Aiken, chartered in 1835 and the county seat of Aiken County since its creation in 1871, was an early stop on the railroad line from Charleston to Hamburg. It was named for William Aiken (1779?1831), the first president of the S.C. Canal and Railroad Co. Aiken's mild climate and accessibility by rail soon made it a health resort for visitors hoping to escape the summer heat or seeking relief from tuberculosis and other lung ailments.
On Feb. 11, 1865, Federal and Confederate cavalry clashed here in the Battle of Aiken. The city's resort status was enhanced in the 19th and 20th centuries with its fame as a ?Winter Colony,? created by wealthy Northerners who built houses and sports facilities such as golf courses, polo fields, racetracks, and stables. Aiken later experienced a significant population boom in the 1950s after the construction and opening of the Savannah River Plant.