Salem County, South Carolina


Years in Existence

County Seat


1792 - 1800


N/A - Abolished in 1800

First Settled

First Settled By

Significance of County Name


English/Welsh & French Huguenots

Probably after Salem Church
Click Here - To see what Salem County looked like during its brief existence, including all known towns.

A History of Salem County, South Carolina

In 1792, Salem County was created from portions of Claremont and Clarendon Counties, which themselves had been created in 1785 along with thirty-two (32) other "new counties" thanks to the County Court Act. The boundaries of Salem County started with a line beginning at the District of Georgetown on Black River and then the line ran to Lynch's Creek and up the creek to the line of Kershaw, then on 'Scape Whore Swamp and down 'Scape Whore to Black River and down the river to its beginning.

Salem was not the name which the residents of the area had chosen for their new county. In a petition to the Senate in 1791, they asked that the county be named Greene County. The legislators chose Salem County instead. The county seat was also named Salem. A few years later, on January 1, 1800, Salem County, along with Claremont and Clarendon Counties were combined to form the Sumter District (county). The court functions of Salem County were transferred to the newly-established Sumter District (county). 

In 1785, a new law was passed and each of the seven great circuit court systems of the state (overarching Districts) were subdivided into counties of a convenient size. The former Camden District was divided to form seven counties. The boundaries of the seven counties were established, largely on natural lines. Created were York, Chester, Fairfield, Richland, Lancaster, Claremont, and Clarendon counties. The last two would be included in the area of what would become the future Sumter District.

Under the new state Constitution of 1790, Clarendon and Claremont elected one senator, and each had two representatives in the General Assembly. Two years after the counties were created, the county courts were set up. In 1792, some of the area of Clarendon and Claremont was ceded to form the new Salem County. The part taken from Claremont was known as "Upper Salem" and the part from Clarendon was known as "Lower Salem." The court house in the town of Salem was probably a log building as was the court house in Clarendon. The Claremont County court house was located at Statesburg.

But the new system did not suit every resident of the area. Among those learned men of the legal profession, the operation of the county courts was not proving to be satisfactory. They felt that justice was not being properly served by laymen. Thus, in 1791, the county magistrates were replaced by three county court judges who were "to handle all business that came before the court." With the opposition of lawyers to lay judges continuing, the county court system was finally abolished effective on January 1, 1800.

On that date in 1800, the region was re-organized as Sumter District (county) when the legislature of South Carolina united three of the counties of Camden District, namely, Claremont, Clarendon, and Salem; and on the first day of January in the year 1800, the Sumter District (county) began to function in the administration of justice through circuit courts. Salem County was never resurrected in the state of South Carolina.


© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved