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Orangeburg County, South Carolina
Branchville, located in the extreme southeastern tip of Orangeburg County, is one of South Carolina's oldest communities and was incorporated on December 23, 1858. The center of the town is the Augusta rail road track on main Street and takes in all property within the radius of one mile of track.
The first settlement was at the branch of an old Indian trail, which leading from Charleston split at a huge oak tree, one branch of the trail led to the West toward north Augusta and the other veered north following the Edisto River towards the present City of Orangeburg. The first white settlers known came shortly after 1734. A Historical marker was placed at the site during the first Raylrode Daze Festival in 1969.
When traders began making use of the trail from Charleston to the "Branch" they would work out of that point to the West and north, bringing their goods to the junction until enough accumulated to be hauled over the trail to Charleston for sale of overseas shipment. Later the stagecoach made travel much easier and a rest stop and eating place was set up at this settlement by a Mr. Chartrand and was known as "The Branch Eating House."
No one is quite sure how the town got its name. Some say it came from the "Branch Eating House" which was moved from the first settlement to the Railroad Depot so that the passengers could have a place to eat. Also, some say that a Colonial Governor named Greenville Montague took the "ville" from his name and placed it with Branch and named the town Branchville.
Historically Branchville has always been known as a Railroad town and its claim to fame is that it is the oldest railroad junction in the world. Branchville also had the first railroad dining room and it has served three presidents. The dinning room has been completely refurnished with Victorian decor. The South Carolina Railroad Company who had run tracks from Charleston to Branchville in 1828 to give inland settlers a better access to the coast, decided to extend the tracks to Hamburg and then from Branchville to Columbia. Thereby, this makes Branchville the oldest railroad junction in the world. The first coal chute was built here in 1892. The "Best Friend," the first steam train in the South, if not in the United States, ran to Branchville.
Some 170 acres of land was purchased from a Mr. Fairey by the railroad company which proceeded to lay out the town. Present-day dwellers of Branchville say that the company used excellent foresight in its planning. Only one street in town is less than 100 feet wide. Few towns or cities can lay claim to such a distinction.
Several years ago Mr. W. Graham Claytor, President of the Southern Railroad System, donated the old passenger depot to the Town of Branchville to be used as a railroad shrine and museum. Branchville was not a Railroad center but it was headquarters for the railroad system for several years. All of the railroad shops were here until 1890 when they were moved to Charleston.
The first United States mail was hauled on the trains passing through Branchville and began service in 1831. This service was discontinued when the passenger trains were taken out of service. Branchville also boasts as being the first town in the State to get town delivery of mail, also was one the first towns in the State to own and operate their electric plant and telephone exchange. The electric plant was sold to the Edisto Electric Company and later to the South Carolina Electric and Gas Company. The first public school in Branchville was a two-story building built in the middle of Edward Street between maim and Ott Streets. (1983)