In the northwest part of South Carolina is the scenic area of Oconee County which includes Walhalla. The town of Walhalla was founded in 1850, Walhalla was a German settlement that became the seat of Oconee County. Its settlers were part of the German Colonization Society, this society was formed in Charleston by John A. Wagner, a German immigrant who was a successful businessman and newspaper editor. These settlers sought the proper land that would allow them to follow their livelihood of farming. While the society publicized what they were looking for, the group was contacted by Colonel Joseph Grisham of Pickens District, he offered to sell them an entire tract of land. On December 24, 1849, the society purchased 17,859 acres from Grisham for $27,000. The town remained mostly German until it became the courthouse seat in 1868. At that time the name of the town was pronounced as “Valhalla,” this pronunciation was taken from Norse mythology and means “Garden of the Gods.”
The town was laid out on a ridge at the foot of Stumphouse Mountain in 8 four-acre sections on both sides of Main Street. Each society member obtained a half-acre lot on Main Street and an acre on either North or South Broad Street. Adjacent to those streets there were fifty-acre farms which were laid out, the society members met March 26, 1850 in Charleston to draw lots for the property. The first German immigrants came shortly thereafter and by 1854 Walhalla had a German population of around four hundred. The town was incorporated on December 19, 1855 and one of the original structures was the St. John’s Lutheran Church, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
With the start of the Civil War, the Walhalla Riflemen were organized in 1852, they were among the first militia units to volunteer for Confederate service. During the war the town became a sanctuary for lowcountry refugees, those who were nonresidents of Walhalla had to have certificates issued to them the town council in order to stay within the town limits. After the war ended there was a small group of federal troops that occupied the town.
Following a couple years after Walhalla was selected as the seat for Oconee County in 1868, the main German population was offset by an flood of new settlers, including many from Pickens Court House, the prior seat of the old Pickens District.
There were three colleges in early years of Walhalla, there was Newberry College, which moved to Walhalla in 1856, staying until 1877 when it returned to the town of Newberry. Residents of Walhalla then planned Adger College under the Presbytery of South Carolina, which was ended in 1886. Walhalla Female College opened in 1877 but died ten years later.
Known as the gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Walhalla has sustained a solid population, but the German influence is all but disappeared. Even though Walhalla’s German heritage may not be as it once was in their early history and the German Colonization Society no longer exists the town has maintained the annual Oktoberfest celebration since 1979. What brings thousands of people to visit Walhalla and the surrounding area are the beautiful sites, such as the Station Cove Falls seen below.