Colonel James Lawrence Orr

In 1736, Irish immigrant, Robert Orr, came to the American Colonies. He first lived in Pennsylvania and later moved to Wake County, NC. His youngest son, Jehu, a Revolutionary War soldier, moved during the late 1700s to the Pendleton District of SC. Jehuís son Christopher married Martha McCann also of Irish descent. Christopher and Martha had three sons and two daughters. One of these sons was James Lawrence Orr, born May 12, 1822 in the Craytonville Community of Pendleton District. James Lawrence Orr was known as a great statesman on both state and national levels.

In 1830 the Orr family moved to Anderson, where Christopher became the manager of a hotel and General Merchandise store. James Lawrence decided to enter the University of Virginia, considered one of the best institutions of higher learning in that era, to study law. He matriculated in 1839 at the age of seventeen and spent two years in the university. He excelled in various subjects during his freshman year. The second year he concentrated on the study of law. When Professor J. A. G. Davis, whom Orr depended upon in his study of law, was killed by a student, and an inexperienced lawyer became his instructor, Orr decided to return to South Carolina. He came back to Anderson and continued to study law and history.

In January 1842, Orr, not quite 20, entered Joseph Whitnerís law office. Whitner, solicitor of South Carolinaís western circuit, was often absent from the office, and Orr met many people whom he advised about legal matters. He began his political career at the age of 21 by serving as a delegate to the Democratic State Convention, which met in Columbia. John C. Calhoun was the choice of this body for presidential nominee in 1844. Orr was well suited to politics.

In 1843 he became editor of the Anderson Gazette, and at the same time began practicing law in Anderson, Greenville, Pickens, Abbeville and Laurens. He married Mary Jane Marshall in the same year. They had seven children, Eliza, born 1845, Martha, born 1847, James Lawrence, born 1852, Samuel, born 1855, Mary, born 1858, Amelia, born 1860, and Christopher, born 1862. There oldest daughter, Eliza died in January 1851. Mary Jane Orr had a stroke following the birth of Christopher but did recover her speech.

The Orr family attended the Episcopal church in Pendleton. In 1849, the rector of St. Paulís Church in Pendleton began holding meetings in the Anderson Court House. In 1851 Grace Episcopal Church was built in Anderson. Orr was instrumental in establishing this church.

He ran for a position in the lower house of the state legislature in 1844 and in 1846 he was re-elected to the same office. He was becoming well known in the state capital and was making friends over the entire state. He began to make plans to run for a seat in the US Congress. Orr was elected and entered the US House of Representatives in 1849 over Benjamin F. Perry. He did not run for re-election.

The 1850 census shows that Orr was a slave owner living on a 710 acre farm, growing cotton, corn, oats, wheat and vegetables, and raising livestock. In July, 1860, Orr announced that he favored secession, but he opposed strongly the idea of South Carolina leaving the Union alone. The Secession Convention, which met in the First Baptist Church in Columbia on December 17, 1860, moved to Charleston because of a small-pox epidemic in the city. On December 20, the convention adopted the Ordinance of Secession in St. Andrewís Hall and signed it in Institute Hall. Former Congressman Orr served on the committee drafting the ordinance.

In the meantime Major Robert J. Anderson had moved his troops from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter during the night of December 26th. On April 12, 1861, troops under General P. G. T. Beauregard fired on Fort Sumter at 4:30am. Anderson surrendered after a battle of thirty three hours, beginning the war between the North and South. Eleven states belonged to the Confederate States of America. They included South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama , Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia. After the secession of South Carolina from the Union and the firing on Fort Sumter, Orr petitioned Governor Francis Pickens to allow him to raise a Regiment of soldiers. Permission was granted and different men in the districts began conscripting the recruits. This regiment was later called the South Carolina First Regiment of Rifles or Orrís Rifles. They gathered at a campground near Sandy Springs M. E. Church in Anderson County on July 19, 1861. On the following day they were mustered into service. Officers were selected by popular vote, and the following were elected:

Companies were organized and captains chosen. They were:

According to a diary kept by a confederate soldier, W. A. Lowery of Pickens District, the recruits remained at the Sandy Springs campground location for six weeks and six days, then started the long march to the coast, first to Summerville and later to Ft. Moultrie on Sullivanís Island. This Regiment consisted of three companies from Abbeville District, two from Anderson District, four from Pickens District and one company comprised men from Marion District. The Pickens recruits lived largely west of Keowee River. It is safe to assume that most of them lived in the area which was called Oconee when Pickens District was divided in 1868.

Coming soon, a list volunteers for Orr's Rifles from the Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens areas.

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03/28/2009