(Aiken County; 2000 pop. 2,250). Initially dubbed North Ellenton by the press prior to its incorporation, New Ellenton was an offspring of the cold war in South Carolina and considered by many locals to have been “the first victim of the H-bomb.” Incorporated in 1952, New Ellenton was the reincarnation of the town of Ellenton. This predecessor community originated around 1870 as a depot on the Port Royal Railroad. According to legend, the town was named for Mary Ellen Dunbar, a local girl who had apparently enchanted the railroad’s president, Stephen Millett. Residing in the Dunbar family’s home while surveying the route, Millett named the depot site “Ellen’s Town,” which was subsequently shortened to Ellenton.
First enumerated in 1880 with a population of just 94, Ellenton enjoyed steady growth through 1950, when the population stood at 746. Ellenton’s quiet existence came to an abrupt end, however, following the announcement by the Atomic Energy Commission in November 1950 of plans for the massive Savannah River Site nuclear weapons facility in Barnwell and Aiken counties. Ellenton was the largest community uprooted by the forced relocation of some six thousand residents from the plant site. “New” Ellenton began as a two hundred acre development. Between the new town and the main entrance of the bomb plant, a large part of the plant’s 38,500 workers lived in trailer parks during peak construction in 1952. The last resident left Ellenton on April 1, 1952 and New Ellenton was incorporated on April 26.
New Ellenton grew rapidly and sprouted numerous businesses that competed to serve the expanding community. However, once the initial building frenzy at the Savannah River Site was completed and routine operations began, the trailer parks and construction workers disappeared. By 1960 New Ellenton counted 2,309 residents and its population peaked at 2,628 in 1980. Between 1970 and 1990 business declined as the nearby cities of Aiken and Augusta grew and attracted much of New Ellenton’s retail trade. This contributed to an eleven percent decline in the town’s population between 1990 and 2000.
Browder, Tonya A., and Richard D. Brooks. Memories of Home: Reminiscences of Ellenton. Columbia: South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, 1996.
Cassels, Louise. The Unexpected Exodus. Aiken, S.C.: Sand Hill Press, 1971.
O’Berry, Lucius Sidney. Ellenton, SC: My Life . . . Its Death. Edited by Richard D. Brooks and Tonya A. Browder. Columbia: South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, 1999.