Formation of Calhoun County

Result of a 17 Year Effort
From: Speech by J. Skottowe Wannamaker

“In 1890, only 25 years after old St. Matthews Parish had been abolished as a political division, the citizens of this section realized that they had an ideal territory for forming a new county. Also recognizing the fact that the change to a small county would result in many advantages, efforts were made to form this county from parts of Orangeburg and Lexington counties, mainly Orangeburg. The name selected for the new county was Calhoun in honor, not only of the greatest man whom this State has ever produced, but also one of the greatest men recorded in the history of this nation. This being before the Constitutional Convention the power of forming new counties was still in the hands of the General Assembly. After a strenuous fight before this body the movement went down to defeat. It was defeated by the fight waged against it by the old county representatives.

“In 1896 the Constitution having been changed so that it would leave the formation of a new county to the people (it being required that a new county receive two-thirds of the ballots cast in the territory cut off from any old county), it was decided to make another effort to form Calhoun County. The citizens of this territory made a valiant fight; however, they were outgeneraled by the old county advocates and went down to defeat at the ballot box.

“During this campaign a barbecue was given at St. Matthews by the new county advocates and Col. Geo. Tillman was invited to deliver an address on the formation and advantages of new counties. This address was a masterpiece; it was published by the daily and weekly papers; it attracted much attention and was unanswerable. This address has doubtless contributed largely to the formation of several of the recent small counties in this State. The day of the barbecue Col. Tillman missed connections at Branchville, and the new county advocates chartered a special train at a cost of $125.00 to bring him to St. Matthews. Col. Tillman most positively refused to permit the Committee to pay for same but demanded that I, as agent of the old South Carolina Railroad at this time, refund the money to the New County Committee. He paid me the amount himself, and when I offered him a receipt for the money he placed his hand on my shoulder and said, "Young man, the only receipt I want is to have Calhoun County placed on the map of South Carolina, which will be done sooner or later. New and small counties offer many advantages, which the voters will be bound to sooner or later realize and appreciate, and new and small counties will be created. You have an ideal territory and a grand name, and your citizenship springs from fighting stock. If you lose this time just let them know that you have not started to fight, and you will live to see Calhoun County formed."

“Those words from this grand old man caused a marked impression upon me and have often rung in my ea during these years. Time has proved that lie was right.

“In March 1907. I was in the city of Orangeburg and the question of the formation of Calhoun County was brought up. An Orangeburg friend said, "Why don't you start off again as an April fool joke?"! had been giving the matter careful consideration. St. Matthews had shown marked improvements in the past few years, and the feeling between the country and town was very friendly. Other new counties had been created since we went down to defeat in 1896. After consulting several prominent citizens of this territory, as to the advisability of again taking steps to form Calhoun County we called a public meeting on May 22, 1907, and this meeting was largely attended. The call of this meeting was severely criticized by the old county papers, they taking the position that it would simply result in disturbing the politics of the old county and originated in the mind of "a crank or fanatic". As a result of this meeting it was decided to take steps at once to form this county. On May 28, 1907 at a largely attended meeting of the new county advocates a complete organization was affected, bylaws arid constitution adopted and officers elected. Mr. Ed Wimberly was elected president, in which capacity he served nobly until his death. (Mr. Wimberly, one of the best merchants of Central South Carolina, gave his full energies to the cause. While traveling in an open buggy working for the proposed county in its upper section, he was drenched in a rain storm and developing pneumonia, died June 19,1907.) At this meeting Dr. T. H. Dreher was elected vice-president and Mr. T. A. Amaker was elected secretary and treasurer. At the death of Mr. Ed Wimberly, Dr. T. H. Dreher was elected president and Mr. J. E. Wannamaker, vice-president To give the names of all the officers of the Association and all those who deserve special mention of their splendid and untiring work would be impossible in the short time allowed, suffice it to say that the success of forming Calhoun County can be attributed to no one man, but the fact is that there was a united effort made, and everyone connected with the movement did everything in their power to make this movement a success.

“Our friends from the old county who had so strenuously opposed us in our previous efforts soon realized that this is not an April fool joke, but that a sleeping volcano had burst forth, and this would be the fight of their lives. And they made a desperate fight against the formation through the press, on the stump, and even in our supreme court. After one of the hottest, most bitterly contested and strenuous fights ever recorded in the history of the formation of a new county in this State, the new county of Calhoun won out in the election on Tuesday, December 17, 1907 by a record breaking majority. The vote was as follows; 603 for; 111 against.

For Against
Cameron 69 23
Advance (Now Morph Mill) 45 74
St. Matthews 214 2
Fort Motte 47 0
Lone Star 86 0
Fall Branch 95 0
Red Store, Lexington 47 12
603 111

“There is no question that the fight started by Calhoun in 1890 has not only resulted in the formation of Calhoun County, but it has also materially helped to bring about the formation of the new counties since that time, In fact Col. George Tillman's speech delivered here in 1896 has been the foundation stone for the formation of new counties, and to Col. George Tillman, more than to any other man in this State is credit due for the formation of all small counties.

“The cost for the formation of Calhoun County has been as follows; (this includes only the actual money expended, no citizen of Calhoun County who was connected with this fight making any charges for his services)

In the first effort in 1890 actual expenses incurred $500.00
In the second effort in 1896 actual expenses incurred $1,500.00
In the third effort in 1907 actual expenses incurred $8,000.00
Total Expenses: $10,000.00
Amount donated by town of St. Matthews for courthouse and jail $20,000.00
Conservative value of real estate donated for public buildings by Mr. E. F. Buyck and Mr. M. Jarecky $4,000.00
Grand Total: $34,000.00

“Not one cent of this cost has been borne by the county, this entire amount being furnished by the public spirited citizens of St. Matthews, and by the bond issue of the town of St. Matthews of $20,000.00 This fight, as you know, extended over a period of 17 years; it required pluck, patience, hard work and an indomitable spirit to win. Shep Pearlstine was one of these hard workers.”

Speech reprinted as it appeared in the Calhoun County Advance on June 5, 1913.

Calhoun County Museum & Cultural Center