By the early twenty-first century, all members of the town council and the mayor were black. The town is the home of Voorhees College, a predominantly black institution that was founded in 1897, and Denmark Technical College, which evolved from a trade school established in 1948.
(Bamberg County; 2020 pop. 2,902). The community was first established in 1837 as a turnout on the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company line. It was named Graham’s Turnout for Captain Zachariah G. Graham. The village’s first church, the Ghents Branch Baptist Church, was founded in 1834, with First Baptist Church organized ten years later. Cotton, melons, corn, grain, and timber were mainstay products in the area and were carried to markets by the railroad.
On December 22, 1870, the town was incorporated as Grahams and became Denmark on December 23, 1891. The name honored Colonel Isadore Denmark, president of the Southbound Railroad Company. The town of Denmark was in Barnwell County until the formation of Bamberg County in 1897.
After the Civil War, Denmark was a mercantile center for the surrounding agricultural area. The People’s Bank became the town’s first bank. The Grahams News was founded in 1888. Two years later the Grahams Wagon Works factory was established with J. G. W. Guess as president. One of the town’s early landmarks was the Denmark Hotel, built in 1893. The coeducational Grahams Collegiate Institute was another civic improvement of note. In 1891 Denmark’s population was 2,056.
Denmark became an important office for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company and was a transportation center, boasting three major railroad systems in the late 1800s. Gradually the business district shifted west toward its present location near the railroad junctions. The town’s progress ebbed and flowed with the rural agricultural economy, but occasionally a major business, such as a John Deere factory in the 1920s, moved in.
The town’s political landscape changed during the twentieth century, as blacks, who heavily outnumbered whites, won the right to vote in the 1960s. Orlando E. White was elected the first black mayor of Denmark in 1989. By the early twenty-first century, all members of the town council and the mayor were black. The town is the home of Voorhees College, a predominantly black institution that was founded in 1897, and Denmark Technical College, which evolved from a trade school established in 1948.
Denmark’s population grew during the decades after World War II, reaching 3,321 in 1960, 4,110 in 1970, and 4,434 in 1980. By 2000, however, the population had decreased to 3,328. Denmark’s fortunes had begun to wane by 2000, and the town suffered several financial problems.
Denmark’s notable sons include the artist Jim Harrison, whose canvases capture the South’s rural past and who established a studio and gallery in downtown Denmark. Cleveland Sellers, another native, was a leading civil rights activist who later joined the faculty of the University of South Carolina. Denmark has advertised its wares through the South Carolina Heritage Corridor project and hosts a Dogwood Festival each spring.
Bamburg County Committee, Inc. Bamberg County Celebrating South Carolina’s Tricentennial, 1670–1970. [Bamberg, S.C.], 1970.
Lawrence, Margaret Spann. History of Bamberg County, South Carolina, Commemorating One Hundred Years (1897–1977). Spartanburg, S.C. Reprint Company, 2003.
Morris, Hazel, and Denmark-Olar Middle School Students. The History of Denmark, South Carolina. Denmark, S.C., 1989.