During the summer of 1784, several owners of large rice plantations in what is now Colleton County, South Carolina, began searching for a location for summer homes. They chose the most ideal spot in the area and named it Hickory Valley. This small summer retreat grew and eventually took the name of two of its original settlers, Paul and Jacob Walters. In 1817, the City of Walterboro became the county seat and was officially incorporated in 1826.
Much of the grace and charm of the lifestyle of these early settlers can still be found in Walterboro. The city abounds with fine examples of their architecture, including three structures which are noted in the National Register of Historic Places. Passing along the quiet, tree-lined streets of Walterboro's residential areas, you almost expect to catch glimpses of her earliest residents relaxing on the broad porches or strolling among the gardens. Ancient, moss-draped live oak trees shade the streets lined with quaint houses and churches.
The families who founded the city were deeply religious and they brought their faith with them. Many of Walterboro's loveliest structures are her churches, some dating back to the 18th century. All major Protestant denominations as well as the Catholic and Jewish faiths are represented in the community. Visitors will also be charmed by a main street almost unchanged since the 1940's.
The planters who lived in Walterboro during the summers established the first library in 1820. This historically significant building is still standing today. The city's current residents share deep-seated respect for the value of education. Walterboro's youth have ample opportunity to increase their level of education. The University of South Carolina Salkehatchie at Walterboro offers 2 year and graduate programs. There are six major colleges within 50 miles offering four-year and graduate degrees.
The climate of the area lacks the oppressive heat and humidity of the seacoast, as evidenced by the colonial planters' use of Walterboro as a summer retreat. Additionally, the southeast has no real winter. This combination provides an ideal environment. The people of Walterboro enjoy outdoor sports and activities for 12 months of the year.
The land around the city is blessed with forests and vast quantities of water, providing some of the best hunting and fishing to be found anywhere. The Walterboro-Colleton Recreation Commission offers a wide variety of activities and athletics for all members of the community. The Colleton County Arts Council promotes cultural, social, economic and educational programs in which the artistic heritage and creativity of all people may find voice.
If the families who founded Walterboro in 1784 were to return today, they would surely feel right at home. Many of them would be able to walk up the steps of their own houses. They would see the same massive, moss draped oaks that line the streets and could measure the growth of the Azaleas and Camellias that they had planted almost two hundred years ago. Seeing the vital, prosperous city that has grown from their small summer village, they would be sure that they had indeed chosen the most ideal place in which to live.