Oconee County, South Carolina

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Oconee County, South Carolina
Oconee County Courthouse.jpg
Oconee County Courthouse, Walhalla
Seal of Oconee County, South Carolina
Map of South Carolina highlighting Oconee County
Location in the U.S. state of South Carolina
Map of the United States highlighting South Carolina
South Carolina's location in the U.S.
Founded 1868
Seat Walhalla
Largest city Seneca
 • Total 674 sq mi (1,746 km2)
 • Land 626 sq mi (1,621 km2)
 • Water 47 sq mi (122 km2), 7.0%
 • (2010) 74,273
 • Density 119/sq mi (46/km²)
Congressional district 3rd
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Website www.oconeesc.com

Oconee County is the westernmost county in the U.S. state of South Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 74,273.[1] Its county seat is Walhalla.[2]

Oconee County is included in the Seneca, SC Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson, SC Combined Statistical Area.

South Carolina Highway 11, the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway, begins in southern Oconee County at Interstate Highway 85 at the Georgia state line.


Oconee County takes its name from the Cherokee word "Ae-quo-nee" meaning "land beside the water." Oconee was a local Cherokee town that was situated on the main British/Cherokee trading path between Charleston and the Mississippi River in the early 18th century. Its geographic position later placed it at the intersection of the trading path and the Cherokee treaty boundary of 1777. In 1792, a frontier outpost was built by the SC State Militia near the town site and was named Oconee Station. When Oconee County was created out of the Pickens District in 1868 it was named for Oconee Town.

  • 1780s - The rare wildflower, Oconee Bell, first recorded by André Michaux.
  • 1780s - After the American Revolutionary War, Colonel Benjamin Cleveland and a group of followers received land grants from Georgia and settled in present day Oconee County.
  • 1787 - Georgia withdrew its claims to the land between the Tugaloo and Keowee River by the Treaty of Beaufort to South Carolina.
  • 1816 - Cherokee sold their remaining South Carolina land.
  • 1850s - The largest town was Tunnel Hill, located above Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel.
  • 1868 - Oconee County was formed when Pickens County was divided. Walhalla was made the county seat.
  • 1870 - Air line Railroad built a railroad through the county which helped to form Seneca and Westminster
  • 1893 - Newry was established as mill village to house workers of the Courtenay Manufacturing Company.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 674 square miles (1,750 km2), of which 626 square miles (1,620 km2) is land and 47 square miles (120 km2) (7.0%) is water.[3] The hilly landscape has created a haven for man-made lakes. Three large man-made lakes provide residents with sport fishing, water skiing, and sailing as well as hydroelectric power. The largest lake is Lake Hartwell, built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1955 and 1963. Lake Keowee is the second largest lake and the Oconee Nuclear Station operates by the lake. Lake Jocassee is the third largest and is a source of hydroelectric energy, but is also popular for its breathtaking scenery and numerous waterfalls. Bad Creek Reservoir, located in the mountains above Jocassee, is for generating electricity during peak hours. The water level can fall by tens of feet per hour and during off-peak times water is pumped back into the lake for the next peak period. Because of this, boating and swimming are prohibited in the reservoir.

Oconee County is in the Savannah River basin.

Adjacent counties

National protected area


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 10,536
1880 16,256 54.3%
1890 18,687 15.0%
1900 23,634 26.5%
1910 27,337 15.7%
1920 30,117 10.2%
1930 33,368 10.8%
1940 36,512 9.4%
1950 39,050 7.0%
1960 40,204 3.0%
1970 40,728 1.3%
1980 48,611 19.4%
1990 57,494 18.3%
2000 66,215 15.2%
2010 74,273 12.2%
Est. 2014 75,192 [4] 1.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[5]
1790-1960[6] 1900-1990[7]
1990-2000[8] 2010-2013[1]

As of the census[9] of 2000, there were 66,215 people, 27,283 households, and 19,589 families residing in the county. The population density was 106 people per square mile (41/km²). There were 32,383 housing units at an average density of 52 per square mile (20/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 89.14% White, 8.38% Black or African American, 0.22% Native American, 0.35% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.06% from other races, and 0.82% from two or more races. 2.36% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 26.5% were of American, 13.1% Irish, 11.9% German and 10.5% English ancestry according to Census 2000.

There were 27,283 households out of which 28.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.80% were married couples living together, 10.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.20% were non-families. 24.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.50% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 2.85.

In the county, the population was spread out with 22.90% under the age of 18, 8.00% from 18 to 24, 27.40% from 25 to 44, 26.20% from 45 to 64, and 15.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 96.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.50 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $36,666, and the median income for a family was $43,047. Males had a median income of $31,032 versus $22,156 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,965. About 7.60% of families and 10.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.00% of those under age 18 and 12.90% of those age 65 or over.




Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

In popular culture

The Oconee region is mentioned in the song "Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)" by the indie rock group the Decemberists, on their 2006 album The Crane Wife. The reference is "When I was a girl how the hills of Oconee made a seam to hem me in."

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 25, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved March 18, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 18, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved March 18, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 18, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved March 18, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-05-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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