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Barnwell, South Carolina
Location of Barnwell, South Carolina
Location of Barnwell, South Carolina
Country United States
State South Carolina
County Barnwell
 • Total 8.0 sq mi (20.7 km2)
 • Land 7.8 sq mi (20.3 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.4 km2)
217 ft (66 m)
 • Total 4,750
 • Density 605/sq mi (233.6/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 803
FIPS code 45-04060
GNIS feature ID 1244965

Barnwell is a city in Barnwell County, South Carolina, United States, located along U.S. Route 278. The population was 4,750 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Barnwell County.


Barnwell is located east of the center of Barnwell County at 33°14′40″N 81°21′48″W / 33.24444°N 81.36333°W / 33.24444; -81.36333 (33.244534, -81.363214). Turkey Creek, a tributary of the Salkehatchie River, runs through the city just west of the downtown, and includes a small impoundment known as Lake Brown in the north part of the city.

U.S. Route 278 passes through the city, leading south 17 miles (27 km) to Allendale and northwest 42 miles (68 km) to Augusta, Georgia. State highways 3, 70, 64 also pass through the city; SC 64 leads west 6 miles (10 km) to the east entrance of the Savannah River Site, which is a nuclear reservation.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Barnwell has a total area of 8.0 square miles (20.7 km2), of which 7.8 square miles (20.3 km2) is land and 0.15 square miles (0.4 km2), or 1.86%, is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 648
1890 937 44.6%
1900 1,329 41.8%
1910 1,324 −0.4%
1920 1,903 43.7%
1930 1,834 −3.6%
1940 1,922 4.8%
1950 2,005 4.3%
1960 4,568 127.8%
1970 4,439 −2.8%
1980 5,572 25.5%
1990 5,255 −5.7%
2000 5,035 −4.2%
2010 4,750 −5.7%
Est. 2015 4,592 −3.3%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 5,035 people, 2,035 households, and 1,353 families residing in the city. The population density was 659.5 people per square mile (254.8/km²). There were 2,304 housing units at an average density of 301.8 per square mile (116.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 49.81% White, 47.37% Black, 1.05% Asian, 0.40% Native American, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.34% from other races, and 0.99% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.62% of the population.

There were 2,035 households out of which 34.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.2% were married couples living together, 22.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.5% were non-families. 30.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 3.01.

In the city, the population was spread out with 28.4% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 27.6% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 14.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 86.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $26,722, and the median income for a family was $37,841. Males had a median income of $35,039 versus $21,912 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,709. placing it in the top third of the state. About 20.4% of families and 22.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.5% of those under age 18 and 16.7% of those age 65 or over.


In 1785 the district of Winton County was formed out of Orangeburg District in order to create another judicial circuit. It was given its current name in 1798 when the county and its seat were named for Revolutionary War leader John Barnwell (1748–1800), who headed a militia in South Carolina. Barnwell County originally stretched from the Savannah River on the west almost to the Atlantic Ocean.

Built in 1832, the South Carolina Railroad connected Charleston to Hamburg, near Augusta, Georgia, on the Savannah River. The railroad, which went through the middle of the county, was the first steam railroad in the world. Two stops on the railroad created the towns of Blackville and Williston in the mid-nineteenth century.

Civil War

Barnwell gave generously to the Confederate cause; the most distinguished person was General Johnson Hagood, who was later governor of South Carolina. Soon after Hagood's election, one of his constituents asked him if he wished to be called "General" or "Governor". "Call me General," Hagood said, "I fought for that and begged for the other."

Barnwell was hated by Union General W.T. Sherman; he felt that the town should be burned to the ground since it carried the name of one of the most prominent politicians who had demanded South Carolina's withdrawal from the Union. When Union General Judson Kilpatrick was in Barnwell, his horses were stabled in the Episcopal Church of the Holy Apostles; the baptismal font in the church was used to water the horses.

20th century

Barnwell Army Airfield was built by the United States Army Air Forces and opened in May 1943. It was a satellite airfield of Columbia Army Air Base, supporting B-25 Mitchell medium bomber training for Third Air Force III Air Support Command. After the war it became Barnwell Regional Airport.

In 1950 the federal government asked DuPont to build and operate a plutonium production plant near the Savannah River in South Carolina. The company had unmatched expertise in atomic energy, having designed and built the plutonium production complex at the Hanford Site for the Manhattan Project during World War II. A large portion of farmland was bought under eminent domain and converted to the Savannah River Plant, managed by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

Several towns and over 100 cemeteries were relocated during this time, including Dunbarton and Ellenton. Dunbarton was the town in which Duncannon was located; it was an early 19th-century plantation and a wildlife preserve. Former President George H. W. Bush and his brothers used to visit their grandfather George Herbert Walker at the plantation.

U.S. Army soldiers were brought into the county and were used as guards at this new facility. A camp was constructed for the soldiers off Clinton Street, earning it the name "Barracks Road" among locals, in an area of the Little Salkehatchie swamp called O'Bannon Point. After discharge, many of these troops stayed on at SRP as civilian guards.

DuPont ran the Savannah River Site until 1989, when Westinghouse began the management of the facilities for the Department of Energy. The Savannah River Plant changed its name to the Savannah River Site. It was once one of the largest employers in the county.

The Banksia Hall, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Church of the Holy Apostles Rectory, Church of the Holy Apostles, Episcopal, and Old Presbyterian Church are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Historical landmarks

The Episcopal Church of the Holy Apostles and its rectory, as well as the Bethlehem Baptist Church and the Old Presbyterian Church were first listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s. The chapel of Saint Andrew's Catholic Church is the earliest religious structure in Barnwell County. It is also the oldest originally Catholic church in South Carolina.

The sundial is a unique vertical monument placed in front of the courthouse of Barnwell County. It is thought to be the only vertical freestanding sundial in the United States, though counter-examples exist. It was given to Barnwell in 1858 by Joseph D. Allen, at the time a state senator from Barnwell. The sundial was surrounded by a parking lot in the 1960s, but in the 1990s the city removed the parking lot, built a park, and made the sundial a focal point.

Bethlehem Baptist Church was officially organized in 1868, having its origin in the antebellum Barnwell Baptist Church, which was built on this site in 1829. The Barnwell Baptist Church had their services on this site until 1854 when the congregation built another church building on a different site in the town. At this time several free blacks and slaves were members of Barnwell Baptist Church, and they asked to use the 1829 sanctuary for worship services and meetings. Permission was granted to the group, and they met there informally until their official organization in 1868. The old Barnwell Baptist Church sanctuary continued to serve this newly organized church until the building was demolished in 1898. At the time it was demolished some of the material was salvaged and utilized in the present Bethlehem Baptist Church building.


The climate in this area is characterized by relatively high temperatures and evenly distributed precipitation throughout the year. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Barnwell has a Humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.

Climate data for Barnwell, South Carolina
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 14.4
76d 18.9
Average low °C (°F) 3.9
Precipitation mm (inches) 94
Source: Weatherbase


The county was home to the Barnwell Ring, a group of powerful state politicians. Included were state Senator Edgar A. Brown (1888–1975), Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives Solomon Blatt, Sr. (1895–1986), and Governor Joseph E. Harley (1880–1942). Other state and national politicians from Barnwell include:

  • James Aldrich, state representative and judge during the 19th and early 20th century
  • James O'Hanlon Patterson (1857–1911), congressman from South Carolina
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