Colleton County, South Carolina

Year Established

County Seat

Significance of County Name

Population (2020)

1785-1791 (Abolished)
1800 (Re-established)


Sir Peter Colleton
(2nd Generation Lords Proprietor)


Legislative Act Creating County

First Settled / By

County Evolution by Decade

Official County Website

1785 / 1800

1682 / English/Welsh, 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 Colleton County

Maps of Colleton County

Books About Colleton County

Genealogy Sources

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A History of Colleton County

Green Pond, SC Post Office (2007)

In 1682, the Lords Proprietors created two new counties in what became South Carolina, after the original Craven County that had been established in 1664. These two new counties were Berkeley and Colleton. In 1684, a fourth county was created out of the original Colleton County - Carteret County, which was renamed to Granville County in 1708. With the creation of the seven "overarching Districts" in 1769, all four of these original counties were abolished, and this, the first incarnation of Colleton County was gone. All versions of Colleton County were named after one of the second generation of Lords Proprietors - Sir Peter Colleton, 2nd Baronet (1635-1694), who was a Lords Proprietor from 1666 to 1694. Many sources claim that the county was named after his father, Sir John Colleton, one of the original eight Lords Proprietors, but these claims are incorrect. Sir John died in 1666, before any settlement was made in South Carolina.
The 1785 County Court Act created six "subordinate" counties within the "overarching" Charleston District - Bartholomew County (totally new), Berkeley County (a new incarnation with new boundaries), this Colleton County (a new incarnation with new boundaries), Charleston County (totally new), Marion County (totally new - and not to be confused with the later county along the Pee Dee River that was created n 1798), and Washington County (totally new). All six of these "new counties" did not take root with the local citizenship, who were apparently quite comfortable doing their governmental business in Charleston, and these six "new counties" were abolished in 1791. Some were again resurrected by the Legislature in 1800, but with totally new boundaries and descriptions just nine years later.

This, the second incarnation of Colleton County was abolished in 1791, but another incarnation was just around the corner. In 1800, the state Legislature once again split up the "overarching" Charleston District into two "new districts" - the term "district" now essentially equivalent to "county" - and once again there was a new Colleton County, which was about half of the old Charleston District of before, and about twice the size of the 1785 version of Colleton County that was abolished in 1791.

This "large version" of Colleton County remained intact until 1897, when Dorchester County was carved out and made a separate county. Since 1897, the boundaries of Colleton County have remained the same.

Old Colleton County Jail - Built 1855

The first settlement of the original Colleton County was Willtown settled on the Edisto River (near Jacksonboro) in 1682 at the time the county lines were drawn. It was first named New London by the Lords Proprietors and was renamed by 1708. There were at that time boat docks, small shops, and two churches. It was at Willtown that a ferry operated across the south Edisto River, which in colonial days was called the Pon Pon (an Indian name given to the last twenty miles of the Edisto River). A stagecoach was later built from Charles Town to Savannah which went through Willtown.

Willtown's plan called for 250 lots and 62 blocks with seventeen streets laid in a grid pattern. Four acres each were reserved for a school and an Episcopal church and parsonage. An acre each were planned for a market town and a town garden. Willtown was an important regional trade center until the 1740s but it declined after epidemics of malaria during the summer months, afterward being plundered by the British soldiers during the Revolution.

Although it never recovered as a merchant trade center, Willtown became a popular summer village, later becoming part of Charleston County. The place where Willtown once stood is now Willtown Plantation.

Originally the Indian settlement named Pon Pon, the town of Jacksonborough took its name for John Jackson who was granted land along the Edisto River in 1701. Around 1735, it was recognized as a settlement, and a plan of the town drawn in 1780 shows 113 town lots. Jacksonborough became the county seat with a court house and jail. The first free school was established in Jacksonborough in 1744, and early Methodist and Episcopal churches were built.

In February of 1782, with Charlestown occupied by the British, the South Carolina General Assembly met in Jacksonborough. The Masonic Lodge building and a tavern owned by Peter DuBose were used for the meetings of the Senate and the House. Thus, Jacksonborough became the Provisional Capital of South Carolina for a short period in time.

A post office was established in Jacksonboro on February 23, 1823. It's name was changed to "Jacksonborough" after July of 1869, and back again to Jacksonboro on November 28, 1892.

The South Carolina Gazette was published in the spring of 1782 at Parker's Ferry, a few miles above Jacksonboro, being the first publication outside Charlestown.

The early churches in South Carolina were directly related to the origins of the people. The English were members of the Church of England (Anglican); the French were Catholic or Huguenot; the Scots were Presbyterians or Dissenters (those who were not in agreement with the Presbyterians or the Church of England); the Irish were Catholic; and the Jews. For the first thirty years of colonization there was no real organized religion. It was in the early 1800s that a great number of people became converted to the two new religions, the Baptist and Methodist, which by 1810 were represented in equal numbers to the Presbyterians.

