Walhalla is a mountain city in the Appalachian Mountains of South Carolina with a population of over 3 thousand. It is the county seat of Oconee county.
Walhalla began as a settlement of German immigrants who left from Hamburg, Germany and Bavaria with some English, Scots and Irish who came over in the same ship. In particular, General John A. Wagener, Claus Bullwinkel, John C. Henckel,Jacob Schroder, and Christopher F. Seeba (trustees of the German Colonization Society of Charleston) bought 17,859 acres (72.27 km2) of land for $27,000 from Reverend Joseph Grisham of West Union on December 24, 1849. The site for the town of Walhalla was chosen to be on a high ridge between two creeks. A road already existed there. Later, the Biemann family built the Biemann Hotel. The hotel became a flourishing business which provided a place for visitors and potential citizens of Walhalla to stay. Another corner was designated as a cemetery. Today, this cemetery is located directly behind Saint John’s Lutheran Church. The settlers established farms outside the town limits. Some of the farms are still owned by the descendants of the original families. The Biemann, Brandt, and von Lehe (Ivester) families still maintain the properties. (Shealy, 1990 Ch. 4) The von Lehe (Ivester) family still lives on the original farm. J.C. von Lehe, his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons are buried on the property. The Biemann family and the von Lehe (Ivester) families are still friends. (John C. Ivester, III) Since the settlers were of German descent, the Sunday sermons were given in German. The town's settlers changed this practice in 1908 to accommodate the new members. (Shealy, 1990 Ch. 4, 5, & conclusion) The town was growing and changing. Families were moving to the area, building schools, churches and businesses. Saint John’s Lutheran Church was constructed and still stands today on Main Street in Walhalla. Newberry College was originally established in Walhalla. This college later moved to Newberry, South Carolina. (J.C. Ivester, Jr. Seneca Journal, 1974 AND Shealy, 1990) “ ‘there is a good English School on the square attended by twenty German children’— From Wagener’s description and other references”. School for younger students was taught in various places around the community. (J.C. Ivester, Seneca Journal 1974) However in 1902, the Walhalla Grades School was opened. (Shealy, 1990) This building still exists and is now the Civic Auditorium on North Broad Street, Walhalla, SC. A school for blacks opened in 1869 by the Freeman’s Aid Society. (Shealy, 1990 Ch. 12). The German traditions began to die out after the Civil War. A revitalization project began in the 20th century which saw the retrun of the Oktoberfest celebration, an idea organized by Paul Brown to the extend of him being considered the founder of the modern celebration in the town which features aspects of German Tradition, and has become a major attraction for not only the residence of Walhalla, but the entire county as well.
Due to its German heritage, Walhalla hosts an Oktoberfest celebration on the third Friday of October each year. The festival takes place on Main Street in Walhalla (Hwy 28) and on the city's Sertoma Field, located between the middle school and downtown (Hwy 183). The festival includes art and craft vendors, music, dancing, specialty food vendors, Carnival rides, and other festive activities.
Historical Sites Edit
- Ellicott Rock
- Keil Farm
- Oconee County Cage
- Oconee Station and Richards House
- St. John's Lutheran Church
- Stumphouse Tunnel Complex
- Walhalla Graded School