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“B” is for Barnwell County

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“B” is for Barnwell County (548 square miles; 2020 population 20,589). Barnwell District, now Barnwell County, was created in 1798 from the area formerly known as Winton County. Located at the southwestern edge of South Carolina, the district originally encompassed 1,440 square miles but lost most of its territory to the creation of Aiken, Bamberg, and Allendale Counties. The district was named for a colonial military hero, John Barnwell. For its first 150 years, the county’s economy had an agricultural base. In 1950 with the creation of the Savannah River Site, the western third of the county, including most of its frontage on the Savannah River, was taken over by the federal facility. For much of the twentieth century Barnwell County was known for its powerful political leaders, which critics dubbed the “Barnwell Ring.”

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.