South Carolina is Home to an Abandoned Town Most People Don’t Know About

South Carolina boasts a wealth of history, culture, and natural splendor, but hidden within its landscape are secrets and mysteries, including ghost towns like Dunbarton. Once a thriving community, Dunbarton met a tragic end in the 1950s due to a nuclear disaster. In this blog post, delve into the eerie allure of Dunbarton, exploring the remnants of its past and uncovering the fate of its residents. Discover why Dunbarton deserves a spot on your list of South Carolina’s concealed treasures.

What is Dunbarton?

Situated in Barnwell County, approximately 20 miles south of Aiken, Dunbarton emerged in the early 1800s as a bustling farming and logging town. Named after a Scottish counterpart, the town flourished with a population of about 300 at its peak. Boasting a school, church, post office, general store, and a railroad station, Dunbarton thrived until disaster struck in 1958.

The Tragedy of 1958

In 1958, the U.S. government’s Cold War efforts led to the construction of the Savannah River Site, a nuclear plant near Dunbarton. This initiative required acquiring approximately 300 square miles of land, including Dunbarton and nearby towns. Residents faced abrupt evacuation notices and minimal compensation for their properties. Despite reluctance, they had no choice but to comply. The Savannah River Site, operational in 1959, eventually leaked radioactive waste, contaminating the environment and posing serious health risks. The towns, including Dunbarton, were abandoned, becoming ghost towns.

What Remains of Dunbarton?

Dunbarton, now a mere shadow of its former self, retains remnants of its past behind a fence with a radiation hazard warning sign. Accessible via a dirt road, the town is mostly reclaimed by vegetation, with some buildings collapsed or demolished. However, structures like the school, church, post office, and general store still stand. Personal belongings and artifacts scattered around offer glimpses into the lives of former residents, evoking a mix of nostalgia and sadness.

Why Visit Dunbarton?

While not a typical tourist destination, Dunbarton beckons those with a sense of adventure, curiosity, and respect for its haunting history. It serves as a unique opportunity to learn about the environmental and societal impact of the nuclear industry, revealing the consequences of government negligence and secrecy. Dunbarton also stands as a testament to nature’s beauty and resilience and honors the memories of those who once called it home.


Dunbarton ranks among South Carolina’s most intriguing and mysterious ghost towns. It offers a unique and unforgettable experience, allowing visitors to explore the ruins of a lost town and uncover its hidden history. Challenge your perspective, ignite your imagination, and discover the secrets concealed within South Carolina’s landscape by visiting Dunbarton—a truly adventurous and different way to experience the state.

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