Disclaimer: While I am a History Major, I am not the Go-To person for the History of North Augusta. I decided to write this blog to let people know about the history of the area, since it seems to be spread on several different websites. This way there is one site that has multiple links.
Most citizens of North Augusta are aware that at least two towns preceded North Augusta before 1912. Those were Campbell town (1770) and the town of Hamburg (1821). However, most do not realize that there was a indian trading post in the location of present day North Augusta before Augusta, Georgia itself came into existence.
Savannah Town was created sometime in the 1670’s as an Indian trading post. It was known as the last sign of civilization for settlers journeying out West. Savannah Town was a strategic point, and traded goods from the Indians were sent down the Savannah River and then over land to Charleston. Eventually due to the Yemassee War, Fort Moore was created in 1715 to protect settlers from the Yemassee. It was a tense time to live in South Carolina, for while being attacked from the mainland from the Yemassee, pirates were raiding the coast. For more information on the Yemassee War see this link: http://ourgeorgiahistory.com/wars/Georgia_Wars/yamasee_war.html. For more information on Fort Moore: http://mdgroover.iweb.bsu.edu/GPR%20Ft.%20Moore.htm
Savannah Town was then adopted into the New Windsor Township around 1730. It seems to be that the Township was mostly settled by Swiss Settlers. However, around 1735, Augusta, Georgia was founded across the Savannah River. This was the coffin nail for Savannah Town, a trend that would cause the demise of other towns that set up across the river from Augusta, Georgia. Augusta distracted traders away from South Carolina, as Georgia had more access to different Indian Tribes. The town would be officially declared dead by the mid 1760’s. Fort Moore would be closed around the same time, but had one final act harboring refugees and militia during the Cherokee War. By the late 1700’s New Windsor Township became a part of the Orangeburg District within the St. Matthew’s Parish. However, by the 1800’s South Carolina began renaming areas using the County system, and New Windsor and the area North Augusta now inhabits became a part of Edgefield County.
For more information on Savannah Town and New Windsor Township see the following links:
Campbell Town was located near current Hammonds Ferry and the North Augusta Recreation Department. It was created by John Hammond in 1770. Like Savannah Town, the town was a fur trade and Indian trade center, but meant to compete with a very young Augusta, Georgia. However, Hammond did not take warning of Savannah Town’s demise. “Competition between tobacco growers and warehouse owners grew so intense that river boat ferries were destroyed, John Hammond was killed, and his house was burned. With the tobacco and fur trade bypassing Campbell Town, the town did not survive”. http://www.northaugusta.net/Community/History/tabid/72/Default.aspx
By the time Hamburg came into existence, Campbell town was mostly a ghost town. Henry Shultz , a German immigrant and the founder of Hamburg had a dream of building a town in the bluffs of South Carolina. In 1821, he founded the town, though through many struggles. However, the town boomed once connected by the longest railroad in the world in 1833: The Charleston-Hamburg Railroad. “At that point in time, the railroad was the longest railroad in the world, being 136 miles long and not long after the town exploded with commerce. Augusta created the Augusta Canal in 1845 to try to keep up with Hamburg’s success. The canal directed boats from the rapids in the Savannah River into Augusta, making it easier for farmers living in the upstate of Georgia and South Carolina to ship their goods down the river. This diverted most river commerce from Hamburg. However it was the creation of the Charleston to Hamburg Railroad that would lead to the demise of Hamburg as a booming trade town. Since farmers lived along the railroad, they now had an easier way of shipping goods to Charleston, than taking several days to travel by wagon down to Charleston. But now, the farmers had no need to go up to Hamburg when they could go to a station along the route and ship their goods. With the canal cutting off river commerce, and the railroad cutting off Hamburg from trade as well, the town began to die.
When the Columbia and Greenville railroads were built, farmers from the upstate did not have to travel to Hamburg to ship goods to Charleston. The final nail in the coffin for Hamburg was the extension of the Charleston Rail road in to Augusta in 1853. This created a triangle of commerce, from Charleston to Augusta to Savannah, or vice versa. This move destroyed Hamburg, and merchants left the town. Since Hamburg was a town of commerce, not many people actually lived in the town. By the start of the Civil War, Hamburg was nothing more than a ghost town. After the Civil War, the location of Hamburg and the fact that no whites lived there made it an ideal place for former slaves and refugee blacks to live” (Elizabeth Layne: The Changing Views of the Hamburg Massacre, 2008).
This would lead up to the most explosive point in the history of the area of North Augusta. On July, 4th 1876, Whites living in Edgefield were angry that access to the bridge into Augusta was blocked by Black Soldiers stationed in Hamburg doing a parade demonstration for the Country’s 100th anniversary. Four days later, a group of White men came to the Hamburg Court House to charge the soldiers. The trial was very tense, and by that evening white men from Edgefield including future U.S. Senator and Founder of Clemson Ben Tillman, and the surrounding area met at the court-house, and terror let loose. It is estimated that 300 White men showed up. In the end, 8 Black men were murdered in a vicious way, and one white man Mckie Meriwether, killed by a stray bullet (not known if killed by the soldiers or by friendly fire). One black man was killed by repeated blows by a hatchet, and though it was clear he was dead, they bashed his head until it was mush. The white crowd was tried in the Aiken Courthouse, since Hamburg was now in Aiken County ( a county created by Black Freedman). None were convicted. This created outrage in the North, especially with Harper’s Weekly.
Ben Tillman would later be quoted to saying: “It had been the settled purpose of the leading white men of Edgefield to seize the first opportunity that the Negroes might offer to provoke a riot and teach the Negroes a lesson; and it was generally believed nothing but bloodshed and a good deal of it could answer the purpose of redeeming the state…It was our purpose to attend the trial to see that the young men had protection and if any opportunity offered to provoke a row, and if one did not offer, we were to make one.” Quote from Simkins, South Carolina During Reconstruction, 487. Original Quote from a Tillman Speech, The Struggles of ’76.
Much of the Hamburg Massacre is now forgotten, however there is one remaining marker put up by the young town of North Augusta, one that many North Augustans drive by everyday. A marker dedicated to Mckie Meriwether in 1916 with the inscription:
“In life he exemplified the highest ideal of Anglo-Saxon Civilization. By his death he assured to the children of his beloved land the supremacy of that ideal”.
After the unveiling of the monument, the town went to a showing of Birth of a Nation, a film about the Ku Klux Klan. The Hamburg incident would be called the Hamburg Riot in the South, and the Hamburg Massacre in the North.
(Bridge to Hamburg, later washed out by floods)
By the time North Augusta was founded, Hamburg was a ghost town. Many blacks fled the area afraid of a repeat of the massacre. In 1911 and 1929, a floods came through the area, and washed away many building that had been a part of Hamburg. North Augusta also expanded over the original town, and all that is left is an area called Carpentersville with a few ruins nearby. However, personally I have not found any of these ruins, and if anyone knows where they are, and if it’s legal to access it. I would appreciate it.
As you can see, there are many aspects of North Augusta’s History that have been forgotten. While it is not exactly North Augusta’s History, it is the history of the land and culture of the area. If you know of any stories of North Augusta and its Predecessors, please post. I am also looking for any remains of Campbell Town and Hamburg if anyone knows of any.
For more information on Hamburg and the Hamburg Massacre please refer to Peter Hughes’s Hamburg page http://www.arete-designs.com/hamburg/
There is more information given than I included in this blog. Also if using anything from this blog please be sure to cite. I have done a lot of hard work as the historians who came before me have done.