The first settlers in Colleton County were Anglican, who settled along the Chee-Ha (Cheehaw) River. They established the first place of worship, called a glebe (a portion of land assigned to a parish). In this case the parish was the St. Bartholomew's Parish, established in 1706. The oldest was in the town of Edmundsbury, named for Landgrave Edmund Bellinger. This area was greatly affected by the Yamassee War of 1715-1716.

The second Episcopal church was located in Pon Pon, called the Pon Pon Chapel of Ease to St. Bartholomew's Parish. It is located on the road to Parker's Ferry which, when the chapel was built in 1725, was the stage coach road from Charles Town to Savannah. The ruin of this chapel is still a historic site, referred to for many years as the Old Burnt Church.

Colleton County was considered the stronghold of the "Dissenters." As noted in "Colleton County, South Carolina, a History of the First 160 Years, 1670-1830," not all Dissenters were Presbyterians, but all Presbyterians were Dissenters. For the first thirty years, until 1700, the Dissenters controlled the Province. The first church was Bethel Presbyterian Church, on Hwy 63. Much of its congregation moved to Walterboro when it became the county seat in 1820, and the new Bethel Presbyterian Church was established there on Church Street.

Rev. William Screven came with his followers to South Carolina around 1696 from Massachusetts. He is credited with founding the first Baptist church in the Province, in what is now Clarendon County, South Carolina. Through his leadership, the Charleston Church led the Baptists in the area.

There were divisions among the Baptists even then, with several groups forming: the Anabaptist, Antipedo Baptists, and the Calvinistic Baptists. Many residents of early Colleton County were members of the St. Andrew's Parish Baptist Church.

Methodism was present in Colleton County as early as 1734, when John Wesley preached at the Pon Pon Chapel on April 24, 1734. Bishop Francis Asbury was instrumental in spreading the faith in the South and visited Colleton County many times in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

The first Mass was celebrated in Charleston in 1786, but there were few Catholics until after the Revolutionary War. In 1793, Rev. Simon Felix Gallagher, a native of Dublin, Ireland, came to Charleston. He was very active in city affairs, organizing the Hibernian Society.

In the colonial days in the Province, the Jews were the leading non-Protestant religious group, establishing one of the earliest congregations in Charles Town in 1750.

Colleton County was named for one of the Lords Proprietors, Sir Peter Colleton, 2nd Baronet (1635-1694). The county was first created in 1682 under the proprietary government, but the designation was seldom used in the colonial period. Instead, the area was known by its parish names: St. Bartholomew's, St. Paul's, and St. George's, Dorchester. In 1769, these parishes became part of Charles Town District, where they remained until Colleton District (county) was formed in 1800. The county seat is Walterboro. A portion of the county was removed in 1897 to form Dorchester County.

Several Revolutionary War skirmishes took place in Colleton County, and the state legislature met in the town of Jacksonboro in 1782 while Charlestown was occupied by the British. In 1828, the first nullification meeting in the state was held in Walterboro. This part of the lowcountry was known for its extensive rice and cotton plantations. Many of the old plantations were bought by northerners after the Civil War for use as hunting preserves; some of those lands are now being incorporated into the ACE Basin, a nature preserve bounded by the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto rivers. The Revolutionary War hero Isaac Hayne (1745-1781) was a Colleton County resident, as were politicians Rawlins Lowndes (1721-1800) and William Lowndes (1782-1822).

By order of the Lords Proprietors the province of Carolina was, in 1682, divided into three counties, Craven, Berkeley, and Colleton. Colleton, named in honor of Sir Peter Colleton, Lord Proprietor, is situated in the southeast corner of the province and, as bounded today, embraces 1,126 square miles between the Edisto and Combahee rivers and the Atlantic ocean. Its population, 1920, was 29,897, and was estimated in 1925 as 30,437, of whom about 13,000 are white. With the movement now on foot by state and county to promote immigration the white population is increasing. Its present re-organization dates from 1800.

Colleton County is one of the richest agricultural spots in the whole South; a unique diversity of soil and climatic conditions rendering it a veritable agricultural empire. Because of its sparse population lands are now very cheap, but with the new coming of manpower and money into the South its value will be quickly recognized. Excellent farming lands near shipping points can now be bought at from $10 to $25 an acre.

