South Carolina currently has 46 counties. Counties were established in the colonial period primarily for locating land grants, with most other governmental activities being centralized in Charleston. The growth of the backcountry led to the establishment of judicial districts throughout the colony, but lowcountry areas continued to be identified primarily by their Anglican parish names. Following the Revolution, both district and county courts were established, but in 1800 most of the counties became districts. Finally, in 1868 all of the existing districts were renamed counties. New counties continued to be formed until the early part of the 20th century, with the most recent being Allendale in 1919. For maps and information on early counties and districts, see Maps Tracing the Formation of Counties in South Carolina.
For most of the state's history, county officers had very little power or authority. Counties were essentially governed by their state legislative delegations. This system ended in 1975 when the Home Rule Act was passed. Each county now has a choice of one of four types of government. In the council form of government all executive and legislative power rests in the elected county council, while the council-supervisor form provides for an elected council and an elected supervisor with specified powers and duties. In both the council-administrator and council-manager forms the administrator or manager is appointed by the council.
The county histories were compiled by Mary L. Morgan from various published sources and from unpublished materials in the South Carolina State Library vertical file. The main published sources used were South Carolina: the WPA Guide to the Palmetto State (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1988), South Carolina Highway Marker Guide (Columbia, SC: South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1992), Formation of Counties in South Carolina by Michael E. Stauffer (Columbia, SC: South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1994), and Battles, Skirmishes, and Actions of the American Revolution in South Carolina by Terry W. Lipscomb (Columbia, SC: South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1991).