Winyah County, South Carolina


Years in Existence

County Seat


1785 - 1800


N/A - Abolished in 1800

First Settled

First Settled By

Significance of County Name


English/Welsh, then French Huguenots

Winyah Bay

A History of Winyah County

The 1785 Act known as "the County Court Act" established new counties across the state of South Carolina, one being Winyah County, which was carved out of the continuing, overarching Georgetown District. Winyah County, as established in 1785, was roughly equivalent to today's Georgetown County. All of the newly-created counties within Georgetown District became inactive quickly - they simply failed to take root with the local population because all of the previous records, deeds, and legal documents were still being maintained at the Georgetown District offices in the town of Georgetown and the new state was slow in establishing court houses, appointing justices, etc. in all of the newly-defined counties in the lowcountry. This was not true in the backcountry.

Apparently, the state never got around to erecting court houses or other public buildings in the newly-defined counties within Georgetown District between 1785 and 1798, thus adding to the failure of the new counties to take root with the local citizens.

However, since the newly-defined Winyah County fell within the existing location of the District Seat of Georgetown District - Georgetown - the locals had a different problem than those in the outlying new counties of Liberty, Kingston, and Williamsburg. The locals were so accustomed to doing their business with the continuing Georgetown District that they had no need for an extra layer of government as planned to be imposed by the new Winyah County. Therefore, between 1785 and 1800, Winyah County never took off.

In 1790, the first United States Census was conducted and the geopolitical breakdown for the enumerations included the existing seven "overarching Districts" as well as a mix of the newly-established counties of 1785 and some of the older-established parishes. There is no mention of Winyah County in the 1790 U.S. Census. All residents were enumerated under the long-established names of All Saints Parish and Prince George's, Winyah Parish. Interestingly, there was no reference to the overarching Georgetown District either.

In the 1800 U.S. Census, this location was identified as Winyah County and its citizens were enumerated thusly in that census.

In the year of 1800, the locals struggled with the subject of what to name their county. Winyah was certainly considered, since Winyah Bay is a prominent location in the area, and the entire population of South Carolina could readily identify with the well-established landmark. It is not currently known what other alternatives that the locals considered when deciding their county's name in the year of 1800.

However, soon after the 1800 U.S. Census was taken, the locals finally decided upon the new name - Georgetown District (county), quite simply it was so much easier to identify with and it also made the locals feel a little bit superior to the outlying areas since this area retained a long-established and easily-remembered district/county name that had been around since the late 1720s.

Originally part of colonial Craven County, Georgetown County has also been part of Prince George's, Winyah (1721), Prince Frederick's (1734), and All Saints (1767) parishes, which served as early religious and civic jurisdictions. This area, which became part of newly-formed overarching Georgetown District in 1769, was given its present boundaries and named Georgetown District in 1800. In 1868, it was renamed to Georgetown County and has remained thusly ever since.


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