Group of mill workers seated for portrait

Biggest cities in South Carolina 150 years ago

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May 23, 2022
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Biggest cities in South Carolina 150 years ago

After the completion of the 1860 census and the election of President Abraham Lincoln, America imploded. Eleven southern states seceded from the Union in 1861, instigating four bloody years of the Civil War and fundamentally altering the social history of the U.S. The estimates of deaths caused by the Civil War begin around 600,000, but some claim as many as 750,000 individuals died throughout the conflict.

With so many families looking for a new start after combat finally ended and approximately 4 million Black Americans emancipated from slavery, it was time for many Americans to look for a new home to put down roots. The obvious choice for many was to move west, where there was more land to buy, settle, and cultivate. Many traveled by covered wagon, spending months on the dusty trail. Others who could afford better accommodations took a 25-day ride by stagecoach. All of them picked new cities and towns to make their homes, spreading the U.S. population more evenly across different states and territories.

On May 10, 1869, the first transcontinental railroad route across the United States was completed, ushering in a new era of transportation. The project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget, though with the loss of many lives, including those of the many Irish and Chinese immigrants hired to work 12-hour days in the hot western sun. Riding by steam engine, passengers could cross the entire country in four days, enabling waves of Americans and immigrants to quickly occupy land that would otherwise take months to settle.

The years of Civil War reconstruction, coupled with wagon, stagecoach, and railroad passengers finding new lives across the U.S., made the urban development reflected in the 1870 census incredibly interesting. Stacker compiled a list of the biggest cities in South Carolina from 150 years ago using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. By transcribing Table XXV of the Ninth Census of the U.S., which was previously only available as a PDF, it's easy to explore what the urban landscape looked like less than a decade after the end of the Civil War as America healed and grew.

The largest city in South Carolina ranked #26 among all cities nationwide in 1870. Of the 100 largest cities in the U.S., 1 was in South Carolina. Keep reading to find out more about the historic metropolitan landscape in your home state or check out the data on your own on our site, GitHub, or data.world.

You may also like: Counties with the highest rate of food insecurity in South Carolina

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The Montifraulo Collection // Getty Images

#25. Hilton Head, Beaufort County

- Total population: 3,073 (#1,403 nationwide)
--- Male population: 1,415
--- Female population: 1,658
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 865
Town street with buildings
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Detroit Publishing Company // Library of Congress

#24. St. Stephen's, Charleston County

- Total population: 3,094 (#1,383 nationwide)
--- Male population: 1,522
--- Female population: 1,572
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,049
People gathered in general store
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Detroit Publishing Company // Library of Congress

#23. Baton Rouge, Chester County

- Total population: 3,098 (#1,372 nationwide)
--- Male population: 1,516
--- Female population: 1,582
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,089
Street scene with general store
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Library of Congress

#22. Pickensville, Pickens County

- Total population: 3,164 (#1,318 nationwide)
--- Male population: 1,525
--- Female population: 1,639
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,110
Men and boys stand in front of a wagon shop
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Andreas Larsen Dahl/Wisconsin Historical Society // Getty Images

#21. Verdiere, Colleton County

- Total population: 3,176 (#1,308 nationwide)
--- Male population: 1,497
--- Female population: 1,679
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,036
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Carson Brothers/Buyenlarge // Getty Images

#20. Gregg, Edgefield County

- Total population: 3,200 (#1,289 nationwide)
--- Male population: 1,430
--- Female population: 1,770
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,053
Horse drawn milk wagon in front of stores
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Camerique/ClassicStock // Getty Images

#19. York, York County

- Total population: 3,200 (#1,290 nationwide)
--- Male population: 1,532
--- Female population: 1,668
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,098
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Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis via Getty Images

#18. St. Andrew's, Charleston County

- Total population: 3,277 (#1,236 nationwide)
--- Male population: 1,687
--- Female population: 1,590
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 744
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#17. Beech Spring, Spartanburg County

- Total population: 3,280 (#1,232 nationwide)
--- Male population: 1,528
--- Female population: 1,752
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,188
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Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis via Getty Images

#16. Georgetown, Georgetown County

- Total population: 3,520 (#1,054 nationwide)
--- Male population: 1,644
--- Female population: 1,876
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,081
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Alexander Alland, Sr./Corbis via Getty Images

#15. Wateree, Kershaw County

- Total population: 3,657 (#970 nationwide)
--- Male population: 1,763
--- Female population: 1,894
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,237
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Carleton E. Watkins/Bettmann Archive via Getty Images

#14. Sumter, Sumter County

- Total population: 3,659 (#969 nationwide)
--- Male population: 1,704
--- Female population: 1,955
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,143
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#13. Flat Rock, Kershaw County

- Total population: 3,755 (#905 nationwide)
--- Male population: 1,840
--- Female population: 1,915
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,396
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Camerique/ClassicStock // Getty Images

#12. St. George's Parish, Colleton County

- Total population: 3,993 (#817 nationwide)
--- Male population: 2,004
--- Female population: 1,989
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,426
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#11. Laurens, Laurens County

- Total population: 4,289 (#710 nationwide)
--- Male population: 2,042
--- Female population: 2,247
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,461
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Detroit Publishing Company // Library of Congress

#10. Waccamaw, Georgetown County

- Total population: 4,310 (#706 nationwide)
--- Male population: 2,062
--- Female population: 2,248
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,333
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#9. Christ Church, Charleston County

- Total population: 4,493 (#650 nationwide)
--- Male population: 2,150
--- Female population: 2,343
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,433
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Underwood Archives // Getty Images

#8. St. Paul's Parish, Colleton County

- Total population: 4,656 (#598 nationwide)
--- Male population: 2,343
--- Female population: 2,313
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,253
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Bettmann // Getty Images

#7. Beaufort, Beaufort County

- Total population: 5,511 (#443 nationwide)
--- Male population: 2,617
--- Female population: 2,894
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 1,421
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Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis via Getty Images

#6. St. Helena, Beaufort County

- Total population: 6,152 (#367 nationwide)
--- Male population: 3,116
--- Female population: 3,036
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 2,028
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Transcendental Graphics // Getty Images

#5. St. James, Goose Creek, Charleston County

- Total population: 7,795 (#260 nationwide)
--- Male population: 4,012
--- Female population: 3,783
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 2,720
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Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis via Getty Images

#4. St. John's, Berkley, Charleston County

- Total population: 7,868 (#257 nationwide)
--- Male population: 3,809
--- Female population: 4,059
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 2,335
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Chicago History Museum // Getty Images

#3. St. John's, Colleton, Charleston County

- Total population: 8,604 (#232 nationwide)
--- Male population: 4,211
--- Female population: 4,393
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 2,316
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H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock // Getty Images

#2. Columbia, Richland County

- Total population: 9,298 (#210 nationwide)
--- Male population: 4,577
--- Female population: 4,721
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 2,540
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

#1. Charleston, Charleston County

- Total population: 48,956 (#26 nationwide)
--- Male population: 22,375
--- Female population: 26,581
--- Child population, ages 5-18: 14,243

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