The town of Hamburg was one of South Carolina’s primary interior markets during much of the antebellum era.
Founded in 1821 and located on the Savannah River in lower Edgefield District (now Aiken County), the town of Hamburg was one of South Carolina’s primary interior markets during much of the antebellum era. It was founded by Henry Shultz, a brash and ambitious German immigrant who had previously made and lost a fortune in the neighboring city of Augusta, Georgia. Angered at the treatment received from the “aristocrats of Augusta,” Shultz built his new town opposite the Georgia city in order to secure the trade of the upper Savannah River for South Carolina. The South Carolina General Assembly assisted Shultz in his trade war with a $50,000 loan and by exempting Hamburg town lots from taxation. The new town grew rapidly during the 1820s and acquired even greater promise during the 1830s, when it became the western terminus of the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company’s line to Charleston and the site of the Bank of Hamburg in 1835. But Hamburg’s once bright outlook quickly faded in the ensuing years. Ruinous floods inundated the town several times during the 1840s and 1850s. The opening of the Augusta Canal in the late 1840s siphoned off much of the river traffic of the upper Savannah. Most devastating, the railroad extended its line across the river and into Augusta, taking much of Hamburg’s cotton trade with it. By the late 1850s Hamburg’s once thriving merchant population began to quit the city. Whites abandoned Hamburg in the years after the Civil War, leaving Hamburg to become a haven for emancipated slaves and a Republican Party bastion during Reconstruction. The town gained infamy in 1876 as the site of the Hamburg Massacre, in which an uncertain number of blacks died at the hands of a Red Shirt mob. After the restoration of the Democratic Party to power in 1876, the General Assembly repealed Hamburg’s charter and the town gradually faded out of existence. The site reemerged at the end of the nineteenth century as the city of North Augusta.
Cordle, Charles G. “Henry Shultz and the Founding of Hamburg, South Carolina.” In Studies in Georgia History and Government, edited by James C. Bonner and Lucien E. Roberts. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1940.
Downey, Tom. Planting a Capitalist South: Masters, Merchants, and Manufacturers in the Southern Interior, 1790–1860. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006.
Taylor, Rosser H. “Hamburg: An Experiment in Town Promotion.” North Carolina Historical Review 11 (January 1934): 20–38.