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Cherokee County, South Carolina facts for kids

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Cherokee County, South Carolina
Map of South Carolina highlighting Cherokee County
Location in the state of South Carolina
Map of the USA highlighting South Carolina
South Carolina's location in the U.S.
Founded 1897
Seat Gaffney
Largest City Gaffney
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

397 sq mi (1,028 km²)
393 sq mi (1,018 km²)
4.5 sq mi (12 km²), 1.1%
 - (2015)
 - Density

141/sq mi (54/km²)
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4

Cherokee County is a county located in the U.S. state of South Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 55,342. The county seat is Gaffney. The county was formed in 1897 from parts of York, Union, and Spartanburg Counties. It was named for the Cherokee people who historically occupied this area prior to European encounter.

Cherokee County comprises the Gaffney, SC Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson, SC Combined Statistical Area.


This area was occupied for thousands of years by indigenous peoples and by the historic Cherokee people before European encounter.

When European traders and settlers entered the area, they used the existing Native American paths: called collectively the Trading Path. The Upper Road and Lower Cherokee Traders Path were paths that passed through the piedmont. The former connected to Fredericksburg, Virginia, leading from the Virginia Tidewater into the Piedmont and to the South. The Lower Cherokee Traders Path especially connected areas in present-day western North Carolina, northern South Carolina and northeastern Georgia. In the mid-18th century, waves of British migrants and immigrants, an estimated 250,000 people, traveled by these paths into Cherokee and neighboring counties in the piedmont. This backcountry area was initially settled especially by immigrant Ulster Scots people, Germans and Anglo-Americans migrating into the area.

In later years, some plantations were developed and African-American slaves were brought into the area as labor.

The Battle of Cowpens, a decisive engagement of the American Revolution's southern theatre, was fought on January 17, 1781, in northwestern Cherokee County, north of the town of Cowpens.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 397 square miles (1,030 km2), of which 393 square miles (1,020 km2) is land and 4.5 square miles (12 km2) (1.1%) is water. It is the third-smallest county in South Carolina by land area and fourth-smallest by total area.

Mountain peaks

  • Draytonville Mountain
  • Brown's Mountain
  • Thicketty Mountain
  • Whitaker Mountain

Draytonville Mountain is known to locals as McKown's Mountain, named for a farmer who owned much of the land in that area.

Adjacent counties

National protected area

  • Cowpens National Battlefield
  • Kings Mountain National Military Park (part)


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 21,359
1910 26,179 22.6%
1920 27,570 5.3%
1930 32,201 16.8%
1940 33,290 3.4%
1950 34,992 5.1%
1960 35,205 0.6%
1970 36,791 4.5%
1980 40,983 11.4%
1990 44,506 8.6%
2000 52,537 18.0%
2010 55,342 5.3%
Est. 2015 56,194 1.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2013

2000 census

As of the census of 2000, there were 52,537 people, 20,495 households, and 14,612 families residing in the county. The population density was 134 people per square mile (52/km²). There were 22,400 housing units at an average density of 57 per square mile (22/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 46.92% White, 40.56% Black or African American, 10.20% Native American, 0.31% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.16% from other races, and 0.84% from two or more races. 2.08% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 39.1% were of "American", 6.8% Irish, 5.8% English and 5.6% German ancestry according to Census 2000. Most of those claiming "American" ancestry are of Scots-Irish and/or English descent, but have family who have been in the country for so long, that they no longer differentiate such national origins and choose to identify simply as "American".

There were 20,495 households out of which 32.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.30% were married couples living together, 15.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.70% were non-families. 25.00% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.01.

In the county, the population was spread out with 25.80% under the age of 18, 9.00% from 18 to 24, 29.60% from 25 to 44, 23.20% from 45 to 64, and 12.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 93.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.70 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $33,787, and the median income for a family was $39,393. Males had a median income of $30,984 versus $21,298 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,421. About 11.00% of families and 23.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.90% of those under age 18 and 15.20% of those age 65 or over.

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 55,342 people, 21,519 households, and 14,941 families residing in the county. The population density was 140.9 inhabitants per square mile (54.4/km2). There were 23,997 housing units at an average density of 61.1 per square mile (23.6/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 75.0% white, 20.4% black or African American, 0.6% Asian, 0.4% American Indian, 2.2% from other races, and 1.4% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 3.7% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 14.7% were American, 9.7% were Irish, 6.6% were English, and 6.5% were German.

Of the 21,519 households, 35.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.2% were married couples living together, 17.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 30.6% were non-families, and 25.8% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was 3.03. The median age was 38.3 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $34,132 and the median income for a family was $46,164. Males had a median income of $39,048 versus $27,390 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,862. About 14.3% of families and 19.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.5% of those under age 18 and 11.0% of those age 65 or over.


The lifeline of Cherokee County, I-85, runs through the city limits of Gaffney. It carries traffic and trade contributing to the business development along Floyd Baker Blvd, the county's main thoroughfare, which bisects I-85. Much of the county's growth occurs along I-85.

The county is also served by US 29, which preceded I-85 and today is mostly used for local traffic. The major road in the downtown area of Gaffney was made part of US 29. Several of the major South Carolina highways that serve the county are: SC Highway 11, SC Highway 150, SC Highway 105, SC Highway 18 serve the Gaffney area. SC Highway 5 serves the Blacksburg area.

With no airports of its own, Cherokee County is served by Charlotte/Douglas International Airport and Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. A study to determine the feasibility of building an airport in the county revealed that an airport is desperately needed by businesses. Previous studies have determined the structure of the airport and possible airport sites have been narrowed down to two sites - one located just south of Gaffney and one located outside of Blacksburg. A major economic feasibility study is now being conducted, as required for funding by the federal government. If the airport is economically viable, the government could contribute 95% of the funds needed to construct the airport, if the project is authorized by Congress. If the study fails, then no federal funding will be provided.

Nuclear power plant

In 2002, the President George W. Bush administration initiated the Nuclear Power 2010 Program, to encourage development of nuclear power plants to meet energy needs. The program developed streamlining of approval processes for licensing and had subsidies. Additional incentives were authorized under the Nuclear Power Act of 2005.

On March 16, 2006 Duke Power announced that a Cherokee County site had been selected for a potential new nuclear power plant, to be called the William States Lee III Nuclear Generating Station, informally known as Lee Station. The site is jointly owned by Duke Power and Southern Company. Duke plans to develop the site for two Westinghouse Electric Company AP1000 (advanced passive) pressurized water reactors. Each reactor is capable of producing approximately 1,117 megawatts. (See Nuclear Power 2010 Program.)

On December 14, 2007 Duke Power submitted a Combined Construction and Operating License to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with an announcement that it will spend $160 million in 2008 on the plant with a total cost of 5-6 billion dollars. Due to a slowdown in licensing and increase in costs, a federal license for what is estimated to be an $11 billion plant is not expected until 2016. Duke Energy will decide after that point whether to go forward with construction.

This site will be adjacent to the old Cherokee Nuclear Power Plant site, which was never completed and ultimately abandoned. It was used by James Cameron as a set for the 1989 film The Abyss.




Census-designated place

Other unincorporated communities

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