|Counties of South Carolina|
|Location||State of South Carolina|
|Populations||7,858 (Allendale) – 533,834 (Greenville)|
|Areas||392 square miles (1,020 km2) (Calhoun) – 1,358 square miles (3,520 km2) (Charleston)|
The U.S. state of South Carolina is made up of 46 counties, the maximum allowable by state law. They range in size from 359 square miles (930 square kilometers) in the case of Calhoun County to 1,358 square miles (3,517 square kilometers) in the case of Charleston County. The least populous county is Allendale County, with only 7,858 residents, while the most populous county is Greenville County, with a population of 533,834, despite the state's most populous city, Charleston, being located in Charleston County.
In the colonial period, the land around the coast was divided into parishes corresponding to the parishes of the Church of England. There were also several counties that had judicial and electoral functions. As people settled the backcountry, judicial districts and additional counties were formed. This structure continued and grew after the Revolutionary War. In 1800, all counties were renamed as districts. In 1868, the districts were converted back to counties. The South Carolina Department of Archives and History has maps that show the boundaries of counties, districts, and parishes starting in 1682.
Historically, county government in South Carolina has been fairly weak. The 1895 Constitution made no provision for local government, effectively reducing counties to creatures of the state. Each county's delegation to the General Assembly, comprising one senator and at least one representative, also doubled as its county council. Under this system, the state senator from each county wielded the most power. From the eighteenth century to 1973, counties in South Carolina performed limited functions such as the provision of law enforcement and the construction of transportation infrastructure.
In 1964, the United States Supreme Court case Reynolds v. Sims required reapportionment according to the principle of "one man, one vote", which resulted in legislative districts crossing county lines. However, it was not until 1973 that the constitution was amended to provide for limited home rule at the county level. This was finally enacted in 1975 with the Home Rule Act, which provided for elected councils in each county. Further, in 1989, all counties were given the authority to exercise broad police powers. Thus, they may enact regulations and ordinances related to the provision or preservation of security, health, peace, and order, so long as the regulation is not inconsistent with state law. Nonetheless, all counties and municipalities in South Carolina lack “fiscal home rule,” meaning they may only enact taxes authorized by the General Assembly.
County ordinances become applicable within municipal boundaries when the municipality and the county make a formal agreement, and the municipality formally adopts the ordinance. Unincorporated areas are governed by the county’s land use plans.
||FIPS code||County seat||Est.||Origin||Etymology||Population||Area||Map|
|Abbeville County||001||Abbeville||1785||Ninety-Six District||Abbeville, France||24,299||511 sq mi
|Aiken County||003||Aiken||1871||Barnwell, Edgefield, Lexington, and Orangeburg||William Aiken, founder of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company||170,776||1,080 sq mi
|Allendale County||005||Allendale||1919||Barnwell and Hampton||P.H. Allen, first postmaster of the new county||7,858||413 sq mi
|Anderson County||007||Anderson||1826||Pendleton District||Robert Anderson, American Revolutionary War general and Southern surveyor||206,908||757 sq mi
|Bamberg County||009||Bamberg||1897||Barnwell||Francis Marion Bamberg (1838 - 1905), Confederate general in the American Civil War||13,189||395 sq mi
|Barnwell County||011||Barnwell||1798||Orangeburg||John Barnwell, South Carolina State Senator and prisoner of war during the American Revolution||20,580||557 sq mi
|Beaufort County||013||Beaufort||1769||1769 Judicial District||Henry Somerset, 1st Duke of Beaufort, colonial proprietary landowner||191,748||576 sq mi
|Berkeley County||015||Moncks Corner||1882||Charleston||William Berkeley, colonial proprietary governor and landowner||236,701||1,228 sq mi
|Calhoun County||017||St. Matthews||1908||Lexington and Orangeburg||John C. Calhoun, U.S. Senator from South Carolina and states' rights advocate||14,165||392 sq mi
|Charleston County||019||Charleston||1769||1769 Judicial District||King Charles II of England||413,024||1,358 sq mi
|Cherokee County||021||Gaffney||1897||Spartanburg, Union, and York||Cherokee Native Americans||56,052||397 sq mi
|Chester County||023||Chester||1785||Camden District||Chester, Pennsylvania||32,209||586 sq mi
|Chesterfield County||025||Chesterfield||1798||Cheraws District||Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, an Enlightenment-era scholar, government official, and member of the British House of Lords||43,268||806 sq mi
