Washington County, South Carolina


Years in Existence

County Seat


1785 - 1791


N/A - Abolished in 1791

First Settled

First Settled By

Significance of County Name



President George Washington

A History of Washington County, South Carolina

In 1785, the new state Legislature of South Carolina issued the "County Court Act" and established thirty-four "new counties" within the existing seven "overarching Districts." These "new counties" in the backcountry and upcountry did fairly well since many of the new inhabitants were from North Carolina, which had a very strong county system already in place and the new citizens of the upstate counties in South Carolina took advantage of their experience and knowledge. However, the lowcountry citizens were not used to having another "layer" of bureaucracy added to their daily burdens and they seemed to be quite comfortable with the District Court system as established in 1769 as well as the Parish system in place since 1706.

Therefore, the "new counties" in the lowcountry Districts of Beaufort, Charleston, and Georgetown did not take root - there are several reasons that they did not survive. The state did not take immediate steps to commence building any new county court houses or appoint local citizens to serve as justices or commissioners. And, the locals never took any initiative on their own to press for this new "county system" themselves. Therefore, all of the "new counties" that were created by the 1785 County Court Act in the lowcountry were abolished in 1791, and the "overarching Districts" of Beaufort, Charleston, and Georgetown continued to be the governmental seats until 1800, when, finally, the old seven "overarching Districts" were abolished in favor of "new districts" - equivalent to "counties" nowadays - which continued until the new state Constitution after the U.S. Civil War in 1868 adopted the term "county" instead of "district."

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), 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). None of these "new counties" took 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 Washington County essentially covered the lower half of present-day Berkeley County and some of present-day Charleston County. Washington County was abolished in 1791 and not to be resurrected in South Carolina.

This version of Washington County is NOT to be confused with the later overarching Washington District of northwestern South Carolina.

The same Legislative Act that abolished the Washington County in 1791, which was located within the Charleston District also created a "new" Washington District in the old Cherokee lands of northwestern South Carolina. This 1791 "new" Washington District was created along the lines of the earlier seven "overarching Districts" of 1769 - the new Washington District included the present-day counties of Oconee, Pickens, Anderson, and Greenville. As of 1791, only the Greenville District (county) had already been established (1786) - the other three were years away from becoming true counties.

In 1798, Washington District was abolished and renamed to the Pendleton District, never to be resurrected again in the state of South Carolina.


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