In upper Colleton near the Orangeburg line is found a sandy loam, slightly rolling, which yields splendid crops of cotton and grain. Around the thriving town of Smoaks much excellent tobacco is grown. The land near Walterboro, Ashepoo, Ritter, White Hall, and Jacksonboro is a darker loam and this is a famous producing center of early vegetables. Hundreds of cars of beans, peas, celery, lettuce, Irish potatoes, and cabbage move from these points during the winter and early spring to northern consuming centers. Many growers, large and small, are organized into efficient cooperative shipping and selling associations. Two hundred and fifty bushels of Irish potatoes followed by 50 bushels of corn and a good crop of peas, all from the same acre, is not an unusual yield.

Nearer the sea, in a region tempered by the Gulf Stream which runs close inshore, and threaded with fresh water rivers and tidal estuaries, are thousands of acres of former rice fields now being reclaimed and showing luxuriant crops of vegetables, grains and flowering bulbs. These black lands, enriched by the river deposits of the ages, vie with the famous lands along the Nile or the farms of Holland. The uplands in this section are of a fine alluvial loam ideal for the culture of lettuce and Irish potatoes. Wiggins and Greenpond are the chief shipping points for this area. Irrigation is used on many farms, the water obtained from streams or from shallow artesian wells. One well, at Ruffin, with a flow of 650 gallons a minute, supplies a popular concrete swimming pool.

Many large lumber mills operate and vast stores of pine and hardwood remain untouched. Poultry raising is practiced on a commercial scale, several of the most successful farms in the state being located here. Long open seasons and an abundance of natural pasturage make stock raising and dairying profitable industries.

The county is served by the main lines of the Atlantic Coast Line and the Seaboard Air Line, both leading directly to the North. The Atlantic Coastal highway, leading along the coast from Calais, Maine, to Miami, Florida, via Raleigh, Charleston and Savannah, runs through Colleton County for 37 miles and passes through Walterboro, the county seat.

Walterboro's population, in 1920, was 1,853. Settled in the eighteenth century by rice planters on account of its cool "pine-land breezes" in summer and its freedom from mosquitoes, it has also a mild winter climate, the palmetto, Satsuma orange, oleander, and azalea growing without protection. Excellent hunting and fishing abound in the nearby streams and forests of the coast. With the early hard-surfacing of the Coastal highway it will no doubt become a popular tourist resort.

Walterboro has modern school buildings and good hotels, many churches, city water, lights, and power.

Other attractive towns offering inducements to settlers are Cottageville, population 444; Hendersonville (on Coastal highway), 285; .Lodge, 315; Ruffin, 138 ; Smoaks, 132.

The court house of colonial design, used at Jacksonboro as a state house during the British occupation of Charlestown, was moved to Walterboro after the American Revolution. Nearby is the grave of Isaac Hayne, "The Martyr of the Revolution." Near Wiggins is the spot where John Laurens, "The Bayard of the Revolution," met death and was buried. The picturesque ruins of many churches, mansions, and forts with frequent stately avenues of live oaks and magnolias lend historic interest to the beautiful tidewater region of Colleton, once so splendidly developed and now coming into its own once more.

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] 
1682: The first Colleton County was created. The county was bounded on the north by the Stono River, on the south by the Combahee River, and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean. There was no western boundary at this time.

1706: Church Act of 1706 subdivided the SC counties into parishes. St. Paul's, Stono Parish was the upper portion of Colleton County, between the Stono and Edisto Rivers. St. Bartholomew's Parish was the lower portion of Colleton County, between the Edisto and Combahee Rivers.

1717: St. George's, Dorchester Parish created from the western portion of St. Paul’s, Stono Parish.

1730: St. John's, Colleton Parish is created and consists of what had been the islands portion of St. Paul's, Stono Parish.

1769: The Circuit Court Act merged Colleton County and Berkeley County into Charles Town District. This was bounded by Orangeburgh District to the west. All four of the original counties, including the first Colleton County, were abolished.

1785: The County Court Act created the second incarnation of Colleton County and five other new counties within the Charles Town District. None of these new counties really took off and no court houses are known to have been built. In 1791, all six of these lowcountry counties are abolished.

1798: A Legislature Act was passed to create Colleton District out of Charleston District to become effective in 1800. This would have similar boundaries as the original Colleton County with the exception that the coastal islands (excluding Edisto Island) would remain in Charleston District. Barnwell and Orangeburg Districts bounded the new district to the west. The first district seat was Jacksonborough.

1822: Walterboro became the district seat by a Legislature Act passed in 1817.

1868: The new South Carolina Constitution does away with the term ‘district’ and replaces it with ‘county.’ Colleton District thus becomes Colleton County. The county townships were also created in 1868.

1897: Dorchester County is created from that portion of Colleton County that included St. George's, Dorchester Parish. The shrunken Colleton County would now consist of St. Bartholomew's Parish and St. Paul's, Stono Parish.

1929: St. Paul's, Stono Parish had been merged into Charleston County by 1929. Colleton County would now consist primarily of the old St. Bartholomew's Parish.


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