|Clarendon County||027||Manning||1855||Sumter||Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, colonial proprietary landowner||31,024||696 sq mi
|Colleton County||029||Walterboro||1800||Charleston||John Colleton, colonial proprietary landowner||38,462||1,133 sq mi
|Darlington County||031||Darlington||1785||Cheraws District||Darlington, England||62,755||567 sq mi
|Dillon County||033||Dillon||1910||Marion||J.W. Dillon (1826-1913), founder of the Wilson Short Cut Railroad||28,087||407 sq mi
|Dorchester County||035||St. George||1868||Berkeley and Colleton||Dorchester, Massachusetts||163,327||577 sq mi
|Edgefield County||037||Edgefield||1785||Ninety-Six District||Disputed; either its location on the edge of the state or Edgefield, Norfolk, England||26,153||507 sq mi
|Fairfield County||039||Winnsboro||1785||Camden District||The county's fair fields, as described by colonial governor Charles Cornwallis||20,690||710 sq mi
|Florence County||041||Florence||1888||Clarendon, Darlington, Marion, and Williamsburg||Florence Harllee (1848-1927), daughter of Wilmington and Manchester Railroad founder W.W. Harllee||136,504||804 sq mi
|Georgetown County||043||Georgetown||1769||1769 Judicial District||King George II of Great Britain||63,921||813.55 sq mi
|Greenville County||045||Greenville||1786||Washington District||Nathanael Greene, Revolutionary War general||533,834||795 sq mi
|Greenwood County||047||Greenwood||1897||Abbeville and Edgefield||Greenwood Plantation, the home of John McGee, the county's largest landowner||69,241||463 sq mi
|Hampton County||049||Hampton||1787||Beaufort||Wade Hampton, Congressman from South Carolina and once the nation's wealthiest citizen||18,180||563 sq mi
|Horry County||051||Conway||1801||Georgetown||Peter Horry, Revolutionary War general||365,579||1,255 sq mi
|Jasper County||053||Ridgeland||1912||Beaufort and Hampton||William Jasper, Revolutionary War sergeant||30,324||700 sq mi
|Kershaw County||055||Camden||1798||Claremont, Fairfield, Lancaster, and Richland||Joseph Kershaw, one of the county's pioneering settlers||66,130||740 sq mi
|Lancaster County||057||Lancaster||1798||Camden District||Lancaster, England, and the House of Lancaster||100,336||555 sq mi
|Laurens County||059||Laurens||1785||Ninety-Six District||Henry Laurens, president of the Second Continental Congress and prisoner of war during the American Revolution||67,803||724 sq mi
|Lee County||061||Bishopville||1902||Darlington, Kershaw, and Sumter||Robert E. Lee, Confederate general during the Civil War||16,280||411 sq mi
|Lexington County||063||Lexington||1804||Orangeburg||Battle of Lexington, opening skirmish of the Revolutionary War||300,137||758 sq mi
|Marion County||067||Marion||1800||Georgetown||Francis Marion, Revolutionary War general||28,784||494 sq mi
|Marlboro County||069||Bennettsville||1785||Cheraws District||John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, English general, diplomat, and confidant of monarchs||26,382||485 sq mi
|McCormick County||065||McCormick||1914||Abbeville, Edgefield, and Greenwood||Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the mechanical reaper and founder of International Harvester||9,760||394 sq mi
|Newberry County||071||Newberry||1785||Ninety-Six District||Disputed; possibly Newbury, Berkshire, England, or from early settlers' notion that the landscape was as "pretty as a new berry"||37,996||647 sq mi
|Oconee County||073||Walhalla||1868||Pickens||Oconee Native Americans||79,203||674 sq mi
|Orangeburg County||075||Orangeburg||1769||1769 Judicial District||Prince William V of Orange||82,962||1,128 sq mi
|Pickens County||077||Pickens||1826||Pendleton District||Andrew Pickens, Governor of South Carolina||132,229||512 sq mi
|Richland County||079||Columbia||1799||Camden District||The county's rich soil||418,307||772 sq mi
|Saluda County||081||Saluda||1896||Edgefield||Saluda River||18,821||462 sq mi
|Spartanburg County||083||Spartanburg||1785||Ninety-Six District||"Spartan Regiment" of the state militia, which was the key force for victory in the Revolutionary War Battle of Cowpens||335,864||819 sq mi
|Sumter County||085||Sumter||1798||Claremont, Clarendon, and Salem||Thomas Sumter, Revolutionary War general and U.S. Senator from South Carolina||104,758||682 sq mi
|Union County||087||Union||1798||Ninety-Six District||Union Church, the first Christian place of worship in the area||27,016||516 sq mi
|Williamsburg County||089||Kingstree||1802||Georgetown District||King William III of England||30,484||937 sq mi
|York County||091||York||1798||Camden District||York County, Pennsylvania||288,595||696 sq mi
Defunct parishes, counties and districts
Until the late 19th century, the South Carolina Lowcountry was divided into parishes which in turn were subdivided several "districts"; these civil parishes were based on and generally coincident (even well after disestablishment) with Anglican ecclesiastical parishes.
