071119 courthouse 1875

The cornerstone of the then-new Orangeburg County Courthouse was laid in 1875.

There is not a day that goes by that I am not reading about our great county of Orangeburg from the past. As I absorb this knowledge, I find it necessary in my position as a historian to share this information about where we came from and how we got to the year of 2019 in Orangeburg.

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Recently, I came across the following article a visitor wrote describing Orangeburg in 1875.

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On Dec. 4, 1875, The Orangeburg Free Citizen reported: “Orangeburg —Orangeburg C.H., S.C., November 20 — Of all the counties we have visited in this State, none have impressed us more favorably then Orangeburg. It is one of the best counties in the State, and, judging by what we have seen of it, far in advance, in material prosperity, of most of the other counties.

"It is large in area and population, and is skirted and traversed by rivers and railroads affording ample means and conveniences for transportation. The soil is generally fertile, and the climate rivals that of Aiken, which is almost on a geographical line with Orangeburg.

"It is ostensibly an agricultural county, producing, usually, from thirty to thirty-five thousand bales of cotton. The crop this year, however, it is estimated, will not reach more than 18,000 or 20, 000 bales, in consequence of the drought that prevailed last summer.

"The Orangeburg Agricultural Society is one of the best conducted and most flourishing in the State, and the County Fair attests the intelligence and industry of the inhabitants. The Fair grounds and buildings are the finest and most complete we have seen anywhere.

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"This is really one of the prettiest and most thriving places in the State with a population of seventeen hundred inhabitants, handsome brick stores, residences, churches, schools, and a very necessary appendage to all towns, a good hotel, kept by Mr. Meroney, where the traveler can find rest and comfort.

"The corner-stone of the new courthouse is to be laid here on next Thursday by the Masonic fraternity. The building will be an imposing and convenient one, and is greatly needed here. Our visit to Orangeburg was pleasant and profitable.”

The above is what a passing stranger, and correspondent of the Charleston News, says of our goodly “Burg.”

All he says about its being a genial and pleasant place will be more than endorsed by those who have summered and wintered here.

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“As a sanitary resort no doubt this place is superior in some respects to Aiken. They have the start of us there in one respect. A gentleman of that place took pains to advertise its advantages all through the North by the skillful use of printer’s ink.

We have a dry soil, a softer and more congenial climate for winter than Aiken, with surroundings more inviting and pleasant. We have literal ideas, willing to live and let live. It is true our people here have not taken as much pains to be prepared to “take in strangers,” as in some other sections of the South.

No pleasanter place can be found to spend the winter in the South than what is afforded here especially for those whose sanitary condition demands a change in climate.”

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A few facts about Orangeburg County in 1875:

• Population: Whites, 10,555; Colored, 23,515; total, 34,070 -- 1870 census

• Politics: Republican Party ruled Orangeburg County -- majority black

• Fire departments: Young Americas and Elliott Hook & Ladder Company -- white; Comet Fire Engine Company -- black

• Newspapers: The Orangeburg News, The Orangeburg News and Times and The Free Citizen

• Thirty buildings in the downtown area were destroyed by fire. The damage was estimated from $250,000 to $500,000.

One hundred forty-four years later, Orangeburg is still being recognized for its abundant agricultural greatness and productivity. One thing is for sure about this attribute and that is, the rich soils are not going anywhere.

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