Branchville in Orangeburg County, South Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
The first settlement of the town of Branchville was 1735 about one mile southeast of the present town. Almost 100 years later, the present town grew from 170 acres of land purchased from the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company. It was located about halfway between Charleston and Hamburg (North Augusta, South Carolina).
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America's First Commercial Railroad
America began operations on its first railroad on Christmas Day, 1830, when the Best Friend of Charleston speeded along, as some passengers described "on the wings of the wind at a speed of 20 miles per hour, annihilating both time and space and leaving all the world behind." Construction of the railroad began in 1829 just outside of Charleston, South Carolina, and in 1833 it was completed to Hamburg. The distance was 136 miles and at the time was the longest railroad in the world and twice as long as any in the United States. The railroad branched out from Branchville to Orangeburg in 1840 and became the first Railroad junction in the world.
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Changes in Branchville
The Depot was built in 1877 and in 1910 the sheds and waiting room were added. The dining room was the first Passenger Dining Room where trains would stop for breakfast and dinner. It claims the distinction of having had three former U.S. Presidents dine there; President William McKinley, President Theodore Roosevelt and President Howard Taft. The Southern Railway Passenger Depot stands today as a symbol of Branchville's rich railroad history and contains Branchville's Railroad Shrine and Museum.
Erected by State of South Carolina Heritage Corridor.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Landmarks • Notable Buildings • Notable Places • Railroads & StreetcarsFormer U.S. Presidents: #25 William McKinley, the Former U.S. Presidents: #26 Theodore Roosevelt, the Former U.S. Presidents: #27 William Howard Taft, and the South Carolina Heritage Corridor series lists.
Location. 33° 15.081′ N, 80° 48.935′ W. Marker is in Branchville, South Carolina, in Orangeburg County. Marker is at the intersection of Freedom Blvd. (US 21) and Freedom Rd. (US 21), on the right when traveling north on Freedom Blvd. (US 21). Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Branchville SC 29432, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 10 other markers are within 13 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Orangeburg County (here, next to this marker); South Carolina Canal & Rail Road Company (within shouting distance of this marker); Woodlands (approx. 8½ miles away); Bowman Rosenwald School (approx. 9.8 miles away); Bowman S.C. (approx. 10.2 miles away); Bowman War Memorial (approx. 10.2 miles away); Captain Richard A Morris (approx. 10.2 miles away); Green Pond United Methodist Church (approx. 11.6 Appleby's Methodist Church (approx. 12.4 miles away); Badham House / Dorchester Lumber Company (approx. 12.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Branchville.
Also see . . .
1. Branchville, SC Railroad Station. The oldest railroad junction in the world. Site photos (Submitted on February 28, 2009, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina.)
2. Southern Railway Passenger Depot. The depot at Branchville is the site of the oldest railroad junction in the United States. (Submitted on February 5, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.)
3. South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company. Chartered in 1827, the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company ran scheduled steam service over its 136-mile (219 km) line from Charleston, SC to Hamburg, SC beginning in 1833. (Submitted on February 6, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.)
4. Best Friend of Charleston. In the 1820's, the bustling seaport of Charleston experienced an alarming economic recession as settlements expanded inland and westward. (Submitted on February 6, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.)
5. Branchville, South Carolina. Branchville is located in Orangeburg County, South Carolina. (Submitted on February 6, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.)
6. Branchville, South Carolina. Branchville is a town in Orangeburg County, South Carolina, United States. (Submitted on February 6, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.)
7. Hamburg, Aiken County, South Carolina. The dead town of Hamburg, South Carolina, was once a thriving upriver market located in Edgefield District (now Aiken County). (Submitted on February 6, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.)
8. Raylrode Daze Festivul. Branchville is the home of the World's Oldest Railroad Junction and we celebrate it each September by presenting the Raylrode Daze Festivul. (Submitted on February 6, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.)
1. Southern Railway Passenger Depot
Exterior: The one story building is constructed of brick with a stucco finish. 6/6 double sash windows are placed around the structure, and belt coursing is evident. Roof is hipped and covered with painted tin. The structure has three chimneys; one extends from the dining room area and the others from the front waiting rooms. A breezeway separates the waiting room and the ticket office from the dining room. The covered walkways for the passenger and baggage departure areas have been removed in recent times
Interior: Wooden floors exist throughout the depot except for the bathrooms and kitchen floors which are made of concrete. There are five main rooms, three rest rooms, one storage room, and a breezeway which separates the front and rear portion of the building. The dining room and kitchen area have been restored to reflect the mood of the 1870s and 180s, while the telegraph room is much the same as it was originally.
The front waiting area is filled with antique railroad relics and posters. It also contains a large scale model of the "Best Friend" -- "the first American-built locomotive for actual railroad service". The original "Best Friend" used the Branchville depot on its run from Charleston to Hamburg. The middle waiting room contains a model of the original depot as well as models dealing with the history of railroading. A small gift shop is also located in this room.
The Southern Railway Depot, located in Branchville, S.C., holds a significant position in the railroad history of the United States. This depot played an important role in both the development of commerce and transportation in South Carolina during the 19th century, and it also served the state during the Civil War. The history of
Commerce: The primary purpose of the railroad was to bring more trade to the seaport of Charleston. From 1820-1830 Charleston had experienced an economic decline, and a means to secure trade from the upper Savannah was desperately needed. The establishment of the railroad made this possible as railway shipping provided a more efficient route for inland towns to send their cotton and farm products to market.
Military: Confederate soldiers coming from Charleston used these rail lines in l865. During Sherman's march through South Carolina, Union troops were diverted from the Branchville area upon learning of the presence of a battery nearby. This prevented the destruction of the road bed and other structures in the area. Much of the trench work and part of the battery are still in existence.
Political: President-elect Howard Taft came through Branchville in 1909. He delivered a speech at the Branchville railroad depot from the observation car of his train.
Social/Humanitarian: Branchville has an annual festival in honor of the town's history called Raylrode-Daze. As a main feature of the celebration, townspeople dress in costumes of the late 19th century. The fact that tourist interest in the area has increased is evidenced by the thousands of people
Transportation: In 1832 the railroad line from Charleston to Branchville was completed. It was opened to Hamburg in 1833 and became the longest line then in existence as well as being almost twice as long as any in America. In 1840 the line extended from Branchville to Orangeburg, South Carolina, thus establishing Branchville as the oldest railroad junction in the United States. (Source: National Register nomination form.)
— Submitted February 6, 2010, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.
Credits. This page was last revised on September 17, 2020. It was originally submitted on February 28, 2009, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina. This page has been viewed 1,211 times since then and 53 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. submitted on February 28, 2009, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina. 13, 14. submitted on May 2, 2011, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina. 15. submitted on February 28, 2009, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina. 16. submitted on May 2, 2011, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.