protestants fleeing persecution. During most of South Carolina's colonial history, the colony was divided into only four counties see map for details. The first three districts formed in 1682/3 and were Berkeley, Colleton & Craven. Granville was added in 1710. Royal land grants issued for the years 1731 to 1775 often pertain to the four original districts of Colleton, Craven, Berkeley, and Granville.

County boundaries in the South Carolina backcountry were only vaguely defined.  In particular, land tracts lying in the area between the Broad and Saluda Rivers were, in some land records, stated to be in Craven County, and, in other records, to be in Berkeley County. 

It should be further noted, that even though these four counties had been established, all official record keeping was performed in Charleston until 1785, where all of the courts met until 1769. 

South Carolina began to separate from North Carolina in 1713.  South Carolina was officially separated from North Carolina in 1729, although boundaries between the states remained unstable, and North Carolina granted some land in South Carolina. The North Carolina counties of Anson, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rutherford, and Tyron may have records that pertain to early South Carolina residents.

About the year 1750, the "Piedmont" section of South Carolina began to receive its first permanent settlers. This new acquisition from the Indians comprised the territory now constituting the counties of Edgefield, McCormick, Greenwood, Abbeville, Laurens, Newberry, Union, Spartanburg, York, Cherokee, Chester, Fairfield, Richland, and a portion of Lexington of South Carolina. (Source: "History of Greenville County South Carolina" by James M. Richardson.)

In 1760 's "poor Irish Protestants of good character" were encouraged to come to the Colony of South Carolina. They had to bring with them a letter of recommendation from a church or civil authority. Their passage would be paid, given bounty land, twenty shillings for tools and provision and transportation to their new land. (Source: http://www.censusfinder.com/south_carolina.htm)

The Cherokee War, from 1760- 1761, ended in a treaty that opened the up country for settlement. The Bounty Act of 1761 offered public land tax free for ten years, and settlers from other colonies began pouring into the up country.

The Colony Begins to Change Itself

South Carolina 7 District Map with Election Areas overlayed.In 1769, the South Carolina Royal Government was divided South Carolina into 7 districts.  See map to the left. The seven original Judicial Districts were established, but records continued to be kept in Charleston until 1785. From those 7 districts, Camden, Cheraws, Georgetown, Charleston, Beaufort, Orangeburg, & 96th District, came the counties we know today.  Study of the district, county and boundary link changes may be required to locate your ancestors in South Carolina.

During the period 1769-1776, the northwestern corner of South Carolina was still a part of the Cherokee Nation.  However, after a brief war fought during 1776, this area was ceded to the State of South Carolina by treaty signed in 1777.

South Carolina with its current County System.By 1778-1779, most of the politically/militarily active Loyalists and Tories had been expelled from the State or driven into hiding. 

In 1785, the State of South Carolina laid out counties in each of the then existing Judicial Districts and authorized the counties to keep deed records and other official documents which had previously only been kept in Charleston.   A map of the South Carolina County and District court boundaries, during the period 1786-1791 is shown on the left. Washington District was established in 1785 with Greenville County, established in 1786, and Pendleton County, established in 1789 from the lands ceded by the Cherokees in 1777(shaded areas). The map to the right is the current division of the state.

South Carolina became a state in 1788 and remains essentially divided the same ever since.

District/Counties History

Beaufort District

Charleston District

Georgetown District

Orangeburg District

Camden District

Cheraws District

Old Ninety-Six District

Washington District

Pendleton District

 

The Old Tryon County, of North Carolina, was created in 1768 and was dissolved in 1779. The boundaries consisted of (present-day) part of Burk, Cleveland, Gaston, Lincoln, part of McDowell Polk, Rutherford, all of North Carolina. Also consisted of (present-day) Cherokee, Spartanburg, and small parts of Chester, Greenville, Laurens, and York Counties all of South Carolina.

Beaufort District

The South Carolina Royal Government created Beaufort District in 1769.

Charleston District

The South Carolina Royal Government created Charleston District in 1769.

Georgetown District

The South Carolina Royal Government created Georgetown District in 1769.

Orangeburg District

The South Carolina Royal Government created Orangeburg District in 1769.

Camden District

The South Carolina Royal Government created Camden District in 1769.

Cheraws District

The South Carolina Royal Government created Cheraws District in 1769.

Old Ninety-Six District

The Old "Ninety-Six" District of South Carolina was created in 1769 and was abolished in 1798. The map shows in red the area considered to be the 96th District of South Carolina. It consisted of (present-day) Abbeville Co. (formed 1785); Greenwood Co. (formed 1897); McCormick Co. (formed 1916); Edgefield Co. (formed 1785); Aiken Co. (formed 1871); Greenwood Co. (formed 1897); Saluda Co. (formed 1896); Laurens Co. (formed 1785); Newberry Co. (formed 1785); Spartanburg Co. (formed 1785); Cherokee Co. (formed 1897); Union Co. (formed 1798 from the remaining area to eliminate the 96th District).

Washington District

Washington District was formed c1785 as an "Original" District from the newly annexed Cherokee Areas to the northwest.

Pendleton District

Pendleton District was formed from the larger Washington Dist. 1798 and was discontinued in 1826. Pendleton District records are in part of the Abbeville 1784 & 1787 records. Abbeville District formed c1785 from part of old 96th Dist.

 

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