A Brief History of Orangeburgh District, County, City and Historical Society
Orangeburgh Judicial District was formed in 1769 from an unorganized upland area between the Congaree and Savannah Rivers. A county, initially of the same name but later Orange, was organized but deorganized in 1791. The southwest half of Orangeburg District bordering on the Savannah River, was separated as Barnwell District in 1800. In 1804 the northern third of the county was separated and formed Lexington District. Lexington 1832 Lexington annexed another smaller piece.
In 1868, under the revised state constitution, South Carolina districts became counties, with officials elected by the resident voters rather than by state officials. A small western portion of the county was annexed to Aiken County in 1871. In 1908 a northern portion of the county along the Congaree River was divided and helped form Calhoun County. A portion of Berkeley County, southeast of Holly Hill was annexed in 1910, bringing the county to its present size.
The City of Orangeburg, or originally Orangeburgh, was one of eleven townships created by the governing body of Charles Town. Lt. Governor Thomas Broughton named the settlement in honor of William IV, Prince of Orange. The original township, along the banks of the Edisto River, was 20,000 acres in size. The earliest settler families were given an incentive of 50 acres per head and provisions for one year before departing from Charles Town. The first groups of German & Swiss settlers arrived in 1735 and made homes among a few settlers who had come earlier and the native Indian tribes.
The center of town as designed in 1735 was a Public Square bounded by today’s streets of Windsor, Bull, Middleton, and Waring, however, the town grew to be centered six blocks east at Middleton & Russell Sts. The Salley Archives of the Historical Society is located on the original square near where the first church building stood.
The Orangeburg County Historical Society was organized in 1953, and incorporated in 1964. The Society, originally organized as a social club centered around history, soon assumed the role as protector of Orangeburg's historical heritage. Dixie Hall, an antebellum building originally located on the Courthouse square was donated to the Society in 1955 and moved to its present location in the Pioneer Graveyard. Alexander S. Salley, South Carolina's first historian, urged the Society towards construction of an Archives building with a bequeath when he died in 1961, and in 1967 the Salley Archives building was completed. Hugo Ackerman, formerly a history teacher at Orangeburg High School, was the lone Archivist and Historian from 1966 until his death in 1991, and built more than two-thirds of the documents collection as it exists today. Late in the 1990's a grant was received to buy archival storage materials and under the direction of Alfred & Pauline Gramling, a project was completed to re-organize the holdings of the Archives to better insure their safety. In the early 2000's Society volunteers under the direction of Evelyn Weathersbee completed a project to survey and publish all the white cemeteries of the County, and this was completed in 2006 with the exception of Crestlawn Memorial Park. In 2009 the volunteers started a project to computerize and digitize the holdings of the Salley Archives and this project is ongoing as of 2011.