Aiken County, South Carolina

Year Established

County Seat

Significance of County Name

Population (2020)



William Aiken, Sr.


Legislative Act Creating County

First Settled / By

County Evolution by Decade

Official County Website

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1737 / Swiss Palatines & Huguenots

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Historical Post Offices

American Revolution

American Civil War

Significant Education Events

Alphabetical / Date Started

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Coming Later

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Airports in Aiken County

Maps of Aiken County

Books About Aiken County

Genealogy Sources

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A History of Abbeville County

Redcliffe Plantation Historic Site - Aiken County, South Carolina

Completed in 1859, Redcliffe’s Greek-Revival mansion was the home of James Henry Hammond and three generations of his descendants. Hammond, whose political career included terms as a United States Representative, Governor of South Carolina, and United States Senator, was perhaps best known during his lifetime as an outspoken defender of slavery and states’ rights.

It was James Henry Hammond who coined the phrase that "Cotton is King" in his 1858 speech to the U.S. Senate.

A successful cotton planter, Hammond designed Redcliffe to be an estate for relaxation, entertaining and agricultural experimentation. Soon after its completion, Redcliffe quickly became the physical and emotional center of Hammond family life.

In 1935, James Henry Hammond’s great-grandson, John Shaw Billings, began restoring the mansion to its nineteenth-century grandeur.

Aiken County and its county seat, the town of Aiken, were named for William Aiken, Sr. (1779-1831), President of the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company, which brought the first commercial railroad to South Carolina in 1830, the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad.

The county was formed in 1871 from parts of Orangeburg, Lexington, Edgefield, and Barnwell counties. The area was sparsely settled until the 1830s, when the Charleston & Hamburgh Railroad was built connecting Charleston to the town of Hamburgh on the Savannah River, with the town of Aiken being established as a depot. In the1870s, Aiken became a winter resort for wealthy northerners, and it remains popular with horse trainers and riders. The federal government chose Aiken County in the 1950s to be the site of a nuclear materials processing plant, the Savannah River Site.

James Francis Byrnes, Jr. (1882-1972) began his legal and political careers in Aiken before going on to become United States Congressman and Senator, Secretary of State, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and Governor of South Carolina. Other prominent residents of the county were William Gregg (1800-1867), who built the state's first textile mill at Graniteville in 1846, and Governor and United States senator James Henry Hammond (1807-1864).

Aiken County is the only county in the United States named "Aiken." Formed in 1871 by combining portions of Edgefield, Lexington, Orangeburg, and Barnwell counties, Aiken County was named for William Aiken, Sr., who was the first President of the South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company. Mr. Aiken reportedly never visited the county.
Aiken County, formed from Edgefield, Barnwell, Lexington, and Orangeburg counties in 1871, territory originally in old Edgefield and Barnwell districts, was named for William Aiken, Sr., father of Governor William Aiken, Jr., the former being the first President of the company that later became the South Carolina Railroad, and is situated in the west central sand hills. Its area is 1,100 square miles and the population, estimated in 1925, is 47,684. The town of Aiken is the county seat. The value of real estate and personal property returned for taxation is $12,485,490, on a basis of 42 per cent of actual value.

The railroad mileage, including inter-urban, is 130. Aiken has about 800 miles of sand-clay highways, acknowledged the best in the state, 150 miles in the state highway system. It has a friable soil varying from a light sandy to a deep fertile loam. The growing season numbers 240 days. Main crops are cotton, corn, melons, oats, sugar cane, fruits, and truck. Many carloads of hogs, chickens, peanuts, and potatoes are shipped every year.

The cotton manufacturing industry in Horsecreek valley has assumed large proportions, with mills at Vaucluse, Graniteville, Warrenville, Langley, Bath, and Clearwater. The Gregg Dyeing company, at Graniteville, is the largest sulphur khaki plant in the United States.

The lumber industry is important, a number of big sawmills and a veneering plant being in constant operation.

Kaolins, widely distributed throughout Aiken County, are pure and valuable, are adapted to a great diversity of markets, and the plants make one of the largest industries of the kind in the Southeast.

There are eight accredited high schools for whites.

A full time health department is maintained.

Aiken County was the birthplace of home demonstration work. In 1910, Marie Samuella Cromer Seigler, a teacher, organized the first tomato club and the movement has become world-wide.

Passing through the county and Aiken town is the "old South Carolina Railroad," from Charleston to Hamburgh, once the longest railroad in America. Hamburg was a center of finance, to a short time before the American Civil War, and bank notes of the old Bank of Hamburg were given recognition over those of other banks of excellent security.

In 1865, the battle of Aiken was fought. General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick's raiders, sent to destroy the Graniteville cotton mill, the only cotton mill in the South to run uninterruptedly throughout the war, were halted here by Wheeler's Cavalry.

A few years earlier former Governor James H. Hammond of the Beech Island section of Aiken, later United States Senator, declared in Congress that "Cotton is King."

The Beech Island Agricultural club, organized in 1843, is the mother of all amalgamated agricultural clubs in the South.

Sand Bar Ferry, near Beech Island, on the Savannah river, was a famous duelling ground. In July, 1876, occurred the "Hamburg Riot", which determined the Democrats to nominate a candidate for governor. Many negroes were killed. Some 60 men were charged with riot and murder and marched into Aiken where they appeared before the circuit judge. The streets were lined with 5,000 mounted men from all parts of western Carolina, many of them clad in red shirts. It was at this time, with these men gathered on Kalmia Hill, near Aiken, to consult with their counsel, that the Red Shirt idea originated. The scene shifted to Ellenton, where, on September 15, 1876, a more serious uprising stirred South Carolina to the depths. Fighting between the whites and negroes continued three days, and one of the most notable trials in the annals of South Carolina followed at Charleston in May, 1877.

Aiken County bore the brunt of redeeming South Carolina and making it a white man's country, just as the county has since then been in the fore of progress, agriculturally, educationally, and industrially.

Immediately above, published in "South Carolina: A Handbook," prepared by The Department of Agriculture, Commerce, and Industries and Clemson College, Columbia, South Carolina, 1927. In the Public Domain. [with minor edits]


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