Located in the coastal plain, Bamberg thrived with the railroad and became the commercial center for surrounding farms and plantations.
(Bamberg County; 2020 pop. 3,160). Like many South Carolina towns, Bamberg was a product of the railroad. Bamberg began around 1832 with the construction of a water tower by the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company. The site became variously known as Seventy-Six, Simmon’s Turnout, and Lowery’s Turnout. The South Carolina General Assembly incorporated the town in 1855 and named it in honor of William Seaborn Bamberg, who had acquired the site in 1846. He and his brothers, Isaac S. Bamberg and General Francis Marion Bamberg, and others settled the area and began creating the town. Bamberg’s first post office opened by 1860. With the creation of Bamberg County in 1897, the town of Bamberg became the county seat.
Located in the coastal plain, Bamberg thrived with the railroad and became the commercial center for surrounding farms and plantations. Among its more notable neighbors was the writer William Gilmore Simms, who lived at his Woodlands Plantation three miles south of town. Another nearby resident was Dr. Francis F. Carroll, who, with his slave Louis Carroll, conducted experiments with the first submarine spar torpedo at Clear Pond, nine miles south of town. In 1865 Union cavalry destroyed the depot and railroad tracks in Bamberg.
After a postwar recovery, Bamberg was prospering again by the 1880s and 1890s. By 1880 the town had a population of 648 and was shipping five thousand bales of cotton annually from its depot. Successful residents built homes on Railroad Avenue and adjacent streets. In 1892 several prominent residents, including General Francis Marion Bamberg, Mayor E. R. Hays, and H. J. Brabham, built the Bamberg Cotton Mill.
Bamberg garnered attention as the site of the Carlisle Fitting School, which was founded by South Carolina Methodists in 1892 and named in honor of James H. Carlisle, president of Wofford College. Until 1932 Carlisle functioned as a preparatory school for Wofford College. The site was leased in 1932 to Colonel James F. Risher, who revamped the curriculum and renamed the institution Carlisle Military School in 1943. The school closed in 1977.
Entering the twentieth century, Bamberg was the most active cotton market between Augusta and Charleston. The coming of the boll weevil in 1921 ended this era of prosperity. Bamberg’s role as a commercial and transportation center waned during the economic depression of the 1920s and 1930s. The town retained some importance as a shipping point for Bamberg County watermelons, as a livestock auction center, and as an overnight stop for tourists traveling to Florida on U.S. Highway 301.
Steady, if unspectacular, growth continued throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. In 1983 the 1880–1930 residential area of the town was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The town later acquired the railroad berm through its center and created a greenway with a walking trail. In 2001 Bamberg hosted its first Antiques Treasure Fest, an annual festival that features antiques and collectibles and a barbecue cook-off.
Brabham, Otis. The Tale of a Town–Bamberg and Vicinity. N.p., 1952. Copeland, D. Graham. “Many Years After: A Bit of History and Some Recollections of Bamberg with Appendix of Data Concerning a Few Bamberg County Families and Their Connections.” Unpublished manuscript. February 23, 1940. Caroliniana Library, University of South
Carolina, Columbia. Jones, Virginia Kearse. Founding and Settlement of Bamberg. N.p., 1938.