Known as the Garden City, Orangeburg's origins date back to 1704 when it served as a European fur-trading settlement. By 1730, the General Assembly of the Province of South Carolina created the township, naming it Orangeburg for William IV, Prince of Orange. Over the next decade, the community grew, taking advantage of the nearby Edisto River as a valuable water route to the port of Charleston. Agriculture was a mainstay in the region and with the explosion of cotton plantations in the 19th century, African slaves were brought to the area, eventually making up the majority of the population.
After the Civil War, the freed slaves sought out educational opportunities and two colleges were established in the city. One was created as a land grant college for all black students in a state under segregation. Today, Orangeburg still supports two historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Claflin University and South Carolina State University.
The Edisto River also continues to play an integral role in the region as one of the longest free-flowing blackwater rivers in the country. Orangeburg is the only major town or city that the North Fork of the Edisto flows through along its route. Orangeburg celebrates the river at Edisto Memorial Gardens.