- St. Helena's Parish (Beaufort District)
- St. Luke's Parish (Beaufort District) created on May 23, 1767, located on Hilton Head Island and the adjacent mainland
- St. Peter's Parish (Beaufort District)
- Prince William Parish (Beaufort District)
- St. Andrew's Parish (Charleston District)
- St. Bartholomew's Parish (Charleston District)
- St. John's Colleton Parish (Charleston District)
- St. George's Dorchester Parish (Charleston District)
- St. Philip's & St. Michael's Parish (Charleston District)
- Christchurch Parish (Charleston District)
- St. James' Goose Creek Parish (Charleston District)
- St. Thomas' & St. Denis' Parish (Charleston District)
- St. John's Berkeley Parish (Charleston District)
- St. Stephen's Parish (Charleston District)
- St. James' Santee Parish (Charleston District)
- St. Paul's Parish (Charleston District)
- All Saints' Parish (Georgetown District)
- Prince George, Winyah, Parish (Georgetown District)
- Prince Frederick Parish (Georgetown District)
- St. David's Parish (Cheraw District)
- St. Mark's Parish (Cheraw District)
- St. Matthew's Parish (Orangeburgh District)
- Carteret County
- Craven County
- Granville County
- Orange County
- Lewisburg County 1785-1791
- Winton County present-day Barnwell County
- Liberty County present-day Marion County
- Winyah County former name of Georgetown County
- Claremont County
- Salem County
- Cheraw District created in 1769
- Camden District created in 1769
- Ninety-Six District created in 1769
- Pinckney District 1791-1798
- Washington District 1785-1798
- Pendleton District created in 1789 from Cherokee lands
- Birch County proposed in 2013 (portions of Lexington and Richland counties)
- Section 3, Article VIII of the South Carolina Constitution Archived January 4, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
- Edgar, Walter, ed. The South Carolina Encyclopedia, University of South Carolina Press, 2006, pp. 230-234, ISBN 1-57003-598-9
- South Carolina Department of Archives and History maps.
- See 2 James Lowell Underwood, The South Carolina Constitution 2–5 (1985) (describing how South Carolina’s strong legislature led to weak county government in South Carolina until 1973 because county needs were handled by county delegations to the General Assembly)
- Charlie B. Tyer, County Government in the Palmetto State, S.C. Governance Project (1999), http://www.ipspr.sc.edu/grs/SCCEP/Articles/county%20government.htm.
- Holley H. Ulbrich, Donna S. London, & Melinda A. Lucken, Local Governments and Home Rule in South Carolina 4 (2011).
- See Jon B. Pierce, Local Government, S.C. Encyclopedia (last updated April 6, 2017), https://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/local-government/ (citing S.C. Code Ann. § 4-9-25 (2020))
- S.C. Code Ann. § 4-9-25 (2020).
- Madison Guyton, Note, Bans on Bans: Plastic Bags, Power, And Home Rule In South Carolina, 71 S.C. L. Rev. 801, 807 (2020).
- S.C. Code Ann. § 6-29-330 (2020).
- "EPA County FIPS Code Listing". EPA. Retrieved April 9, 2007.
- National Association of Counties. "NACo - Find a county". Archived from the original on October 25, 2007. Retrieved April 26, 2007.
- "U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: South Carolina". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
- "History of Lancaster", Lancaster County, South Carolina Archived May 15, 2019, at the Wayback Machine
- The Newberry Library (2009). "South Carolina: Individual County Chronologies, South Carolina Atlas of Historical County Boundaries". publications.newberry.org. Chicago, Illinois, US. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
- Landrum, John Belton O'Neall (1897) Colonial and revolutionary history of upper South Carolina: embracing for the most part the primitive and colonial history of the territory comprising the original county of Spartanburg with a general review of the entire military operations in the upper portion of South Carolina and portions of North Carolina Shannon and Company, Greenville, South Carolina, OCLC 3492548
- Information on County Formation timeline
- Complete South Carolina County Guide
- Map of former parishes of South Carolina South Carolina Department of Archives and History