Barnwell County and its county seat of Barnwell were named for Revolutionary War leader John Barnwell (1748-1800). The county was originally part of Orangeburg District, and in 1785 it was named Winton County. It was given its current name in 1800. Barnwell County has decreased in size over the years as new counties were created within its boundaries (Aiken in 1871, Bamberg in 1897 and Allendale in 1919). The South Carolina Railroad, which connected Charleston to Hamburg on the Savannah River, was built through this area, creating the towns of Blackville and Williston in the mid-nineteenth century. In more recent years the county was the home of several powerful state politicians, known collectively as the "Barnwell Ring." Included were state Senator Edgar A. Brown (1888-1975), Speaker of the House Solomon Blatt (1895-1986), and Governor Joseph E. Harley (1880-1942).
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