Cherokee Native Americans first inhabited the lands now known as Oconee County. Ultimately, the Cherokee relinquished control of the region to the United States via 1777 and 1816 treaties. However, the county chose to honor its Cherokee roots through the name Oconee, which is Cherokee for “land by the water.”
Settlement of the region began after the Revolutionary War, and most settlers came from other parts of South Carolina. Oconee County was eventually founded in 1868 with lands previously belonging to Pickens District.
The county’s economy depended on agriculture until after the Civil War. Soon after Reconstruction, an increase in the amount of railroads going through the county led to the growth of the textile industry. In recent decades, industry has continued to grow due to the creation of I-85, which connects Oconee County to Charlotte and Atlanta. The county’s economy is most dependent on manufacturing. However, the completion of the Hartwell Dam and Lake project in 1962 led to the growth of one of the county’s central economic focuses: tourism.
The outdoor recreation offered in Oconee County draws a large number of tourists every year. More than 100 waterfalls, in addition to rivers and lakes, exist in the county. Additionally, Oconee County is home to Jocasee Gorges, which is “one of only two rainforests in North America.” Visitors can camp, white-water raft, and fish among other outdoor activities.
Oconee County lies in the Northeast portion of the Upstate, below the Blue Ridge Mountains. Walhalla serves as its county seat.
About Us. Accessed June 10, 2016. http://scmountainlakes.com/about-us/
History of Oconee County. Accessed June 10, 2016. http://www.oconeesc.com/About.aspx
Oconee County Industrial Base. Accessed June 10, 2016. http://investoconeesc.com/business-industry/industry/oconee-county-industrial-base/