Hampton County was created on February 18, 1878 by an act of the South Carolina General Assembly that cut away the northern portion of Beaufort County creating the 33rd county of the state’s 46 counties. The county was named for statesman and soldier, General Wade Hampton, III, who was elected governor of South Carolina in 1876.
Shortly after, Miles B. McSweeney founded The Hampton County Guardian newspaper in 1879 before going on to become the only county resident ever to serve as Governor of South Carolina.
On 1769 maps, Beaufort District was subdivided into three parishes: St. Peter’s, St. Luke’s and Prince William’s. Most of Prince William’s Parish is now Hampton County. Another name for the northern part of Beaufort was Lincoln County, which eventually became Hampton County.
In 1868 the county seat of Beaufort County was relocated from Gillisonville, which was near the center, to the Town of Beaufort. This created greater distances for many of the county residents to travel in order to conduct county business thus creating a hardship. The State Legislature was petitioned to allow a new county to be formed, giving birth to Hampton County
Since these citizens were breaking away for the purpose of having their own courthouse, it was important to seat the new government in a place convenient to all. Voters chose the geographic center of the new county, but when it was surveyed, the center was found to be a large cypress pond surrounded by swamp. In a second referendum, Varnville won the county seat race and commissioners determined the new courthouse could be situated within two miles of the town that won the referendum. The center of the courthouse was placed exactly two miles from the Varnville Depot. The well-worn brass top of the surveyor’s benchmark may still be seen in the center of the main corridor in the Hampton County Courthouse. Officially identified as the Town of Hampton Courthouse, the town was incorporated December 23, 1879 as Town of Hampton.
In 1912, a strip of Beaufort County and a southwestern slice of Hampton County were joined to form Jasper County. In 1919, Hampton County was again reduced in size when the northernmost tip was cut off and added to a piece of southern Barnwell County to form Allendale County
Today’s Hampton County was originally mapped as “Indian Lands.” Yamasee and Creek Indians, migrating from Florida, and others had trading posts, trails, burial grounds and ceremonial grounds throughout the pinewoods and swamplands. Numerous Indian names remain: Salkehatchie, Coosawhatchie, Huspah, Caw Caw and Combahee.
Hampton County did not escape the ravages of war, its lands seeing action in the Yamasee War, Revolutionary War and Civil War. General William T. Sherman’s Union troops cut a three-pronged swath of destruction through Hampton County on his march from Savannah, Georgia to Columbia, South Carolina.